It’s true, I have been to Russia before. It was in the early 1940’s…I forget exactly when, now, but it was just before that really, really bad winter. I’ve never before visited Russia as early in the season as 1917 though, so this has been a completely new experience for me…what with revolutionaries everywhere, unhappy with the new government and what have you.
…so old Nicholas II has abdicated! All well and good but this newly formed Conservative lot are not overly liked by those Petrograd types. I sence some turmoil ahead in the form of slight internal political argie-bargie. Yep! Political unrest and revolution I fear it will be…
So What’s All the Fuss About?
This is fundamentally a head to head political struggle with a smidgen of social manoeuvring and a pinch of military conflict in the prelude to the 1917 Russian Civil War. ‘Head to head?’ I hear the more astute of you comment in disgust. This is a head to head but those insightful folks at Thunderworks Games have a built-in a solo variant, all brand spanking new and ready to play right out of the box…I say box…I have been playing the print & play prototype which didn’t have a box…but you get the idea?!
Immersion or Subversion?
This game touches on a particularly turbulent part of Russian history in a more abstracted way I would say. We have key historical figures as tokens but the other units are more generic. It is not a war game as such, not a COIN game and ultimately is not filled with rich historical references but, as a lighter strategy game that aspect is not so necessary.
The developing illustrations, graphics and game-board have a certain j’n’sais pas about it. I actually like how the game feels, plays and looks. I do get that feeling of being immersed in the political upheaval but in a light, slightly removed, almost passive way. The gameplay has purpose to it and a reason that is in-fitting with the theme. I think we can conclude this to being Immersive, albeit at the more shallow end of the pool.
For the most part this has a particularly simplistic gameplay. I don’t mean that as a derogatory ‘put-down’ manner. It is more a case that the game isn’t unessesarily complex. Player actions are driven by a hand of cards which provide a range of actions available to a player, four of which will be used per turn. I am referring to the solo game here. We, the real player, have a hand of five lovely action cards plus three leaders (who, as you would expect give us a little extra ability for our buck). Like I mentioned previously, we get to choose four actions played alternately with the AI player who draws from a blind pile of five cards. Five, the cheeky begger! And that is basically it. We deploy our leader and unit counters in various strategic locations/regions across the game-board. The aim is simply to out manoeuvre the opponent to have the greater force in a specific region.
Fortunately there is a little more to the game than that. Oh, yes. Each round (and in solo mode we only get three) one region is under a state of unrest. Having dominance in this area at the end of the round will earn us certain victory points based on the month of the year (as time progresses, more points are up for grabs but forces are starting to dwindle…making a nice balance) In addition both the player and the AI have hidden objectives…cards that get revealed during the turn offering another region to score points from. This has a more random aspect, as we can’t plan effectively for every eventuality as units are, for the human player, in short supply…but we can , if we are fortunate enough to think on, able to take an action to prematurely reveal our hidden objective. In doing so, we can plan ahead accordingly. The number of times I forget to do this, leaving me under ‘staffed’ in a region that turns out to be my hidden objective…and at such crucial game-turning moments too.
There are a couple of nice touches with events on the timer track and some subtle elements here and there that make this a much more than token laying area control. The hidden objective for the AI is a good little addition and is explained in the video t the end of the article.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
Now obviously this game is currently running on kickstarter at the moment (at time of writing) so components and art are all being finalised but, based on my prototype PnP copy, in the end it is going to look a mighty fine piece.
Meeples and Standees:
Designer: Brett Myers
Solitaire Rules: James Kyle & Brett Myers
Developer: Keith Matejka
Graphic Design: Luis Francisco
Illustrator: Kwanchai Morlya
I’ve watched the video explaining how multiplayer games work and I think we, the soloist, are getting something akin to the multiplayer version. There are a few minor tweaks for set up and I particularly like that there has been a way to incorporate ‘blind objectives’ for the AI in a way that goes beyond the turning of a face down card. This game will never satisfy the few who really want a sixty hour long brain melting political solo experience. What it does, however, is give a solo player a very enjoyable political area control style game without the complexities of unruly dice modifiers for combat or complex Bot action flowcharts. There is challenge and opportunity to form strategies. It still poses some difficult decisions, enough to still test the old grey matter, but doesn’t overburden us.
There is even some small chance of mitigating at least some of the ‘luck of the draw’ aspect that will always be present in a card driven game. He solo AI can be unpredictable, just as a live player can be, but it can be (through game mechanics) predictable…by that I mean we have opportunity, like playing poker, to see the AI’s ‘tells’.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: For a fairly low complexity level game it does offer a challenging AI opponent. Not such a daunting game experience that we will never win and think ‘nah, can’t be bothered to lay again’ but conversely not so simple it creates no challenge. It has found a sweet spot which should please soloists that like this nature of political and social upheaval.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: A twelve page rule book (that came with my PnP) was full of rules that were explained well, laid out logically with additional game situation examples and illustrations. The language, I found, accessible and after a couple of read throughs to clarify in my mind a few points I thought were vague (but I’d ctually just missed detail in the text)
- Lucky Buggers: No Dice! No dice at all. There is the randomness of drawing from a shuffled action card deck which only adds to the excitement and certainly can’t be construed as random luck as we still have opportunities to use the drawn cards as and when we feel to be most appropriate.
- Highs and Lows: Considering the bleak historical context surrounding the game, it has a light feel (it does not make light of the context but does not depress or bring down a player with negative propaganda) I have certainly felt uplifted after a game having finally defeated the cunning AI opponent after soooo many squishings into the ground I received beforehand.
Me, Myself and I:
When I first came across this title, I was very excited. Then I checked out the campaign page and was less excited. I had doubts about the complexity and potential enjoyment factor…but I went ahead and printed it out all the same. I am really rather please that I did. This has proven to be a much more satisfying game than I first thought. The rules are pretty easy to understand and pick up so getting into a game is quick. Turns are quick…unless one spends too long pondering the whys and wherefores of a potential move. Sometimes we need to re-evaluate what we are wanting from a game and this is one of those times for me. I do like the complexity of a COIN game but sometimes I just want to have some fun with a strategy/area control game without getting bogged down with complex Bot descision flow charts and I think I have managed to find that here.
I like that there is no dice rolling as they really have a tendency to hate me. There is nothing complicated about unit placement, no complex battle sequences just simple but effective smooth gameplay. I thought this (and I am sure myself will with me) is a great solo game for those lighter moments…let’s say, for example, after a crappy brain-melting day at work we still have that gaming itch…well this is perfect for just that very moment.
Yay or Nay?
I was surprised that this fairly simple game packs in a great deal of solo entertainment. It will never challenge something like GMT’s Pendragon but, it doesn’t need to…it is more akin to the likes of Hollandspiele games’ Agricola MoB & Charlemagne MoE. Fitting in to that smaller scale, less complex set of games that still make for very challenging, entertaining solo gaming experiences and as such Dual Powers forcefully pushes its social activists into a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (6)
Now you must forgive me for I have to dash…Thermal-lined Brass Ushankas don’t grow themselves and I have dissatisfied populace moping about the street just looking for an ecuse to break out into minor pockets of civil war. What a day for me to get caught in foreign parts dressed in nothing mor than my slippers and an awkward smile….
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Dual Powers: Revolution 1917 kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1152516291/dual-powers-revolution-1917-a-board-game-for-1-2-p/description
Solo Rules Scott Bogen (The Boardgame Show):
How to play (Thunderworks Games):
Dual Powers: Revolution 1917 BGG page: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/241987/dual-powers-revolution-1917
Thunderworks Games on Twitter:
Preview by Gaming with Edo: