Risk Legacy: Spoilers Everywhere!

A campaign journal for Risk Legacy with the boys from the youth group. Absolutely no spoiler tags or circumlocutions -- beyond the jump cut lies madness!

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Game 11

Stephen Rochelle
United States
Huntsville
Alabama
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This session report contains spoilers for everything in the game, including unspecified hidden content and the bonus cards.Read more »
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Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:46 pm
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Game 10

Stephen Rochelle
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Huntsville
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This session report contains spoilers for everything in the game, including unspecified hidden content and the bonus cards.Read more »
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Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:46 pm
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Risk Legacy and the 15-Game “Expiration Date” (No spoilers)

Stephen Rochelle
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Much has been made of Risk Legacy's "15-game campaign" and the issues of buying a board game with a known end point. This being the internet, it's time for yet another opinion on the matter.

First, let's break down exactly what this "15 game" number represents. The Risk Legacy board comes with 15 lines, and each Risk Legacy faction card comes with 15 lines. For 15 games (intended, but not required, to be the first 15 games played), players will fill out these lines. The winner will sign his name to the board on the appropriate line and will select from several "winner reward" permanent modifications. Each other player who was not eliminated will select from two "held on reward" permanent modifications, supply permitting (in a 5-player campaign, you could run out by Game 13).

Simple, right? Now, at the end of 15 games, the player with the most wins gets to name the world. Winner Rewards and Held On Rewards are complete, regardless of the remaining sticker supply. Writing on faction cards is complete. Signing the board is complete. Observant readers will notice, though, that I've made no mention at all of any sealed content!

So, Underemphasized Point #1: Naming the world is not the end of customization. It's merely the end of that portion of customization.
Now, granted, after 15 games, most groups will have opened most packets. I don't think it’s much of a spoiler to note, though, that "opening hidden content" is not synonymous with "implementing hidden content". Even if 90% of the customization process has been completed by 15 games, it could easily require another 15 to reach full customization (and there is no fixed upper bound). But yes, eventually, the game components will reach a steady state.

And once it's done, I've just got Risk, right?
I feel reasonably confident that lots of people have this very thought in mind. Risk starts out cool and then you're into Hour 6, swinging back and forth sticking 40 troops a turn on the board and never quite wiping the other guy out. And then he does it to you. And because more rolls means less luck, you know exactly how those massive slogs will play out. And it never ends. Admit it, you've got at least 4 unfinished games of Risk in your résumé right now.

It bears noting, though, that Rob Daviau (Legacy's designer) has had his hands in the Risk family for the past decade (2210, Star Wars, Revised, maybe others), and none of the post-2000 editions of Risk are based on the interminable slog to being the last player standing. Legacy moves fast, always threatening the possibility that your current turn will be your final one. Victory points almost never vanish from the board, and so the game progresses towards conclusion. Core concepts of Risk -- dice rolling and comparison, troop placement and movement -- are retained largely intact, but the fluid mid-game of Risk was never its weak point, and Legacy resembles that mid-game throughout. So even when you've got a static copy of Legacy, it's a highly playable game -- that also happens to be unique to you. But about that uniqueness....

Balancing an Uneven Board
A common complaint levied against Risk Legacy is that, once you're done with the fun of customization, you're left with a horrendously unbalanced game that no one wants to play. A similar complaint from the On Board Games guys took the form of "the designer doesn’t have to deliver a balanced game." This is hogwash.

In multiplayer direct-conflict games, expecting the players to actively balance an asymmetric situation is de rigueur. Take, by way of parallel example, Power Grid. In PG, geography is not "balanced". Connection costs between cities vary wildly across the map, and the designer has noted that the numbers are loosely derived from real terrain. Balance at the map level is supplied by active competition amongst the players. Similarly, PG's power plants are not created equal. Some plants are objectively better than others, some are so poor as to do little but take up space, and many vary in value based on the current state of the game. In all cases, though, the game provides functional balance via auction; players revalue power plants by competing with one another to pay what the market will bear. In both cases, a player could opt to make "thematic" decisions –- for instance, supposing I like red, I might opt to only run nuclear power (red fuel) and to power cities only in or immediately near the red region of the board. I can make these decisions, but I ought not blame the game's balance or designer when I lose on account of them.

Now we apply this example to Legacy. In terms of the map, Risk is and always has been an unbalanced game. Geography matters, and the value of Australia having only one way in has been known for 50 years. Legacy will accentuate this since there are many more ways to skew the board, but it does not change what has been a fundamental truth of the game: ceding a favorable position, without claiming some counterbalancing advantage, is not likely to go well for you. I will note that this is significant enough that I strongly recommend players keep a useable reference for the value of their board; I write our territories' values directly on the spaces.

Factions, similarly, are not going to share a single power level; some will be better than others (and with six sticker slots per faction card, they're going to advance in unpredictable ways and at varying paces). Here, though, it's important to note what the Legacy rulebook does not do: Risk Legacy never couples "player" (the individual) with "faction" (the army color). A common theme in Legacy forum threads is "we're going to keep our factions for the whole campaign because that's how it ought to be done." This will go about as well as only ever buying nuclear plants in Power Grid, and it will result in a horrendously imbalanced game -– but that is not the responsibility of the game. As the game has been out in public, the follow-up threads of "Legacy is bad because Player X always gets to Y" are emerging, and they're frequently a consequence of the above player-faction conflation.

That leaves player balance (and here there is no good Power Grid parallel). Each player starts a Legacy game with a number of Missiles equal to the number of games he has won on that board. A player with 7 wins will have a distinct advantage over opponents with one win apiece (beyond the likelihood that the one player is simply better than his opponents). Even here, though, the game provides balancing options: the disadvantaged players can first work together to defeat the one guy. Of course, if they could coordinate well enough to do so, they'd probably already have done it... but the point is that the game provides its own solution through the nature of free and open direct conflict; contrast with a theoretical game of Power Grid where I start with $200, you start with $50, and there is nothing you can do about it. So long as you have more than 3 players in the game (because players A and B knocking out C and then having a two-player duel is dull), this should not be a problem provided you're willing to recognize the metagame.

A footnote to the above: this particular bit of imbalance, while the one most damaging towards non-regular players, is also the one most amenable to low-impact house ruling. If the Missile distribution has gotten completely out of hand, consider something like the following: each player gets one Missile, and may further exchange starting troops for Missiles. Exchange rates of 1:1, 3:2, or 2:1 troops:Missile are good starting points. Players who have unlocked all of the content will no doubt recognize other possible solutions that are complementary to the rest of the game.

What Does It Mean?
So there is no "15-Game Expiration." Why, then, is it such an enduring topic? I think because Risk generally is viewed within the gaming hobby as a game whose time has gone, that there are better games that replace it. And for players who are enduring the Risk-like game part to experience the Legacy secrets-and-customization part, seeing a 15-game stopping point may be a perk as much as a shortcoming. Players who enjoy the core game, however, need not fear that their copy of Legacy will suddenly break, end, or expire.
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Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:48 pm
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Bonus Cards packet discussion

Stephen Rochelle
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Huntsville
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It's the bonus cards packet! This whole post is one big spoilerfest, but it's contained to just this packet. That means I'll be eliding over some stuff that has interactions with other unlockable stuff.

If you're not sure what the bonus cards packet is or how to make it, I recommend this spoiler-free post on the matter.Read more »
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Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:26 pm
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Creating the Bonus Cards packet [no spoilers]

Stephen Rochelle
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So you've heard about the bonus cards and want to get them yourself, without spoiling anything. I can help!

The best spoiler-safe method of creating a packet that I've found is to use some HTML tricks. So at this page you'll find instructions and no spoilers when you view it in your browser, but when you print it'll switch to the contents of the packet. So open that page, then hit Ctrl-P and look away, and then fold up the page that comes out of your printer. Presto!
http://sites.google.com/a/rochelle.name/stephen/files/BonusC...

The bonus cards packet is opened by the following instructions (create them as a placeholder, or write them on the outside of an envelope, etc):
Open when the third Green scar is placed.
Note that the green scar is not initially available.
If you reach a point where you are reasonably sure that all scars have been opened (bearing in mind that one sticker slot on the faction boards is for scars), and it looks like it will be impossible to place three green scars -- say, if only one scar card is left and it's green -- it's fine to go ahead and open this packet.

Once you've opened the packet, I recommend the files created by MrMan2k3 for an excellent print-ready version that will fit the look of Risk Legacy. There's just no good way to produce it until you're ready for spoilers, though.
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Sat Mar 24, 2012 5:54 pm
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30 Troops plus a Missile packet discussion

Stephen Rochelle
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It's the 30 Troops packet! This whole post is one big spoilerfest, but it's contained to just this packet. That means I'll be eliding over some stuff, as a packet this big necessarily has interactions with other unlockable stuff.Read more »
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Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:53 pm
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Earth 5224 Game 9

Stephen Rochelle
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Huntsville
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This session report contains spoilers for everything in the game, including unspecified hidden content and the bonus cards.Read more »
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3 Comments
Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:24 am
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Earth 5224 Game 8

Stephen Rochelle
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This post contains spoilers for nearly everything in the game, including unspecified hidden content, except the 30 Troops packet.Read more »
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Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:28 pm
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Game 7: Rise of the 3 Missiles Packet

Stephen Rochelle
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Huntsville
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Game 7 followed on the heels of opening both the 3 Missiles packet and the World Capital packet. This post contains spoilers for nearly everything in the game, including unspecified hidden content, except the 30 Troops packet.Read more »
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Fri Mar 9, 2012 10:43 pm
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Place the World Capital (packet discussion)

Stephen Rochelle
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Huntsville
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Your world is ready to place the World Capital! This whole post is one big spoilerfest, but it's contained to just this packet. That means I'll be eliding over some stuff, as a packet this big necessarily has interactions with other unlockable stuff.Read more »
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Fri Mar 9, 2012 9:48 pm
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