Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Risk Legacy

Plays: 3Px7.

In the interest of not revealing spoilers to those who don't want to read them, I'm doing things a little differently with this post. I'll do the overview, then share my thoughts, and only after that share my experience with Risk Legacy.

The Game

Risk Legacy is an enhanced version of Risk, the main new concept being that the game and game components will change permanently as games are played, some being modified by the players, like marking the board and adding new elements to it, some being revealed bit by bit as certain conditions are met and players are instructed to open some sealed envelopes. Risk is a mass market game, so I won't describe the basics. Risk Legacy uses the basic earth map. Its winning condition is based on victory points, i.e. controlling headquarters, completing missions and trading in resource cards. There are different factions in the game each starting with different special abilities, and additional special abilities can be introduced as the game is played. The game is expected to stabilise after 15 games, i.e. no further modifications to rules and game components.

When you open the game box, you will see six envelopes sealed off, with instructions on when to open them. Inside them you'll find narratives about how your world has developed, and you'll get new rules and new game components.

Preparing for the first game. Naturally I picked green, my favourite colour. Before your first game you already get to choose one from two special abilities (that green sticker already attached to the faction board). The unchosen ability is forever lost. You are asked to destroy that sticker. The four cards are resource cards. Each card has one coin value by default, and before the first game, everyone gets to pick four cards to increase the coin value to two. I picked Indonesia because my home state of Sabah (which is in Malaysia, not Indonesia) is depicted here. The game pieces are HQ (star shape), 3 armies piece (wolf rider) and 1 army piece (warrior). Scar cards have stickers which you can add to the board.

This is another faction. They are desert dwellers. The sculpts are different for each faction.

I was fooling around with game pieces. No, in Risk Legacy your armies do not walk on water.

This was our first game, so the game board was still very "clean".

The Thoughts

The concept of letting players modify the game permanently is a novelty, a gimmick, but it is fun. Aspects of the game being gradually revealed is fun. There are new rules, changes to rules, and new gameplay elements. Cities will get added, territory properties will be modified (e.g. becoming harder, or easier to defend), faction abilities will change, continents will be named. There is a story line developing through the series of 15 games being played, which is aligned with the rules changes. However you need to keep in mind that this is still Risk, just with some improvements. It is still about breaking one another's control of continents over and over, accumulating many resource cards to exchange for troops to make big attacks, and dice luck being able to spoil the best laid plans. But it is also about waiting for the right moment to strike - after you have enough resource cards to swap for many armies and before your opponent strikes a fatal blow. It is also about trying to appear weaker than you are, and persuading others to fight. For players who are familiar with the game, there is careful manoeuvring and positioning before launching a major attack. It can be tense.

Allen's HQ (red) was in Great Britain, and had been conquered by me (green). Han's HQ (beige) was in Argentina, and was also under my control. My own HQ (green) was in Indonesia and was captured by Han (beige). What a mess. Allen's faction (red) had been wiped out, but since there was at least one unoccupied territory, he could reenter the game.

The purple faction had cool tanks (3 armies piece).

In the foreground you can see spaces for writing the names of the winners. Han won the first two games.

One concern I have with the game is it seems to encourage players to start from the same locations, which might make each game feel similar. At the end of a game, you get to add some good stuff to the map. Very good stuff if you win, moderately good stuff if you lose but are not eliminated. Once you add a city, in future games, only you may place your HQ in this city. So there is incentive to start here, and in subsequent games you are somewhat encouraged to add more good stuff in that general area, which compounds the problem. I'm not sure whether this is commonly experienced. It happened in the campaign I played, and I intentionally did weird stuff, even some not beneficial to "my" starting area, hoping to mix things up a bit and prevent the games from becoming scripted or static.

Risk Legacy has been a fun journey of discovery so far. There were some stale moments, e.g. some games got into long stalemates with nobody being able to control any continent, but those tend to be earlier in the campaign when the game was still quite bare. As more elements were added, this happened less. Our games were all 3-player games, and they reminded me of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where the three kingdoms maintained a delicate balance of power, always keeping one another in check. There was much cajoling, pleading and convincing others to fight. We were all sneaky. Sometimes A intentionally refrained from attacking C to conserve his armies, forcing B to do it on his turn which is just before C's turn, because otherwise C would receive a big continent bonus. Alliances formed quickly, when the third person threatened to win, and also dissolved quickly, when one ally found a convenient time and location to launch an attack. All in a day's work.

Risk Legacy is suitable for casual gamers, because it is not that different from regular Risk. For gamers, it is still fun as long as you set your expectations that it is not really that different from regular Risk.


The Play

I realise I have already described what it feels like when playing the game, so this will be just the spoiler section with more photos.

Fortress Europe. Both Northern Europe and Southern Europe had fortresses built. Allen had also added a minor city in Great Britain. We made a mistake in our first two games. When placing the initial troops, they must all be placed in one territory together with your HQ. We thought we could take turns placing one army into any territory. That's why you see some of my purple armies in Africa and some in South East Asia, and they are disconnected.

We were keen to open new envelopes, and sometimes intentionally took actions that lead to meeting the conditions required, even though some of them were against our best interests in winning the particular game we were playing. In one particular game, I (red) amassed a huge army group and invaded Alaska from Asia. I intended to fight my way through North America and South America to eventually reach Han's capital at the southern tip of Argentina. However when fighting in Western United States, we had the opportunity to have 3 missiles used in the same battle, so we did it. It wasn't that critical a time to need to use missiles (which convert die rolls to 6's), but we wanted to see what surprises the game had in store for us. And the surprise turned out to be this - the nuclear fallout sticker now applied to Western United States on the game board. The nuclear explosion wiped out half my troops, stunting my progress. Western United States became a danger zone, with the fallout sometimes killing nearby troops, unless you play the newly introduced faction - the mutants.

