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Subject: An Incredibly Narrow and Deeply Flawed History of Risk Rules rss

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Chris Tannhauser
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I love Risk. I got my first set for Christmas in 1975 at the exactly-right age of nine and proceeded to play it, all by myself, for years. I still own this set, lovingly maintained... though the original dice were poached long ago for Dungeons & Dragons.

The straightforward simplicity of the rules makes the game particularly conducive to tinkering and tweaking—with the small number of gears going around it's easy to change their sizes, shapes or even add a couple new ones without breaking the machine. And so the game is a natural house rule magnet, making it possible that no two groups play in exactly the same way.

In encountering all these various tweaks I became interested in the history of the "official" rules, especially when and where certain changes came and went. My interest was initially piqued by the variety of card-exchange regimes I've bumped into:

Escalating armies for sets (4-6-8-10-12-15-(then +5 for each subsequent set))

(+5 to a certain number, then reset back to 4)

(starting at 4, then +1 to infinity)

Discrete numbers of armies based upon the set (4-6-8 for the various threes-of-a-kind, 10 for one of each)

& etc.

My survey of the rules is limited to the following:

North American editions of the base game that I either have, or could find, the offical printed rules for*

Looking only at the "Global Domination" rules set

Ignoring variant rules included in the booklet

Set up, the exchange of card sets, and the "free move"


*I understand that European and other versions of the game may have had offical rule changes occur earlier, later (or not at all) than those listed below.



1959 - baseline

Set Up
Shuffle and deal all territory cards; players place armies into territories on their cards.

Turning in Card Sets for Armies
Escalating armies from card sets: 4-6-8-10-12-15-(+5).

"Free Move"
May move armies from a single territory to a single adjacent territory.



1963

Set Up
Players take turns placing an army into an empty territory until all territories are owned.

Turning in Card Sets for Armies
If one or more of your cards shows a territory you own, place +2 armies into that territory (or territories).



1975 - no change



1980

Turning in Card Sets for Armies
Maximum of +2 armies no matter how many cards show a territory you own.




1993, 1999 - no change



2003

Turning in Card Sets for Armies
(Removed rule for +2 armies if a territory on card is owned.)

"Free Move"
May move armies from a single territory to any other single territory along a contiguous path of territories you own.


So from the baseline 1959 rules, 1963 replaces the random set up with one chosen by the players and adds the bonus armies for territory cards you currently occupy. These rules remain stable for 17 years (!) until 1980 puts a cap on the number of bonus armies earned—it's now a maximum of two instead of a potential six. These rules remain stable for another 23 years (!!!) until 2003 when the bonus armies rule is eliminated altogether and the free move is changed from the painfully slow "one territory to one adjacent territory" to the long-accepted house rule of "one territory to one territory through a contiguous path".

I'm scandalized to find that the free move wasn't offically updated until 2003—especially since I don't think I used the original "creeping" rule since I was a kid. Back in the '70s.

(I'm not including Risk (Revised Edition) in the discussion since it adds so many bells and whistles to the base game (cities, capitals, objectives, a different win condition, and a unit-based card-exchange regime where you trade 2-10 stars for 2-30 armies) as to really be a completely different beast.)

Comments and keyboard-lashing welcome, especially if it turns out I'm (gasp!) grossly mistaken on some of these points.

Otherwise, just writing this makes me want a Saturday afternoon of pilsner, pretzels, pals and potty mouth!
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Dennis Bingham
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Just as you, i really like Risk and never ever understood the hate for it on BGG. It's a mighty fine game for what it is and it stood through time like a rock. Either way, my first set was the European 1980 Version of the game and, apart from the free move house rule, we played it (me and my friends and me against myself often enough) by the rules.

If a game can survive as long as Risk has and if a game can be mentioned in almost every country of the western world and be instantly recognized and played within minutes by 2-6 people of completely different origin, different language and different culture, then this game is a classic in my eyes.

To all of you Risk haters out there: I understand your complaints to an extent but ask yourself if we will remember Agricola in 50 years the same way and if you will be able to gather 2-6 random people from different countries and start playing with them. I think not.
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Danny O'Donnell
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ScYcS wrote:
To all of you Risk haters out there: I understand your complaints to an extent but ask yourself if we will remember Agricola in 50 years the same way and if you will be able to gather 2-6 random people from different countries and start playing with them. I think not.


The same could be said of something like Monopoly, or even a completely decision-free 'game' like Chutes and Ladders. Not that I mean to equate Risk to such games, but just that name recognition and age are not really merits of a game on their own.

