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The Revolution is Upon Us!

posted 11/9 by John of Team BTY

Although I didn't particularly want to write a column on Raw Deal: Revolution, having already written an article and a participated in a lot of discussion threads about it, it IS the most talked-about topic of the last week so that's what I'm addressing.

As someone who's played Raw Deal from the day it was first available, I am the first to admit I have some serious misgivings about the idea of the makers of the game hitting a huge "reset" button, which for all the world it seems they are doing with the new expansion - Raw Deal Revolution. Certainly the nature of the set, its simplified mechanics and shifted card types, has left quite a few vocal members of the Raw Deal community with a bad taste in their mouth. It only took a little bit of consideration to turn my attitude towards the set from skeptical to positive, however.

As someone who's tried to teach Raw Deal to new players throughout its existence, I can safely say that the game as it is has gotten far too big and far too complex to demonstrate easily. In the summer of 2000 the learning curve for the game was nearly flat - with five minutes of explanation you'd know everything you need to know about the game, and with a bit of common sense and the ability to read, you could assemble a quality Stone Cold or Triple H deck right away and be off to the races. Backlash decks added a new layer of complexity that was enough to scare some people away from the game. Then more and more traits were added to cards - things like permanent, manager, stiuplation, raw, smackdown, feud, venue, chain, heat, volley, face, cheater, BASH, and the list goes on - and with each set the amount of effort required to grasp all of these mechanics grew along with the large pool of cards about which you need to be informed if you want to anticipate your opponent with any degree of accuracy. As of Great American Bash, while the game is as much fun as I can remember it ever being, it is a positively herculean task to bring a new player in and keep their interest in this swirling mass of terminology and enormous card pool. If this trend continues indefinately, then as the game loses players to natural attrition (people who get bored with it, don't want to spend the money, lose interest in the product or in wrestling in general, who move, go to school, get married, have a kid, etc) it won't pick up any new players due to its overwhelming complexity (not to mention the substantial cost of hunting down old out-of-print staple cards).

The point of all this is, I understand exactly why a set like Revolution is needed. With Revolution the game will be no more complicated than it was during Backlash, for the purposes of introducing new players to the game. What's fun about Raw Deal - its mechanics, its flow - is retained while what's complex about it - all the subtypes, the traits and abilities, and a boatload of degenerate cards - will be stripped away, at least in the Revolution format. A lot of people worry that this means the end of All Axxess and Afterburn, as cards from now on will be primarily designed to fit the Revolution template. I think this is an oversimplification. The All-Axxess and Afterburn events will only stop if the players who currently play those events stop attending them or pushing for them. There will be a displacement due to Revolution, there can be no doubt, but those older cards don't have to be packed up forever. In fact when you look at the set Revolution without considering the Revolution format, it's really not as different from past expansions as some might think.

Consider that the number of cards in All Axxess and Afterburn that reverse a Hold, Throw, Assault, or Antic is lower than the number that reverse Strike, Grapple, Submission, and Action cards. All this means is that the cards in this set have a common theme of being harder to reverse in All-Axxess and Afterburn environemnts, unless you're willing to pack a number of these cards yourself. Normally that kind of ability is welcomed (see Chain and Volley traits, although Volley was not as welcome in its first set). Because of the displeasure with the idea of 'Revolution format,' however, this aspect of the cards becomes lost on people who see it is an attempt to make their game 'more like Magic' - the age old also-ran CCG boogeyman. It's like people who play CCGs other than Magic: The Gathering have this deathly fear of ANYTHING that makes their game appear to, in some minor way, emualte its cardboard godfather. Of course, since Magic is an international phenomenon with millions of players, 12 years of history and professional support at all levels, I don't see the logic in NOT wanting to emulate that kind of success. That's an attitude that's always been present in the minds of a small but vocal portion of the Raw Deal community that rears its heads in times of change like this.

Consider that there are many, many players who have played Raw Deal and left the game for a myriad of reasons. Some got sick of the spiraling complexity. Some were tired of degenerate cards ruining their play experience. Some quit because they no longer had enough people in their area to hold tournaments. Many of these people remember how fun Raw Deal was at some point in the past and miss playing it, or miss associating with the people they knew through the game. I believe Revolution is as much a way for CI to reach out to those players, remind them of what they once liked about the game, and bring them back in. I personally know of several former players who are eagerly looking forward to Revolution to play Raw Deal once again, who have not picked the game back up in the pre-Revo era because of the enormous difficulty of tracking down needed cards from so many missed sets and holiday tins and tournament prize cards, or the profoundly complex tournament environment that demands knowledge of dozens of card traits and thousands of cards and their interactions.

Revolution is a boiled-down, distilled essence of what makes Raw Deal fun to play. It makes the game accessible to potential new players and returning old players for the first time in several years. For All-Axxess and Afterburn it offers a wealth of new cards with a potentially powerful ability (the difficulty of reversing these cards). Revolution is unlike any expansion set Raw Deal has had before, and I can only see the dimension it adds to the game as a positive. The Revolution format can be a huge boost for the game, and I think people will like playing on a fresh and level playing field without all the old baggage. Considering that the value of its license has degraded sharply since Raw Deal debuted, its continued vigor is remarkable and with a little luck and some good promotion, Revolution will keep the game going for many years to come.

-John of Team BTY