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Subject: Risk: The True Gateway Game rss

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Risk

Many talk about Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride as being ‘gateway games’, meaning games which open the doors of the board gaming world to many and give them a taste for games which go beyond Monopoly and The Game of Life. Risk has been around for over 50 years now and is also considered by gamers to be one of those mass market games which gateways try to steer players away from. However, I would contend that Risk is perhaps one of the most important gateway games out there.
I received Risk as a Christmas present when I was my early teens and promptly tried it out with relatives that evening. And I loved it. I loved everything about it. The dice were being used for something different than moving around the board. Fantastic! The object of the game was nothing short of complete world domination. Awesome! The game involve strategizing your movements and attacking at the right moments; it involved pleading with your friends to join with you, then taking back your word and crushing them into oblivion!
I know that I am not alone in my high school discovery of this long, intense strategic game. Many of others have moved beyond Monopoly or Clue and discovered the wonder which is Risk. Risk is the true gateway game; it catches us when we’re young and gives us a taste for something more in the world of board gaming. For some, world conquest is satisfying enough; but for others, this is only a launching point.

Gameplay

The enormity of Risk may make the gameplay seem complicated at first, but once the layers are peeled back, we see that the mechanics of Risk are rather quite simple. You are given territories to place armies on and then you may choose to attack bordering territories on your turn. Battles are determined through dice rolling; attackers use three dice, defenders use two, and the higher dice rolls kill off armies. As you conquer new territories, you collect cards which you can collect and trade in for more units. That’s really all there is to it.
What almost always happens when the game starts is that certain players gravitate to different parts of the globe; the red army may end up gathering in Europe, the blue army in North America, the grey army in Africa. They abandon their unit who are stuck in territories in the middle of no where and focus on those territories they own which are close together. And in practically every game, one player decides to use the strategy of taking Australia early in hopes to hide in the corner of the world and amass a very large army which will wreck havoc in the near future.
So if the mechanics are simple and the strategies easy to decipher at the start, why is Risk so great? Player interaction, that’s why. You are in direct competition with your friends, attacking them, defending against them, forming alliances, breaking alliances, doing whatever needs to be done. Risk has such a strong place in modern pop culture purely for this reason; it is a brutal every man for themselves rumble across the span of the entire globe.

Components

Each player is given an army of their colour, and sometimes these colours become very important to some players. For example, I am always the Red Army. If I don’t play with red, my whole game is thrown off. Others are partial to the Black Death or the Yellow Fever. Each army is made up of three different plastic pieces; soldiers, horses and canons. The only difference is that horses stand for five soldiers and cannons for ten to assist in counting.
The board is the entire globe separated into territories which are drawn out according to where they can attack and be attacked from. Some territories have only one way in or out, while others are much more vulnerable to a team attack. The board is separated into seven continents. Once someone has control over a whole continent they gain more troops. This also gives players immediate goals as they also focus on the more lofty and long-term goal of world domination.

Conclusion

Risk is one of my all-time favourite games, and I believe always will be. Even though I may venture further out into the land of board games, discovering much richer and more complex mechanics and themes, Risk will always be like gong home again. It is that strong and secure base which allowed me to venture out, which showed me what gaming could be. And deep down inside us all, perhaps there is that lust for power which keeps bringing us back. World domination, after all, is nothing to be taken lightly.

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Barton Campbell
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Re: Risk: The True Gateway Game - Not
Actually, Risk is not a gateway game because it does not open the door to any other games. Proof? Millions of people have played Risk but have never heard of euro games, designer games or wargames. You may love Risk, which is great for you, but it is a true gateway game - NOT! gulp

As for me, Risk stinks!
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Patrick Arens
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Bartman--

Your definition of a gateway game is in my eyes weak. It does not seem to capture the meaning of the phrase appropriately. I take that the phrase is intended to be analogous to the now well known phrase 'gateway drug.'

