Overview: The self-styled General Mapache and his gang of bandits is threatening the village of Malpaso, so they’ve hired “Padre” Esteban to round up some gunfighters for protection. Who will emerge victorious, Mapache with his deadly Gatling gun, or Esteban with his well-placed dynamite? Or perhaps the Mexican National Defense Army will show up to save the day? Get your guns ready — it’s time to play Revolver 2.
Ages: 12 and up
Playing Time: 45 minutes
Rating: Dynamite! The “poker tournament” mini-game is a little weird, but the actual showdown is excellent.
Who Will Like It? If you like Westerns, Revolver 2 (and its predecessor, Revolver) play out like a cinematic adventure. The mechanics are pretty good, but the thematic elements are the icing on the cake.
Revolver 2 is rich in theme, so if you don’t check out the storyline you’re missing out on a lot of the fun. There’s a short introduction at the front of the rulebook, but the meat of it is at the back, where you get little character profiles of Mapache and Esteban, the guardians and bandits, and even descriptions of the locations where the showdown takes place. It explains, for instance, why you’ll play a little poker tourney to start off the game (and why Esteban has some cheating cards).
A lot of the cards have great names, like “Start Picking Up Yer Teeth!” and “Learn to Shoot Straight You Stinkin’ Pig!” There are a couple things that work mechanically but don’t make as much sense thematically — for instance, there’s one General Mapache card, but the Mapache player doesn’t lose automatically if that card is killed. Overall, though, the theme fits nicely with the gameplay.
The game is mostly cards, with some punch-out tokens and little wooden green sombreros. Here’s the whole list:
- 62 General Mapache cards
- 62 Padre Esteban cards
- 19 Malpaso guardians cards (7 starting guardians, 12 new recruits)
- 1 Dynamite the Bridge card
- 1 Gatling Gun card
- 1 Collapse the Tunnels card
- 1 Arrival of the Mexican Army card
- 12 All Rivers Poker Tournament cards (6 per player)
- 14 Mexican Army tokens (green sombreros)
- 11 True Grit (hat) tokens
- 4 double-sided Malpaso guardians power tokens (white)
- 9 double-sided General Mapache power tokens (black)
- 1 wooden turn marker
The cards are a nice quality and the artwork on them is nicely done. The icons along the edges, once you learn what they mean, are easy to understand and (more importantly) look different from each other so you won’t mix up which is firepower and which is dynamite.
My only complaint about the cards is this: They really should have done more with the card backs. For instance, there are a lot of cards that do not get shuffled into the two player decks: the guardians, the three special cards (Dynamite the Bridge, Gatling Gun, Collapse the Tunnels) — but they have the same sort of card backs as the player decks, which makes them harder to find if you accidentally shuffle them in. The two player decks are distinguished by color: the “Revolver 2” text is reddish-brown on the Mapache deck and green on the Esteban deck, although the rulebook doesn’t actually tell you that. You have to figure that out yourself.
Also, the location cards used depend on which player wins the poker tournament — but these location cards are also not distinguished on the front or back in any way, so you’ll just have to remember which ones to use (or look it up in the rulebook each time). These are simple changes that wouldn’t affect gameplay but would make the game much easier to organize and learn, especially if you’re not already familiar with Revolver.
The rulebook is decent but omits those key pieces of information. Another curious omission is the detailed rules about specific cards. The original game’s rules included short descriptions and clarifications of each card, but for whatever reason this game doesn’t include those.
The game comes in a metal tin with a plastic divider that holds all the components, though you’ll probably want to rubber-band the cards or else they’ll slide around if the box gets tipped. You could certainly fit it into a smaller box if desired — some people really like the metal tins, and some people don’t. I find that they’re harder to stack because of the rounded edges and recessed base.
The goal of the game depends on which character you are: Mapache needs to kill Padre Esteban by the last round of the game (which also involves killing all of the other guardians first). Esteban wins either by surviving the last round of the game, or if the Mexican Army arrives (more on that later).
