Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tommy's Take on Revolver 2

So....yesterday, I reviewed Revolver. Today, I review its completely standalone sister (not really sequel) game, Revolver 2.

DISCLAIMER: This review does contain an affiliate link to Amazon.com. Purchasing the game through that link may provide me with referral credit to Amazon. No review copy was provided by the publisher. I acquired this game on my own.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Revolver 2 has the same mechanical base as Revolver, and includes a number of references to the characters in Revolver, but is designed to be completely standalone, from both a a story and a gameplay perspective. Revolver 2 comes in an impressive green tin, setting it apart from Revolver's red tin. The game retails for $30, though Amazon has it deeply discounted as of the time of this review.

The story is the first major change in Revolver 2: Instead of a gang on the run from a Colonel's posse, one player plays a Padre who is hiring gunslingers to defend a Mexican town sitting near a silver mine as a corrupt Mexican warlord is trying to take it over. Yeah, it's got a little bit of Magnificent Seven to it...and if you're a fan of westerns, that's probably a good thing. The winning conditions are similar to Revolver: General Mapache wins if he guns down all of the town's defenders, for instance, and the Padre's men can win if the Padre survives the battle in the silver mine, or if the Mexican army arrives to put an end to the General (mechanically functioning the same as removing the Mexican border tokens in Revolver).

Thematically, the "surviving four rounds in the Silver Mine" doesn't work as well as Jack Colty's "survive four rounds on the 3:15" from Revolver, but it is what it is.

With that base in place, however, we get a number of changes: First, the two players play a poker minigame, three hands worth, and the side that wins 2 out of 3 gets to set a more favorable battlefield layout for the game. In addition, some of the poker hands have over benefits, independent of winning or losing, such as extra Firepower tokens on battlefield spaces, adding or subtracting tokens from the Mexican Army card, or adding cards to your starting hand when the game begins.

The next big change comes at the beginning of the Padre's turn. See, the Padre starts off with seven guardians (counting himself), and can recruit another guardian or two on each turn (an icon on the battlefield tells you how many guardians you can recruit). Well, the Padre has the choice on some battlefields to forgo recruitment and instead skip turns there, moving the clock up faster at the expense of recruiting more people. This can be beneficial at times, because the General has a very powerful secret weapon at the silver mine, but it requires stockpiling cards in order to use properly, and if you can catch him flat footed at the mine, it can make the Padre's endgame easier. Of course, if you miscalculate, it can lead to you just being outgunned in the endgame.

One of the battlefields is called The Los Quantos Bridge, and it brings up another tactic for the Padre: If he has enough cards with TNT icons on them, he can blow the bridge, wiping out anyone or anything that the General has placed on the bridge to stop him. He can use a similar tactic in the Silver Mine, to counter the General's use of the Gatling Gun.

That's where another layer of complexity and strategy comes in: Every card has an effect in its own right, but many of the General's cards include ammo icons, to be used with the Gatling Gun in the endgame, while many of the Padre's cards have TNT icons, to be used at the Bridge or Silver Mine...so a card may be worth more to you in your hand, using it at the right battlefield, rather than just dumping it off in play.

The Padre has two decks of cards to draw from, the first being his regular card deck and the second being his Guardians. The Guardians have a survival rating, like Colty's men in the first game do, indicating just how important they are to the plot and what order they'll die in. Padre Estaban is the hero of this story, and will either see it through, or be the last one gunned down. Some Guardians let you draw a card when they come into play, some force you to discard when they die, some hasten the arrival of the Mexican Army and some stymy it. Zachary McReady, kin to the Colonel from the first game, makes an appearance here as a recruitable gunslinger. There's also a mysterious man named Jim Colt who carries a crow on his shoulder, and who may or may not resemble a certain gang leader from Revolver. There's also Kid Lightning, who has a Survival Rating of 0, but also has TWO Grit Tokens, meaning he can take a licking before he goes down.

As for the Padre's card deck itself, he has cards like Telegrams which remove tokens from the Mexican Army card, speeding their arrival along. Of course, he has different weapons he can drop on the battlefield for his men, as well as cards like "Get Ready For War!" that cause him to sacrifice two of his men in order to take out everyone the General has at a given battlefield. There's also a Kiowa Guide who will help the Mexican Army make better time to the town, bags of rattlesnakes that can take out one of the General's men and even a Stove Plate Jacket (ala Eastwood) that saves one of the Guardians from death.

The General is not without resources, using Swift Horses to move his men from battlefield to battlefield, Sodden Terrain to slow down the approach of the Mexican Army, Alligator Attacks to kill Guardians, powerful gunfighters like Gian Volonte (who is so powerful that the Padre gets to draw a card in order to balance out how scary he is) and Pancho Flores (who also forces the opponent to discard a card when he comes into play). The Las Cuchillos are also frightening, giving the General the option of discarding a card when they come into play and destroying one of the Padre's assets.

Like with Revolver, Revolver 2 will be bloody, with casualties mounting on both sides, and not even killing the General will be enough to stop his men.

WHAT WORKS: The Magnificent Seven with a dash of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly in a card game? Yes, please. The extra bits of strategy are a nice touch without over complicating anything. The connections to the first set are also nice, as easter eggs for players of both sets, without forcing continuity lockout.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The creeping complexity may bode ill for those that love the simplicity of the first game. The backstory isn't quite as thrilling in this one, being painted as more of a straight, black and white, Good vs Evil tale...though, your mileage may certainly vary on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. The win condition of waiting out the general in the Silver Mine doesn't work as well, thematically.

CONCLUSION: The backstories and the characters "pop" better in Revolver, but Magnificent Seven is my favorite western of all time, so essentially putting that in card game format is just AWESOME to me. The two Revolver games are just both so very cool to me, impulse purchases that I'm glad I indulged in. Absolutely worth it if you love westerns and you're cool with a 2 player only game. Highly recommended.