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Subject: The beauty of Risk rss

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Michael Bradley
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That's right, I admit it! Original Risk has so many things that I love! Sure, the second half of the game is a total disaster, but the beauty of the first few rounds!

BUT . . . this post is really about an aspect of some games that I wish more games had:

Transparency.

I love the fact that when you look at a Risk board, you can see where the force is, it's like you can see the tension building at certain spots on the board. You can see who's strong and who's weak, who should be your temporary ally and who needs to get ganged up on. And even someone playing for the first time can see it.

Compare that to a game like Puerto Rico. (Which I think is well-crafted and fun if you play with people on your own level). I've played the game probably about 15 or 20 times and finally started to get some sense of the strategy (only after reading up here of course), at least enough to understand why someone else is creaming me, but it's still so subtle, or even mathematical that I just don't feel that same tension! And of course there isn't the slightest bit of tension when there is a big gap in experience. The inexperienced player just wonders how they could have gotten so far behind so fast, while the experienced player smugly ticks off all the other player's "wrong" decisions.

I've tried several games based on their high ratings here on the Geek (Wallenstein, Tikal, Memoir '44, Settlers, Carcassonne,
Dungeon Twister) but in my mind, they all seem to lack the tension and excitement I feel during the start of good ol' Axis and Allies or Risk. It's like all the subtlety just masks the fun. Sure, some of these games seem real "deep" and complex and rich, but what's more complex and rich than trying to talk the red player into breaking the green player's hold on S. America instead of attacking you?

Seeing as this is BGG, there are probably quite a few of us who really enjoy winning a game by understanding its mechanics better than our opponents. But are there a lot of people out there who like to see the tension of the game laid out there naked on the board? Sometimes I think that obviousness is way underrated.
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Philip Thomas
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Shogun (Samurai Swords) has this feature too. It also has a decent combat system and a little more sophistication, which makes it a good game.

Diplomacy is also easy to perceive 'at a glance'. So is Junta, at least the combat parts.

Besides, in Risk you also need to know how many cards everyone has, right? If you allow 'off-board' considerations many light wargames fit the category...

Sometimes I am in the mood for this, and sometimes I want a bit more strategic depth...

 
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Bill Herbst
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I see your point about the transparency of Risk but I'm not sure why you mention Memoir 44 in your list of highly rated games that lack this transparency. It seems to me that it is this very feature about Memoir 44 that I like. Of course, one doesn't know the opponent's hand of cards from a glance at the board but a brief overview of the battle is generally enough to get a sense of where the force imbalances lie and where the major skirmishes will occur.
 
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Captain Average
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Risk has to be one of my top 3 all-time favorite games. For me it boils down to one thing:

The game is elegantly simple, and can be infinately difficult when playing someone with a lot of strategic skill... or against 3 complete morons.

The rules are very very straightforward. Place pieces, roll dice, move pieces. Rinse and Repeat, until the world is conquered.


As for the Risk variations... I have yet to play any of them. The original Risk game has done well by me and I've had no real aspiration to pick up any of the new ones.


 
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Richard Irving
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Quote:
That's right, I admit it! Original Risk has so many things that I love! Sure, the second half of the game is a total disaster, but the beauty of the first few rounds!

BUT . . . this post is really about an aspect of some games that I wish more games had:

Transparency.

I love the fact that when you look at a Risk board, you can see where the force is, it's like you can see the tension building at certain spots on the board. You can see who's strong and who's weak, who should be your temporary ally and who needs to get ganged up on. And even someone playing for the first time can see it.


The short answer for this no, you can't tell the situation based on the "transparency" by just looking at the board.

Especially if you are playing American-style Risk--You need to know what the army count is for the next of cards and you need to who has sets (or what they need for sets in their hand.) If the next set is worth 40 armies, the weakest can probably sweep everyone off the board, especially he'll be able turn a second set after conquering one of the opponents.

European-style risk has Mission Cards and you don't know who has which Mission, just by looking at the board. (You might be able to guess.) No "Transparency" here.
 
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Michael Bradley
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Kyle,
I agree with you. It's the simplicity of the game (added with the complexity of table talk) that makes Risk great.

I admit that the cards aren't totally transparent and at the end of the game, they are just plain stupid and erase everything that made the game great at the beginning. BUT, it's still pretty clear when your opponent has four cards in his hand, there is a good chance you are going to have to face some extra troops next time. Compared to a lot of eurogames, this still seems pretty transparent to me.

I agree that Memoir '44 is also very transparent and is a good game, but it lacks the tension and excitement that I feel with Risk or A&A. It definitely has the advantage of being quick.

I tried Shogun a couple times and it seemed like I could get into it, but I felt like after an hour, the battle lines were just beginning to form. It does have that transparency and directness that I like, though.

Here are the things that I think make these games intriguing to me.

In Risk the initial placement can be very tense, as you can watch the battle lines being drawn and the haggling already begins.

Risk also has the incredibly important automatic balancing power of people ganging up on the leader (a lot of games have this, but in Risk it's more direct; you attack the leader). This gives at least the impression even to the player in last place that if they just play the others off each other right, they might be able to come from behind for the win. Very important: games get boring when you know you can't possibly win.