A gateway drug is a substance that somehow causes its users to be more likely to try harder substances. Thus, a gateway game is a game that somehow causes its users to be more likely to try heavier games. RISK definitely makes this more likely. That's at least my take.
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Sean Shaw
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Always glad to see a fellow Risk lover on BGG. Nice review.
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Pieter
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Gateway to HELL more like.
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Nathan James
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Nice review. It does seem (to me at least) rather obvious that Risk serves as a gateway game for many, many people. Some people are turned off by it, but well, that's life. Many folks begin to dream of what boardgaming can be because of Risk.
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Guido Gloor
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NJames wrote:
Nice review. It does seem (to me at least) rather obvious that Risk serves as a gateway game for many, many people. Some people are turned off by it, but well, that's life. Many folks begin to dream of what boardgaming can be because of Risk.


In this sense, it definitely is a gateway game. It was the first game that I spent multiple days on one session on, back in a snowboarding camp where we kept it on a table, playing every evening and continuing the one forever-lasting game.

The thing however is that so many things are broken with Risk that it is very easy to move on to other, better games once you know them - at least this was the case for me. Yes, it is a gateway game. No, it is not great. It has a big exposure and is easy to get to know somewhere, because so many people know it. The main reason for that however is that it's been around quite a while, and is pretty accessible, not that it's particularly good.

And as for world domination, there's hundreds of other games with that theme. I don't mean to disqualify it, but saying a game is awesome because it features that theme is not particularly convincing for me.

Nevertheless, Risk was revolutionary. There are tons of very good ideas in there, ideas that only waited for game designers to refine and improve them. And refine and improve they did, that's why today we have games like Small World (picking up the to and fro wavey motion and intentionally taking it to the extreme), History of the World (spanning multiple civilizations and thus making it reasonable that there's a lot of to and fro, and having a lot better combat mechanics), Imperial (with economic aspects in the foreground), Struggle of Empires (where the whole expansion subject becomes important) ... world domination is a great subject for strategy games, but doesn't automatically make a game great.
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Leo Zappa
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"Risk" was my gateway game. From trying this game with a couple of my childhood friends, we moved up to "Skirmish", "Broadsides", and "Battlecry" - Parker Brothers American Heritage games. From there, it was real wargames - Avalon Hill's classics "Waterloo", "Gettysburg", "Afrika Korps", "Battle of the Bulge", and so on. 30+ years later and going strong.

thumbsupthumbsup for the OP - this review is right on!

BTW - we still play Risk in our game group today, except we have moved up to "Risk 2210", "Risk Godstorm", and the themed "Risk" versions - Lord of the Rings, Star Wars Clone Wars, and Star Wars Original Trilogy. In all cases, taking a classic game and improving on it.
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Richard Reilly
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Risk was certainly a gateway game for me! As a child I had, of course, played games like Life and Parcheesi; roll and move stuff. But Risk introduced me to games about war; it was the game that turned me into a gamer. I can still remember reading about Risk in the Sears catalog before Christmas. The idea of a game about world conquest fascinated me! Were there any other games with that theme at the time? Maybe, but Risk was certainly the first I'd ever heard of. So of course it went on my wishlist and I got it and played it with my Dad. After Risk I went looking for other games of war, including the wonderful American Heritage series of games. I still treasure the memory of playing all of these games with my Dad, whose gaming genes I seem to have inherited.

I suppose Tikal served as my gateway game into the modern world of Eurogames and the like, but I would still happily play a game of Risk, whether in its classic form or one of its modern incarnations.

Good review!!!

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Moshe Callen
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bartman347 wrote:
Actually, Risk is not a gateway game because it does not open the door to any other games.

It did for me.
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Manuel Pasi
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While it definitely seems to serve as a gateway game for many i am still puzzled by that fact.
I can't remember any game of Risk that clocked in under 4 hours (often stretching till the morning hours without even being resolved) which makes it by definition unsuitable to serve as a gateway...yet tyear after year it lures unsuspecting, innocent humans into the (money-)trap that we call our hobby
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The idea of Risk games being interminably long stems from people who really don't know how to play. A six player game will rarely go beyond five rounds and then usually only a sixth round if players know how to play.

