Ninety-eight years ago, T.S. Elliot wrote, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.” Revive the board game posits several other theories. As you control of one of several tribes in a post-post-apocalypse scenario trying to repopulate the world.
In one of the most interesting lore dumps in board gaming, even though these tribes were all driven underground by the apocalypse. They all came up with different theories about what happened.
Sadly, those theories aren’t so farfetched.
The Hofstadterians, for instance, believe that the world ran out of water. Which, according to The World Counts, is likely to happen sometime in 2040. Truthfully, an awful situation. Putting the apolocalypse aside, this belief the Hofstadterian’s have changed their culture, and the way you play the game. Given their grave concerns about water scarcity, they want to be around water more than the other tribes.
Each tribe paints a different, but equally bleak picture of what happened to the planet. But Revive doesn’t dwell on this past, it is a hopeful board game about survival and thriving in this new world. As these tribes are looking to emerge from their underground caves, like a pack of hibernating bears who slept through their alarms.
That’s the story and it’s really engaging.
As a board game, however, Revive is all about victory points. In the rulebook, there’s a list of how you earn victory points as long as my arm. But of all these options, the biggest and most compelling one is the personal objective cards you get at the start of the game.
These cards give you three objectives, one purple, one silver, and one orange. They align with the three different colours of artefacts you find within the game. When you score at the end of the game, you multiply your objective scores by the number of matching artefacts you own.
Throughout the game, it’s up to you to determine which of these objectives really matter and make sure you grab the matching artefacts. So how do you get artefacts?
Well, like points, you get them from everywhere. Though in general, you’ll use cards to gain resources. Then use these resources to explore the map, build cities to expand from in the future, and populate ancient abandoned cities with your tribesfolk. As you do this, you’ll power up your tribe, and uncover artefacts along the way.
From little things, big things grow
Revive does a lot of excellent things with its design, but chief among them is the feeling of gaining power. Although it’s not just about becoming big and powerful. It’s about choosing how you become big and powerful.
With the board game being so expansive. It allows you to focus on each of the essential actions and be rewarded for doing so.
Focusing on exploration nets you more cards – and by proxy more resources. Building gives you more options for exploration and unlocks free actions. While populating cities moves you up your tribe’s tech tree.
These upgrades all vary alot, however, they all share one similarity. Within each upgrade type there are branching paths for you to choose from. A good example is your personal tech tree, it has three different paths. Making it difficult, if not impossible, to unlock them all in one game. So like an obese monkey, you have to choose carefully which branch you’re going to climb.
With all these possibilities, Revive nails the strategic aspect of board gaming. Where despite needing to figure out what you’re doing on this turn. You’re often lost in a flow state of figuring out your long-term strategy.
For players who want that immediate action, then know that – like Great Western Trail – turns pass quickly. You get two actions per turn. Which is enough to feel like you accomplish something but not enough to complete what you were doing. Leaving you excited for your next turn to hurry up and arrive.
With that in mind, Revive is an easy recommendation for board gamers, and people who love Dragon Ball Z.
Nothing is left unscoured
Everything within Revive feels balanced and considered. Reminding me heavily of my favourite board game, Argent the Consortium. Where even though the mechanics aren’t novel or new, each one has been revisited and tweaked. Making it feel like a fresh experience.
Starting with the card play, where most games would have you play a card and call it a day. Revive gives you four different places on your board to play your cards.
Playing the card to a top spot on your board allows use of the top power of the card. Meanwhile, playing the card to the bottom of the board, means you can use the bottom power.
Beyond the differentiation of the two uses of the cards, the limited placements for cards fill up rather quickly. Forcing you to use both top and bottom powers. Where the top powers generally give you resources, the bottom powers are more utility-focused. Being forced to engage with this utility changes the way you think about playing.
Yet it doesn’t stop there.
In each area you can play a card, there are three slots. In these, you place upgrades that activate whenever you play a card to that slot. So if you play a card that matches the colour of your slot/s, you get both the benefit of the card and that of the slot/s. Do this right, and you’ll make it rain resources. Books and sacks of food fall from the sky as though you’ve started a new apocalypse.
That’s just one example. But Revive does this again, and again, taking simple mechanics and mutating them just enough to make them more interesting.
Getting this far in this review, you might feel overwhelmed. There’s a lot to this game, so no one would blame you. However, in play, Revive never felt overwhelming. Everything you do is either straightforward to execute or intuitive enough that you can figure it out.
Meaning you don’t have to trawl through a War and Peace sized rulebook, or fight against the constraints of the system. You’re already in the thick of it, making interesting decisions that matter.
It helps that it comes with a five-game campaign as well. This allowed Revive to strip out some of its more curly rules, and slowly introduce them over the course of this campaign. So by the time you’ve reached these more curly rules, they’re not so intimidating.
Now if there’s one thing to put you off of Revive, it will be the setup. Standard for these types of heavy games, but arduous none the less. You have to set up the map, the tracks, the player boards, the cards, the slot powers and more.
But once you pay this cost, there’s very little book keeping throughout the game. You’re continuously playing from first turn, to counting up points at the end.
There’s no getting around it. Revive is an excellent board game, one of my favourites from last year. It draws easy comparisons with some of the best board games I’ve ever played. It has that depth that challenges you to think deeply, but at the same time, it’s so easy to play. This intuitive game play, the feeling of growth, plus the excellent lore behind the game all adds up to one superb board game.
Designers: Helge Meissner, Eilif Svensson, Anna Wermlund, Kristian Amundsen Østby
Publisher: Aporta Games
See how Revive compares to all of the other board games I’ve reviewed.