Decide who’s going to be Padre Esteban and General Mapache, and take all of the cards pertaining to that player. The final three locations (the Los Quantos bridge, Malpaso, and the abandoned silver mine) are laid out in order. The Gatling Gun and Collapse the Tunnels cards are placed near the silver mine, and Dynamite the Bridge is placed near the bridge. The Mexican Army card is placed nearby with twelve of the little green hats on it. The Esteban player lays out the seven starting guardian cards, and shuffles the twelve new recruits and places it separate from his deck.
For the mini poker tournament, each player gets their six cards, removes one at random and places it aside face-down. Each player chooses a card from their hand to play, and then they reveal simultaneously. The higher number wins (the numbers correspond to different poker hands — the Esteban player has even numbers and the Mapache player has odd numbers, so there won’t be ties). A Cheating card (Esteban) beats any number, but the “You Cheatin’ Dawg!” card (Mapache) beats a Cheating card. And any number beats the “You Cheatin’ Dawg!” card. Cards played are set aside except for “You Cheatin’ Dawg!,” which is placed back in the player’s hand. Rounds continue until one player has won two rounds.
Then you place the three starting location cards — Crystal River if Esteban won, and Buffalo Falls if Mapache won. In addition, take the effects of any of the cards played, whether you won that round or not — some allow you to add or remove green hats from the Mexican Army card, increase the number of cards in your starting hand, etc.
Each player shuffles their deck and draws five cards, and you’re ready to play the actual game.
Esteban starts the round, and each turn consists of these phases:
- Advance Turn Marker/Collect Guardians
- Esteban player: Draw 2 cards, play cards
- Mapache player: Draw 2 cards, play cards
- Mapache player Attacks
Esteban moves the turn marker on the little clock icons on the location cards. (On the first round it is placed onto the “1” space on the first location.) The first three locations have numbers beneath the clock — Esteban draws that many guardian cards and places them face-up. Some of the first three locations have green numbers in brackets — these are optional turns. When the turn marker is moved, Esteban has the option of taking that turn (and collecting those guardians) or moving on to the next location — the trade-off is that staying at a location longer may let Mapache kill off more guardians.
Then the players (starting with Esteban) draw two cards and play as many as they choose. There are three types of cards: Firepower cards, which have a little poker chip in the corner and are played at the current location; Row-blocking cards, which have an orange border and can block cards from the other player; one-shot effect cards, which are played and then discarded.
Some cards require you to discard a number of other cards from your hands in order to play them. For instance, the Kiowa Guide card (pictured above) requires you to discard 1 from your hand, as indicated by the “1” in the green cards icon. Some cards have certain effects when they come into play. The raccoon icon represents Mapache and his bandits: some of his cards will have that icon in the lower corner and can be effected by cards that refer to them.
Firepower cards are played in a column on the player’s side of the current battlefield (unless a card says otherwise), and you just add up all the poker chip values for your total firepower. Some of the locations give Esteban bonus firepower. Esteban can only have up to three cards per location, but Mapache doesn’t have any limit.
The tombstone icon (on the “Thrown From His Horse” card, for example) represents one of the Malpaso guardians. After both players have taken their “play cards” phase, Mapache attacks. If his total firepower at the current battlefield is greater than Esteban’s, then he gets to kill one guardian. When a guardian is killed, the Esteban player must choose one of the guardians of the lowest survival ratings to discard, and also takes any “when killed” effects on that card. Some cards have a hat icon on the side — these are basically extra lives. If Padre Esteban (the highest ranked guardian) is killed at any point, General Mapache wins, but if Esteban survives through the last round (the 4th round at the Abandoned Silver Mine), then he wins.
The green sombrero tokens on the Mexican Army card are sort of an indicator of how far away the army is. When all the tokens are gone, that means the army showed up and arrested Mapache, saving the town. Both players have some cards that can either remove or add hats to the card.
There are three other cards that come into play only at specific locations. At the Los Quantos Bridge, the Esteban player may blow the bridge up one time by discarding two dynamite barrels — some cards have dynamite icons on the edge. This allows them to discard all of the cards on Mapache’s side of the bridge, and can only be used once. At the Abandoned Silver Mine, the last location, both players have bonus abilities. Mapache can fire the Gatling gun: for each raccoon card currently at the silver mine, he may discard a card showing bullets — each bullet played kills one guardian. Esteban can Collapse the Tunnels by discarding two dynamite barrels, which discards all of the cards on Mapache’s side.