Risk is well named. Playing conservatively will not win the game if people know what they're doing. All-out offensives are usually the way to go. Most people don't do that but instead take one territory per turn and then bizarrely wonder why the game drags on. Yes, I'm oversimplifying but the point is valid.
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Ethan Van Vorst
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Risk was definitely my gateway game. It has several flaws about it (game length being the most notable) but I wouldn't say it's outright broken. It's just not the most efficient game of its type out there. I think it's a fun game and certainly laudable for what it sets out to achieve, but there are definitely better games available.

There seems to be two major "routes" one might go when getting into boardgaming. The first is the Euro route, usually starting off with Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride and moving into hardier Euro games while the other starts off the Ameritrash process with simple roll and move games (Sorry!, Monopoly, etc.) and then moving to games such as Stratego or Risk. Please bear in mind that back before Catan hit the boardgaming world like a meteor strike most folks in the US (I cannot speak for other locales) likely didn't have access to gaming/hobby stores (or still don't in my case blush ) and started off with games like Risk and progressed from there. So if you came up via the Euro route I can certainly understand why Risk's being labeled a "gateway" game might seem a little puzzling, but this doesn't make it any less a gateway game than Catan was for many others. [/rant]
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Richard Reilly
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I think it would be interesting to do a survey and ask those for whom Risk was their gateway into gaming how old they were when they first played it. It was at least 30 years ago that Risk served as my gateway; it led, as I've said, to other games of war, including games by Avalon Hill, SPI, and eventually role-playing games. At that time, there was no internet, and I have no idea whether or not there was even such a thing as "Eurogames" at that time. Of course I assume that Europeans played games. But was there a hobby that revolved around games designed in Europe? Were there "Eurogames" in anything like the modern sense of the term? I don't know.

Anyway, my point is that the reason Risk may have served as a gateway game for so many may simply be because at one time there were no "Eurogames" to play.
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Justin Tonelli
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Without a doubt, Risk is what inspired me to become both a gamer and designer. What I don't understand is how people bash this game as being too random and reliant on luck. To me, 90% of the strategy and fun Risk is related to table talk. Pleading with your friends and family to ally with you (temporarily) only to unmercilessly stab them in the back on the next turn is freakishly fun and requires an incredible amount of persuasion and cunning. I simply love how you can plant seeds of hate in your opponent's minds in order for them to destroy each other and leave you alone. Even though I've played hundreds of games of Risk, I keep coming back because every game is different. Risk is a game that I have never mastered and will never master . I can be beat at any time, by any player for a variety of reasons. That is what makes Risk classic.

p.s. I have always been intrigued by the rolling in Risk. Why is it that when you are doing well, your rolls seem to get better? Conversely, why do your rolls get worse when you start to think negatively? This is a freaky Risk phenomenon.
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John Clark
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Risk is a fine gateway war game but not a gateway game in general, because a huge number of people (the majority?) get very upset playing direct combat games with alliances and backstabbing. Many take events in the game personally and feel victimised and manipulated. These people, which in my experience are a large proportion of the population, will be totally turned off boardgames by playing Risk. I would say that in almost every game of Risk someone has finished the game offended and upset. You can simply reply that you should not play Risk with such people but this is the point - those people are the majority which is why Risk is not a true gateway game. It might be a gateway game for teenaged boys but that's about it.

This is part of the reason why so many of the highest ranked games have individual player boards where players can work away at their own thing without feeling like they are in conflict with others - Puerto Rico, Agricola, Princes Of Florence, Goa etc etc. Of course, those games have interaction too - sometimes quite nasty - but it is not clearly apparent from the first game of them.

That said, for wargames Risk captures most of the essential stuff without much additional fluff. Many many games create situations which boil down to "unless we all attack X now then he will go on and win the game". This is true (to varying degrees) of Antike, Mare Nostrum, Shogun, TI3, StarCraft. These games all have an element of Risk about them because that is what Risk is all about.
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Benjamin Maggi
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jtonelli wrote:
I have always been intrigued by the rolling in Risk. Why is it that when you are doing well, your rolls seem to get better? Conversely, why do your rolls get worse when you start to think negatively? This is a freaky Risk phenomenon.


So very true! And what I find is worst, if you THINK that your opponent has a set of cards to turn in then inveriably he WILL have a set to turn in. Don't ever think that they might be a "one of a kind" or you're doomed@
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