Friday, November 19, 2010

Revolution! Castigated On BGN

Well, maybe that's not exactly the case. Apparently, BGN contributor Kris Hall had a really, really, bad experience with Revolution! recently. He managed to score only 30 points in his first game. Having played my game hundreds of times, I can attest to the fact that this can certainly happen once in a while--people can just get brutally trounced. Does this happen because the game is completely random?

A commenter had a similar experience, noting: "To me it seems that the best strategy to have in this game is no strategy at al, just place your tokens randomly." He is both right and wrong. There is no "best strategy" in Revolution! except to stay under the radar and avoid too much direct confrontation with the other players. If you develop too strong of a pattern (particularly from game to game), the other players will (or should) punish you for it. The corresponding maxim to this is that any strategy will win if left alone for long enough.

The key to Revolution! is that you are not really playing the board as much as you are playing the other players. It's not a question of the best move, but rather a question of what the other players will do. As Wil Wheaton has noted in his BGG rating comment, Revolution! should be played like Poker. Not everyone likes Poker and not everyone likes Revolution! I'm okay with that. Lots of other people do.

One thing that might help reluctant players was suggested by another BGN commenter. Use the Bid Refund Variant. Under this system, players get their tokens back if they lose or tie a space. This assures that you pay exactly what a space is worth and not more or less, though there is the penalty of lost time. And it helps reduce feeling "like one of those mice who are subjected to random electric shocks in cruel psychological experiments." I suspect the SJG people like the other way because they're sort of into cruel electric shocks, but that's a topic for another day.

So is the game completely random? That depends on who you play with. I think you'll find that, over time, Revolution! is much less random that you first thought.


  1. There is some risk taking in Revolution!, but that's not the same as randomness, not at all.

    I don't like electric-shock games, I don't like everybody pays, blind bidding auction games, but I really like Revolution! It's not chess; the interactions between your move and your opponent's moves won't be predictable.

    I have been trounced mightily, and it certainly is more fun when you win, but when I lost it was clear afterwards *why* I lost, it wasn't luck.

    This game is closer to Citadels than Puerto Rico. Start with that and you'll have a better time.


  2. When I'm running Revolution at a con or similar open gaming, and trying to draw players in, here's my "10-second, 3-sentence" pitch. I think it's accurate and fair:

    "It plays like Poker, but it scores like Carcassone. All the players bid on important people in town; the winner gets to take over specific areas. At the end of the game, each area you control is worth points."

    What I love about Revolution is that there's *zero* randomness *except* for what the other players do! So it's not like a bad die roll will cost you the Captain -- it's that "Bob, sitting across the table and grinning" cost you the Captain with his bid of three gold versus your one.

    (Disclaimer: I work for SJ Games, though not in the board game dept. I had nothing to do with the creation of this game, and am speaking strictly as a player.)