(2012 – Stronghold Games, White Goblin Games)
The Western genre is a staple among American culture and prevalent throughout our history’s films and literature. Surprisingly, the board game community has lacked the same variety of Western themed titles for fans to choose from, year after year. The genre has not been left completely vacant, however. Both Dice Town and Bang! capture the push your luck/deduction aspect of gambling, while titles like Homesteaders and Carson City focus more on an economic/town building characteristic. Designer Mark Chaplin’s Revolver series (Revolver 1 & Revolver 2 – codesigned with Leigh Caple) takes a different route, as a set of asymmetrical card-driven combat games that implement the thematic and cinematic storytelling of the American Wild West.
While there are differences between Revolver 1 and Revolver 2, I won’t go over them here, as I am planning on doing a review on Revolver 1 and its many expansions later this year. However, these differences have been well documented on BGG if you are curious about them before I complete it.
– General Mapache All Rivers Poker Tournament cards
– Padre Esteban All Rivers Poker Tournament cards
– General Mapache cards
– Padre Esteban cards
– Malpaso Guardian cards
– Battlefield cards
– Arrival of the Mexican Army card
– Mexican Army Sombrero markers
– Special Event cards (Dynamite the Bridge, Collapse the Tunnels, and Gatling Gun cards)
– General Mapache Power tokens
– Malpaso Guardian Power tokens
– True Grit tokens
– Battlefield Turn Marker
In Revolver 2, General Mapache and his band of misfits have set their sights on the town of Malpaso. The town does not have much time to gather their resources, and Padre Esteban has begun to round up the townsfolk to take their stand, hoping to defend against General Mapache’s gang while sending word the Mexican Army, who has been hunting the General Mapache gang for some time. Players will take sides as either General Mapache and the invading gang or Padre Esteban and the defensive villagers. Before I go over how the game plays, let’s first take a look at the setup.
The Padre Esteban player has a couple extra setup steps than the General Mapache player.
First, he will start with a group of starting Malpaso Guardian cards in front of him, including a card representing Padre Esteban himself. These cards are all noted by the “Starting Guardian” text in the bottom right corner of the card. The rest of the Guardian cards are shuffled and set together in a Malpaso Guardian Draw Pile. These will represent the villagers that Padre Esteban recruits to defend the town during the first half of the game (which I’ll explain later).
Next, he will place both the Dynamite the Bridge and Collapse the Tunnel cards to the side of the play area. These are actions that can be taken at certain parts by the Padre Esteban player during the game and are only on these cards to remind the player of these actions; they are not cards that are played from his hand. Then, he takes the Padre Esteban cards (noted by the green text on the back) and shuffles them to create a Padre Esteban Draw Pile.
The General Mapache player places the Gatling Gun card to the side of the play area, as this references a special action he may take during a particular section of the game. He will then shuffle the General Mapache cards (noted by the red text on the back) and create a General Esteban Draw Pile.
Both player will take their respective All Rivers Poker Tournament Cards, shuffle them and discard 1 card, randomly from play. The remaining cards will make up their All Rivers Poker Tournament hand. This pre-game Tournament will determine the first 3 Battlefield cards during the final part of setup. Each player will play a card from their hand simultaneously, and the player will the highest poker hand represented on that card wins the round. The player that wins the best of 3 of these rounds will win the All Rivers Poker Tournament. That player will then place their affiliation’s Battlefield cards (the Cathouse, the Jailhouse, and the Drinking Den for the General Mapache player; or the Church, the Saloon, and the Stables for the Padre Esteban player) in the central play area, in a row. I’ll explain the advantages to these 3 cards for each side in a bit.
