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REVOLUTION ROAD This June, I spent one of the most memorable vacations of my life in the States, ending with five days in Boston.  O...





This June, I spent one of the most memorable vacations of my life in the States, ending with five days in Boston.  One of those outstanding moments was walking the Freedom Trail, which starts at one end from Bunker Hill, and spending well over an hour in the Bunker Hill museum taking in all the information and talking to an engaging and highly knowledgeable Ranger.

Consequently, there was no doubt why I just had to review this very recent product from Compass Games, especially as everything that I'd seen and read about Revolution Road made me want to own and play these games.  Notice that latter point, these games.  Unlike Mark's recent experience with Sovereign of The Seas, which has an eye-watering cost, Revolution Road contains two games in one box for what I consider a very reasonable price [$69 in the US and £59.99 in the UK being the best I've seen].
Value for money - no doubt about it.

I was also more fortunate when punching out the counters in that I didn't experience the problem of paper tearing, though the physical quality and thickness is definitely average.  The artwork too is what I would call serviceable rather than artistic.  However, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as there've been times when I've struggled with the artistic quality of counters designed to mirror Napoleonic uniforms, when just such clear, functional qualities would have been a blessing.

However, to return to the fact that there are two games here and not just two battles with different maps, using an identical system.  Each game has a different and distinctive rule book and, though there is substantial overlap in the  rules, the effect and gameplay are significantly different.  Bunker Hill is what I would call broad brush tactical, while Lexington to Concord is very much more at an operational level.   Though both are relatively low level in complexity, equally both repay careful reading and attention.  The latter, because it is fairly innovative and the former because it appears a very familiar type of system, but has its own specific individuality and idiosyncracies.

And it's Bunker Hill that I'm going to start with.  This is a battle little gamed other than in scenarios for generic type American War of Independence games, such as Worthington's Hold The Line.   The location of the battle is now a thoroughly tame, suburban area, but the Bunker Hill museum provides an engrossing wealth of detail with its dioramas and reproductions of paintings, some of which are used in the game's box and rules folders' art work.
One of the excellent images taken from paintings of the battle 

Regarding the map, I really like this presentation for several reasons.  First of all, the areas are very well defined and are both functional, clear and attractive.  The three crucial hills [from left to right Bunker Hill, Breeds Hill and Moulton Hill] stand out vividly, with the hill tops in dark brown and the slopes and the rare ridges in a lighter brown.  Most of the rest of the landscape is a pleasing green with the area of Charlestown in the bottom left easily identified. The areas of lighter blue water designate the potential Landing Zones for the British troops and the connected staging areas are clearly stated.

Despite most of the map being taken up by the playing area, there still remains plenty of space on the left to present all the necessary tracks for game functions without them either being crammed together or dominating the play area.  I particularly appreciated the display printed in the empty river area at top right that contains the chart of all the actions that both sides can take.  When combined with the separate play aid that explains all the actions, play is made very smooth. 

In this respect, I'd praise both games highly.  The rules are simple, clear and well explained and combined with the thoroughness and clarity of the play aids they make play very straightforward.  Too often you find games need the combination of the play aids and rules to work out the game in total.  Not here, the play aids really are just that: an excellent support to playing the game.  I'd go so far as saying that once you've read the rules and used the play aids a couple of times to play the game, you'll rarely need to use the rule book again other than to set up the pieces at the beginning of each game.
Just two of the quality double-sided play aids

It is moreover a swift game to play, as there is a maximum of ten turns and, during each turn, both players will be able to take at best only five Actions [give or take the occasional Reserve actions]. Each action can only be performed in a single area of the map and each area can contain only three units plus any number of leaders!  There are twelve different Actions in total and the British may chose from eleven of them and the Americans from nine of them.  

All the Actions bar one [namely Assault] are very quickly taken.  For example, Naval Move allows the British fleet marker to move from its current area to an adjacent one; Land Move allows units from one area to move up to three areas; Bombard allows you to fire the two artillery units, the fleet and the Copps Hill battery. 

Only Assault involves any degree of time and it is not an Action that you will undertake lightly or with any degree of success unless you can strike where the enemy is very weak or broken.  Move the units from one area into an adjacent enemy area.  The Attacker must have at least as many healthy units as the Defender has [don't forget the stacking is a maximum of three units per side in an area!].  If the Defender doesn't opt to retreat, if able to, he/she then gets in a free round of fire and, provided the Attacker still has as many healthy units as the Defender, rounds of simultaneous fire take place.  It's deadly!

Some of you may already be thinking that this is far too simple a game to suit them.  As I initially read the rules, that thought certainly started to form for me.  Be advised,  don't make any judgement until you've played the game and played it several times.

Though of low complexity, it is remarkably subtle and much of the subtlety comes from two details: [1] the fact that each unit can either move and later fire or fire and then later move and [2] the Reorganise the Line Action, whereby units in two adjacent areas that haven't yet moved can change places.  The interaction of these alone provide for surprising combinations. At its heart, Bunker Hill is a game of movement, fire and assault, as VPs largely come from eliminating units and leaders, with the values slightly favouring the Patriot player [i.e. the American revolutionaries]. 

