Virtual Revolution, a new board game published by Studio H, sends you on a corporate mission to dystopian Neo Paris where you’ll be attempting to wrestle control of the virtual universe in the region away from other hungry companies. People practically live in the digital world now, in ‘Verses’, and so the money is where the Verses are.
Designed by Guy-Roger Duvert, the Virtual Revolution board game is a cyberpunk game of technocratic influence and area majority as you recruit Agents to your cause to own the Verse-verse.
So let’s plug into the Parisian future as we dive into the Virtual Revolution board game!
Virtual Revolution Gameplay
Virtual Revolution is played over the course of 5 Rounds, in which players take turns performing the same sequence of actions. First, a Director is placed in any district in Neo Paris. You can then adjust the influence in that district accordingly, either by removing an opponent’s influence or by placing your own if it’s already empty.
Once influence is done, players can then choose one of the following 5 actions:
- Work: Gain 5 currency
- Recruit an Agent: Take an Agent card that’s within your Director’s influence range
- Build a Server: Add a Server to the Borough where you just placed your Director
- Create a Verse: Take an available Verse from the market
- Make a Donation: Pay money to get rid of Corruption cards, and then optionally pay more to gain Immunity
Although this core gameplay loop is quite simple on its face, there is a lot to consider in the sphere of influence provided by each turn. In trying to maintain your foothold in each Borough, you will be working towards fully controlling Boroughs to gain powerful benefits that will aid you further. There’s a balance between making sure that you keep progressing towards your goals while also thwarting the other players.
There’s a high amount of player interaction in that sense; you are constantly removing players’ pieces, retaking territory, and even taking cards that they may have been eyeing up. The word that comes to mind is ‘struggle’, as nothing can be taken for granted except that everybody is gunning for you.
At the end of the game, point salad scoring comes into effect. You’ll score based on how many servers you have, Agents you’ve recruited, Boroughs in your control, how much money you have, as well as personal Objectives, Verses, and income. There are a whopping 9(!) scoring parameters in the game, meaning that you’ll only be able to prioritize a few different areas if you want to succeed.
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Virtual Revolution!
The Virtual Revolution board game gets top marks for production quality, mainly for its screen-printed meeples and servers that will be popping up all over the board as the game goes on. Lately one of my favorite game components has been the simple wooden disc, probably from the game designs that I’ve been personally working on. It’s also a really nice touch that each players’ Directors are all different while still making it clear and obvious that they are, indeed, Directors.
My only real issue with the components is hardly an issue, but the player boards have cutouts for the Influence tokens that will constantly be moved. However, instead of a ‘traditional’ dual-layered board, the board is just open to the table below. I guess that this fulfills the function of keeping the pieces in place, but you won’t be able to move the board easily unless you slide it, otherwise the pieces will need to be replaced within it. The Directors just sit on top, so it just seems like an interesting design choice. ZhanGuo: The First Empire did a similar thing, so this may be indicative of a rising trend.
Other than that, the cards are a standard quality, albeit large in number, and the tokens are a nice, thick cardboard. Also keep in mind that this is a sizeable, square board that will take up a good chunk of tabular real estate, but it’s solid and everything that a game board should be.
I mentioned above that Virtual Revolution features a bountiful point salad style of scoring. This means that there is more than one way to play the game, and you will simply be unable to ‘do it all’. At least, you won’t be able to do it all well.
People will likely comment about the strategy revolving around the Borough-centric push and pull that you’ll be engaged in, which is definitely something that you’ll probably focus on. However, I think that a lot of the game hinges on Corruption management.
You will be fed Corruption cards constantly. Almost everything you do will get you one of these bad boys, which are bad news once you have 5 at the end of a Round. They make you discard Agents, remove Servers…all sorts of things. You can, however, protect yourself from their effects with Immunity tokens and by making Donations. A lot of people tend to sleep on that last part, but if you can effectively manage your Corruption and limit its detriment to you, I think you’ll be in for a good time.
Futuristic dystopian vibes are showcased in the vivid coloration and illustrations from artist Benjamin Sjöberg in Virtual Revolution. It probably helps having a film to draw inspiration from, as the world-building is already done and in a much more accessible state than concept art stills. The characters are evocative, and I am especially fond of the way lighting is used to echo emotion and tone.
Because there are so many districts, I do feel that in lower light there can be some issues distinguishing from one another, especially in reference to the title cards you get if you control a district completely. They do have abbreviations which definitely help, so you should be able to identify them even with color blindness.
Because there is so much going on in the Virtual Revolution board game, the first game or two can feel overwhelming, especially with learning how everything interacts with the other gameplay elements. People who fancy the area control aspects of board gaming will love wrestling control away from their opponents, although it’s still hard to keep total control once you have it.
Players who like having access to a variety of options will appreciate both the market for Verses and for Agents, which will sculpt your future turns and give you subgoals to work towards within the game. The timing of promoting your Agents is also super important, because you can put together some nice synergies if you plan ahead a bit.
Personally, I would have liked maybe one or two fewer endgame scoring objectives, just to ease the mental tablature going on as I play, but I’m sure a lot of them came up as a result of playtesting, with players wanting something to show for all that money they made or for raising their income to absurd levels. There should be a reward for doing those things, I agree.
Virtual Revolution is cutthroat; you’re always looking over your shoulder to see who might be coming after you next. At the same time, however, you’re coming after other people too, so it’s all in good fun. This is not a game where a bunch of people play solitaire. Even though you can win if you focus all of your efforts off the board, like with Verses and whatnot, the other players would do well to notice that and try to stop you from just capitalizing on a million Verses.
There can be a lot of feelings of people just swapping influence back and forth, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the end, something has to give, especially if there is a full table of four. It becomes very easy to get tunnel vision into a single area of the board, but try to keep a broader eye!
Virtual Revolution: Calling All Directors!
We enjoyed Virtual Revolution, even as it pushes up against its 90 minute run time on the first few plays as you get to learn that game. I can see how some people might push well beyond that if they’re heavily analyzing every turn; there’s a lot to focus on and it can feel overwhelming if you try to do it all.
What Virtual Revolution does really well, however, is making you feel like you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with recruited Agents. Being able to leverage them to make your subsequent actions more potent adds a bit of light engine-building that makes you feel like you’re getting away with something.
You can pick up a copy of Virtual Revolution from your FLGS since it released earlier this week, or you can pick up a copy from Hachette Boardgames directly.
[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Virtual Revolution from Hachette Boardgames in exchange for an honest review.]