I love the Card Driven Game mechanic and how it pits players against each other. The mechanic is very well suited to any game where two ideologies are fighting for control and I found a really good implementation of the system in a game from Compass Games called Prelude to Rebellion: Mobilization & Unrest in Lower Canada, 1834-1837. This game depicts this conflict of ideas as a CDG using key events from 1834 to 1837 as the Patriotes and Loyalists fight for control of the electorate. The player will have many choices presented to them in how to use their cards and will be torn between using each for the card’s Activity Points or the Event while doing their best to fend off and undo your opponent’s cards. The overall focus of the game is that the player will fight to mobilize the people of the various counties of Lower Canada and rally them to their point of view. In addition to Montréal and Québec, 24 rural counties, with each having a bias towards a faction, are represented on the board. Every county has a number of Mobilization Boxes, each costing a number of Activity Points to place a cube in. Whoever has the most cubes in a County is said to control it.
In Action Point 1, we covered the Game Map and discussed the Mobilization Boxes, Scoring Tracks, Turn Track, Rebellious Spirit Track and took a look at the Opportunity Pool. In Action Point 2, we looked at the cards and discussed their use either as an Event or for the Activity Points. In this Action Point we will dive into how you can spend your Activity Points and how they are used to battle for control of various regions and also discuss the Special Actions available to each player.
When a card is played for the Activity Points (AP), the player then can use those points to take a number of actions on the board. The following actions are available to the player including Mobilization, Creating Organizations, Call for Composure (Patriote Player only), Volunteer Corps Recruitment (Loyal Player only) and Special Actions. These Activity Points can be split up to take multiple different actions as long as the player can pay the required cost. Let’s take a look at each of these actions and how they are used by the player to fight for control.
Mobilization is the most common action in the game and is used by players to increase the Mobilization Value in Counties. Remember that the basic point of the game is to fight for control over Counties for scoring purposes. If you remember from our first entry in this series, we took a look at the map and the various boxes on it. Each of the Counties has a vertically oriented Mobilization Box that has spaces that hold what are referred to as Mobilization Cubes. These Mobilization Cubes represent the influence with the electorate that the differing factions held over the voters in the game. Players must always place their Cubes from bottom to top in a Mobilization Box. The Activity Point cost for placing a Mobilization Cube in a County will depend on whether it is a Rural or Urban County and the next available Mobilization Box in it.
The base cost for placing a Mobilization Cube into a Rural County is 1 AP. If there is a white number located next to a Mobilization Box this means there is an additional cost necessary to Mobilize that box. This is representative of the bias that each County had toward one of the two competing factions and each Mobilization Track in Counties has these white numbers. But, you also must keep in mind that the game has a built in catch up mechanic of sorts in the cost for Mobilization Cubes to be placed. It costs a player -1 AP, always to a minimum of 1 AP, to Mobilize a box if their Mobilization Value in the County is lower than their opponent’s at the time the Cube is added.
The base cost for Mobilizing an Urban County is 2 AP. A white number beside a Mobilization Box is an additional cost necessary to Mobilize that box. There is no cost reduction for catching up with your opponent in Urban Counties.
One key distinction that players must be aware of is that if an Event instructs the player to place a certain numbers of Mobilization Cubes into a County, the player can ignore the additional cost white number next to the Mobilization Box. This is very important to remember as any opportunity to place Mobilization Cubes automatically can be a real cost savings and allow the player to use their scarce Activity Points for other purposes.
As mentioned earlier, I feel that you will use your Activity Points about 60% of the time to Mobilize support in Counties and you have to pay attention to this in each and every County. I have caught myself thinking about my upcoming moves and am not paying attention to my opponent and before you know it I am so far behind in a key County that I have to change what it was that I was wanting to accomplish. You will also feel quite often that you are simply undoing what your opponent has done. That is alright as this is partly what you should be doing. Fighting back and forth for control is what makes this game interesting and you have to keep fighting or you will find the outcome decided.
