Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

He who will not Risk

"He who will not risk cannot win." -- John Paul Jones

1980 reprint of the
1959 classic (but lengthy) Risk
My son (15) and his friend and I played Risk (designer Rob Daviau, publisher Hasbro) Sunday afternoon.  I should note that I was never a big fan of the original Risk (designer Albert Lamorisse [director of the French short film The Red Balloon], publisher Parker Brothers), largely because it simply took too long to play.  It didn't really seem to be much of a strategy game, either, at least not at the age I was playing.  A lot of pushing and shoving, taking territory only to have it taken back. Worst, if it was a multi-player session, it became a player-elimination game, which as anyone who has followed my blog knows is a fundamental flaw in any multi-player game outside of a tournament.

2008 Revised (and much more
enjoyable) Edition of Risk
My opinion of the new Risk, however, is quite the opposite.  With the introduction of objectives and the change in the way cards are traded in for armies, players have some real decisions to make, and that's something I appreciate in a game.  Particularly nice is being able to identify a winner in a reasonable amount of time, rather than requiring world domination simply to end the game.  Generally speaking, a winner emerges long before any single player is really close to elimination.  I think I most appreciate the fact that the facelift addressed only the weaknesses of the game and retained many recognizable, likable elements, right down to the combat mechanism - which is an imperfect attrition system but still an interesting tactical problem at times.

In our three-player game, my capital was in Greenland, my son's in Australia, and his friend's in Argentina.  My son easily took over Australia and moved quickly into southern Asia.  In so doing he completed the "Control 18 territories" objective.  His friend took over South America and a substantial chunk of North America.  I sought my first objective by taking over all of Europe, and succeeded only on my last dice roll.  So I was in a pretty vulnerable position even after my end-of-turn redeployment, and feared that my son's Asian army would roll into Russia.

My son smelled blood in Asia, however, and ignored me in favor of trying to take over the continent.  His friend started the game with a strong holding in Japan, however, and would not fall, so my son's Asian campaign stalled.  His friend sought to finish taking over North America, but he, too, could not complete the task.  As a result, my European position remained unperturbed, which made my next decision rather straightforward - to take over Africa.  Europe gave me five additional armies, and I started everything in central Africa, whence came the great tide.  Once I'd conquered Africa, I agonized over whether to jump the Atlantic and attack Brazil to break up the South American stronghold - but that position wouldn't have been as strong (given the way I left my armies) as it was to attack the Middle East and shore up the defense of my eastern border.  At the end of my turn, I'd taken over my second continent and thus completed my second objective ("Control two continents").

My son and his friend discussed the fact that I held everything from South Africa to Greenland and ought to be squeezed from both sides.  It certainly would have made sense at that point in the game - after only two turns, when I held two objectives of three needed to win - to gang up on me and take apart my continental holdings.  Strangely, however, the desire to control Asia still consumed my son, and after re-taking the Middle East, he turned away from European Russia and instead attacked his friend's holdings, east across the steppes.  His friend then nearly took over North America at that point, but I held my ground in Greenland.  At that point, my continental holdings still remained intact, and I started my third turn with 16 armies and seven cities.  The next step was obvious.  I attacked Brazil to obtain my eighth city and third objective, to win the game.

So I won in three turns, largely I think because my son and his friend allowed their own agendas (occupation of Asia and North America, respectively) to distract them from stopping me from winning.  Nevertheless, I came away convinced more than ever that this re-vamping of Risk has breathed new life into an old classic and made it a fun game to play, far more fun that the original ever was.


  1. Interesting. I was wondering about picking up this version of the game and since I read your post, I will.

  2. I hope you like it, Charlie. I really think it's a superior version.