Monday, September 25, 2017

Witches of the Revolution Review



Quick Look:

Info:
Designer: M. Craig Stockwell
Artists: James Mosingo & Alan Washburn (Illustrations), Nicolas Gluesenkamp (Graphic Design)
Publisher: Atlas Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

DISCLAIMER: This is a review of Witches of the Revolution. I was sent a copy of the game for my review.

George Washington. Paul Revere. Alexander Hamilton. We know the names of these heroes. But there are others who fought for the cause of liberty, secret cabals in a hidden war that historians never talk about. These witches of the revolution led the occult forces of this worldand the nextagainst tyranny and oppression; without them, we surely would have lost the war.

Witches of the Revolution is a cooperative deck-building game, set during the height of the Revolutionary War. Each player leads a coven of witches against both mortal and otherworldly threats in a quest for freedom. Carefully balancing your deck and resources is crucial if you hope to save America from the tyrannical rule of King George III.

Awesome artwork, great publisher - looking forward to this one!

Review:

Rules and Setup:

Each player's turn consists of five steps: adding a Recruit, adding an Event, acting and/or recruiting, discarding, and drawing. The first two steps are self-explanatory. For the first step, a new Recruit card gets played onto the board, pushing the row to the right and removing any recruits pushed out; the second step adds an Event card to the board, also pushing the row down if cards are in the way. Events can occasionally have immediate effects and must be resolved right after being flipped.

During the third step, players may act by attempting to overcome an Event and remove it from the board; if they succeed, they can remove a marker from an Objective card. They can also recruit new members to their coven by trading in their cards for new cards from the Recruit deck. One or both of these actions may be taken in any order, but if a player chooses to, they don't have to act or recruit on their turn.

After this, players have an option of discarding as many or as few cards as they wish (at least to their hand limit), and then they may choose to draw up to their hand limit or skip drawing. Once they have drawn (or chosen not to), play continues to the next person. The game continues in this fashion until all four of the objectives have been resolved (done by removing all markers from an Objective card) and players win, or until they lose. Players lose if they reach maximum Tyranny on the Liberty track, there are too many Event cards on the board, or they run out of Event cards to play.

The box contains the game board, the rule book, a variety of tokens, and several decks of cards.

To start setup, place the board onto the table and the Moon and Liberty tokens on their starting spaces. Each player gets a deck of Seeker cards; these have the same backing as the Recruit cards, and there are sixty cards with four different illustrations, so each player gets fifteen cards with the same illustration (if playing less than a four-player game, the remaining Seeker cards go back into the box). Each player shuffles their deck and draws five cards for their starting hand.

Next, the Recruit deck is prepared by setting aside the Blessing cards and shuffling the rest of the cards. Three Recruit cards are played face-up on the board, and the rest of the deck is separated into three smaller decks. Three of the blessing cards at random are shuffled into these stacks, the remaining Blessed cards are returned to the box, and the piles are stacked back together. After this, four Objective cards are randomly selected and placed face-up on the board, and their associated markers are placed beneath them. The Event deck is also chosen (only half of the Event cards are used, and the rest go in the box; which ones you use alters the difficulty of the game) and shuffled, leaving only one step: selecting the starting player.

The board is set - time to take on the revolution!

Theme and Mechanics:
The game goes all out on its Revolutionary occult theme. The artwork, wording, events, actionsall of it fits the theme and draws you in. And it doesn't do this in a "Look at these WITCHES, huh? Doing MAGIC things, in the PAST!" way, either; the names they use to differentiate witches are old names from a variety of cultures, and the four kinds of Seeker cards each show a different group implied to have mystical abilities (Native American shamanism and African hoodoo, just to name two of them). Each of the Event and Objective cards also touch on historical subjects that the witches supposedly were a part of, some of them being more realistic (the hanging of suspected witches) and some being very unrealistic (curing Paul Revere's lycanthropy). All of these small details enhance the game and its theme, elevating it from a fun game about witches into a nail-biting race to save America.

The Objective cards (top), Recruit cards (left), and Event cards (right).

However, as enjoyable as the theme is, the game truly shines in its mechanics. Simply put, it's a great blend of the resource management of Splendor and the cooperative tactics of Pandemic, all while adding its own twist to tried-and-true deck-building mechanics. Cards themselves are resources, as each Seeker, Recruit, and Event card has magic icons (the amount varies between cards), and removing an Event card means meeting or exceeding its icons with those of your cards'. Purchasing new recruits, which can be crucial to removing Events with higher amounts of icons, also costs cards, and you can end up with a smaller deck of cards over time depending on how you recruit.

There are other minor mechanics worth noting. On another player's turn, you can spend your cards to help them with a difficult Event, but doing so expends cards you may need on your turn. When you retrieve an Objective marker, you can use it as an extra magic icon, but once spent, they go back in the box and cannot be used again. Paying attention to the Moon and Liberty tokens is also important; not eliminating Events quickly enough can push the Liberty tracker towards Tyranny and make the game more difficult, while playing cards too quickly and having to reshuffle your deck pushes the Moon tracker along its track, adding to the amount of magic icons needed to be played for each Event.

It was hard fought, and I ran out of recruits, but I squeaked out a victory in the end.

Artwork and Components:
The art of Witches of the Revolution is exactly what artwork for a game should be: beautiful, consistent, fits the theme well, and adds to the experience. Perhaps most importantly, despite the wealth of information that must be conveyed, the cards still avoid being cluttered. Even the game board, while arguably full of a lot of information, is relatively self-explanatory and serves the game rather than being an eyesore.

An empty board, for comparison's sake.

The game contains nearly 200 cards and several tokens, which normally would make me hesitant. While I enjoy components as much as the next gamer, I find that owning games with lots of them often means that you'll have to take several minutes to sort out the components every time you want to play. However, Atlas Games has circumvented this by adding a good plastic box insert. It fits perfectly, and the components stay in place once the board and rule book have been placed on top of them, even when stored on its side.

The box insert keeps all components neatly secured - and looks good to boot.

The Good:
Witches of the Revolution is an exciting cooperative adventure. Its rules are simple enough to learn in an afternoon, but the complexity and variety keeps the game fresh each time it's played. Its components are great quality, the rule book is well-written, and the theme is unique and a blast to get invested in.

The Bad:
For those wanting a more relaxed game or something with very simple rules, Witches probably won't fit the bill.

Final Thoughts:
Is it too early to hope for a legacy version?

Players Who Like:
Fans of deck-building games and those who enjoy Pandemic or Splendor will love Witches.

I am giving Witches of the Revolution 9 out of 10 super meeples.

9 10

Check out Witches of the Revolution on:

        

Get your copy now at your FLGS or online at Amazon!


About the Author:
David Jensen has tried his hand at everything from warehouse work and washing dishes to delivering pizza. Now, he writes reviews and works as an editor for a literary magazine. When not busy procrastinating, he's playing tabletop games with friends and writing fiction.










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