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Subject: If you like Risk, then you'll like this area control game rss

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Selwyn Ward
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Designed by Gary Dicken, Steve Kendall and Phil Kendall – together best know as the Ragnar Brothers – History of the World is a game that has a history of its own. The first version of the game was developed and published by Ragnar Brothers way back in 1990. Subsequent editions were published by Avalon Hill and by Gibsons. In 2009, the designers returned to the game, tweaked and shortened it for publication as A Brief History of the World; an edition published by Ragnar Brothers and Spiral Galaxy. Now, with this edition, Z-Man Games have given the title another makeover.

History of the World is an area control game that follows in the footsteps of Risk and of Lewis Pulsipher’s Britannia (another game originally published more than three decades ago by Gibsons and Avalon Hill). Players in History of the World aren’t controlling or tracking a single civilisation but waves of imperial conquest washing over the map over successive centuries. In each player’s turn, an empire will rise and fall, though it will leave its mark affecting other rising empires.

The game is played over five rounds representing 'epochs'. This is fewer than in previous editions, helping to streamline this into a game that you can reasonably expect to complete in two hours (the original version could run as long as five hours!). Each epoch starts with card drafting from two sets of cards. The epoch cards determine which empire the player will control this epoch, its starting territory, number of armies and any special capabilities. Meanwhile, event cards typically give a one-use advantage (for example, an ability to reroll combat die) which can be deployed in that epoch or saved for use in a future epoch. For both epoch and event cards, there are more than are used even when playing with six players, so you won’t always find the same cards or even the same empires coming into play. Obviously this adds to the replayability of History of the World.

The epoch cards determine the order in which the empires take their turns (a factor to bear in mind in making your choice). In the player’s turn, they take the number of armies indicated on the card and place one on the empire’s starting territory. They then place out armies to occupy adjacent territories. If the territories are unoccupied, that's all they need to do. However, if an opponent’s army is there, then a battle ensues. Battles are resolved by rolling die, in a manner reminiscent of Risk. The attacker rolls two dice and the defender usually rolls one: to win (remove the defending army) the attacker’s highest roll has to beat the defender’s dice roll. Ties remove both armies but will mean that the territory is now unoccupied, allowing another army to be moved in there. Added to this, there are siege rules that allow the attacker to continue a battle they have initially lost.

Players build capitals and monuments which score them points. They will mainly earn points, however, for each region in which they have a presence. Provided it is a region with a scoring token (some regions only score in later epochs), players only need one army in the region in order to score for 'presence'; they score for ‘dominance’ (double the ‘presence’ value) if they have a majority; and they can score for ‘supremacy’ (triple the points awarded for presence) if they control at least three territories in a region and none are occupied by other players.



At the end of a player’s turn, all of their armies are ‘resigned’ (laid on their side). They are no longer active but they remain in place and still count towards scoring in future epochs. It will always be ‘resigned’ armies that players will be attacking because, at any point in the game, the only armies that are standing are those of the active player whose turn is in progress.

This edition of History of the World is attractively presented, with an odd but functionally accurate and commendably clear world map and with pearlescent plastic pawns to represent the armies. Although players complete all their actions on their turn, turns are over quite quickly so there shouldn't be too much waiting for your next turn to come around. That said, the only thing you’ll be doing during other players’ turns is possibly rolling the occasional die to defend against an attack. You won’t have any way of knowing what empire you’ll be building on your next turn or which territory it will be starting from so you can’t make any use of the downtime to plan ahead. This is probably the main negative in an otherwise very entertaining game.

History of the World has the look of a '4X' civilisation game. It isn't. This is not a game involving deep strategy. Think of it rather as a fairly light fun game that's a step up from Risk. If you like Risk, then this is a game you will certainly want to try.

You can find a scrollable 360º photo of this game on Board's Eye View (www.facebook.com/boardseye) and longer version of this review of History of the World on the Games Quest blog.
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Paul Johnston
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I played the original a couple of times in the nineties and it was very light back then. I think the problem is because you change factions and have no idea what you are going to do or even what the board will look like when it is your next turn that you really don't care very much what happens. Can't be bothered to play again.
 
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A J
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How long was the playtime?
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Juhan Voolaid
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What about if you despise Risk?
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Mark Buetow
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Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
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Not sure why the map is “odd.” In A Brief History of the World, specific mention is made of the map’s spiraling nature for scoring: start with Northern Europe and then spiral around and outward; that way you won’t forget any regions that need to be counted. (A few details like that I wish had made it into the new edition).

As for no deep strategy, I woudln’t agree. Good players know that selection order and Empire activation order are very important. Combine that with determining where best to act to reduce your opponents’ opportunities to score on their turn makes for a very engaging game where your planning goes beyond merely your current Empire but looks ahead with a knowledge of the possible Empires that could arise.

As for play time, I’d really like to see it with 5 or 6 but haven’t had a chance yet. With four, including new players, it’s probaby a couple of hours.
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Tim Earl
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There's plenty of strategy here.

If you're not planning ahead to the next epoch (or two), you're doing it wrong. You need to be aware of what empires may appear in the next epoch and your likely position on the scoring track. Good players have a plan for spreading out so they're not stuck with two empires in a row that start in the same region.

You can also setup a back-to-back chain of turns where you go last on one turn and first in the next. That's a powerful move that can be game changing. There are also people who try to make sure they're last going into Epoch III so they can grab the Romans (which has been made a little less effective in this edition).

Skilled players also try to avoid being in the lead (unless it's a big lead) going into the last epoch, where they're likely to be dealt Japan (which is still bad, but a little less bad in this edition).

This edition added the choice of whether to go back or forward on the score track when you tie another player. (Previously, you always went forward). That decision has consequences you must consider.

This is not Risk. Not even close. I used to call it "Small World for grownups," but then I grew to appreciate Small World. But it's still a more complex game with deeper strategies.
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Chris Trimmer
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Looks like they left "classic drafting" as an optional rule. To me this way was always the most fun aspect of the game.
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Vince Blake
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I feel like Smallworld and this one share a lot in common...
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Benjamin Hester
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jelsepa wrote:
I feel like Smallworld and this one share a lot in common...


This is the correct comparsion - Small World. Except I'm pretty sure History of the World predates Small World by decades (and Small World itself was a successor to Vinci.) Gamers were resigning units in HotW back in the eighties and early nineties.

Anyway, the title of this thread made my head explode. History of the World - in all of its various iterations - has never been anything like Risk. It took everything that was horrible about Risk (piling up huge armies, player elimination, defensive posture) and removed it, leaving one of the most elegant wargames in existence. About the only meaningful similarities are a world map and dice-based combat. As for the "no deep strategy" comment, I'm not going to dignify that with an answer. Tim Earl already covered that above. I'm starting to think the reviewer didn't even open the box, much less play the game.

So yes, to answer a question above, you can despise Risk (as I do) and love History of the World (as I do.)
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