We’re not receiving any compensation for this review. It’s the Wild West, pardners, and it’s every game for itself!
Welcome to the inaugural Duck/Soup Game Review! We hope our perspective on gaming for two can help you decide what to bring to your gaming table.
Who We Are
Soup is an experienced boardgamer and fledgling playtester while Duck is a novice gamer who prefers cooperative gaming and never likes anything on the first play.
Mark Chaplin’s Revolver is a 2011 release from Stronghold Games that we discovered at Origins 2012. It goes for $25-$30 and plays in around 20 minutes once you have the rules down.
The Scuttlebutt (Quick Take)
Revolver is a crazy back-and-forth 2-player shoot-em-up that will keep tension high as wild swings occur between the ambiguously good lawmen and the sympathetic band of villains. It has a high punk factor and severe unpredictability – give this one a few plays on each side before deciding if it’s for you.
The Whole Kit and Caboodle (Components)
Duck Says: We love a well-organized box! It can take a minute to learn to read the cards but the iconography is generally clear and the flavor text, particularly card names, is rich with the best of the Old West.
Soup Adds: The tin is pretty awesome, and stores everything perfectly with a great hinged lid. The well-drawn cards are easy to shuffle, play well with the theme, and feel like they’ll hold up to some abuse.
We Agree: This game really does play like you’re in a good ol’ fashioned gunfight. It’s chaotic, unpredictable, and there is a lot of luck involved. As the outlaws, you really feel like you are on the run, doing everything you can to delay the lawmen as you make your way to the train and watch fellow gang members fall one by one. As the sheriff, you feel like a hunter, breaking through the outlaws defenses while picking the gang off.
The art is great, the characters have backstories in the rulebook that make you question which side is actually good, and there is a ton of flavor.
Ease to learn
Soup Says: Setup is quick and easy, although you need a decent amount of room as the outlaws. It’s almost best just to jump right into a game with the rulebook and just start playing, learning as you go. There are some specific cards that need clarification, but the rulebook does an ok job with most of them, despite some flaws. The game definitely takes a few plays on each side before you can formulate any real strategy, as the two sides play very differently (and almost oppositely).
Duck Says: I have an extremely low tolerance for rules-learning, something that, as Soup has pointed out, is contrary to learning a new game but the rulebook satisfied even my demanding threshold. That said, it was much harder for me to learn to play the Outlaws– aided, I think, by the caveat that the Outlaws have only three spots to place cards in each battle while the Law has unlimited places. But it seems that the Outlaws can develop a specific strategy and commit to it while the Law is incredibly dependent on the luck of the deck.
Setup for Revolver is really easy. Five unique battlefield cards are placed between the players in a specific order. These cards serve as the game’s timer, and provide changing benefits to the Outlaws. Finally, the Derail the Train card is placed near the train and the Mexican Border card, which starts off buried in 12 wooden blocks, is placed on the Outlaw’s side of the table.
The Law and the Outlaws each receive and shuffle a unique deck and the Outlaws keep track of the Colty gang using 16 unique character cards played in front of them.
The Lawmen win if they can kill the entire gang before they reach the final spot on the train or if they kill the Outlaw Cortez before the train departs. The Outlaws win if either Crow survives the final round on the train or all blocks are removed from the Mexican Border card. Play begins with the Outlaws and goes back and forth until one of the win conditions is met.
This game, Duck is playing the Outlaws and Soup is playing the Lawmen. Each player draws 5 cards.
Example Round 1: Repentance Spring Bank
Duck Says: The last time we played, Soup theorized that the key to winning as the Outlaws is knowing when to keep cards back, so I’m going to test his theory. My primary goal for this game is to win by surviving the train battle.
After drawing cards, I have two I know I need to hold onto – The Jackson Clan (a +5 free play on the train) and a card that will remove a blocker played by the Law. I need to keep these, and enough additional cards so that if I’m forced to discard, these two will be safe. I play a Yellow Boy Rifle (bring the Outlaws power to +2), discarding a card. I also play a card to advance the clock one round. Not the start I was hoping for…
Soup Says: After drawing two cards, the pickings are a little slim. I have 2 blockers, but I only need to have three total power to kill an Outlaw this turn. I play both blockers, one at each of two future battlefields. Then I play a Deputy (+2) and a Bounty Hunter (+1 and draw a card), giving me the 3 power I need.
The turn ends, and since the Lawmen are up 3-2, one of the gang members at level zero dies. Sorry, Bullet…
Gang members are killed in order from lowest to highest, with the Outlaw player able to choose which member is removed and taking the appropriate penalty or bonus as instructed on the Outlaw card.
This particular game ended up being very close, with the Outlaws eventually narrowly escaping with the loot.
Duck Adds: Hand management was particularly important for both sides, perhaps slightly more for the Outlaws, but having the right cards to counter Law actions helped me. Like an Old West gunfight, the game became about knowing when to make a move and when to concede a lower-level gang member in order to help advance the game.
Will this gunfight leave your partner giving you the mitten?
Soup Says: You bet your saddlebags it will. Almost every card you play will affect your opponent negatively in some way. Thematically, this makes a lot of sense, but it can be pretty stressful, especially as the outlaws. Go into this one knowing that the punk factor is severe – it can be tough to stay cool when you feel threatened.
It takes a few plays to get the hang of the back and forth nature of the game. It moves fast and doesn’t pull any punches, but each new setting provides a sort of soft reset for each side to gather its bearings. The game can feel pretty unfair at times, but stick with it, as extreme swings in momentum can occur with every shot fired.
People with short tempers or who are sore losers are better off playing the lawmen, as it’s easy to feel cornered as the outlaws.
Duck Says: As a competitive 2-person game, the only other person to target is your partner and, depending on the luck of draw, it can really feel as if the other person is single-handedly ganging up on you (no pun intended). But the game can also turn on a card, so stick it out (up?): commit to the shoot out theme, and to the possibility of the next card being the one you need to turn the battlefield in your favor.
This is definitely easier said than done, though, in a game driven by luck. In one of the two games we played to actually make it to the train, I really thought I had the Outlaws cornered. But a few well-pulled plays, and a subsequent drop in my own luck, meant Jack “the Crow” Colty was safely headed out of town and Ned McReady was dead twice over.
An early-ending game can be as much about the cards you draw as the strategy you use, so don’t be discouraged and just reshuffle, redraw, and replay.
Is Revolver a game to ride with river with?
Duck Says: I think it will be. Admittedly, it’s kind of a downer to reach a point in a game where you know you don’t have the cards to prevent the other side from running away with the win but repeated play has given me the opportunity to see the value of a good strategy (and that uneven games appear to be rare). I can definitely see this on the table when we want to play a game put don’t have a ton of time to commit. It’s becoming more fun as we both become more adept and is much more fun when the game is close, as it was the last time we played, than when one side runs away with it all.
Soup Says: Heck yes! Just go into it with the right disposition, and this game is a blast. It’s not really made for the sensitive, overly thinky, or angry, sore-loser types. But if you want a wild, luck-of-the-draw, violently swinging shootout that plays very quickly, then this might be right up your alley.