During a game of Revolver 2, the Padre Esteban player will take his entire turn first, and then the General Mapache player will do the same. This continues until one of the above victory conditions are met. On a player’s turn, he will take the following actions in order:
1.) Advance the Battlefield Turn marker (this is only performed by the Padre Esteban player)
2.) Draw 2 Cards
3.) Put Cards into Play
4.) Attack Padre Esteban’s Malpaso Guardians (this is only performed by the General Mapache player)
1.) Advance the Battlefield Turn marker – On each of the 6 Battlefield Cards, you will notice a number of turn spaces. Underneath each of these spaces is either a “+” number in white or a “+” number in green. These numbers represent the number of Malpaso Guardians that will be added to Padre Esteban’s unit during that particular round. When advancing the Battlefield Turn marker, the Padre Esteban must move the marker forward 1 space. White numbered spaces are mandatory, while green numbered spaces are optional. Normally, optional spaces will reward the Padre Esteban with acquiring more Malpaso Guardian cards than normal, though at the expense of having to add an extra round to the game. Remember that one of the winning conditions for the Padre Esteban player is to survive through the final round of the last Battlefield card (Abandoned Silver Mine). Therefore, the more optional rounds taken, the harder this can become to accomplish.
For instance, Round 2 on the Saloon Battlefield card has been completed and it is now the beginning of Padre Esteban’s turn in which he needs to advance the Battlefield Turn marker. He chooses to move the marker to the 3rd space of the Saloon card, thus drawing 2 new Malpaso Guardian cards and adding them to Padre Esteban’s group of villagers. Since this round space is optional however, he could have chosen to skip both the 3rd and 4th spaces on the Saloon card and moved directly from the 2nd space of the Saloon card to the 1st space of the Stable card. In this case, he would only draw 1 new Malpaso Guardian card.
Remember, during the discussion of the All Rivers Poker Tournament, I mentioned that there were advantages to winning the Tournament and being able place their affiliations Battlefield cards as the first 3 cards in the central play area. If the Padre Esteban player gets to place his cards, these will include 5 mandatory rounds and 4 optional rounds. If instead, the General Mapache player gets to place his cards, these will include 7 mandatory rounds and only 3 optional rounds. Note that the first 3 Battlefield cards are the only time in which Malpaso Guardian cards can be added to Padre Esteban’s group of villagers. Once the game reaches the Los Quantos Bridge, no more characters are drawn or added to the group. So the Padre Esteban player only has 3 Battlefield cards in which to build up his defensive army.
2.) Draw 2 Cards – Players will always draw 2 cards from their Draw Pile at this point during their turn. Players have no limit to the amount of cards that can be in their hand at any point.
3.) Put Cards Into Play – Players will play cards on their side of the current Battlefield card during their turn. These cards will be compared against each other during the final (Attack) phase of a game Round. There are 3 different types of cards that make up a player’s Draw Pile; Firepower cards, Instant Action cards, and Row-Blocking cards.
– These are the type of cards that will be played onto a player’s side of the Battlefield. Think of each Battlefield as a column, stretching north and south from the central Battlefield card. Most Battlefield cards have a starting Firepower number printed on them in the bottom left portion of the card (represented by a numbered white poker chip icon). This is the starting, base Firepower for this Battlefield. This references that amount of defense that the Padre Esteban player has when comparing against the oncoming attack from the General Mapache player in the final step of a Round.
For instance, players are currently on the 1st space of the Church Battlefield card. The Church has a base Firepower of 2. This means that if the Padre Esteban player doesn’t play any more Firepower cards during his turn, his Firepower amount against the General Mapache attack would be a total of 2.
The Padre Esteban player may play Firepower cards on his turn and place them below the current Battlefield card, but he is only limited to 3 total Firepower cards. These are easily recognizable by the same white numbered poker chip at the top left portion of the card. The General Mapache player however, may play as many Firepower cards as he wishes on his side of the Battlefield. He has no limit whatsoever, though it may be disadvantageous to him to play a ton of cards this way (which I’ll explain later).
