I love discovering hidden gem board games. You know, those games that are easy to pass by and overlook but end up being fantastic when you try them? Well Revolution of 1828 is one of those games.
While the theme of the 1828 US election does nothing for me, the gameplay in Revolution of 1828 really sucked me in. Read on to find out why you should give this game a chance even if the theme doesn’t interest you.
Disclosure: I got this game with a pile of other games I purchased from a local gamer. Links in this post may be affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast.
What do you get with Revolution of 1828?
Revolution of 1828 was designed by one of my all time favourite game designers, Stefan Feld. It features artwork by Alexander Jung and was published here in Canada by Renegade Game Studios.
Similar to Gunkimono, which we reviewed last week, this game, unfortunately, seems to be out of print and is no longer listed on Renegade’s website. Despite that, I can still find it in stock at most online stores, usually at prices under the $30 MSRP.
In this game, you get to reenact and potentially change the results of the 1828 presidential election held in the newly formed Democracy of the United States where John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were the candidates. This was a history making election due to the fact that this was the first election to be fought not just at the polls but also through newspapers and other early media.
Really though, except for half the rulebook talking about the setting of the game, none of this truly matters in what boils down to a two player tile drafting tug of war where you battle against your opponent trying to get the most votes (or rather points).
The components in Revolution of 1828 are serviceable but also a bit too abstracted for my tastes.
While it’s easy enough to distinguish the seventy-eight election tiles by graphic or colour, and the artwork on the nine smear campaign tiles doesn’t really matter, the twenty-four campaign actions, which are a huge part of the gameplay, only feature artwork with no indication of what they actually do while playing.
While I understand this is done to help tie in the theme a bit more, I would have much preferred some simple iconography that tells me what the tile does versus what it represents historically.
The quality of the components is good. The tokens are well punched and uniform (which matters when you are pulling them randomly from a bag). The game has a mounted board that’s very functional and folds up to a rather small footprint.
The game includes wooden meeple, a nice bag to pull tiles from, a good selection of vote counters in different denominations and a very clear rulebook. Over half of the rulebook, as mentioned above, is filled with historical notes and references explaining who and what all of the historic figures and events depicted on the tiles are and why they mattered.
Revolution of 1828 Overview of Play:
You set up a game of Revolution of 1828 by placing all of the round tiles in the included bag and mixing them up good. You then draw and place three tiles from the bag on each of the six areas of the game board.
This board is just a functional rectangle split into six areas, five of which represent different Campaign Areas in different colours while the sixth represents The Press. In the centre of each campaign area, you place the corresponding Elector figure meeple, and in the other area you place The Editor of the press.
That’s it for set up.
The player that filled the board goes first and selects one and only one tile from the board. If it is one of the delegates they place it on their side of the board under the matching campaign area. The smear campaign tile acts as a wildcard and can be placed under any campaign area acting as a wildcard. If a campaign action tile is taken the player gets to do that action.
The campaign actions are the most complicated aspect of this game. There are seven different types of tiles that each do different things:
The Momentum tile lets you tip over one Elector or the Editor. If a player claims either of these areas they do not get an extra turn.
The Financing Tile can be traded in with any other Campaign action tile to take an extra turn.
The Agenda Tile forces your opponent to draft from the region of your choice on their next turn.
The Campaign Rally tile is special as its ability is always in play. You cannot take any other tile from a region with a Campaign Rally token, it must always be taken first.
The Polling Tile lets you swap a delegate from your opponent’s side of the board to your own.
The Gerrymandering tile lets you take any unclaimed tile and move it to the centre of any other area with at least one other tile already there.
The Special Edition tile lets you take a smear campaign tile from your side of the board and pass it to your opponent.
As you can see these action tiles basically let you mess with the board or with the other player.
After you draft a tile, if it was the last tile in that area you also get to take the Elector or the Editor and move them to your side of the board. Having Electors on your side is good, having the Editor on your side is bad as it means you caught the Press’s attention.
Assuming the meeple you just took wasn’t lying down due to a Momentum tile being played earlier, you then get to take another turn. With this extra turn, you can end up with a chain effect which can cause a player to draft multiple tiles and empty multiple areas in one turn. This could be a good thing or a bad thing. Note that it’s mandatory that you draft a tile when you can so you may end up taking things that you don’t want.
Once the final tile is drafted, the round ends and you enter a scoring phase.
Here you get points in the form of votes with the first three being awarded to the player who has the most campaign actions in front of them. You then resolve each of the campaign areas one at a time.
This is a simple area majority scoring system. The person with the most tokens on their side wins the vote. If there is no opposition, meaning that the opponent has no tiles on their side on the board, the winner gets two votes. When there is opposition the winner only gets one vote.
