Friday, February 24, 2012

Risk OR I Shall Conquer Your Territory, Oh Wait, You Rolled a 6, AGAIN!

That's right, today is Risk day.  I have a lot of fond memories involving Risk.  I think I first played when I was 10, but I watched my cousins play for a few years before that.  They'd never let me play with them, but that was probably more because they wanted to maintain their group order and long-standing alliances.  The first time I ever played was with my best friend from elementary school, and boy did we get the rules wrong.  It was also a two-player game, which is not the way to play Risk.

For those of you not familiar with Risk, let me run down how it works.  Players take turns to conquer territories and eventually take over the world by using armies and dice.  Eventually players are eliminated and only one remains.  Combat is straightforward, the attacker rolls up to 3 attack dice, the defender 2, and you compare high die with high die and next high with next high, with the defense winning ties.  The advantage of the defense winning ties leads to a lot of build-up and very little fighting until someone goes on a run.

There's a lot to like when it comes to Risk.  There's some military strategy, at least with troop deployment, the combat mechanics are simple.  The global scale gives players a grand sense of control.  People can easily learn the game, and the rules are straightforward.

Now, for all the good things, there are problems with the game.  The first problem comes with dice. The simple fact is that one troop can hold off a whole army, even destroy that entire army by rolling a 6 repeatedly, or at least as high as the high die from the attacker.  Sure, the odds are that they can't keep this up, but dice do weird things sometimes.  Another issue is that every territory starts with at least one troop, so combat is required from the star in order to get cards.  It also gives players no where to expand, and troops in places they simply don't care about.  The more elegant solution is presented in Risk Legacy by having each player start in one territory and expand from there.  A third issue is in the trade-in of cards.  Players don't want to trade in, because their opponents will get more troops than they do,

So, we have some good things with Risk.  I won't deny that this was my favorite game for awhile, and it was the reason I was introduced to Catan, but Risk has it's bad parts.  It's a long game, unpredictable time frame, and it has player elimination, which in itself isn't a bad thing, but combined with the long timeframe, it leads to bored people.

As I always try to do, here are some alternative games based on why you like Risk.

  • First off, Risk Legacy if you have a consistent play group.  It maintains the Risk mechanics, but offers a lot of variety.  
  • Memoir '44, Battlelore, or Command and Colors gives you the combat, a short play time, and a more historical flare.
  • Axis and Allies is a classic, though it still suffers from the long playtime.
  • If you really like Risk, but you want a better game under the Risk header, take a look first at Legacy, but then at Risk 2210 or Risk Godstorm. Self note, if anyone is looking to get 2210, let me know, I have it for trade or sale.

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