Another focus of the game is in the creation of Organizations in the Counties that are loyal to your faction. The benefit of these Organizations is that they also score Victory Points for the player who controls the most when the Scoring Die hits the end of its track. In order to create an Organization, a player must spend a minimum of 2 Activity Points but the player can choose to spend additional AP to improve their chances of successfully building the Organization. The total number of Activity Points that are dedicated to the action will become the Mobilization Check’s bonus to create the Organization. Each player must have an Urban Organization before trying to create a Rural Organization. The Patriote player can only create an Urban Organization in Montréal while the Loyal player can create one in Montréal and/or Québec.
If a player fails a check to create an Organization, they can’t attempt to create Organizations for the rest of the Action Round. Each player can only have one Organization in a County and will place the relevant counter on the player’s Organization placeholder at the bottom of the Track as a reminder.
The process to create a Rural Organization has several steps. First, the player chooses how many Activity Points to dedicate to this action which always is a minimum of 2. The player then targets a Rural County that does not already contain a Rural Organization for their faction. The player then selects an Urban Organization with which to affiliate the Rural Organization. If this is the Loyal player and both of their Urban Organizations have been created, they still will have to select a single Urban Organization with which to affiliate the Rural Organization.
The player will then carry out a Mobilization Check in the targeted Rural County using a bonus equal to the number of Activity Points dedicated to the action. Also, an additional +1 if their Mobilization Value in the affiliated Urban County is 6-10 or +2 if their Mobilization Value in the affiliated Urban County is 11+. It really pays off if the player has done their work in the Urban Counties first before trying to create Rural Organizations. You must remember that you are not modifying the die roll but are trying to roll less than or equal to the target number that is created using your spent AP and your current Mobilization Value. The higher the number the better as you are trying to roll under that value on 3D6.
To perform a Mobilization Check, the player will first add the bonus from their spent AP and from their stance in the selected Urban County to their current Mobilization Value in the County. 3D6 dice are then rolled and the result is compared to the target number. If the result is less than or equal to the target number, the check is a success and the player will get to deploy one of their Organization Markers to this County.
If the rolled result is greater than the target number, the player then has two options, which include accepting the failed result or spending their existing Opportunity Points to increase the target number until it is equal to the rolled result. This will turn the failed result to a success but you must be sure that you are willing to spend those scarce Opportunity Points. The player will then get to chance the move the Organizations Advantage Marker one box in their favor on the scoring track. This fight is for those Organization victory points and can be a back and forth affair.
Call for Composure
This action may only be performed by the Patriote player, once per turn. The interesting thing about this action though is the variable cost. In 1834, the cost will be 2 Activity Points, 4 Activity Points in 1835-36 and 6 Activity Points in 1837. What does this action do? Well, it allows the Patriote player to prevent the Rebellious Spirit Marker from increasing by 1 at the end of the current turn. This is important because if the Rebellious Spirit Marker reaches 8+ it will lead to the Loyal player actively trying to increase it by recruiting Volunteer Corps. When the Marker reaches 15, the game ends with an armed revolt by the Patriotes and the VP in the War Readiness Box will be awarded to the Loyal Player.
Volunteer Corps Recruitment
This action may only be performed by the Loyal player. If the Rebellious Spirit Marker is at 8+, the Loyal player use their Activity Points to recruit Volunteer Corps in Rural Counties in which there is a Loyal Rural Organization and in which no Volunteer Corps has already been recruited.
To do so, the Loyal player targets a legal Rural County and performs a Mobilization Check in the target County using a bonus equal to the number of Activity Points dedicated to the Action but at a minimum 2 AP. If the check is a success the Loyal player flips the county’s Organization counter on its Volunteer Corps side as a reminder that he can no longer recruit Volunteer Corps there. Then after this, the Loyal player rolls a D6 and on a result of 4+ the Rebellious Spirit Marker will increase by 1. The Loyal player then moves one Loyal 1 VP Marker from the Volunteer Corps Box to the War Readiness Box. There is a limit to this though as the Loyal player can only create up to 5 Volunteer Corps throughout the course of the game.
Now that we have covered the basic Actions that are available to each player, we need to take a look at the different and unique Actions available to each faction in their respective Special Actions. Once per Turn, each player can use one of the Special Actions available on the relevant player board associated with their faction. The Patriote player will use the La Tête à Papineau and the Loyal player will use the Governor’s Privileges.
