RevolutionIf we’ve met in person recently, you’ve probably heard me gushing about this new game. Revolution, from Steve Jackson Games, is now making its way to retailers and I highly recommend it for the hobbyist and casual gamer alike. The game pits players against each other in a contest of influence, gained through blackmail, bribery, and straightforward force. Using these three basic tools, players persuade prominent town figures to help position their factions for control of various centers of power. It’s a game of political maneuvering, where knowing what your opponents are likely to do is just as valuable as having more resources at your disposal. Control of the Magistrate can give you influence in the town hall, but also provides a juicy secret suitable for blackmail. An alliance with the Merchant yields influence in the market, as well as cash for bribes. The Spy will help turn the influence of other factions over to your side.

In design terms, Revolution is a blind-bidding, area control game. A bid of force always beats blackmail, which always beats bribery, except that certain personalities don’t really respond to certain types of influence—for example, don’t bother trying to bully the General. The specifics don’t take much longer than that to learn. And the game plays quickly, with turns of fate possible right up to the very end.

The history behind the game is also interesting, and a story that the aspiring game designer and potential SGGC (single-game game company) would do well to keep in mind. Revolution began as a self-published offering from designer Philip duBarry.

I also noticed the trend of people losing their shirts while trying to live their dreams. The last thing I wanted was to end up with a basement full of games no one wanted to buy. The easiest and cheapest thing to do is to read everything you can find about game design and the industry itself. The Internet is filled with great articles and helpful tips. I also think aspiring game designers need to start small. I was inspired by Jackson Pope (of Reiver Games). He talked about cutting out the pieces himself and putting it all together by hand. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely the cheapest way to start out. I ended up selling 30 copies of Revolution before I got the call from Phil Reed at SJG.

Had I not gotten that call, my plans were to figure out how to get the smallest print run possible. My limited success selling the handmade version had convinced me that my game was good enough to take it to the next level. I’m still not quite sure how much I would have been willing to spend to make that happen. If you are going to make the leap, do all you can to make sure you’re not jumping into an empty swimming pool.

Of course, some people will be concerned about making changes to their game in the process of turning it in to a salable product. On that, Philip relates his experience:

I remember sitting down at Origins and having my own game explained to me by Will Schoonover. It was a little surreal, but it turned out okay. They removed the cards from the original game and changed the result of losses and ties during bidding. I did have some concerns about this. We spent the next month or two trading emails and talking it through. They ended up allowing me some input in the process, and I feel like every major concern was satisfactorily resolved. There were still a few surprises when I got the finished copy, but these all turned out to be better than I expected. In the end, the team at SJG did an exceptional job polishing my original design. What we have now is something truly special. I couldn’t be happier about it!

Congratulations Philip!