OG Soundoff gives our cast of crazies the chance to weigh in with their opinions on a topic of interest in the world of gaming. This time, our columnists will discuss what they think about Hasbro’s newly announced Risk Legacy.
For those of you who haven’t heard about this game, in mid-August, Hasbro gave us a preview of the latest title in their Risk lineup. Created by talented veteran designer Rob Daviau and newcomer Chris Dupuis, it will be called Risk Legacy in the States and Risiko Evolution in the rest of the world (presumably, the Legacy title is being used because of the potential contentiousness of using the word “evolution” in a mainstream American design). The big twist in the design is that the players will permanently alter their copy of the game from session to session. Depending on what happens, stickers will be put on territories to show new terrain and the formation of cities, which will continue to be there in every game played with that copy. Cards will be altered or even destroyed. The game also will come with sealed envelopes that contain new components and rules to be triggered when certain game conditions are met. The end result is that the game will evolve over time based on the players’ decisions. It also means that no two copies of Risk Legacy will wind up being the same.
So what does everybody think of this idea? Is it inspired genius or just a gimmick? Is it a game you intend to play, to own, or to avoid?
Larry Levy: Let me begin by saying that I applaud Hasbro for coming up with this unique and innovative idea. I fully expect the game will sell well and have many devoted followers. Unfortunately, I won’t be one of them.
The problem isn’t the source game. There are a number of games of conquest that I enjoy and there’s no reason why a souped-up Risk wouldn’t be one of them. Rather, it’s the new design’s basic concept that doesn’t fit my gamer profile.
First of all, this is clearly a game that will work best if played by the same group of players (or at least a fairly small rotation). I currently play with about 20 gamers and switch off opponents from game to game. The odds of getting the same group to play this one game repeatedly is quite remote. There’s also the fact that the new Risk will have to be played a minimum of 15 times (and probably more like 20) in order for it to reach its full potential. Many of the new games I play don’t even get to 5 plays and even the most popular ones struggle to get to 10 sessions. I can see this game working for many groups, but not for mine.
There are other, even more fundamental issues. I’m a rules junkie and like to read the rules for a new game from cover to cover before playing for the first time. It may seem silly, but the fact that I wouldn’t know most of the details of this game prior to play would really bug me. In essence, Daviau and Dupuis are asking me to trust their design abilities while I commit to half a dozen plays before I get to the good stuff. I’m not saying I’d never do that, but it tends to run counter to my personal gaming DNA. Another point is that the coolness factor of having a game change over time is largely lost on me. I get plenty of variety in my gaming, but when it comes to individual designs, I prefer a stationary target. It’s hard enough figuring out strategies on a static game, without having to worry about things being different every time. Finally, one of the real joys of gaming is that I not only get to talk about the designs with the people I play with, but with the entire extended gaming community as well. Obviously, this will be impossible for Risk Legacy, as people will be discouraged from discussing details of the later games, lest they spoil it for others. Moreover, it would be pointless to swap strategies and such, since each individual game will be different from all the rest.
I will certainly follow the reception this game receives and will be interested in whatever details get released. But this will be more like curiousity over a unique gaming project rather than any desire to actually play it. Risk Legacy may well turn out to be something revolutionary, but the revolution will take place without me.
Dale Yu: Color me interested. I’m actually passive about the whole Risk thing – I still play the basic version with my kids from time to time as it’s one of their favorite games. But, honestly, I could kind of take it or leave it. I am acutely interested, though, in the idea of the constantly evolving game. I think it’s a wonderful way to explore a game. I have spoken with one of the designers, Rob Daviau, over email in the past few months, and he’s said that you’ll see some changes after 2 or 3 plays, but will need 5 or 6 to really form a “unique” Risk universe with your set, and 10+ to get it really good. I look forward to seeing how the cards and board can be altered and how much gameplay will change as cards are altered, or added/removed from the game entirely. I’m sure that it’ll be hard to deal with at first, but I promise to take video of the first time that I rip a card into shreds – thus removing it from my game forever.
I’m in a pretty stable game group right now, so this sort of game will work just fine — we often have the same three guys each week playing games, so there will be a certain level of continuity that Risk: Legacy seems to need in order to succeed. Now… will I play it 10+ times? Who knows – but I’ll admit that there aren’t many games these days that hit double digit plays. But, I do look forward to seeing how the game changes and evolves as we play it. That is certainly something that will be unique in my game collection.
Mark Jackson: My reaction is similar to Dale’s reaction. My 10 year old son & his best friend are constant opponents of mine – and the idea that we get to create a world from game to game appeals to their gamer sensibilities honed on Toontown & Lego Universe.
My hope is that there will be some sort of extra packs to add to the game down the line – though if you’re getting 10+ plays from a boardgame purchase, I certainly think you’re getting your money’s worth.
Brian Leet: We don’t usually think of innovation in design coming from larger companies. So, right off the bat I’m impressed that this is a product developed by the largest player in the U.S. games market. On that merit alone I’m terribly interested in giving this design a shot. Beyond that we get into all of our speculative opinions on how the game will play, and how the evolution of the play experience over multiple games will shape our enjoyment.
