Rebels of Ravenport: Preview

The town’s been invaded by monsters. The only savior: Fairway and his small guild of monster-fighting villagers. In today’s preview, Fairway takes a look at the dice-rolling, monster-fighting game: Rebels of Ravenport.

Rebels of Ravenport is a two- to six-player tableau-building, dice-rolling, monster-fighting game by Secret Weapon Games. Players take control of a guild of local villagers and fight the monsters invading the town. Games take about 30 minutes. We reviewed a prototype copy so the art and components are likely to change.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. The various characters in Ravenport are nicely illustrated: monsters and heroes alike.  There’s a good number of unique characters, but a good number of duplicate cards making us wish there were more.
  2. The basic mechanic will be familiar to anyone who’s played Machi Koro or any of the Valeria series of games: roll the dice, activate powers that match.

Game play ^

In Rebels of Ravenport, players control a guild of local villagers. The object of the game is to recruit more villagers to your guild and to either achieve enough fame or become strong enough to take out the boss monster.

To start, each player takes a starting guild of three characters with matching colored flags: two youths and a guild leader. In addition, players start with three fame tokens and an artifact: the tome of influence.  The remaining (non-player) cards are shuffled into a deck. A draft of five of these cards are turned face up and lined up on the central board. This draft represents the starting market of available cards that may be acquired for fame points.  Finally, the fame tokens are placed in a pile next to the board along a number of victory point tokens (ten times the player count).

The game is now played over a series of turns.  On a player’s turn, they will first declare which of the monsters they intend to attack.  The monsters are lined up on the center board arranged in order of strength. The strength is indicated by the number of hearts above the monster.  The reward for beating the monster is a combination of “fame” and “victory” points listed below the monster.

After declaring which monster, the player will roll three dice. The player then “activates” the attack of any guild member with the matching die value on the card. The sum total of the attack is the total attack strength of the player. If the total is greater than or equal to the monster, the player takes the reward.

At this phase, other players may have cards that activate on certain die rolls as well (earning fame, for instance).

After the attack, the player may spend accumulated fame points for new cards from the market. The cost of the card is listed in the lower-right of these cards.  There are generally two types of cards: villagers and artifacts.  Villagers typically provide attack and minor abilities and artifacts provide powers and victory points. For example, the Tome of Influence artifact allows a player at any time during their turn to discard a card from the market and replace it with a new one. Purchased cards are immediately replaced with a new card from the draw pile.

After the player completes his or her turn, play passes to the next player.  The game continues this way until one of two things happens. First, if a player takes the last victory point token, players sum up their victory points (tokens plus those awarded by cards). The player with the most points wins. Second, if a player kills the boss monster (the Overlord), that player wins the game.

On the green ^

Art. This game has nice, vibrant art. The illustrations of the villagers and monsters are nice. We enjoyed that it included kids, adults, boys and girls, men and women.  I think this game could benefit from having some additional variation, but it’s definitely got good art.

Aesthetic. In fact, this whole game’s aesthetic is highly polished (especially in just a prototype form). The board and the cards, the art and graphic design, all look great.

Setup, clean up and teaching time.  This game has pretty good all around playtime. The setup and breakdown is simple with very minimal sorting of cards.  Everyone who played the game had played Machi Koro and Valeria games, so teaching was a breeze.  I’d suspect you could teach new players pretty easily too.

Where it comes up short ^

Machi Koro. The same game design issues that plague games like Machi Koro are here in spades.  The core mechanic is dice rolling that activates some set of your guild. Unlike Machi Koro, you’re rolling multiple dice right out of the gate. This seems to be the only dice-rolling mitigation strategy used.

The consequence is that early dice rolls quickly compound or devastate player’s chance to win. There are a few artifacts and player powers that offer some mitigation. Strangely, unlike Machi Koro (with expansions) or Valeria, the designer elected not to offer a plethora of other powers.

If you’re not a fan of Machi Koro, this game probably isn’t for you.

One dimensional. It’s hard to escape the feeling that this game is pretty one dimensional. Sure, there are two paths to victory (victory points or boss kill), but the way there is the same path with one of two different choices. And the choice you pick largely determines which path you take because that path tells you which monsters to fight: are you trying to build a big guild to take on the boss or are you rushing victory points.

The monster track itself contributes to this feeling. It’s always the same seven monsters. But then only about half of which factor into the path you ultimately choose. The game doesn’t level the monsters in a meaningful way and there’s no “risk” to of losing but little risk in take the almost sure-bet monsters.  This feels under-developed.

Random guild and artifacts.  The cards mostly come out of the deck at random. This makes for a somewhat frustrating experience if one player gets one of the better cards merely by happenstance and not by planning. This is unlike the other dice-activation games in which players can draw from a series of cards that fit their needs and acquire ones that fill gaps. It was possible to play most of the game and not get a number you needed.

In the hole ^

Rebels of Ravenport is a well-illustrated dice game. The game is simple, relatively quick and easy to set up and tear down. The game is in the same spirit as Machi Koro or the Valeria series, but with a different theme. The game does make bashing monsters and assigning dice fun. And for that reason, fans of the Valeria series or Machi Koro, ought to give the game a look. That said, I do enough concerns about whether there’s enough separation between Rebels of Ravenport and the other great games to differentiate it, and about other aspects like the one-dimensional nature of game, to give me pause.

Rebels of Ravenport is in the hole for One over Par. ^

I was provided a prototype version of Rebels of Ravenport in order to write this preview. I was not otherwise compensated fro the preview.



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