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Subject: Hasbro Vaults the Bar rss

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Dave Shapiro
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Had I been present at the Creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe. - Alfonso X, King of Castile

In the past decade “Risk” has changed from being a classic game to being a ‘brand’ for conflict games from Hasbro. Several have absolutely no relation to what we know as Risk. (Battlefield Rogue and Captain America for example.) This year, Hasbro quietly released two new Risk games; the first is a revision of the classic game and the second is named Risk Europe.

From the start you need to know that Risk Europe is NOT Castle Risk - not even close. Risk Europe is a well designed monster of a game, possibly the best new game Hasbro has released in many, many years. The game is set in medieval Europe and is intended for four players. When playing with fewer than four, the other armies appear on the map and are actually active. (I actually prefer playing with three as the control of the additional army adds another level of complexity to the game.)

The components are very detailed especially for a Hasbro product. Each of the four armies is composed of four types of units that differ in design from each other and the equivalent units belonging to your opponents. For as nice as the components are, the game itself challenges the concept that ‘deep’ gaming can only be found among the Euros and ‘hobby’ games. The game system presents a set of (what could be) complicated mechanics in a clear and simple manner. These mechanics result in a system that is deep and requires considerable planning.

Players begin with two home cities on the map. The goal is to establish an empire that includes X number of cities (crowns) depending on the number of players. Each turn is split into two rounds. At the beginning of a turn, the players select two cards (King’s Orders) that have two or three actions on them. (Everyone has the same set of cards and once played, cannot be used again until all eight cards have been used.) These cards must be played in order from top to bottom (one each round). The actions are simple, tax (gain money), spend (buy units or a crown), maneuver (free move but limited), expand or split and expand. You can take one action only so the turns move very quickly.

Unlike other Risk games, the map is not filled with units. You expand slowly from your initial cities and for roughly half of the game, there is little contact with your opponent’s armies. (Of course there are some players who will decide to confront his opponent’s early however, that is possibly the quickest method for losing the game - this is a game of growth, not combat.) As the empires grow, the space available declines and it is toward the end of the game (very often, the final turn) that decisive battles occur.

Battles are on the order of Nexus Ops. There is a hierarchy of units and they ‘fire’ with specific values and in a specific order. Costlier units are more powerful and fire first and this becomes an important decision - what units to purchase and when to purchase them. In addition to units, players may buy a Crown that cannot be lost. Crowns are expensive and so the trade off between an extra Crown or more units can be critical.

When part of a player’s empire, each of the major cities on the board provides the player with a Crown and some small advantage, a minor alteration to his empire and this serves to differentiate the empires. The strategy that a player employs often is influenced by the cities he controls. For example, controlling a city that provides a benefit when the empire taxes will usually result in the player taxing as often as possible. However, if the player is taxing his empire, he is not expanding his empire as that is a different King’s Order card. It is as close to a tech tree that Risk Europe approaches.

Tech trees in games are most often found in civilization type games and...that is what Risk Europe is. This is a simplified civilization game - it is a game of growth, of building an empire. What has been eliminated is the typical tech tree and the trading aspect. The fundamental elements of a typical civ game are here but reduced and this reduction results in a game that can be played in roughly two hours. It is extremely well balanced. In the many games we have played (and it is substantial), I have never witnessed a blow out game. All of the players are within reach of their goals at roughly the same time. (I am assuming that the players have some experience with civ type games - all of the games I have played in have had experienced game players.)

There is a slightly more complicated version, a variant, included - The Kingdom Missions. Rather than being able to purchase a Crown card, players can obtain two mission cards, select one and on completion of the mission, he receives a Crown (one of X needed to win) and a modification to his empire. This, along with the modifications gained from the cities, forms the tech tree.

Personally, I enjoy the three player game the most. The fourth army becomes a barbarian army and begins the game with two random cities on the map. Each turn the players bid for control of the barbarian army and this adds another level of complexity to the game. Money is tight and there are so many different directions to go with purchases yet being able to control the barbarians can alter the direction of the game. (The player has limited control over what the barbarians are able to do each turn.) Consider this example: the barbarian army controls Berlin and you have an army that is now adjacent to Berlin. If you can gain control of the barbarians, you could move the majority of the barbarian army out of Berlin making its conquest on the following turn much more likely. Failure to gain control could result in additional troops being placed in Berlin or even an attack on your units that are adjacent to the city. If you decide to bid for control, how much will you offer? What could you have purchased (a Crown card)? If you do move the army out, can you maintain control of the barbarians on the following turn or will someone deprive you of the city you had just won?

Risk Europe was designed by Austin Rucker (Risk Star Wars and Magic the Gathering - Arena of the Planeswalkers Shadows over Innistrad). It is well designed and balanced. For years Rob Daviau had been “Mr. Risk” at Hasbro and there was some concern as to who could replace him. Rucker has demonstrated that he is up to the challenge with both of his Risk designs. The guy is good.

In the past year I have played a lot of games and none has been as entertaining or as satisfying as Risk Europe. It is possibly the best of all 50+ Risk games ever published - it is a keeper.
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Brandon Holmes
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I want this game so badly but it's nowhere to be seen in Canada. I may break down and import a copy but I am trying to be patient for now.
 
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migue colacho
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Very nice review. The only thing I want to point out is that in a 4 player game each player starts with ONE major city and an adjacent non-city territory, not two cities (4th paragraph after the quotation).

Great review ^^ I'm in love with this game!
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ŁṲÎS̈
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Didn't know what to spend all this sweet GG on, so I bought the overtext.
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qrux wrote:
... It is possibly the best of all 50+ Risk games ever published - it is a keeper.


I love it as well, though I'd probably place it just below the full experience of Risk Legacy.



I think it's a streamlined Axis and Allies. The fun parts without all of the down time. I'd love to see the system expanded to a large world map with world war II units and up to 6 players
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Midnight Reaper
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monteslu wrote:
I think it's a streamlined Axis and Allies. The fun parts without all of the down time. I'd love to see the system expanded to a large world map with world war II units and up to 6 players

Wouldn't that be Attack!, with one of the expansions and a set of custom rules? whistle

-M_R
 
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ŁṲÎS̈
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F*** it! Do it LIVE!
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Didn't know what to spend all this sweet GG on, so I bought the overtext.
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midnight_reaper wrote:
monteslu wrote:
I think it's a streamlined Axis and Allies. The fun parts without all of the down time. I'd love to see the system expanded to a large world map with world war II units and up to 6 players

Wouldn't that be Attack!, with one of the expansions and a set of custom rules? whistle

-M_R


I actually have Attack!, but the fact that the big and small units aren't very distinguishable has kept me from even playing it
 
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Midnight Reaper
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monteslu wrote:
midnight_reaper wrote:
monteslu wrote:
I think it's a streamlined Axis and Allies. The fun parts without all of the down time. I'd love to see the system expanded to a large world map with world war II units and up to 6 players

Wouldn't that be Attack!, with one of the expansions and a set of custom rules? whistle

-M_R

I actually have Attack!, but the fact that the big and small units aren't very distinguishable has kept me from even playing it

Bah. Just ignore the difference between the big and small pieces and use mini poker chips, a la Axis and Allies, and Bob's your uncle. It's a really good game, especially if you can get one of the expansions for it. cool

-M_R
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