Because of the nuclear fallout, the Western United States resource card had to be destroyed. It was lost forever. Oh what a feeling to tear up a game component.

The mutant faction that appears mid way through the campaign. They have special abilities which are quite different from other factions. There are four grey patches on the right covering additional special abilities. Only one of them will eventually be scratched off to have that special ability come into play, when the appropriate event cards are drawn and acted upon.

When this event card appears, the mutant faction gets to decide how it wants to mutate.

I named the South East Asian continent after my wife. In future games, whenever I controlled Michellia, I would gain 3 bonus armies instead of 2. That new connection between Madagascar and Western Australia was created by me, because I completed a special mission that allowed me to do so. South East Asia (oops, I mean Michellia) has always been the easiest to defend continent, having one single choke point in Indonesia. By creating another route, I hoped to shake things up a little.

I named a major city after my elder daughter.

I named a minor city after my younger daughter.

More and more cities have sprung up (blue stickers). Typically my starting area is South East Asia, Allen's is Europe and Han's South America. This game they started in their usual locations, but I (orange) chose to start in Japan, just to be different. I had a major city in Japan. Han (beige) became lord of the southern hemisphere, expanding his empire eastwards to Africa and then to South East Asia, the route to South East Asia made much easier because of the new sea connection. Allen had control of Europe, and was poised to wreak havoc in Han's territories by having just placed a huge army group in the Middle East. I controlled neither Asia nor North America. It was a strategy to appear weak, but it turned out to be so effective that I became rather weak for real.

When we opened the last sealed area on the game tray, we were pleasantly surprised and greatly amused to find --- Aliens (white)! This game is crazy. It was the green faction, the supposedly most primitive faction, who collaborated with the aliens and brought them into the game. In this particular game they were treated as one faction, but from the next game onwards they will be separate factions that players can choose. Aliens have their own unique abilities, and they love attacking cities.


Anonymous said...

Why did you have to rip it up? Won't you use it next game?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

If we follow the rules, then this card will never be used in any future games using this particular copy of Risk Legacy. The rules actually tell you to tear up the card. Naturally the owner of the game can decide not to tear it up, to either just set it aside as a souvenir, or even to use it in future games. We decided to follow the spirit of the game - what is done cannot be undone.

Anonymous said...

So all games are connected? But wont you run out of those cards?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

The particular event which creates a nuclear fallout territory and asks you to destroy a territory card is only a one-time thing. So far no other events have asked us to destroy territory cards. So, we are only one territory card short compared to when we started playing Risk Legacy. There are two more sealed envelopes in the game box, so maybe there will be more surprises coming.

Anonymous said...

So if its a series of 15 games, do you stop playing after the 15 games are done?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

After the 15th game, the gameboard, game components and game rules will no longer be modified. You will end up with a customised game, which has been made unique during those first 15 games. To me, Risk Legacy is slightly improved Risk with the novelty of rules and components changing as you play. For me personally I think my interest will significantly drop after the 15th game. However the game is still very much playable, if you are looking for a light multi-player wargame. It's improved Risk, with your own customised board, just that you won't be changing rules or components anymore.

Col. Ackland said...

Thanks for the good review! I was interested in this Risk version but I had made custom playing pieces for my last risk game and I wanted to see if I could still use them. Luckily one of my custom races was alien and another was zombie (which I can use a mutant when we get that far). So knowing the spoilers means we can use our custom races and still enjoy a new risk game. :)

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I'd encourage you to buy the game itself rather than trying to custom make it, because there are quite many details that gradually unfold, e.g. special abilities to choose from, specific events that happen, even flavour text that explain why some changes are happening. You'd probably need to buy the game to enjoy the experience fully.

Jiaqi said...

Thanks for reviewing this!
I wanted to see more stuff about it for my project for PEAC (extension thing) which so happens to be a course on Risk! :D


Uebersetzer said...

When I get home in December I'll have Risk Legacy waiting for me. I'm really unsure about the idea of destroying cards and actually modifying the game board, and will probably just do everything with pencils and blu-tac. This way we can restart everything after 15 games and have all the development fun again!

I also don't know how this will stack up against Risk 2210 AD. Now THAT is a great Risk game!

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I'd say... "Just do it!" :-) Use permanent markers, apply the stickers, tear up the cards when asked to do so etc. The finality in making these changes is a big part of what makes the game fun - you are writing history, and leaving marks on the world. If you really feel like experiencing the whole thing all over again, you can always buy another copy.

I have not played Risk 2210AD, so I don't know how it compares with Risk Legacy. I don't think Risk Legacy is all that different from basic Risk. To me it's Risk with some small changes and improvements, and the novelty of a story unfolding and making permanent changes to the game.

Unknown said...

Is it possible for one player to have the Mutants and the aliens?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I am not exactly sure. It has been a while since I last played. I think it is possible for the same player to control both the mutants and the aliens in one particular game. If the mutants faction in that game happens to be the one to trigger the alien invasion, then in that game the mutants and the aliens would be controlled by the same player. However, in subsequent games mutants and aliens will be separate factions.

Anonymous said...

The mutant faction that appears mid way through the campaign. They have special abilities which are quite different from other factions.

Robert D. Blackburn