Saturday morning of Carnage, I ran a demo of Revolution!, a Euro-style bidding game. This was the first time I took the game out in public, previously having played it only with friends. The basis of the game is players try to gather support — also known as accrue victory points — by bribing, blackmailing or intimidating different individuals in a town about to be swept up in a revolution.
Players use these three techniques of persuasion in the form of tokens with which they secretly bid to influence the townsfolk. Behind a screen, they place tokens on different people’s squares. Some personalities can only be influenced by certain forms of persuasion; the General can’t be forced and the Innkeeper can’t be blackmailed, for example. Everyone reveals their tokens and the player who bid the highest on a given personality gains whatever benefits they offer. Usually that’s a combination of support points, tokens to use in the next round of bidding and the placement of influence cubes in one of the sections of the board. Two, the Spy and the Apothecary, allow players to manipulate influence cubes already placed on the board by either replacing them with one of their own or switching positions of already placed cubes.
These cubes represent the amount of influence each player has over a particular institution or community within the town itself. Winning a bid for the Merchant’s support, for example, allows the player to gain influence in the market by placing a cube there. Once all the influence spaces on the board are filled, the game ends. Whichever color has the majority of cubes in a particular space gains a certain number of support points. If red has two cubes in the Tavern, while blue and yellow have one each, red gains the twenty support points associated with the Tavern.
The mechanics of the game are really straight-forward. After that, it’s about thinking about what other players might be doing and dealing with their actions while also keeping yourself in position to make useful bids in the next round. Will blue go for yet another influence token in the harbor? Is it time to start switching cubes around with the Apothecary? Will anyone ever notice how I keep winning the Printer with a single gold piece?
All told, I demoed the game three times that morning: a full group of four, another of three at the same time and then a later session for a husband and wife couple who happened by the table. Reactions were mixed, but not unsurprising. The people who got the underlying principles of the game, or just happened to do well by luck, had a positive reaction. Other people, not so much. One player commented that he didn’t have the knack for bidding games, nor figuring out the trick to keeping up with everyone else in terms of generating more bidding tokens as well as accruing support points. And that surprised me, because I know the player and always figured him for deducing systems with relative ease. He may have been referring to the unpredictability factor of not knowing if all his tokens would go to waste in a turn because other players bid more on the same spaces as he. It’s easier to plan and adjust in a Puerto Rico-like game, where there’s still a choice to make even when one’s desired role is already taken, than in a blind bidding situation, where everything a player might do in a turn nets them nothing useful.
Overall, it was a revealing session. I got to see the game played with a variety of people with their own style preferences and unique reactions to Revolution!‘s gameplay. I certainly came to understand the flow a bit better by watching others. The next step, I think, is to figure out how to both plan one’s own bids and watch other players’ choices to better read the progression of understanding.