When you imagine a bleak dystopian future, how do you envision it?
Is it a dusty wasteland, lawless and devoid of civilization? Or a dreary urban sprawl where humans and sentient robots strive to maintain hope in the face of a nihilistic culture and faceless megacorporations?
Perhaps we’ve been wiped out due to our own environmental carelessness.
Or maybe we’re overrun by plague. And there’s always the aliens. Or the reanimated dead.
Of course, we’ll likely be done in by our own technology: our automatons turning against us in a ceaseless effort to eradicate this pesky infestation called the human race.
Maybe – just maybe – we’ve survived, but we’re under the metal boot of totalitarian oppression. Our own fears got the better of us.
What if we let the ideals of freedom and liberty circle the drain due our complacency, and what if it was all orchestrated by manipulative media outlets. Or the criminal underworld. Or the church.
How about … all of the above?
The world as we know it is long gone. The greatest minds available had prepared for the end of the world by engineering the supercomputer HappyCOM-9 as a repository of human knowledge. It was intended to pick up where humans left off, and to rebuild a better, brighter civilization from the smoking ashes of our collapse. Only the apocalypse didn’t arrive on schedule, and all those geniuses in charge of maintaining HappyCOM-9 moved on to more stimulating projects, leaving their interns in charge. Obviously, things when south quickly and when the world really did end, the computer didn’t kick in as intended. Its data had been corrupted through years of negligence and apathy, and its understanding of its mission was fragmented and disjointed. Society wasn’t exactly rebuilt to plan.
Instead, we were given a new civilization in which various factions/races vie with a slightly psychopathic HappyCOM-9 for power. Luckily, it’s now election season! Players each represent one of the different game factions in a race to see who will take over ruling the tattered hellscape we call home.
Out of the box, Inevitable may appear daunting. The game does come with two rulebooks, after all. However, the basics of the game are far simpler than they first appear. Each player is randomly assigned one of 21 different political factions. This faction is, in essence, the player’s character. The objective is to defeat HappyCOM-9, the evil supercomputer, in an election, and to do so requires 2,000-3,000 votes in your favor. Each faction has special abilities, as well as four starting stats: Power, Intelligence, Influence, and Income. The first three are different means of gaining votes. Income is how much money the player gets each round. Money can be used for a variety of purposes, including purchasing items from a provided catalog. (Players receive character sheets to keep track of this information.)
Each player’s turn will have them move about the game board by choosing a direction and rolling a die. After moving, they resolve the events of their space. They then collect their income for the turn. Players continue taking turns until one believes that they have the necessary vote count to challenge HappyCOM-9. If they are successful, they win. If not, they die. Should another player not immediately attempt to try their own luck and win, the unlucky player’s subsequent turns will have them return as agents of HappyCOM, looking to kill off other players.
Vote For Sentient Apes!
At first, Inevitable looks like a demented take on Monopoly. Many of the staples of traditional board games are present: you have income, you are moving around a board at the whim of dice rolls, and chances are by the end of the night someone will not be happy. If the game ended there, we’d probably agree with the analogy. However, Inevitable offers substantial strategy even if the movement portion of it is a bit random.
That randomness factor is actually a double-edged sword here, though. On the one hand, it’s entertaining to watch your friends succumb to the whims of a particularly malicious space. On the other, for newer players it will add precious time to the game clock. It’s likely that the first few times through will take you longer than normal as you learn the ins and outs of the game. There is a learning curve to figuring out how each of the factions work and what all of the squares do. It’s worth the effort though, as so many spaces are wonderfully absurd.
Not to mention: where else can you pit Time Travelers, Zombies, Ninjas, and UPS against each other and still have a coherent game?
Inevitable is the likely result if Neil Gaiman had designed Mario Party. What’s more, the creators managed to seamlessly inject a huge variety of tropes, jokes, and even a couple memes into the game. It’s done in such a way that either they (or you) could easily create additional factions or stuff for the item catalog – provided of course HappyCOM-9 approves them.
When In Rome
One of the really fun things about Inevitable is the feeling that almost any tactic goes. This makes sense, given that the original form of the game was much closer to a tabletop than the colorful board game that debuted in 2011. There is a litany of different play styles you can attempt, at least comparatively to many other role-based board games. Daredevils and Strikers especially can take advantage of this. Would you like to extort other players into doing your bidding? Mug them? Drain them financially? Continually drive them to the brink of insanity? Force them into lose-lose situations while you profit politically? With Inevitable, not only are these available options, they’re encouraged.
Sure, you can play the game as a standard race to the finish affair where no one gets seriously hurt, but you’ll be missing out on part of what makes the game so entertaining. Tacticians have a whole swath of options available to them, and are likely to enjoy
interacting interfering with other players – so long as they don’t have issue with their movement coming down to a die roll.
The world has gone mad; there’s no sense trying to avoid it. So…don’t. The game is part satire of other dystopian stories (with squares like “The Running Guy” and “Avenge your Parents”), and part dark humor (with spaces such as “Are you Stronger Than a Third Grader?”). It’s clearly evident from the moment you start playing that Inevitable doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yet as plentiful and devilishly whimsical as the theme is, it’s also very surface-level. Because of this, several archetypes may have trouble staying interested. For Immersionists, it lacks the depth to properly world-build or role-play their faction to the extent they’ll want. Architects too could be left wanting as you aren’t building your character’s stats so much as collecting vote amounts to win. As for Socializers, the rules aren’t the issue so much as the time: a 2-hour game of anything is hard to hold their attention, let alone one already of such a chaotic nature. There is plenty to wet the appetites of each of these groups, but holding their attention may be a bit harder.
Inevitable is what you would get if you took a traditional American-style board game, some Batman comics, George Orwell’s 1984, and HAL 9000 of Space Odyssey fame, and thew them all in a blender. On the surface it appears that the game should have no chance functioning given all of the different components. But at its core, it is a Roll-And-Move game with a ton of additional bits thrown in. The rulebook may be repetitive at times and could use some tidying up, but the fact that almost every tile space, action, and purchasable item is expounded on somewhere is a real testament to the work that went into making the game both wacky and easily playable. The breadth of variety from usable items, playable factions, and the different squares themselves guarantee that no two game sessions will ever be close to one another.
If Inevitable is a snapshot of humanity’s future, we lament for the future. As a game though, it has a lot of heart.
A heart probably bought on the black market. And we’re ok with that.
Cardboard Republic Snapshot Scoring (Based on scale of 5):
Rules Clarity: 4
Replay Value: 3.5
Physical Quality 4.5 (For Physical Deluxe Edition)
Overall Score: 3.5