Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
DUAL POWERS: REVOLUTION 1917 (Thunderworks Games, 1-2 players, ages 13 and up, 45 minutes; $39.95)
When We, the People was published late in 1993 (featured in the Spring 1994 Gamers Alliance Report), the world of the board game, in particular that of wargames, underwent a kind of revolution thanks to the emergence of the “Card Driven” mechanism, popularized even more by Ted Raicer’s award winning Paths of Glory: The First World War some six years later. Instead of the traditional turn of play in which players alternate in the classic stages of movement and attack, in Card Driven games, the rhythm of the game is set by cards that can be played alternately to perform actions on the map or to activate specific events. This dual significance of the cards, the presence of thematic events related to the historical context and the fluidity of the game that arises were the keys to success of games such as Twilight Struggle (Spring 2006 GA Report) and made them able to capture the attention of an audience outside the narrow circle of wargame players. Dual Powers: Revolution 1917, as designed by Brett Myers, belongs to this genre where, set in the critical historical context of the Russian Revolution, two players represent the two factions in that struggle.
The game board is divided into 6 regions, each highlighted by a colour. Each player has 10 units with a field value, from 1 to 3, and a combat factor, also from 1 to 3. Each unit has a back, which represents the fatigued unit, with a value from 0 to 3. Then there are 6 neutral green units, of value 1 and with back of value 0,1 or 2.
At the start of the game, a neutral unit is placed in each area. In each round, two areas of play are randomly selected, one representing the “Blockaded” region and the other the “Unrest” one. The Blockaded region also determines where the Blockade Marker is placed, preventing unit movement between the two connected regions. In the next round, the Blockaded region will become the Unrest area and a new Blockaded region will be randomly selected. This allows a certain degree of programming because each region appears in the game only once and once unrested will be not interested in the revolution anymore. Each player then draws 5 action cards and secretly chooses one to play: the card chosen will represent the player’s secret objective for that round.
At the end of each round, players will score points by checking the control of the Unrest Region and the two regions identified by the secret objective. Unrest regions have a variable value, from 2 points at the start of the game to 7 in October-November. The secret objective regions are worth 2 to 4 points, depending on the card played. The game continues as long as one of the two players gets a 13-point lead over the other or when the month of October arrives.
Players alternate by playing cards from their own hand. After four have been played by each, the round ends and the scoring phase occurs.
Each card, as typical of Card Driven games, can be played as an “event” or to place units on the map. The cards are identified by a color, a recruit value (from 1 to 3), a special action, the Day Number (representing the passage of time) and a victory point value (from 2 to 4).
If you decide to use a card to place units, you can deploy to the region identified by the color of the card one or more units whose total recruitment value is equal to or less than the represented recruitment value. Each card also represents one of these actions: moving a unit of a region, moving a unit of two regions or refreshing a unit (flipping any one unit token or leader token they control from its exhausted side to its fresh side). At the end of the round, units present in an area that guarantees points are turned face down (fatigued) and, if already fatigued, removed from the map. The choice between deploying or performing an action is often decisive.
The game is very tight and how to handle your hand of 5 cards is the essential part. One card must be used as a secret objective and the other 4 to perform actions to succeed in having the majority if possible in the unrest region, in your secret region and, if possible, also in that of the opponent. You need a certain degree of skill in programming your actions while being careful to obscure your secret objective from your opponent. In case of parity, the territory is controlled by the player who has more units and in case of further parity, by the player who has the “Will of the People”.
Each move advances time according to the card played, an important aspect. Reaching box 15 or boxes 28 to 30 allows the player to have bonus actions. Making the timepiece exceed 30 guarantees the player the Will of the People. It is not uncommon to choose which cards to play and when based on the time factor. Having the Will of the People allows you to control neutral units, both during the game phases and in the control phase. This is sometimes crucial and taking the Will of the People at the end of the round is a strategically important move. However, having the Will of the People is not always an advantage because it comes with being the first player in the next round. Starting is never an advantage because you leave the opponent the chance to make the last move in the round before the scoring phase.
Each player also has three Leader cards that allow one of their commanders to deploy to an area of their choice that can be played once in the game. Each Leader is associated with a special action, one that allows them to gain the Will of the People, one that allows them to see the opponent’s secret objective and one that allows them to move the blockade counter, which effectively prevents the passage between two areas. Playing a Leader card is also useful because it allows you NOT to play one of your own 4 cards, allowing an extra card to choose from on your next turn. Choosing between more cards becomes essential in being able to set a good strategy; sometimes playing a Leader even at the beginning of the game can be useful.
Dual Power: Revolution 1917 is an asymmetric game as the two factions are very similar but not identical: the “whites” for example can deploy units worth 3 points while those of the reds can be worth three points only if fatigued. But the “reds”, from the 4th month, control the Trotsky unit that comes into play in the second month as a neutral checker. For those who don’t have a gaming partner, a solo mode of play is provided.
With very simple rules and a duration of about 30 minutes, Dual Powers: Revolution 1917 is a very interesting game in which you mix different strategic aspects that need to be balanced. Sometimes it may be useful to give up, for example, the fight for control of a region to position units to the region that will be unrested in the next round. The rising value of the unrested region during the game also helps to keep the match open until the end. According to my tastes, Dual Powers 1917 is one of the best two players games published in the last few years. – – – – – – – – – – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
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