I do primarily review RPGs around here, but I also occasionally venture into other areas, like board and card games. Well, A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a couple of western-themed card games called Revolver and Revolver 2, which I've since played a few times with my kid.
DISCLAIMER: This review does include an affiliate link to Amazon.com. Purchasing this title from Amazon may result in me receiving a referral credit. A review copy was not provided to me by the publisher, however. I acquired this game on my own.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Revolver is a card based by White Goblin Games & Stronghold Games, featuring a fairly standard western theme: Jack "The Crow" Colty and his gang robbed a bank and are on the run from Col. Ned McReady's posse, trying desperately to make it to the 3:15 Express from Rattlesnake Station, or cross the Mexican border, before Colty and his right hand man Cortez are gunned down.
Retailing for $30, Revolver comes in a sweet, sweet metal tin, with two included card decks (one for each side of the conflict) and a number of extra cards which serve as the battlefields for the conflict (beginning at the bank and running to the train). A bag of wooden pieces are included to count down the Mexican border, as well as a piece to serve as the time tracker in each battlefield.
The Colty gang begins with all of their people on the playing field, rushing together from the bank to the train station. The McReady player will unleash assets at each field, from deputies and bounty hunters to named characters like Deputy Weathers and McReady himself. Characters can get Grit tokens, which can allow them to survive the first attempt at killing them, and Firepower tokens, which boosts their effectiveness in combat.
If the Colty gang loses a fight on the McReady player's turn, one of The Crow's men dies, selected by the Colty player based on his men's Survival Rating (some guys are doomed to die before the others). Some folks just die, others cause different effects. For instance, killing Bruno "Hen House" Caple cuts off Colty's access to Peacemaker .45s. If Manolito dies, The Crow finds out Manolito was a traitor and this cuts off two of the tokens blocking access to the Mexican border. If you kill Kittens McKenzie before the gang reaches the 3:15, it gives the posse more time to hunt the gang through Rattlesnake Creek as Kittens presumably knows that area better than the rest.
Stronger cards, on both sides, are played by discarding other cards...and some cards get cheaper to play as the game goes on. For instance, Col. McReady is expensive to deploy at the bank, but he won't miss the gunfight at the train for anything. The McReady player can play as many cards to a battlefield as he likes, but the Colty gang can only play three cards per battlefield...and McReady can drop cards like Narrow Bridge and Cactus Field which cuts those available slots down further.
Colty's deck also includes cards that move up the clock, putting the gang on the road in order to keep from getting trapped, cards like "Fire At Will" that lets his men gun down some of McReady's men, Sandstorm (which imposes a two card limit on McReady's side of the field) and Saddlebags (which let you snap up a card from a battlefield to take to another, as cards normally stay behind as the gang runs).
McReady's deck also has time management cards which force the Colty gang to stay on the battlefield an extra turn, "Get The Rope, Boys" (which lets you lynch a Colty gang member), Rattlesnake Bite (which will kill a gang member if they don't discard a card), a card indicating the gang has been betrayed (which kills two people unless the Colty player discards two cards), a Buffalo Stampede which inflicts a ton of damage and more.
Each battlefield has a defensive modifier for the Colty gang, ranging from +0 to +3, as they use the terrain for natural defense. The Colty player also has one more, last ditch tactic they can use at the train, derailing it in order to inflict death and chaos. This will kill every one of Colty's remaining men, but the player can discard cards in order to keep his men alive.
As swell as all this sounds, it's the little things that really sell the game: The book includes character bios for every character in the game, unveiling layers to the backstory that twist it on its ear. Is Crow a criminal? Well, yeah...but he's also been wronged, as his father had his farm stolen out from under him. One of his gang members is Poppy McReady...daughter of the Colonel...and all kinds of hints and outright statements in the backstory that the Colonel is one shady bastard. None of it DIRECTLY affects gameplay, especially in this first set, but the attention to story is very admirable.
There is a fair bit of strategy to the game, as the McReady side has to recognize which battles to fight and which to let go of, while the Colty player can focus on either surviving the full gauntlet and escaping on the train or focusing on running out the Mexican border (a token comes off of the Mexican border card for each turn McReady has in which he fails to kill a Colty member).
No matter what, the game WILL be very bloody, with a lot of casualties. This isn't a Roy Rogers western.
WHAT WORKS: The production values are excellent. The gameplay is fun and simple, and feels very "western". The gameplay is surprisingly deep in the core set, while still playing quickly. Despite the recommended age of 12+, my 10 year old both enjoys and understands the game perfectly fine.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The fact that a lot of the cards on both sides are either re-skinned, or merely opposite numbers of a card on the other side. Some complaints have been made about the art, as some of the women are fairly scantily clad and some parents may not be suitable with 12 year olds (the recommended age) playing it.
CONCLUSION: A very awesome two player card game that I've already played a fair bit and plan on playing more of. The expansions are largely designed to swap in and out with the existing card decks, rather than adding to them, so the game should avoid a lot of bloat that games with expansions tend to have. As mentioned above, the game is awesome and thematic out of the box, but adding in the backstory makes it doubly cool. Very highly recommended if you are a fan of westerns and card games, especially if you're not so much into the Deadlands or Shadows of Brimstone style of supernatural western.