For instance, continuing with the above example, the Padre Esteban player decides to play 2 Firepower cards on his turn and places a Warner Springfield Revolver (+1 Firepower) and a Throwing Knife (+2 Firepower). You’ll also notice that when the Throwing Knife is played from his hand, the Padre Esteban player gets to immediately Draw another card from his Draw Pile. After playing these 2 cards, he decides to end his turn and pass play to the General Mapache player, who would start his turn with drawing 2 cards from his Draw Pile. Padre Esteban’s current Firepower on the Church space would be 5 (+2 base, +2 Revolver, and +1 Throwing Knife).
Instant Actions Cards
– These types of cards can be played as instant, one-time events and are not played into the Battlefield area (unless otherwise noted). Because of this, they do not count towards the Padre Esteban’s 3 Battlefield card limit. Either player can play as many of these from his hand on their respective turn, as they would like to. Some cards can be played in response to another player’s placement of cards (just pay attention to the text on the card), but for the most part, Instant Action cards will be played during that particular player’s turn.
It is now the General Mapache player’s turn to play cards. Before playing any Firepower cards, he decides to play the Sodden Terrain card. This is an Instant Action card that immediately adds 1 Sombrero marker to the Arrival of the Mexican Army card, thus slowing the Army’s progress (since this is an Instant Action card, it is then placed into the Discard Pile once it has been resolved).
He then decides to play the Los Tiburon card (+2 Firepower) and the Los Desperados card (+2 Firepower). Note that when the Los Desperados Firepower card is played, the Padre Esteban player must discard 1 card from his hand. The current Firepower of the General Mapache player is a total of 4.
Row Blocking Cards
– Think of each individually played card in the Battlefield column as a row. There are certain cards that can be played from a player’s hand that will allow them to block a row. These cards will be placed along with the opposing player’s cards in their respective Battlefield. Players do not play them on their own side of the Battlefield. Remember that the Padre Esteban player may only have a maximum of 3 cards in his battlefield, and these Row-Blocking cards do in fact count towards this limit. So you can actually max out the Padre Esteban’s limit by playing a Row-Blocking card as the 3rd card on his side. At the same time, if the Padre Esteban player has already played 3 cards on his side of the Battlefield, a Row-Blocking card can not be played there (as it would be the 4th card).
Continuing with the ongoing battle at the Church, the General Mapache player has not finished playing cards from his hand. He still wishes to play 1 more card. He chooses to play the dreaded “Bedevilled by the Legendary White Buffalo” card, which allows him to block a row at any Battlefield. He then places this card onto Padre Esteban’s side of the Battlefield. Because this is the 3rd card in Padre Esteban’s column on this particular Battlefield, the Padre Esteban player will not be able to play a 4th card. He then ends his turn and moves to the final step of the Round, the Attack.
4.) Attack Padre Esteban’s Malpaso Guardians – After the General Mapache player is done playing cards from his hand, he will try to kill 1 of Padre Esteban’s guardians. This is done by comparing the Firepower amounts from each side of the current Battlefield. If the General Mapache player has a higher Firepower amount, the Padre Esteban player must choose which Guardian card is killed off (removed from the game). The Malpaso Guardians must be removed according to its Survival Rating, located in the top left corner of the card. All “0” Survival Rating characters must killed first, then “1’s”, “2’s” and so on. Since Padre Esteban is the only character with a “5” Survival Rating, he will always be the last Malpaso character to die.
For instance, the Padre Esteban player totals 5 Firepower. The General Mapache player totals 4 Firepower. Therefore, the General Mapache player would lose the round. If however, the General Mapache player would have totaled 6 Firepower, he would then kill 1 of the Malpaso Guardians from play. The Padre Esteban would then examine his characters and could choose to discard Clay Boone, one of his characters with a “0” Survival Rating. He would not be able to discard a “1” Survival Rating character or higher, until all of his “0” Survival Rating characters were dead. He would then place the Clay Boone card into the box and out of the game.
