Review: 1775: Rebellion23 Nov 2016 0
Review: 1775: Rebellion
Released 03 Nov 2016
The year is 1775. Taxation without representation is a hot-button issue in the British colonies and a rebellion is brewing. The kettle boils over on April 19th when the colonial militia ambush a column of Redcoats on their way to seize a stockpile of militia weapons. Two-hundred-and-seventy-three British soldiers are killed or wounded and the American Revolution was underway.
1775: Rebellion lets you step back in time and command one of several factions with a stake in the war. You can control the British Redcoats, English Loyalists, German Hessians, American Regulars, Patriots, French Regulars and Native Americans in a war that set the course of history. 1775: Rebellion is a cooperative game, and allied factions can collude to gain control of towns, forts, and entire colonies and eventually win the war.
The game is played on a map of the original thirteen colonies plus some extra areas like Maine, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Each colony is split into smaller areas that form the chunks of territory the two sides will battle to control. 1775: Rebellion supports up to four players on two different sides. The Continental Army and Patriot Militia represent the Americans while the British Regulars and Loyalist Militia make up the British. A colony is controlled by one side when only its units and no opposing units are present in all of the areas of that colony.
1775: Rebellion is played over a series of rounds. In every round each faction will take a turn in an order randomly determined at the start of that round. On their turn each faction will get to reinforce units, maneuver troops by playing movement cards, resolve combat where troops are moved into an area controlled by enemy units, and draw new cards from their own faction-specific deck. Players can also play any event cards they have drawn. Event cards either add extra units, modify the movement of armies, or affect combat in some way.
Each faction also has a Truce card which is both a powerful movement card and puts a clock on the game. When both factions of a side have played their truce cards the game automatically ends that round and the team that controls the most colonies wins the game. If nobody has won in this fashion by turn eight the game ends at that point with the side that controls the most colonies declared the victor.
Combat is resolved using each faction's combat dice. Each die has a mix of hit, flee, and blank symbols. Rolling a hit means the opposing faction loses one unit. Flee means that faction loses a unit to the "Fled Units" box where they can be placed again as reinforcements later. Blanks are called a "Command Decision" and the player who controls the unit may allow that unit to retreat to an adjacent area. Dice are variable by faction and the two more disciplined forces, the Continental Army and British Regulars, are more likely to hit and unlikely to flee. The two militias are far more likely to flee but also get to roll more dice in combat. So there are tactical trade-offs to consider when taking each faction into battle.
THE MODES OF PLAY
1775: Rebellion features a single-player mode, online cross-platform multiplayer, or pass-and-play multiplayer. Single-player mode offers some challenge and is a good way to build up a solid understanding the game. The AI isn't a complete pushover but it isn't a military genius either and makes a lot of questionable decisions on all difficulty levels.
Single player is where the faithful representation angle loses some lustre as well. There's no real eye candy here, you get a bird's eye view of the game board along with the different decks of cards and piles of dice and even a box for the game. Animations are pretty basic as well. It's kind of a drag to wait for a bunch of AI players to play cards, move realistically rendered game pieces, and roll dice. You can turn those animations off which helps, but it is still clear that you are playing a board game by yourself.
Board games are, with a few notable exceptions, far better played with other humans. This is doubly true for cooperative multiplayer games where one of the real selling points is strategic teamwork. 1775: Rebellion is no exception and practically begs you to swap those AI placeholders with real-life people. When setting up a multiplayer game you choose the scenario—there are three, 1775 (the normal game), 1775 (short version), and the Siege of Quebec, an advanced option with different rules—and which side you want to play, American or British. That's it. The game is advertised for up to four players but there is no option to set the number who can participate.
The games I've joined have had one other player and started once I entered. So from what I've seen, and unless I'm missing something, online multiplayer games are one on one. This is fairly disappointing as it takes the cooperative component right off the virtual table. There is also no private-game option or invitation system, so if you do want to play a friend online you need to coordinate outside of the game so they join before anybody else does. This might be less of a problem because I didn't witness much online activity, and never more than one or two games looking for players at a time.
Online multiplayer is asynchronous, so you can take your turn when you have time to do so. The problem is that once you finish and end your turn you get locked out of the game and sent back to the main menu. You can't even view the board until your opponent is done. You can't see what happens and the AI makes all of your decisions during combat. Again, this is far from optimal. A critical part of combat strategy is to decide what units fall in battle or withdraw to other areas on the map. The AI can in no way be trusted to manage your game plan appropriately. I'm sure they did this to speed up games but I don't think that's a good trade off, especially for strategy gamers. It is essentially a play-by-post system, you get an email when it is your turn again, and there is no opportunity for both players to sit and play in real time ala Twilight Struggle. There's also no way to send any kind of message to your opponent and does not appear to be a time limit for a game or turn.
I have a mixed reaction to 1775: Rebellion. The game itself is good and doesn't get bogged down in convoluted rules or tons of math. It also offers interesting strategic and tactical gameplay, which is exactly the right balance for a light war game. The implementation of the game on the digital platform however, is deeply flawed, and that’s what I am reviewing here.
The single-player mode is fun but not overly challenging. I enjoyed trying out different factions and methodically asserting control over colonies to win the war. When you turn animations off turns are relatively quick and you can play a game in under an hour. The level of entertainment here isn't sufficient to carry the game on its own. Board games are all about playing with other people and in 1775: Rebellion multiplayer simply doesn't pass muster. Asynchronous play that boots you out of the game while your opponent takes a turn and hands over key tactical decisions to the game's AI is simply not acceptable.
The inability to set up private, four-player online games with friends is equally unfortunate. The real strength of this type of game is the opportunity to strategize with your teammates to make the best use of your shared turns and assets. It's already an uphill battle trying to replicate shared strategy and comradery in an online game and HexWar seems to have taken the easy route and ignored it altogether. The game advertises four-player multiplayer but I have to assume that is only in play-and-pass mode. I just don't see how to get a four-player game going on my iPad. If there is one and I can't find it, that's an entirely different problem. As for play-and-pass, if you're in the same room with several friends or family that want to play 1775: Rebellion, I highly recommend you just buy the board game and play that way. I can't recommend picking this up until these issues are addressed by the developer.