Ok, so, you’d be forgiven for finding the subject-matter in World Championship Russian Roulette a bit morose. Any game that has a phase in which you make a gun with your hand and place it against your own temple is never going to be for everyone. But if you can embrace the absurdity of the game’s core conceit, that you are the captain of a team who has made it to the titular World Championship round of a Russian roulette tournament, then what we have here is a tense, fast card game with fantastic presentation, simple mechanics, and the potential for a really raucous good time.
The goal of each player in World Championship Russian Roulette is as simple as it gets – don’t die. Running contrary to this most sensical imperative is the fact that, each round, players will all load their fictional firearms with a single bullet, place it against their theoretical temple, and start pulling the trigger. Each player starts with an identical deck of 7 chamber cards – 6 ‘Click’ cards and a single ‘Bang’ card. Draw the click card? You’re safe! Draw bang?…well, let’s just say you’re out of the round.
Because as the rules point out – your gun has 6 chambers, and your team has 4 members…
Gameplay is divided into 6 quick, fairly organic phases:
- Pocket Phase: Players secretly remove one of their 7 cards. Removing a Click card makes your deck more dangerous, but getting called out on removing a Bang has some dire consequences, you cheater. More on that in a sec.
- Spin Phase: Players shuffle their remaining 6 cards. You can shuffle each other’s cards, if you’re particularly suspicious.
- Bidding Phase: Each player commits to between 0-5 trigger pulls. Every pull gets you points at the end of the round…assuming you still have an intact skull.
- Challenge Phase: Here’s where things get interesting. Each player can accuse a single other player of having removed a Bang card during the Pocket phase. The accused player reveals their pocket card for all to see.
- If they didn’t cheat, they gain an Event card as a reward, and the accusing player is forced to add an additional Bang card to their own gun deck and reshuffle.
- If they did cheat, they are immediately eliminated from the round (as in, with extreme prejudice), and the accusing player gains three Event cards as a reward for having uncovered the filthy cheater.
- Trigger Phase: All players who survived the Challenge phase now make a little gun with their fingers, place it to their temple, and flip over the number of cards they committed to in the Bidding phase. If they can manage to not draw a Bang card, they survive! If not, well, you know.
- Point Phase – all surviving players are awarded points – one point per trigger pull, plus one for simply surviving the round (so players who bid zero pulls still get a point). If the game isn’t over at this point, then start again at the Pocket phase!
Any time a player gets eliminated, either by drawing a Bang, getting caught cheating, or some other effect, one member of their team dies, leaving the captain for last, of course.
The game ends one of three ways: Only one team is left alive (they win!), one team has amassed 15+ points and has more points than anyone else (they win!), or everyone is dead (no one wins!).
All along the way, players will have an opportunity to play Event cards. Events muck with the rules, letting you do things like point your gun at another player between pulls, force players to take extra Bang cards, or peek at your gun deck before committing to a number of trigger pulls. They can often turn the tide in a delightfully chaotic way, which suits World Championship Russian Roulette perfectly.
Andrew: I totally agree. I had a fantastic time with World Championship Russian Roulette; once people get into it and the accusations (and bullets) start flying, there is plenty to love about it! The bluffing element works really well with the push-your luck aspect – is a player who bid a lot of trigger pulls doing that because they have cheated and removed the Bang from their gun? Or do they have Event cards that will mitigate their impending death? Or are they just nuts? Who knows!
Jess: Yeah! I also really liked the game’s aesthetic – the art is fantastic, the color palette is really interesting, and all the bits are perfect – chunky tiles, great score tokens, and I know you liked those dice.
We had a lot of fun with World Championship Russian Roulette. It definitely benefits from higher player counts – more people to accuse, more general goofy chaos at the table. As a 2-player game, we found it slowed down, becoming faintly more strategic, as you only had a single other player to target and psych out during bluffing. That said, the presentation is excellent, the rules are simple, and it absolutely plays well at any count.
While it’s not exaaactly a ‘party’ game as we casually define them – there are definitely rules to follow and a sequence of events players should keep track of – World Championship Russian Roulette is light and accessible and would totally still be playable (and possibly a hell of a lot funnier) after a few drinks.
For anyone looking to add a really well-presented and solidly fun game to their rotation, and who don’t mind the idea of fictionally shooting themselves and each other over and over, World Championship Russian Roulette is an absolute win.
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(Gameosity received a review copy of this title. We were not otherwise compensated.)