What little background I can bring to imagining the play of this concept suggests it could be very successful. The original publication of Magic the Gathering of course had ante rules as a key part of every game. When I first started playing in ‘93 that is exactly how we would play it. The tension of wondering what card you might risk, and then playing through a game to claim your prize was significant. Even after it became no longer the custom to play strangers for ante, we still would set up our own small tournaments where two players would split a collection at random, build decks and then play many games for ante such that you may find it advisable to reconstruct your deck after a win or loss to reflect your new cards. A sort of extended version of the old card “game” war.
Of course, this process took a week or more to play out, during a period in my life when I had far more time for gaming. If Risk Legacy can capture any significant part of that tension and mystery I think it will be a success for me. As a last thought I also recall that as a pre-teen and teenager Risk was exactly the sort of game which invited house rules of all sorts. I can see this as added fodder for young players with the time and imagination to continually re-fight the same battles on a slowly changing landscape.
Matt Carlson: Man, I am so the target audience of this game, if it came out a few decades ago. I’m not averse to a bit of lightweight conflict/wargaming, and I simply adore tech trees and developing civilizations and strategies over time. However, my current gaming life is fairly sporadic and I know I simply won’t have the time (or choose to take the time) to enjoy this game to its full extent. Back in my college or high school days I might have been able to scrape up enough consecutive gaming sessions with friends to give this game a good workout. My only hope is for the future, about 4 or 5 years from now when I could start playing this game as a family game with my two sons. Sure, the OCD in me shudders at slowly “destroying” the game over time but it may prove particularly freeing. If I can get past the OCD issue, I don’t foresee too much of a problem with replayability. If I can get in a dozen or two games of Risk Legacy in, I’ll still be better off than many/most of the games I own. Kudos to Hasbro for trying something “risky”, while I’m not sure I want to see too many games go down the “destructible”/modifiable path, I think trying it out on the Risk line of games is a good choice. I agree that “reviewing” such a game may be tricky (can you really review how satisfying the ending of the game will be – will it still be decent and/or balanced after a half-dozen plays?), but that doesn’t factor into my decision on whether the game is a “good” one or not.
Tom Rosen: I am deeply ambivalent about Risk Legacy. On the one hand, it sounds awesome. On the other hand, it sounds like an OCD nightmare. This new-fangled Risk sounds awesome because the idea of a game that evolves over time is very exciting. A game that changes based on your previous experiences seems like something that could really bring a group back again and again to fully explore the game. In reality, I’m skeptical of whether Risk Legacy will really pull-off anything resembling what gamers and myself are expecting given that it likely will be fairly simplistic. I doubt it will really customize itself to quite the degree and in quite the interesting ways that we might expect. But in theory, the concept is very intriguing and would seem to open up tons of potential. However, applying permanent stickers to things and destroying components to remove them from the game is also something that has got to give a few of us the jitters. Given the number of people on the Geek who won’t even throw out useless box inserts or unnecessary expansion boxes, I have trouble imagining those same folks permanently altering game components. In the end, we don’t really know enough to say for sure, but the idea of Risk Legacy alone merits the buzz and anticipation as we ponder not only what the game might be, but where the concept might go.
Jeff Allers: From a game design perspective, it certainly sounds intriguing, and I join my colleagues in applauding the effort of the designers. The idea of a board game that changes over time is both fresh and appealing to me. And the original Risk still holds a sentimental place in my collection, as it was the first board game to which I was ever addicted.
However appealing the concept may be, I also have several reservations. The idea of using stickers to change the board is clunky, and destroying cards—while dramatic—seems gimmicky. The mechanics would obviously work much better as a digital game, which is surely the inspiration for Risk: Legacy. In fact, this is standard fair for computer games, which often create scenarios that change over time as you keep coming back to play them. Trying to implement the idea as a board game may be honorable, but I am not certain that these components/mechanics are the most elegant way to handle the design problem.
For example, why not use magnetic sheets and a magnetic board instead of stickers? This would solve several issues. First, when playing with a different group for the first time, one could “reset “ the game for that group, recording the outcome in case that group returned to the game in the future. The players could “save” their game, much the way one does with a computer game. Second, it would allow players to explore different paths of evolution from the same starting point, something computer game players also enjoy doing. When I was a kid, I had a set of Choose Your Own Adventure books, and I enjoyed reading through a story, seeing where my choices led, then starting the book over and making different choices that led to a different outcome. Postmodern films like Sliding Doors explore this fascination with alternate realities, and I’ve heard that the game, 1001 Arabian Nights plays the same way. I would prefer to be able to explore one path of evolution in a game, and then start from “0” again and explore another path. Don’t destroy the cards—store them away for the next evolutionary tree.
Finally, pasting on (or sticking on) a new concept to an aging bestseller limits the design potential. We have been lauding Hasbro for taking a chance with innovation, but ultimately, it’s not really a risk-y business move, and they’ve hamstrung themselves by forcing innovation on an old, reliable brand.