I think the most genius thing in Risk is the continent bonus. It gives endless intermediate goals that put my stomach in knots. "Can I take Brazil and possibly hold it?" "Can I talk green into letting me hold Africa one more turn before he attacks?" It makes almost every turn feel like a gamebreaker. It constantly tempts you to overstretch yourself or make a desperate attempt to break an opponent. Genius!

In A&A, I love the flexibility of strategy that are created by the different pieces. You can buy what you need to attack the enemy in the way you think will be best.

I also love the supply lines in A&A, that extra thinking you have to do to coordinate your big attack. Shogun seems to have some of that aspect of coordinating things carefully.

In both games, I LOVE the dice. They can make you or break you in the key moment and that's what keeps it tense. Plus, just rolling them is half the fun, adds that extra bit of intrigue.

I've often thought there must be a good hybrid of the two out there somewhere, with the quick, tense, free-form set-up of Risk, and of course something like the continent bonuses, and multi-player balancing, plus the additional choices of mobility and strategy offered by the different units in A&A and probably the limitations in placement. Anyone have any suggestions?
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Michael Bradley
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As for Risk variants, I've played Lord of the Rings Risk and I think it's better than the original. It keeps all the advantages above, but the cards don't get ridiculously powerful in the end and there is a better mechanism to end the game.
I also like the additional strategy options created with leaders and strongholds.
There is also another set of cards that you can play for certain advantages. Even though you might consider these as making the game less transparent, I actually think they add to the game and keep things interesting. I definitely don't mind keeping smaller things like that less obvious, I just think a game is less fun if the real core of the game remains a mystery until you've played it 20 times.
 
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Leo Zappa
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Give the new themed Risk games a try. I also enjoyed the original, but now I doubt I'd go back after playing LOTR Risk, Risk:2210, and Risk Godstorm. These games retain all that was good about the original, and address some of the problems with the original (player elimination, long playing time, generic feel). These new versions all have mechanisms that end the game in a reasonable time and don't require the winner to be the last one standing. Of course, if you like those things, every one of these new Risk versions can be played using the original rules, so you can't go wrong!

 
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Nello Cozzolino
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italian version 1979..small tanks.....GREAT SIMPLE FUNNY GAME FOR EVERYONE...
obsolete..soblue? so..what..???-------->
 
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LC
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Have you tried Conquest of the Empire? it's similiar to risk with a much cooler combat resolution system and also feels like there are more decisions to make.
 
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Ken B.
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MrSkeletor wrote:
You should try A game of Thrones if you want tension - while it's not transperent like Risk, its all about outguessing what your opponents are planning to do. Also, you have to align and bash other players or you cannot win. Every game ends in a punchon.

Conquest of the empire is another good one to try. Britannia is ALL out in the open (not even hidden cards!) and that got quite heated when I played it last night. Nexus Ops is another one you might like to try.




I tried Risk several years ago. We had a game run four hours. I had a stack of ten+ troops slaughtered by two. And we weren't even close to being done. I stopped playing right there in disgust.

The endgame for Risk is ATROCIOUS. It's vile. And since you can do little to influence combat, all your best-laid plans can be thwarted by a few luck rolls. I'm all for luck in my games, but not THAT much.


Now, I like several of the Risk variants a great deal after I tried them years later. They all share one common trait--you can do more about your position on the board than just chuck bones. Cards, leaders, ships (in Clone Wars Risk), it all adds a much-needed degree of actual influence to the game. You can still be toppled by bad luck, but at least you can sway your odds as much as possible when and where it counts.


I concur with the original poster though...a game like Risk is nice where you can just sweep the board with your eyes and know at a glance who is strong and where. I will never play vanilla Risk again, but I own several of the variants and don't mind playing them one bit.


I agree with Frank--the next step up is A Game of Thrones, which shares some of the things you like about Risk but removes the luck aspect of combat.
 
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Byron Ward
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I really like Risk, as any perusal of my posts will indicate. The simplicity of one army type contrasts nicely with the worldwide scope, and given the (I think vital) rule about increasing armies for card sets, only a very unusual game need go on for hours. The slight overall advantage for the attacker in average die rolls is neatly balanced with the dangers of over-extending among multiple opponents. Too much has been made by the people who say that Risk is nothing but luck. Strategy rules, tempered by the unpredictable vagaries that every plan confronts. In reality, these whims of fate come in various forms; in Risk, fate is centered in the dice, just like legions of other wargames.
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Take joy from your wins; take lessons from your losses.
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   In my opinion the one drawback in the traditional Risk rules is the escalation of the cards. Someone can camp on Australia for 20 turns and then turn in a set of cards for 45 armies and sweep the board.
   Simple and elegant? Yes. In spite of this I still like the game and got the opportunity to coach kids playing it in an after-school "Strategic Thinking" course. But when I played as a kid we limited the cards so that players couldn't hide in the corner and then crush the entire planet in one turn.
   Back then we played one game that lasted an entire summer, connected six boards end to end in a circle, and the cards were limited to seven armies plus territories. Looking back it may have been the single-most colossal waste of time in the history of western civilization. But more than a bit of fun.

      Sag.
 
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