We playtested Revolution at GameDev tonight. Despite the very vague rules, and the GMs mostly making it up as we go along, the playtest went pretty well and showed the game definitely had potential.
After the playtest, I rewrote the rules incorporating a lot of the stuff we settled on (and some new stuff).
It was amazing how little people broke away from the “standard game”, just focusing on pure resource gathering and weapon production. Eric was the best at drawing outside the box: he formed a new religion (using some deceptive persuasion skills he learned through a Red Light District) and non-violently converted two farm lands into his control (the second after a “no military invasion of farms allowed” law was passed). Rob did a pretty good job too, though he went home before he really had a chance to use it. Ben made a massively good deal with the government early on, essentially protecting him from any invasion. I don’t think he won though.
One thing I noticed was how hard it was for the government to maintain unity. After the first two turns, the revolutionaries’ interests conflicted, and no laws were introduced without being vetoed. That kept the lawmaking game at a standstill, unfortunately. My revision addresses that by not giving anybody any goals until after the first round, and a proposed rule which allows the people to award the government points for treating them well (see discussion page on rewrite for a precise description). I’m not sure how well either of those would work.
According to Jude’s description of his experience, the game captured one of the dynamics I was going for very well: the trade-off between human values and economics. You have to make decisions which are unpopular, or even which hurt the well-being of the people in general, in order to grow the nation’s economy. Stalin, for example, made that trade fully focusing on the economy and none on the people :-/.
But it looked like everyone was having a good time modulo the complaining about us “making it up as we go along” (which we were… which is why we’re impartial game masters). Having two game masters was a good idea, though with more structure (as in my rewrite) it might suffice to have one… maybe. Another would be nice to give rule clarifications, since they cannot be avoided. But people were acting like they were treated fairly despite the open-ended rules.
I’m excited to play this again. Or play it at all. Or observe it as a GM again. I just want to see where it goes.