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 Action Point 3, we dove 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. In Action Point 4, we discussed the Scoring Tracks and how the Scoring Die works and also discussed the Scoring Sequence and how the game can be won. In this Action Point, which is the conclusion to the series, we will discuss some points of strategy and how each player should go about waging this conflict.
The first comment I want to make before we get into this post is that I am not presenting myself as an expert on the ins and outs of this game. I am only trying to share some lessons learned from playing the game and observations from someone that loves the Card Driven Game mechanic in all its forms. Prelude to Rebellion is a very unique game and has so many great aspects contained within the design that I also cannot possibly give advice or guidance on everything. These points are simply meant to provide some guidance on aspects that players should be aware of and pay attention to.
With that being said, please enjoy my thoughts on how you should go about playing this game.
Points of Strategy
Play to Your Faction’s Strengths
There is no secret that the Patriote Faction is stronger in the Rural Counties while the Loyal Faction is stronger in the Urban Counties. I say this because if you look at the board you will see that 16 of the 24 Rural Counties has a Patriote bias as compared to only 8 counties with a Loyal bias. Also, when you look at the Urban Counties, while neither side has a clear advantage on bias, the Loyal player starts with 6 Mobilization Cubes in the two Urban Counties (4 in Montréal and 2 in Québec) as compared to just 4 Mobilization Cubes for the Patriote player (3 in Montréal and just 1 in Québec).
This bias simply means it is a bit easier for the identified faction to place Cubes on the Mobilization Track in those Counties. For example, in the picture above you will notice a difference in the costs to place Mobilization Cubes in Saint-Hyacinthe along both sides of the Mobilization Box. The base cost for Mobilizing any Rural County’s box is always 1 AP. If there is a white number beside the Mobilization Box this means that there is an additional cost that must be paid to Mobilize that specific box. So, basically I am trying to say that because it is easier for the Patriote player to do their work in most of the Rural Counties, this is where they should focus their efforts for control. On the flip side, the Loyal player should take the advantage they have in the Urban Counties and run with it to outpace the Loyal player. This doesn’t mean though that either side should just ignore the other aspect of the battle for Counties. You always want to make your opponent work to get their leads because if they spend their time undoing what you have done, sometimes this means you are already winning because this is distracting them from doing other important tasks.
Focus on Smart Event Play to Avoid Higher Mobilization Costs from Bias
Players can use the Activity Points on a card to place individual Cubes on these Mobilization Tracks but also will find that sometimes the cards have Events that allow for several different actions in regards to placing and removing Cubes. Sometimes these cards will allow for multiple Cubes to be placed but might have limits such as only 2 per County or in a County where there is Patriote or Loyal control. The player must make a choice about how best to use the cards they have in their hand from round to round. Typically, the Events are very good and will provide greater benefit to the player than simply using the AP.
For example, if the Event text directs the player to place a certain amount of Mobilization Cubes into Mobilization Boxes in Counties, this will ignore the additional costs listed to the side of the Mobilization Box. This can make more of an impact than simply using the AP to try to place the same Mobilization Cubes in the boxes while paying the additional costs if the County has a bias toward your opponent. The Events can also somewhat break the rules and allow the player to take actions that are normally not allowed or otherwise limited. Each time the player decides to play a card they must do an internal cost-benefit analysis to see how they should be using the card. This will increase your efficiency in using your limited Activity Points and provide you with the greatest impact possible. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to ignore a good Event text if you simply need to control a County with one additional Mobilization Cube before scoring at the end of a round. That is what makes the game great and the CDG mechanic so interesting; the choices and strategy that you must use to be effective and have a shot at winning.
Focus on Controlling 2 Scoring Tracks and Then Be Opportunistic
This is an easy point of strategy as you can win if you focus on the right two Scoring Tracks. Which are the right Scoring Tracks you ask? Well, that depends. Typically, the Patriote player is going to control the Rural Counties Track from the get go and can hang onto that one pretty easily and then has to focus on one more track. Also usually the Loyalist player will control the Urban Counties Track from the start but has a bit more trouble hanging onto it than the Patriote player does with the Rural Counties Track. But your second focus track is usually decided on how your initial hand of cards lays out but also on what your opponent decides to do. If you can control two tracks and score them fairly often you can win. But, if you ignore the other tracks and let your opponent hang onto them without a fight you will find that you have a tight race.
I always try to look for other ways to score VP in addition to my controlled tracks. There are several cards that situationally give VP for holding onto certain Counties, or having the lead on a track at that time, etc. Look for these supplemental scoring opportunities to get on a more stable footing and fight for control of your tracks.
