We finished a five player game of Revolution a couple nights ago. The entire game took 4.5 hours, which we thought was pretty good considering we had a couple of players who had never played and one who had only played once (me).
I didn't take detailed notes about the session, but I do remember the following.
Utrecht was a fierce battleground between the Catholics and Burghers. I think this sucked up a lot of Catholic resources.
The Hapsburgs stuck it to their Catholic brothers, took some of their provinces and cities and generally didn't coordinate efforts on the city allegiance track.
On the other hand, the Reformers and Burghers did coordinate efforts fairly well, especially on the city allegiance track.
The Nobles (me) played it safe the first few turns, then made a big push to take Koln and some of the southern provinces from the Catholic. In hindsight I probably should have spread out my efforts against the Hapsburgs, however, the Catholics were easier and safer pickings. During the game, I also took a fairly lacksidasical approach to cities, and instead spread my tokens out in the provinces, which did enable me to control them, but also limited my options later in the game as my pieces were on the board and couldn't be converted into cash.
The Reformers did very well on the city allegiance track, and in fact on the last turn had enough cash to turn what seemed like every city into a Reformer city, which resulted in them tying with the Hapsburgs for the win.
Tied for First: Hapsburgs and Reformers (with about 15.5 points?)
Third: Nobility (12.5)
I've played this game twice now, both times with five players, and during this second game I really started to like what I was seeing. The game seems full of delicious balances that would take many plays to really master. It was also very close until the end and I think just about everyone had a chance to win.
The Reformer player mentioned that the turn by turn scoring felt a little cheesy, as players could save up for a big push at the end and go all out for the win (which he did by basically controlling the city allegiance track with his funds on the last turn). While true of this game (and really almost any game with a set end turn), I think I am beginning to see how you can sow the seeds of success earlier, keep yourself in striking distance, and really position yourself for that winning thrust.
I would play this anytime, and have raised my rating by a point because I had so much fun in my last play.
Old Ways Are Best!
Sounds familiar. There are some superficially apparent alliance combinations in a five player game. The Hapsburgs and Catholics are likely now wishing they had coordinated more. The Burghers are in a tough spot as they just make things easier for the Reformers if they are too cooperative, especially toward the end. It appears you have had a first hand demonstration of the power of the city allegiance track, particularly for the Reform faction. It is a part of the game that cannot be ignored. The Nobility play an extremely important role here as they are in the best position to reset the balance in case the Catholics and Reformers don't cancel each other out.
It is easy to get so fixated on the other applications for resources that by the time the City Allegiance phase rolls around, there is not near enough money for bribes that can ultimately determine the game.
The depth and elegance of this game is a marvel and it is the gaming community's loss that it is not better appreciated (unfortunately there are a few good reasons for this but a pity nonetheless)...
The Burghers getting into a protracted battle in Utrecht probably did more to harm their game than it did harm to the Catholics, and this is reflected by their final ranking. The Burghers have little to gain (relatively) in Utrecht compared to other areas. It is only 2 VPs for the Burghers to control the city and province, and the new units from trade partners are plentiful but often unneeded by the Burghers. The Reformers and Catholics, on the other hand, can get 3 VPs for Utrecht which is why they are typically the competitors for Utrecht. The Reformers were able to focus their efforts elsewhere due to the Burghers action and being that many of the Reformer targets are Catholic to begin with, having the Catholics battling other factions in hot spots gives them much more leeway.
The Habsburgs attacks on Catholic holdings in the south is not atypical at all, but ignoring the Citizens Allegiance chart cost them their solo victory and rightfully so. They were lucky the Reformers didn't pass them for the win (ties are EXTREMELY rare and unlikely in the game) due to their lack of attention to the situation.
Whenever I teach Revolution to new players, I explain the Allegiance chart in detail, highlighting the assymetrical nature of the chart and repeating more than once that it needs to be paid attention to. I try to emphasize this prior to faction selections so that it is coming with a completely impartial tone, rather than during the game where it might get dismissed as trying to gain an advantage for my own position. One thing that I always highlight is that the movement of the status marker on the chart is limited to 3 spaces per turn. In order to avoid a Reformer takeover of a city through Citizen Allegiance, it is simply a matter of keeping the status marker at least 4 spaces from the right extreme. The Nobility are often key here as this is a tremendous bargaining chip for them. They always act last and towards the center column - they should be able to leverage this into some on-board considerations at the least. The fact that the Reformers were able to take over multiple cities in such a sweeping fashion indicates that the factions that could do something about it (the Catholics, Habsburgs, and Nobility) were not paying enough attention or respect to the chart.
The turn-by-turn scoring is a necessity in this game. Otherwise, no faction would have a prayer of catching up to the usual Catholic lead that would get established in the first two full turns (plus the Turn 0 scoring). Basically, you entire game needs to be set up to get what you want during Turn 5. A "big push" by a single faction, as illustrated in your game, is not as common as the simple execution of plans that have been developing over the previous two turns. For example, to maximize factional VPs, the Habsburgs need to have all of their armies on the board and in different regional command blocks. If, at the end of Turn 4, the Habsburgs only have 3 armies and they are all in the Flanders region, they will not succeed in maximizing their VPs. Likewise, if the Nobility are trying a "big push" in Turn 5 and are dumping resources into the provinces, they are losing units in conflict that can not come back on to the board for final scoring, costing them VPs.
Revolution is very much a reap-what-you-sow game and there are so many things to plant and ways to do it. It is a big reason why it is one of my few 10's here. It's great to read about more players discovering this game and enjoying it - thanks for sharing!
Dan got most of it right though, it was the Reformers and Catholics battling it out in Utrecht. He is definitely correct that the city allegiance table won the game at the last minute for the Reformers.
However, to go further, both the Reformer and Burgher players were newbies. The Burgher player contributed to city allegiancein a rather slavish fashion, even going so far as to deliver some of his stronghold cities in Holland to the Reformers.
In addition, the Hapsburg player contributed only small amounts of money to the allegiance track while stripping the Catholics (me) of their tax base in the south.
Finally, the nobles concentrated their power in the provinces, virtually eschewing the cities and placing only one or two money pieces on the allegiance table per turn.
I understand the Hapsburgh strategy in trying to keep the Cahtolics anemic but, the naive play by the Burghers combined with the stripping of Catholic assets guaranteed the Reformer win. I did warn them but, who listens to whining Catholics anyway.