Aug. 1st, 2010 03:05 pm
[personal profile] dmaze
Last night a group of us played Revolution, a newish Francis Tresham game about the Eighty Years' War. Tresham is the designer who brought the world Civilization (the board game) and 1829, and there are obvious elements of Civilization in the game. Players act as one of five factions, ranging from Catholic to Reformer, each with slightly different game goals.

At the end of the night, I thought it was a pretty good game and would play again knowing the game mechanics a little better. Like Civilization, a game turn has many small phases, but they break down into a couple of large groups (setup, armies, people, aftermath) and it might have been helpful to organize the phases that way. The other thing that would have been really useful is an index of what resources could be used where; one early question was "what can we spend money on", and lacking the right answer I blew all my cash early on turn one (following turn zero) when there was a late-turn mechanic that would have served me better. (In fact, if I ever write a hypertext version of any game rules, links to FAQs at each point would be helpful.)

The other interesting mechanics were around scoring and turn order. Your score is the number of cities you control plus some value per province you control plus a player-specific score mechanic, but this updates turn to turn; it is not cumulative. To select a turn order for the next turn, the current front-runner's player card is placed on the table; then the second-place player can decide to go before or after them; then the third-place player can decide to go before both, after both, or in between; and so on. Going last is usually beneficial, but in a couple of specific places going earlier is an advantage. (One cause of my demise was being forced to go earlier than I wanted to.)

This makes there be a lot of non-obvious careful balancing in the game. If you don't control cities you won't get money next turn, but if you do you're ahead and have trouble directing your fate. If you have units on the board already you can't get new units (Civ-style limited pool of unit/money counters) and existing units are hard to move around, but you can only place units where you already have units or in a holding area for the next turn to enter in specific places. And in fact on turn 4 I didn't have enough units, the ones I had all died in combat, and on turn 5 I had lots of units but nowhere to put them.

A partial list of play errors (some from us just figuring out the rules as we went): I did not want to descend on uninteresting towns in a far corner of the board on turn 0, tying up units for the rest of the game to no benefit; on turn 1 I did want to start the "spend money to spread religion to take over cities" mechanic more aggressively; on turn 4 I did not not not want to drain all my resources to throw units into losing battles. So on turn 5 (of 5) I had no units to warp on to the board and wound up being able to usefully place about three units in total, of a guaranteed 7 minimum.

Other thoughts: depending on your special victory point goal it may be worthwhile to defer it to the very last minute to be "behind". The Catholic and Reformer players both want to spend money on religion, particularly when the Reformers can use it to wholesale take over cities, but the Nobility player can very cheaply keep it from getting out of hand (any money they spend makes cities be more moderate and gets resolved last). The Internet clarifies that the "overflow" mechanic is a last-ditch effort to keep over-limit population from dying and not a way to spread people all the way across the board.
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