And I don't think that Agricola will reach such a level in 50 years (though I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it is still well-loved in the board gaming community). But I think Catan just might.
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Kyle
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PsychoDan wrote:
ScYcS wrote:
To all of you Risk haters out there: I understand your complaints to an extent but ask yourself if we will remember Agricola in 50 years the same way and if you will be able to gather 2-6 random people from different countries and start playing with them. I think not.


name recognition and age are not really merits of a game on their own.



That is of course an opinion that is not held by everyone.
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nyjastul69 wrote:
PsychoDan wrote:
ScYcS wrote:
To all of you Risk haters out there: I understand your complaints to an extent but ask yourself if we will remember Agricola in 50 years the same way and if you will be able to gather 2-6 random people from different countries and start playing with them. I think not.


name recognition and age are not really merits of a game on their own.



That is of course an opinion that is not held by everyone.


Of course, and many games are old and have name recognition and are good games. Poker is very old; Bridge is very old. Euchre is simple and old. Hearts doesn't really have any house rules yet is still fun to play with a set of 4 people. And, true, many of these Parker Brothers games are still games that people have fun with.

But Parker Brothers has also put a lot of money into marketing and reprinting Monopoly, Risk, and the like. How many people know of the game Parcheesi, which is some 1600 years old? How many people actually play it? It's certainly a game, but it's not a very good one. If you go into a toystore, it's still likely that all of the games available will be a) kids games or b) old Parker Brothers games. Just because the only board game available for people to buy for 50 years was Risk or Monopoly does not mean it is a good game, nor that it will always remain a household name/game. Among my friends, monopoly is quickly passing into infamy, and they don't own it -- how are their kids going to grow up familiar with Monopoly?
 
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Thels de Kwant
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HiveGod wrote:
Shuffle and deal all territory cards; players place armies into territories on their cards.


If the following PDF contains the accurate rules for the original 1959 version of the game, a major difference is that players start with only one army in each territory, rather than dividing 40/35/30/25/20 armies over their territories:
http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Risk1959.PDF

HiveGod wrote:
*I understand that European and other versions of the game may have had offical rule changes occur earlier, later (or not at all) than those listed below.


I'm aware of the following differences between the US and the Dutch version. From what I can tell by the images and information, most other European countries seem to use the same rules as the Dutch version, but I can't say for sure. Also note that I did not include rules in the newest versions that allow up to 5 players or include multiple missions per player, which overhaul quite a bit.

- Most US versions allow players to choose starting territories in turn. Starting territories are always random (using the territory cards) in the Dutch version.

- At most four armies can be placed on a single territory at the start of the game in the Dutch version. US versions don't seem to have this limit.

- In the US versions, you first gain additional armies based on number of territories, then attack your enemies (optional), then fortify (optional). In the Dutch version, each turn you must choose to gain additional armies based on number of territories, or attack your enemies. If you choose to attack your enemies, you may then "fortify" at the end of your turn.

- In the US versions, fortifying means you move any number of armies from one country to another, either adjacent in the older versions or any connected in the newer versions. In the Dutch version, if you did not gain additional armies (you chose to attack), you may up to seven times move one of your armies to an adjacent territory. You may move the same army more than once, so you could say move two armies three regions each, and then move a third army one region. These armies do not have to move from or to the same region.

- The US versions award a number of armies as a set bonus depending on the number of sets that have been handed in so far. The Dutch version awards 4 armies for a set of 3 artilleries, 6 armies for a set of 3 infantry, 8 armies for a set of 3 cavalry, and 10 armies for 3 different cards.

- In the US versions, if you eliminate an opponent, you receive his cards. The Dutch version does not mention this.

- Some US versions mention bonuses for handing in a set, if you control one or more of the territories displayed on the cards, or bonuses to attacking or defending if you hold a card displaying either territory. The Dutch version does not mention this in any way.

- The Dutch version comes with 14 mission cards, whereas the newer US versions come with 12, and the older US versions didn't have any. As far as I know, the two mission cards that aren't included are:
Control Europe, South America, and a third continent of your choice.
Control Europe, Australia, and a third continent of your choice.

- If you need to eliminate another player and a third player eliminates that player instead of you, you have won in the US versions, while in the Dutch version, your mission objective becomes: Control 24 territories.

The variant rule mentioned in the Dutch version eliminates the mission cards from play, and requires everyone to eliminate all opponents. This version also changes the set bonus to increment along the 4-6-8-10-12-15-20-etc steps, regardless of the type of set handed in.
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Christian Kalk
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I've encountered editions that eliminate the 12 from the set value increments, jumping from 10 directly to 15.
 
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