Next, the player with the Elector for that area gets one point per tile on their side regardless of whether they had the majority or not.
Due to this system, it’s possible to actually lose the majority in a riding but still get more votes than your opponent due to controlling the Elector which may be the most thematic thing in this game.
Once you have scored each Campaign area you then resolve The Press. Both players gather up all of the Smear Campaign tokens on their side of the board and place them under the press area. Then the player who has the editor on their side loses a number of votes equal to the number of smear campaigns they have collected.
At the end of the round after collecting all votes players clear everything from their side of the board except for the smear campaigns. Those build up round after round. You then play through three more rounds, following the exact same rules as above so that each player places the tiles and gets to go first twice.
After that, the player with the most votes wins.
Should you buy Revolution of 1828?
I have to start by saying that the theme of Revolution of 1828 does nothing for me at all. Actually, if I’m being honest, the theme turns me off on this game. Had I not gotten this game along with a bunch of others in a big Facebook board game sale I would have never given it another look.
I’m sure there are people out there that will appreciate the theme in this game. It does feature some interesting mechanics that do tie into it. We aren’t looking at a Gunkimono level of abstraction here. But while the theme will appeal to some people and not to others, the good thing is that the theme doesn’t really matter at all as the gameplay is very solid regardless of whether you dig the theme or despite it.
My podcast co-host Sean put it well by saying “This game is probably the most outside the box, shockingly good game I’ve personally ever come across.”
Personally, I have to credit Stefan Feld for his work here. When I first opened this game and started reading the rules I thought maybe I had finally found a Feld I wouldn’t like. The game sounded simple enough to at least give it a shot and I’m very glad we did.
I originally tried Revolution of 1828 with my wife, Deanna, and it was a big hit. It’s not often that she asks to play a brand new to her game twice in a row and that night we played Revolution of 1828 three times! A few weeks later, when he was in town, I convinced Sean to try it. He was very reluctant at first but ended up quite very pleasantly surprised.
Maybe I say this line too often, but I like the way this game makes me think. You really have to try to plan ahead, both in what you will be drafting as well as in predicting what your opponent will grab.
The back and forth gets more intense near the end of a round where you will be trying to figure out just how to combo your drafts to get the most tokens while also trying to force your opponent to take tiles they don’t need or don’t want.
The Smear Campaigns and timing of who gets the Editor meeple can be a big part of this.
Having wildcard tokens you can place anywhere can mean big points in this game, especially if you can get an unopposed win with an Elector on your side. Remember that winning the majority in a campaign area doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the most votes for that region. The problem is that if you collect too many smear campaigns you risk your opponent making certain you get that editor at the end of the round. Getting caught with a bunch of Smear Campaign tokens can make all the extra jockeying for votes pointless.
One thing I did note as a downside to all of this planning ahead is there can be a significant amount of AP or analysis paralysis.
This is a thinky game and not some quick playing two player romp. Both players in a game of Revolution of 1828 are probably going to spend a lot of time planning out their moves and figuring out the best order to draft their tiles, while also trying to figure out how to disrupt their opponent’s plans. Despite not having chess-like mechanics I found Revolution of 1828 has a very chess-like feel.
Overall we’ve been enjoying Revolution of 1828 way more than any of us expected to.
This game was a huge surprise to all of us and I’m so glad I gave it a shot in the first place. Revolution of 1828 is a game we didn’t have any interest in at all that turned out to be a fantastic two player tug of war.
The fact that this great game is out of print right now is a good indication that we aren’t the only ones that just passed it by and that’s a shame.
Revolution of 1828 is now on our personal list of fantastic two player games that we expect to keep playing again and again, along with classics like The Duke, Onitama and Patchwork.
If you are looking for a brainy, high strategy, two player game that’s pretty easy to learn (at least easy with the back reference side of the rulebook face up for your early plays). I don’t think you will go wrong with Revolution of 1828.
If you are an American history buff I think this one is a no brainer. Not only do you get to play out an infamous election, but you also get lots of behind the scenes information. I have to guess that unlike us you will probably care what each of those Smear Campaign tokens represents.
I can also see this game being popular with educators and could see this going over well in a history or social studies classroom.
If you don’t like two player only games or games that while easy to learn require a lot of concentration and planning while playing this one probably isn’t for you, just don’t let the theme scare you away here, the fact it’s about a US election is the least interesting part of Revolution of 1828.
To me, Revolution of 1828 is a true hidden gem. Here we have a game that is very easy to overlook due to its Americentric theme, a theme that is probably only going to appeal to a small group of gamers. This is too bad though as the gameplay in Revolution of 1828 is extremely solid and engaging.
What’s a game you overlooked for one reason or another only to discover that you were missing out at a later date? Tell us all about it in the comments below!