Each Special Action may only be used once per game. To play a Special Action, a player must spend the required number of AP’s. Let’s first take a look at the Loyal player’s Special Actions referred to as Governor’s Privileges.
• x AP – Pulling the Strings: Roll x Scoring Dice of the players choice. The player first decides the number of dice he will roll and then spends the required amount of AP. Each die is then rolled and resolved one at at time. If a track scores because of the die roll, scoring occurs before the remaining dice are rolled. This is a really key Special Action as it can force the scoring of several key Tracks. This can be especially important near the end of the game when you begin to realize that a certain Track that you need to score might not score. You can then choose that Track, roll its dice, even doing so multiple times, and possibly forcing the Track to score.
• 2 AP – Strategic Realignment: After your Action Round, exchange your cards in hand with those of the Patriote player. This Action is really pretty devilish as you might have a hand full of your own Event Cards but you want to force your opponent to have to play them and they are enacted to your benefit. You can also simply get rid of a very poor hand and hope ot pick up better cards from your opponent. Very situational, but this one can be very effective.
• 4 AP – Non-Issue: Reset a Scoring Track. Put the Track’s Scoring Marker back on the Start Box, without actually scoring the track. You can use this one to really hurt your opponent by taking away from them Victory Points that would have been scored from a Track that they are moving up and is nearing the end. This one really can make the other player upset though!
• 4/6 AP – Looking for Trouble: +1/+2 to the Rebellious Spirit. Very useful if the Loyal player is having a hard time getting the Rebellious Spirit Track to increase, either because you just haven’t found the Event Cards that increase it or your opponent is taking their Call for Composure each turn (if this is the case, then you will actually be good as your opponent cannot keep paying the increasing cost of the Action and hope to make any progress in the other areas).
• 2 AP – Le Canadien: The next time you play a card of the opposing faction from your hand, ignore the Event. This means that you will literally play the AP, roll the Scoring Die and then discard the card while getting to simply ignore the Event. This can be used to great effect to deny your opponent access to this card.
• 2 AP – Partisan Media: The next time you play a card of your faction from your hand, you play the AP and then the Event. If the Event’s prerequisite is not met, the Special Action is wasted. This can be important if you need something to meet the prerequisite of the card and you don’t currently have it on the board. This is actually one of the underrated Special Actions and can be used to great benefit.
Now, lets take a look at La Tête à Papineau which are the Special Actions for the Patriote player.
• 4 AP – Our Moment: Gain 6 Opportunity Points. This one is a bit circumstantial and not as useful as the cost in AP would imply. It is very nice to be able to generate more Opportunity Points, especially if you are drawing lots of your opponent’s Events.
• 4 AP – Overwhelming Support: Score 1 VP for each of your fully Mobilized Patriote-Biased Counties. That would be 1 VP for each Rural County with a Patriote Mobilization Value of 9. I have yet to use this one in our plays as it is really hard, and frankly a bit wasteful, to get a single County to a Mobilization Value of 9.
• 4 AP – No Matter the Cost: The next time the Rural Counties Track scores, the Loyal player doesn’t roll on the Fear of Reprisal Table. This can be big if there is concern about losing Counties.
• 2/4/6 AP – Various Angles: Exchange 1/2/3 cards from your hand with 1/2/3 non-Key Event cards from the Opportunity Pool. You must have at least the chosen amount of cards in hand and there must be at least the chosen amount of eligible cards in the Opportunity Pool. This one is very good as it can change the fortunes for that round by giving the player new opportunities.
The Le Canadien and Partisan Media options are both the same for both players. Once the Special Actions are used the rules advise the players to remove the Markers and place them on the Turn Track to remind when they were used.
I really like the addition of the Special Actions to the game as they really supplement the game well and provide some very interesting and useful options to players who can find a good point to utilize them. I will say that the Patriote Special Actions seem to be much more difficult to use and have far less utility than do the Loyal player Special Actions. But, I think that this difference was the designers way to provide the Loyal player with a slight leg up as they seem to have the more difficult time in winning the game.
In Action Point 4, we will discuss the Scoring Tracks and how the Scoring Die works and also discuss the Scoring Sequence and how the game can be won.