The game ends when Esteban is killed, after the fourth round at the silver mine, or when the Mexican Army arrives, whichever occurs soonest.
I’d heard about the original Revolver, which was published last year, but had never gotten a chance to play it. Like this one, it’s a plot-driven Western game, but involving a sheriff tracking down an outlaw before he escapes on the 3:15 train. There have been a few expansions that add to the storyline and introduce other characters. Revolver 2 is a new storyline entirely, and Stronghold Games plans to continue expanding both lines independently.
In case you’ve already played the original, most of the gameplay is very similar to the original, with a few new features. The poker tournament mini-game is a new element, as are the three special cards tied to the specific locations. Also, the collection of the guardians in the first three locations is new, allowing the Esteban player to decide whether to prolong the battle in order to get more guardians or to move on to the next location.
I really enjoyed Revolver 2, but there are a couple things that aren’t great. The poker mini-tournament is one of those — it fits into the theme of the game, but the mechanics are just a little weird. It’s a little like saying, hey, before we play this game, let’s do a couple rounds of Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock. The winner does get a slight advantage in the first three battles, and there’s a balance between just trying to win the tournament or ensuring that you get a bonus like an extra card at the start, but it introduces another set of rules for a mini-game that seems unnecessary.
Also, I found that in order for Esteban to win through the arrival of the Mexican army, he has to spend every chance he can to remove the green hats, including pulling the green hat cards out of his discard and using them again. If you use every single one (and the Mapache player doesn’t add too many back), then you have just barely enough. It’s a strategy you could pursue, but it seems like most of the time the army is going to be too late. It’s not something that might happen as you’re fighting and trying to survive; you have to actively pursue that route for it to happen, and hope you don’t die in the meantime.
Both sides have some very powerful cards. Mapache has cards that allow you to get rid of Esteban’s firepower cards, including the valuable 5-power prospector. Mapache also has a lot of cards that are instant kills, unless Esteban has a card in hand to prevent it. On the other hand, Esteban has a “Dance at the End of the Noose” card which instantly kills General Mapache (a 6-power card) from any battlefield and removes him from the game entirely. Note that this doesn’t win you the game, but it’s the single highest card the Mapache player has.
What I like the most mechanics-wise is the fact that the two players feel pretty balanced but are asymmetric: you don’t have the same types of cards, and you don’t even really have the same mechanics. (While the gameplay is completely different from Yomi, it has that same sort of different mechanics but balanced play.) Esteban has a limited number of guardians, most of whom can only take one hit before dying. Mapache has an unlimited supply of bandits, but time is on his opponent’s side. There are some great tough decisions that players have to make: when is it worth it to discard a bunch of cards in order to put a valuable card into play? Do you use a card as firepower in a battle or save it to use as dynamite or for the Gatling Gun later? Since the Esteban player goes first each round, the Mapache player always knows how much firepower he’ll need to kill off a guardian. That means Esteban has to pull out the big guns for defense, or else move the time along quickly to get to the final battle.
The theme is great, too. I’m not a huge fan of Westerns, but I do like Bang! and I can appreciate a good shootout. With the settings and the illustrations on the cards, you can almost hear an Ennio Morricone soundtrack in the background as you play. (Actually, that’s not a bad idea.) Because of the theme I would probably stick to the recommended 12 and up age range; you could go a little bit younger but it’s probably a PG sort of game.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a good 2-player game that is pretty quick to learn and play and you fancy yourself a gunslinger, take a look at Revolver 2. I think I’m going to go look up the original soon myself. For more about the game, you can check out the Stronghold Games website.
Wired: A fun story-based Western shootout game; easy to learn and plays quickly; asymmetric but balanced.
Tired: Rulebook isn’t great: ideally you’ll want somebody to teach you; poker tourney mini-game is weird.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.