Sometimes there are certain events which will immediately take place when a Malpaso Guardian card is discarded, and these can become quite a strategy as when to cause them to resolve. Take for instance, Kid Lightning. When killed, the Padre Esteban player must discard 2 cards as well as add a Sombrero to the Mexican Army card. Whereas, Turkey Joe allows the Padre Esteban character to Draw a card from his Draw Pile when killed. So as you can see, some of these can be a bit helpful to the player, even though he is losing a Guardian.
Another thing to note on the Malpaso Guardian cards are the True Grit icons, located below the character’s Survival Rating, along the left side of the card. When a Guardian is drawn, a number of True Grit tokens equal to the number printed on the card are placed onto that Guardian (as seen above on the Kid Lightning card). Think of these as extra lives, or thematically as the amount of wounds a character can take before he dies. If a Guardian were to be killed during this Attack phase, if it has a True Grit token on it, that token will be removed instead of the Guardian card. The Guardian card would only be removed once it no longer contained any True Grit tokens.
If the General Mapache player is unable to kill a Malpaso Guardian either by an Instant Action card or by comparing Firepower at the end of the Round, 1 Sombrero is removed from the Arrival of the Mexican Army card. Also note that cards will remain in a Battlefield area for the remainder of the game, once placed. This means that in the above examples, when the Padre Esteban player moved the Turn Marker from the 1st space on the Church card, to the 2nd, all Firepower cards including the Row-Blocking card would remain there for the next turn.
Los Quantos Bridge
General Mapache and his men will first invade the town of Malpaso by way of the Los Quantos Bridge. While the strategy revolved around the first 3 locations is mainly the recruitment (and the suppressing of that recruitment by the General Mapache player) of Malpaso Guardians, the final 3 locations provide a different type of strategy, and as with the case of the Los Quantos Bridge and the Abandoned Silver Mine, a few extra rules.
The “Dynamite the Bridge” effect comes in play while players are currently on the Los Quantos Bridge location. You’ll notice that some cards drawn from the Padre Esteban player’s Draw Pile include a Powder Keg icon along the left hand side of the card. During the Padre Esteban player’s turn, while on the bridge, he can discard cards from his hand with a cumulative total of 2 Powder Kegs and blow up the Los Quantos Bridge. When this happens, all cards previously played by the General Mapache player on the Los Quantos Bridge location are wiped from the Battlefield and the Los Quantos Bridge Battlefield card is flipped to its opposite side. The blowing up of the bridge can only take place once per game.
For example, players are on the 2nd space of the Los Quantos Bridge location. The General Mapache player had previously played Angel La Motte (+3 Firepower) and Sabata (+2) Firepower before ending his turn. During the Padre Esteban player’s turn, he decides to discard a Telegram card (x1 Powder Keg) and a Fire Guns Into The Air card (x1 Powder Keg). Because he has discarded a total of 2 Powder Kegs, he could take the action of blowing up the Los Quantos Bridge, thus forcing the General Mapache player to wipe both of his current Firepower cards from the Battlefield. The Los Quantos Bridge card is then flipped to its opposite side to show that this action has already been taken.
Abandoned Silver Mine
Once General Mapache’s gang has entered Malpaso, Padre Esteban and his group of villagers will take up defense (and their last stand) inside an Abandoned Silver Mine. As with the Los Quantos Bridge, this Battlefield has some special events, though unlike the Bridge, these can be used on multiple occasions and are not limited to just a one-time use.
As with the Powder Keg icons on the Padre Esteban player’s cards, the General Mapache player’s cards include an Ammo icon along the left side of some cards. These Ammo icons can be used to power the Gatling Gun inside the Abandoned Silver Mine, and is one of the most deadliest tools in the game for taking out the remaining Guardians of Malpaso. The General Mapache player can discard a number of Ammo icons equal to the number of currently played cards on his side of the Abandoned Silver Mine Battlefield location. For each Ammo icon that is discarded in this way, that many number of Malpaso Guardians are killed immediately. Note that some Ammo icons show a “x2 Ammo” icon. This means that even though 1 card is discarded, as many as 2 Malpaso Guardians can be killed if that card had a “x2 Ammo” icon printed on it, as opposed to a “x1”.
