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Designer Diary/Interview: Guy-Roger Duvert on Virtual Revolution

by Guy-Roger Duvert

What follows below is an email interview between Virtual Revolution‘s co-designer Guy-Roger Duvert, who is also a composer, director, and film producer and distributor Hachette Boardgames USA. Duvert co-designed the game with Cyril Villalonga.

Q: Virtual Revolution is based off of your 2016 movie of the same name. What inspired you to create a board game version?

GRD: Being a big board game player, I wanted to work on one, but I was lacking ideas on how to approach it. When working on the film, I realized I had a perfect setting for one, and that setting actually brought the elements of gameplay that I couldn’t find before: Interpol, the Necromancers, etc.

Q: How did you approach the design process?

GRD: I am a big fan of worker placement, so for me there was no doubt that the game would work with this kind of gameplay. After that, the main ideas from the film brought the big elements: the verses, a competitive map, and the two threats: Interpol and the Necromancers.

What changed a lot with time, though, was how the occupation of the map would play. At first, different players could have influence on the same borough, which created a rather messy board. Also, you needed to have specific verses to influence such-and-such borough. For instance, if the 14th arrondissement was sensitive only to fantasy and sci-fi, it wasn’t possible to send influence there without these kind of verses. That was more thematic, but also much more complex. A big work done with Cyril and with publisher Studio H was to smoothen these rules.

An early prototype

Q: Can you describe a couple of design challenges or issues you encountered?

CRD: The main issue was how to keep the gameplay rich while making it more simple, fluid. For instance, we totally dropped the idea of having the boroughs sensitive to such-and-such types of verses.

One aspect important to me was that it would be possible to play the game with very different strategies. A player had to be able to win while still being wiped out from the map, for instance, or while having no server at all, or no verse at all. That required a lot of tweaking and balancing.

An early version of a player board

Q: Tell us about Virtual Revolution — what genre and mechanisms does it have?

GRD: It’s at first a rather classical worker placement, with each player having three meeples (executive directors) and the game lasting five rounds — so, concretely, you have fifteen actions.

Each time you place a meeple, eventually you play with influence where you are, and you pick up one of the five available actions. Where the design becomes more unique is by gameplay that hits close to its themes and by the presence of distinct strategies. You hire dirty agents, who provide a free bonus that can afterwards be used for one of five different actions, so there is an engine-building element going there.

You can build servers and verses, which bring victory points, but also have an impact on your income, which is of course extremely important — but the interesting thing is that the two most obvious ways to win — getting richer and having more presence on the map — will make you targets of Interpol and Necromancers, and you need to deal with that constantly. Which balance will you choose between increasing your power or defending yourself against what’s to come?

The Executive Directors

Q: The cover for the game bears the same cover as the movie poster. What additional art aspects are similar to the movie?

GRD: Actually, some of the art used in the game is directly taken from concept art made for the film. Benjamin Sjöberg was the main concept artist on the film, and it felt normal to have him make all the art of the game.

The players act as the CEOs of four multinational companies. Synternis is very present in the film, while Vesglas is quoted in a dialogue. In a previous version of the film, Trendshield was, too. That being said, both Trendshield and Swordlace end up having a bigger presence in the novel Virtual Revolution 2046, which is a prequel to the film.

Several characters from the film are among the agents you can hire: Nash, Dina, Stilson, Morel…

Finally, in the verses, some are also in the film. Olmetta Worlds is the verse where Nash ends up in a female avatar, for instance.

Film still of action set in Olmetta Worlds

Q: Were there any particularly memorable moments or surprises from playtesting?

GRD: Memorable, yes, but not that nice of a surprise. In one of the first playtests with the team of Studio H, we realized that one dumb simple strategy — just taking the money action all the time — ended up being able to win. There was still a lot of balance to do there.

The agents

Q: What do you hope players will take away from their experience with the board game version of Virtual Revolution?

GRD: Ideally the pleasure of immersing yourself in a cyberpunk world while exploring different strategies. Personally, the games I prefer are the ones that, just after finishing them, I already want to try again to test a different approach. Virtual Revolution has been developed with this in mind.

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