Thought Residue
Risk: Legacy Rules!

I’ve always been a big fan of the classic board game Risk. In high school it was our snow day tradition, and in college it became the basis of one of my earliest game design projects, which I called Nuclear Risk. This was basically a set of rules for adding elements of the card game Nuclear War to Risk. When territories were nuked, you marked the spaces with radiation tokens, and I even made a lookup table for the occasional randomly-targeted mis-fired missile.

[As long as I’m off on the tangent of my earliest game design efforts, I should point out that this was not my earliest. Neither were the primitive text adventure games that I was inspired by when I wrote my Parsely game, Muffins. From what I remember, the first time I tried to design a game was in around the fifth or sixth grade, when I created a mini version of the Civil War board game called Battle Cry. It’s a big, slow-playing game which I really enjoyed, but I wanted a faster and more portable version. (Like most game designers, I got my start by making changes, i.e. trying to “fix”, an existing game.) So I created my own little gameboard, using crayons or felt-tip markers, and cobbled together a set of tiny army men to use as game pieces. And while the original game is played out on a map of the whole country, mine was on a small, abstract playing field. I thought of my game as representing a single battle in the full war simulated by the original game. I wish I still had that home-made game set, but it’s long gone…]

Anyway, the reason I have Risk on my mind right now is that there’s a new kid on the Risk block and it’s awesome. It’s called Risk: Legacy and it takes the original game to a couple of levels beyond the next level.

Risk: Legacy starts with the same basic gameboard and combat systems, but then it changes. And when I say it changes, I mean it REALLY changes. It’s not just different every time — you literally change the game, by taking sharpie in hand and writing stuff on the board. When a game ends, you add special stickers to the spots of your choice, denoting major and minor cities, which you get to name. And those cities are still there when you play again! Events from one game become important moments in history for the games that are played after it.

The box contains various sealed envelopes that you open when certain conditions are met; these often contain more stickers, which you add to the board, or even the rulebook, creating further evolution of the game’s world. Sometimes you’re even supposed to tear up game cards, since the options they provide are one-time deals!

There are even ways in which your own personal achievements in the game become factors in future games. The winner of every game signs the board, and gets a special perk for each previous victory whenever they play again. At the same time, those who’ve never won get a benefit too. It’s really well balanced and thought out.

All of these bells and whistles add a lot to the fun, but the game itself has been re-designed to be faster and make more sense. For instance, instead of starting with a random scattering of territories, you start with a small army in a single location, which thereafter is your official HQ. From there, you spread out and conquer. But instead of needing to totally dominate the world, like you had to do in the original game, you win by gaining 4 Victory Stars, which can be obtained in a variety of ways,

But the best thing about Risk: Legacy might just be that one final envelope, hidden away in the very bottom of the box, which reads “DO NOT OPEN. EVER.” Wow. Gotta love that. I wonder what’s inside? I look forward to the day when our group decides to open it anyway. I expect to find something that really really changes things, such as the radioactivity markers I was adding in my own variations on the game way back when.

So, I’m very impressed. If you’re a fan of Risk, or games that change as you play them, you’ll dig Risk: Legacy.

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