For example, the General Mapache player currently has a Burning Wagon card (+3 Firepower) and a Hired Gun card (+1 Firepower) in play under the Abandoned Silver Mine location. This means that if he was to choose to use the Gatling Gun, he could discard up to 2 cards to do so (since there are currently 2 cards in play). He chooses to discard an Antler Stem Pipe card (x2 Ammo) and a Swift Horses card (x1 Ammo). This means that since the total Ammo amount discarded is 3, he would be able to immediately kill 3 Malpaso Guardians.
Since Padre Esteban must survive through the final 4th space of the Abandoned Silver Mine to claim one of the victory conditions, you can see why the Gatling Gun can be pretty deadly, especially if the General Mapache player has been saving up cards with Ammo icons on them throughout the game. Luckily, Padre Esteban and his Malpaso Guardians have set up a few traps of their own. The Padre Esteban player can discard a total of 2 Powder Kegs here in order to Collapse parts of the Mine. When doing so, it wipes the General Mapache player’s cards currently on the Abandoned Silver Mine (much like it did when the bridge was blown up). This will keep the General Mapache player from being able to load up on Gatling Gun actions, since he can only discard a number of cards equal to the current card total in his Battlefield. As with the Gatling Gun action, this can be performed as many times as the player wishes, provided he has the correct cards for it.
It is now the Padre Esteban player’s turn. After losing 3 Malpaso Guardians during the General Mapache player’s turn, he realizes that he needs to act quickly. He discards a William Weston Foster card (x2 Powder Kegs) from his hand and uses the Collapse the Mine action. The General Mapache player is forced to remove both the Burning Wagon and Hired Gun cards from the Battlefield and into his discard pile. He would therefore need to play more cards into the Battlefield on his next turn, before he would be able to discard cards and use the Gatling Gun again.
The Western genre can easily be viewed as one of the most underutilized themes in the current lineup of board game releases year after year. Fans of games like Red Dead Redemption and films such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly should be pleased that Revolver 2 thematically captures the Old West narrative of good versus outlaw. One reason that Revolver 2 seems to work however, is not solely based on its ability to incorporate a Western theme into its gameplay, but the fact that it has worked the gameplay mechanics into the storytelling itself.
The first half of the game revolves around Padre Esteban recruiting Malpaso town members to take a stand against the oncoming General Mapache gang. General Mapache’s job is to minimize not only the recruiting efforts of Padre Esteban, but also to make sure that the Mexican Army is kept at a safe distance. Padre Esteban meanwhile is trying to balance his recruitment of villagers (as recruitment ends after the 3rd Battlefield), but must also try and force General Mapache to use part of his gang (and most importantly, waste some of his Ammo) in earlier rounds so that he can not hoard them for the finale. While General Mapache may want to stock up on Ammo for the Gatling Gun, he probably won’t do so at the expense of allowing the Mexican Army to advance closer to his gang.
Once General Mapache and his gang enter through the Los Quantos Bridge during the last half of the game, it is an all out battle of actions, reactions, and a race to the finish. General Mapache’s gang (cards) are much more stronger than the forces of Padre Esteban, but Padre Esteban and his men only need to survive and defend the town, or hold out long enough for the arriving Mexican Army. Revolver 2 is all about how well you can control your side of the fight, and how well you can manage the tools you’ve been given from turn to turn.
While the opposing sides play quite asymmetrical, the game seems balanced for the victory conditions needed to win the game. The inclusion of the pre-game All Rivers Poker Tournament is a nice addition, and should provide a bit of variety in setup from game to game. Though with the promise of future expansions, we may see even more of that variety play out with the possible addition of new Battlefield locations and expandable events and characters. Overall, Revolver 2 should fill the void fans of the Western genre have been yearning for on their board game shelf. And it should fit quite nicely alongside your Sergio Leone collection.