Sub Heading Block
Ok, first and foremost – World Championship Russian Roulette is not a game for everybody. It doesn’t pretend to be. It takes some very dark subject matter and parodies it to ridiculous extremes.
If you are someone that finds the idea of a game where you shoot yourself and sometimes others distasteful, nothing I say here can change your mind. Please do not continue reading, as the rest of this review will likely cause you distress. That is not my intention, it is simply a case of this game not being for you. Soon I will be doing a review for Skull which offers a similar tension – check it out on Board Game Geek in the meantime.
If you are still reading, it helps to have a dark sense of humour to appreciate this game. I have such a sense of humour, and I wanted to play World Championship Russian Roulette from the moment I heard the title. As a regular listener of the Tuesday Knight Games Podcast, I heard little snippets of information for quite some time. Each story I heard only made me more excited to play. And then late May 2016, I got to add my pledge to the Kickstarter, and haven’t looked back.
So what is World Championship Russian Roulette?
This is very much a game ‘as advertised’. A World Championship is a gathering of elite individuals to compete against each other. The humour here starts where the event is surviving Russian Roulette.
Each player gets a Captain and three team members. Think of these people as lives, in every sense. To win, you need to score 15+ points. It’s plus points because 15 points trigger the end, and the highest score wins. You are out of the competition if you lose four times and your team is eliminated. It’s a very simple game 🙂
So setup is very straightforward. Each player select a colour, and takes that colour summary card and team tiles. They also get a die matching that colour, and seven cards – six ‘click’ cards, and one ‘bang’ card.
Put the pile of point bullets in the middle where everyone can reach them. Finally, shuffle the action cards and place them in a pile.
Playing World Championship Russian Roulette
Each round is divided up into six phases. While this sounds excessive, each one is very simple in itself. The distinction helps clarify timing for the Action Cards, which I will go through later.
Phase 1 – Pocket
So, you have seven cards. Each card represents a chamber in a revolver – standard equipment in Russian Roulette. But a revolver only has six chambers, so at this stage, you take one of the ‘Click’ cards and put it in your pocket.
Of course, being the solid player you are, the bullet (‘Bang’) card is definitely in the gun. You would never have put the bullet in your pocket, would you?
Phase 2 – Spin
A very simple phase – take your remaining six cards, and shuffle them. This represents ‘spinning the chamber’ in Russian Roulette.
Phase 3 – Bidding
In the Bidding phase, each player picks up their die. While it is a six sided die, the numbers on the side go from 0 to 5. Each player picks how many pulls of the trigger they think they can do without drawing a ‘Bang’. Once everyone is ready, all die are placed on the table at the same time. There is no seeing what someone else bids then picking from there!
This is important, becuase you will get a point for every time you draw a click card. But if you pull a ‘Bang’, you will score nothing, and a team member dies.
Phase 4 – Challenge
Now, the challenge phase is pretty much half the game. You can see what everyone has bid, and you can also see how confident they are. If one of the players looks confident they can fire their gun 5 times, you have to wonder – is their bullet in their pocket?
This is your chance to ‘Challenge’ another player of cheating. When you challenge a player, you force them to ’empty their pockets’. This means everyone can see the very first card they discarded as it is turned face up.
If it’s a ‘Bang’, they instantly lose one team member and are out of the round. You are also awarded three Action Cards for finding the cheat.
But if your wrong, the person you accused gets an Action Card, and you have to replace one of your ‘Click’ cards for another ‘Bang’, effectively putting another round in your gun. As you have already bid, this makes life very… interesting for you.
Phase 5 – Trigger
The trigger phase is the final stretch – literally the business end as it were. I have seen this round played differently with different groups, but the end result is the same.
We play it that everyone that is both alive and hasn’t reached their bid simultaneously draws a card from their gun pile. If it’s a click, everyone gets to continue. If someone draws a ‘Bang’, they lose a team member and are out of the round. They do get to draw an Action Card though, so with any luck it will be easier for them in future rounds.
This continues until either all players have been shot this round, or all players successfully draw their bid.
Phase 6 – Points
Here, all players that have survived this round recieve one point for each ‘click’ card they drew, plus one more point for surviving . Each player does a quick total, and if anyone has 15 points – they win! In the event more than one player 15 points, then the player with the higher score wins. If no one has won, then a new round starts for all players that have living team members.
So what are these Action Cards?
So up to now, we have a fun push your luck bluffing game. It has more elements to games like Skull, and while fun in a macabre kind of way, nothing special.
Then you get to use Action Cards.
Here is where World Championship comes into it’s own. If it wasn’t for the theme, the Action cards would put this into my ‘Everyone should have this game’ category. Well, it is in that category for me already. I understand why people would overlook it though.
You see, the Action Cards let you manipulate play during the game. Each card has the Phase it can be played in, the title, and a description of the power.
Here are a few as examples:
What it’s been like to play
Luckily, I have a pretty open-minded gaming group to play with. Skull was a group hit, so the problem was getting them to play a game that sounded like it played like Skull, instead of Skull. It was well worth the effort.
After talking a few groups into playing, I would say the conversion rate from Skull is conservatively around 70%. That’s players that would prefer to play World Championship Russian Roulette over Skull. About 95% of people I played with would happily play either. It has been close to 100% ‘careful who you play this around’ though, which is the only downside of the game.
So after all this, if your still not sure if this is a game for you, there is an easy way to find out. Simply download a print and play version from Tuesday Knight Games to take it for a spin!
World Championship Russian Roulette is an underappreciated gem. Yes, I understand the theme isn’t for everyone. You will definitely benefit from a dark and/or warped sense of humour to sit down and play this game.
But if you do sit down and play it, I can’t see many people that will not have a fun time. It’s almost infectious fun as you go through the first round, and everything starts to click for everyone. Very rarely have I seen a group finish, and not immediately play a second time.
The only reason this isn’t a 9 – my ‘must own’ ranking – is the theme and how it can affect some. As I said at the start, if joking about Russian Roulette is something you can’t do, don’t play this. But if you can, you will be rewarded by an amazing game.