Use the Opportunity Pool
Why is this Opportunity Pool so important? Well, in this design if you play a card with your opponent’s Event for the AP, that Event will go off for them. We all know that with CDG’s that holding your opponent’s Events so they cannot get to them is important but you sometimes have no choice and simply have to play them. The purpose of the Opportunity Pool is to allow you to spend your Opportunity Points to play the cards located in your section of the Pool instead of playing an Event from your hand that will aid your opponent. Once the card is played it will have to be placed in the Opportunity Pool and it is now available to your opponent but they must spend their Opportunity Points in order to take the card out and play it. This cat and mouse game can get you out of a lot of jams but sometimes you will be unable to play any cards from the Opportunity Pool because you have no cards there or don’t have enough Opportunity Points to pay the cost. You must use this aspect well and sometimes it will really work out for you because your opponent will not have enough Opportunity Points to get that card and it might end up being discarded at turn’s end because the year is now passed.
The Importance of Special Actions
Special Actions are key and you must look for opportunities to use them. As I said in my post where we covered the Actions available to players, 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.
Here are some of the best Loyal Special Actions:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
And here are the best Patriote Special Actions:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Patriote Player Should Try to Keep the Rebellious Spirit Track Down
At the end of any turn, unless the Patriote player performed the special Call for Composure action that can be played once per turn, the Rebellious Spirit Marker will increase 1. The Patriote player has to be aware of where the Rebellious Spirit Market is at and what the consequences for ignoring this aspect of the game is. If it gets out of hand, you can see on the Fear of Reprisal Table that the Loyal player can be removing up to 10 Cubes from Rural Counties and this can erode their advantage quickly.
One small thing I want to point out is that the Call for Composure action that can be used to great effect costs more as the game progresses. It will cost just 2 AP’s in 1834, will increase to 4 AP’s in 1835-36 and finally top out at a very steep 6 AP’s in 1837. You have to keep that price in mind as you think about using it now or later. I know that it can be hard to sacrifice a play in order to keep the Rebellious Spirit Track down but you really need to do it early as compared to later. This decision is pretty much a no-brainer in ’34, a tougher call in ’35-’36 and a really expensive and desperate measure in ’37. But still, the Patriote needs to find the right moment to squeeze these AP’s while they watch the Scoring Tracks.
Loyal Player Needs to Establish Authority in Urban Counties Quickly to Corner the Market on Organizations
In my opinion, this is one of the easier areas to control for the Loyal player as they have been set up from the beginning of the game to get a good start on controlling the Organizations Scoring Track. As discussed above with their start in the Urban Counties, they should be able to invest only a few cards into making their Mobilization Value high enough to successfully create an Urban Organization in the first turn. Remember, that in order to start building Rural Organizations in the Rural Counties, the player must first create an Urban Organization. If the Loyal player can get an early start on this aspect, the Patriote player should always be behind the 8 ball on this aspect as they most likely will be focused early on building up their control of Rural Counties.
Patriote Player Should Start Early on Creating an Urban Organization
I know that this point is truly antithesis to my first point on this list (play to your faction’s strengths) but remember that in a CDG it is important to contest your opponent in their preferred path to victory. You need to make them work on earning their points and you will find that they will not have the resources to mess with your advantages. With that being said, the Patriote player needs to get an Urban Organization created early in order to be able to at least compete for control of the Urban Organization Scoring Track. Please don’t sacrifice your main efforts on gaining and maintaining control of the Rural Counties. The reason that it is important to establish this Urban Organization early is that it will become more and more difficult to do so as the game progresses. I have found that the Loyal player will try to win the Urban Counties (mainly because they have a decided early advantage) and this means that they will be attacking your Mobilization Cubes on those Mobilization Tracks. If you wait too long to create an Urban Organization you might find that you will have a hard time getting the advantage and will fall pray to the cruel dice.
Force Your Favored Scoring Die to Score
Every action that players take in the game is designed to set them up for opportunities to score and also to force scoring to happen. The point of the game is to control the Scoring Tracks so they are in your favor so that when the Tracks are scored you get your points. These Scoring Tracks are manipulated by the Scoring Die as each result will push the associated Tracks once space closer to scoring. Each card has one of four Scoring Dice printed on it including Rural Counties (RC), Organizations (O), External Influence (EI) or Urban Counties (UC). Immediately after playing the card, the player rolls the specified die and advances the Scoring Marker of the track rolled by one box. If that brings the Scoring Marker to the end of the track to rest in the Score Box the players will then go through the Scoring Sequence detailed under the relevant Scoring Tracks section.
Once you have control of a certain track, it is wise to do everything that you can to roll that Track’s Scoring Die. Remember that each card played will force one of the four tracks die to be rolled. I found that once we were near the Score Box on a track that I controlled, I would search my hand for the cards that would allow that die to be rolled. It wasn’t a guarantee that the track would be moved to score but it gave me a chance. Sometimes those tracks can change pretty quickly and you best strike when it is in your favor or you might allow your opponent to sore those Victory Points instead.
I am afraid that is all that I have for you on strategy for this very interesting game. I have really enjoyed playing Prelude to Rebellion. The game is more than a traditional CDG and has a lot of very interesting and revolutionary mechanics included that all work together to create a very tense and meaty experience. I have played many CDG’s but this one has now entered my Top 5 at this point and may move up as we get a chance to play more.
If you are interested, you can watch our video review to see what we thought about the game: