Stephen Rochelle(lomn)United States
Let's ruminate on what's in the Sign Twice packet (packet 'D', cardwise)! This whole post is nothing but one big spoiler. However, those spoilers are restricted to this packet only.
Packet D (so noted as the card serial numbers are prefixed with a 'D') adds Faction Homelands, Events, and Missions. Depending on your group, there's a reasonable chance that these are the first Events and Missions you'll see. I'd guess, though, that there are Events and Missions in something like the "Found all 9 Minor Cities" packet, which I think probably opens before this one for most people. We'll take these in the order listed, which I think also tends toward the order of greatest impact.
After initial placement, check your faction's starting locations over the course of the campaign (first 15 games only) and tally the number of starting locations by continent. The continent with the most starts is your Homeland, and you're eligible to claim those territory cards in addition to the cards of territories you control. A tie for most means no homeland.
Once you've completed 15 games and the back of the faction cards are set, this has a lot of potential power. A faction with an Asian or North American homeland can deploy compactly and still be eligible to draw a lot of high-value territory cards. Until that 15 game mark, though, this should have less impact. Specifically, wherever you've deployed this game will have a bearing on where your homeland is -- if you even have one. You'll be much more likely, as a result, to control your homeland territories, and that reduces the edge of having more drawing options.
This also, I imagine, makes it less likely that you'll exhaust the Coin stack and trigger its Red Star award, since factions will have many more eligible cards to pick from (and since territory cards must be preferentially taken over coin cards).
Three Join the Cause event cards are added, all of which have the same text. The player with the largest population (controlled city value) either gets 3 troops to place in controlled cities or gets to choose a new Mission card. Note particularly that it says "choose", not "draw" or "randomly". The most populous player gets to select a mission they feel best positioned to complete (or to bury the current mission, if someone else is likely to complete it). As with Homelands, ties mean that no player gets the effect.
The tie rule is particularly interesting for my Earth 5224 campaign, as right now (as of Game 2) we've got city population divided as follows: 2 in the North American interior, 2 in the European interior, and 2 in the Australian interior. For the near term, it seems unlikely that anybody is going to be triggering these events. It's a new factor to consider when having the option to place cities, though.
8 missions are in the D packet: 6 of what I'll classify as "standard" missions (1 Red Star, repeatable) and 2 "special" missions (2 Red Stars, stickers, single-use).
For the standard missions, we've got objectives of:
* Control 6+ Cities
* Conquer 4+ Cities this turn
* Conquer 9+ Territories this turn
* Conquer 4+ Territories over Sea Lines this turn
* Conquer all Territories in one Continent this turn
* Have a current total Continent bonus of 7+ troops
There's a wide gap in the practicality of these. First, note that "conquer" is a keyword; empty territories you expand into without combat do not qualify as conquests. "All territories in a continent" is straightforward, particularly in South America or Australia. Similarly, "4 Territories over Sea Lines" (the connections drawn across oceans) has hubs of completion in the Greenland-Great Britain and SE Asia-Australia regions.
The city missions, conversely, are preposterous at present: only 5 cities are on the board, and any player that can grab North America and Europe in one turn (from other players) to capture 4 in a turn probably doesn't need the mission to meet victory conditions.
The last two fall somewhere in the middle. Taking Asia to secure the continent bonus reward isn't ridiculous; the mission is completed at the end of your turn and so you need not successfully defend that bonus. Signing and stickering North America or Europe with the +1 would also open the possibility of a single-continent fulfillment. Taking 9+ territories is reasonable as the number of troops on the board grows. So far I think 12 or 13 is the most placed at once; placing 30+ would make this easier.
Finally, the special missions, each of which is completed once and then destroyed:
* Be eligible to draw a resource card worth 4+ coins: place the World Capital
* Control 7+ islands (territories connected only by Sea Line): place a new Sea Line
The World Capital is the only secret reveal directly spoiled (as a condition of opening another packet), so let's start there. 4+ coins on a territory is straightforward. We've only got 3-coin territories at present (and only Alaska or Madagascar of those), but there are lots of coins (33) remaining to distribute as Held On rewards. So obviously we'll be able to angle for preferred Capital locations through that distribution. There's also the possibility of game winners destroying potential Capital territory cards to deny those options. Most interesting, though, is that the Capital is placed without regard for any other city in that territory. Covering your opponent's Major city (and protected start location) is perfectly legal, and I wonder how many people are distributing resource coins to that end.
Of course, there's also the question: do you really want the Capital in your preferred part of the world? Holding the Capital is a powerful population bonus, both for troop reinforcements and for Event qualifiers. Conversely, you've got to burn 5 troops to take it initially, which can't be good for early expansion and consolidation. And then there's the "When you place the Capital" packet (which I haven't seen yet)! But for now, I'm liking Europe as an option. I think Vizzini's got the right of it: Asia's going to remain too big to be viable. Europe, though, could get very interesting with the right incentives.
The new Sea Line is the most radical change thus far revealed, as it has the potential to shift the geography that's driven Risk games for 50+ years. Meeting the prerequisites (the 7 islands on the map are Greenland, Iceland, Great Britain, Madagascar, Japan, Indonesia, and New Guinea) allows the player to connect any two coastal territories via the Sea Line endpoint stickers on the mission card. The card instructs you to draw a line between the endpoints (thus filling in the rest of the Sea Line), but I think players ought to consider instead labeling the endpoints in the style of Alaska/Kamchatka (where Alaska has only a small line segment and a "<- Kamchatka" label). A full line works fine if you're connecting Australia to Madagascar; it's less practical if you're connecting Australia to Great Britain -- particularly if there's another similar card in another packet.
And oh, the possibilities for this one! A back door into any irritating stronghold you like (or into two irritating strongholds)! As I'm trying to keep my preferred locations flexible, I don't have the slightest clue where I'd want to put this. Where would you?