It was my birthday last week and among other gifts I received a copy of Risk:Legacy. For those that have not heard of the game, this is a game in which you permanently modify the game with every play. As the game goes on you attach stickers to territories, add new cards and gameplay elements, modify the rules, change the individual components, and a great many things I'm sure I haven't discovered yet. They make you break something just to open the game, part of a long sequence of actions that sets the mood.
The game's been a blast to play so far. In our first game James William Ryan II attacked a territory and played a 'Limited Ammo' sticker on it, giving a defensive penalty to the defender. Anyone defending the territory. Even in future games. Forever. He handily defeated his opponent and stopped moving, the counterattack was swift and his own change hindered him. At the end of the game he founded the city of "Ryan's Folly" on that space, where it stands as a testament to the incident. The board is covered in references like that.
"Fort Adelade" stands as a monument to a single warrior holding off half a dozen of her opponents alone. "Borisgrad" marks a last stand that impossibly held off the end of the game against two much larger opponents. Africa has been renamed "Beardland" to provide a troop bonus to the beareded, but also contains my sister's capital city of "Blossom" where only she can deploy and one of my housemates has declared part of it to be her people's holy land. I think that any completed copy of this game will probably say something about its players.
It's a shame that the game didn't make more of its narrative elements, there are sealed packets with extra rules and cards in strewn throughout the game (Don't worry, I won't spoil their contents) which each have a card with a little bit of story on. We've opened three of these so far, but the story is so generic as to be meaningless. There are games in other mediums that are praised for their excellent stories, people are willing to spend £30-50 on a single player computer game that they'll only play once to experience a deep narrative. I can't help but feel that this game has scratched the surface of something that has the potential to create a much more meaningful experience.
Still, this actually feels like something genuinely new that could spawn a new genre. I'm not sure how significant the manufacturing obstacles are to this sort of thing, obviously Hasbro is a giant that can stomp over barriers that would hold back smaller publishers, but board game manufacturing has continuously improved over recent years so these obstacles might be surmountable. I'm going to look into it once I'm done with 404 and Wizard Academy (and maybe that heist game too) because I can see so much potential there.
The evolving gameplay feature adds more to the game than customisability of the game and the human and narrative factors in the game. In theory it makes the game have a tutorial mode, as new rules increase the complexity as it goes on. I'm not getting the most out of this, as I have a wide group of friends who like to play games and I want them all to have a chance to leave their mark on it. As such people who join in later are going to get an info dump all at once, but then again it doesn't matter too much, since my friends are mostly committed gamers and the level of complexity the game builds up from is "pretty simple".
The importance of decisions is also magnified. The changes that you make will influence every game played on this board, forever, which is something that can imbue moves with a weight that they wouldn't have otherwise. It's one thing to ask "Is this in my best interests?" and another to wonder "How will this move affect the future of games played on this board?". This weight affects different people in different ways, I've observed some people's hands shake as they make stressful, permanent changes to the board. Others destroy what they like gleefully and don't worry about the consequences. I try to build an invincible fortress of bunkers that only I can deploy into and found the capital "Munchkin" after the flagrant rules abuses involved - but I'm sure someone else will find a way to ruin it before long.
I can't say if I'd recommend Risk:Legacy or not yet, since I've only played four games and the rules are changing dramatically, I may or may not approve of its final form. However a lot of this game is about the journey and I can say that I've had a cracking time with it so far. Everyone who's played is keen on playing more games, so that's also a very good sign. Additionally, it's a good thing to look at from a design point of view, since it's doing something relatively unique. I know I'm late to this party, but it's well worth a look