In addition, the six hill-top areas provide 1 VP each for whoever holds them at the end of the game and finally the burning of areas in Charlestown produce 1 VP to the British player for every area above five.  Just this small detail adds a simple, but historical and effective side-show to the main military thrust with the potential, though uncertain, opportunity of the British gaining VPs at the risk of losing units to sniping.

Should you be short of an opponent or just fancying a quick solo session, solitaire scenarios are provided to play as either side against a bot.  As my only experience of bots so far has been in the celebrated COIN games, I was rather apprehensive, as I'd found them horribly complicated and time-consuming.  Not so here, like all the rest of this package, they are simplicity itself.  The only minor drawback is that the solitaire scenarios are shortened to Turns 5-10.

In just the same way, the second game too can be played equally effectively solitaire using bots and again with a shorter number of turns, namely Turns 8-12.  However From Boston to Concord presents an altogether different situation. The whole area that the Bunker Hill map represented now becomes one small area on the very eastern edge of this game's map which stretches the full length of the playing area, while various tracks and tables edge the top and bottom of the map.  However, my initial response to the map was less than favourable. The almost uniformly light brown terrain bordered by the dark brown background made for a very sombre and, I have to say, rather dismal prospect and, certainly for my eyes, not the easiest of reads for any informative writing on it!  

All I can say is that you shouldn't go by first impressions and that appearances can be deceiving.  Virtually all the information on the map is in icon form and very easy to identify.  Only the small letters "ha" [for Hidden Arms] and in some cases a number need a little care to find.  As I continued to play, even the initially dour colour grew more and more acceptable.  When I read so many comments about games that are based on a single play and can often be very dismissive, it's a reminder never to judge too quickly.   
However what surprised and pleased me most is that a rules set with significant overlap could yet produce such a different and distinctive game.  From Boston to Concord introduces a whole new dimension involving Night Riders, including the legendary Paul Revere, and the two key Patriot figures, John Hancock and Samuel Adams.  The latter sadly serve as little more than objectives for the British player to pursue, whereas the three Night Riders play a critical role in the game. 

Their task is to ride to the many on-map settlements where Gather Markers are placed and use a Call To Arms action to flip the marker to its Muster side which activates the types of unit printed on the map under the marker. 

The Night Riders can also perform this task by permanently exiting a map edge, on which they can then start to activate Alert markers which also bring in more units for the Patriot player.  This is just one of several elements that gives From Boston To Concord its originality, as it is this mustering of units that provide the Patriot player the units to fight the British player with.  But don't imagine that either side will ever have large forces to play with - another factor that helps to keep playing time down.  For instance the British player has only seven 2-strength Regular units at start and gets another eight on Turn 9 and don't forget it's only a 12 turn game! 

Not too surprisingly, Lexington [a fair ride from Boston] contains a series of important counters: a Muster marker - note the tankard icon, as taverns, such as Buckman's and Munroe's were gathering points [!!]; a Hidden Arms marker; a leader, Brewer, [is that really just a coincidence with tankards and taverns?] as well as one of the three Night Riders [Prescott] and the two key Sons of Liberty, Hancock and Adams; and finally a Minuteman unit [green oval with black figure] plus an untried Militia unit.  A juicy target, but highly likely not to be there by the time the British troops struggle across the map to Lexington.

Returning to those famous Night Riders, a neat corollary to their main task is that every time a Night Rider performs his Call To Arms action, he has to roll for possible capture.  If captured, this brings in a further potential action - attempting to escape.  The British player earns VPs for getting captives back to Boston

Add in the conventional elements of movement, attack, assault and charge, plus more original Actions such as Hindering Movement and Hindering Muster, Ambush, Sniping and one of the most important for the British player, the Search Action both for Hidden Arms and for the leaders and Night Riders already mentioned and you can quickly see, with the limited number of Actions that you get per Turn, how each player constantly feels the pressure of time and choice-making!
Each turn one of these cards is turned up. In this instance, the Patriot player would get 4 Actions, the British player only 3. 

For me the success of this game is not just in this variety of unusual actions, but also partly because of the range of objectives to be pursued along with the particularly conflicting nature of the British objectives.  They have the task of marching their troops the length of the map to Concord, while at the same time attempting to capture individual historical personages, search for the hidden arms cached by the Patriot and prevent mustering from happening.  The first task tends to need the player to march as quickly as possible along the roads, keeping troops mainly together, while all the other tasks demand that troops spread out more thinly to cover as many locations as possible.  When you've only got SEVEN units for a substantial part of the game, as mentioned earlier, that's no mean feat. 

To conclude, my original reason for wanting to review Revolution Road, as I explained at the very beginning, was to play Bunker Hill,  but I hope what I've described will help you to understand why From Boston to Concord has become my favourite out of the two excellent games in the one box.  I sincerely hope Compass Games will continue this new line of departure with swifter, simpler, smoother games to play!

RRP – £69.99
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1 comment :

  1. Very nice, informative review. You are loosening my wallet...