I have never played Risk. Never wanted to. So why am I so intrigued by…
Risk Legacy is a reboot of the popular Risk franchise. It was designed by Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis, and is being published by Hasbro (I have never covered a Hasbro game before on this blog…I’m apparently going over to the dark side). Along with Craig van Ness, these guys have been instrumental in trying to help Hasbro move into the hobby market with games like Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit, Heroscape, and a previous reincarnation of Risk called Risk 2210 AD. Risk Legacy is for 3-5 players aged 13 and up, and takes around an hour to play. The general theme is the same as basic Risk – conquer the world. It’s the execution that’s so unique – this game literally evolves so that the second game will be completely different than the first. You’ll be marking the board, ripping up cards, and opening secret envelopes that will change everything. More on that later – for now, let’s look at how everything works.
The game comes with a familiar map of the world. However, there are a number of empty spaces that will be covered with stickers as the games progress, as well as 15 spaces for winners to sign the board. There are five factions in the game – Die Mechaniker, Enclave of the Bear, Imperial Balkania, Khan Industries, and The Saharan Republic – and each faction has a card that will evolve from game to game as you mark where you start, as well as whether you won, held on, or were eliminated. Also in the game are plastic pieces (troops and HQs), resource cards, territory cards, coin cards, scar cards, starting power cards, a sideboard that will help you manage the cards, three black and two red d6s, red stars, and missiles. You also get stickers to put on the board before your first game (as well as after your fifteenth game), and sealed components that can’t be opened until the proper time.
Before your first game, you customize your world and factions. Each faction has two possible starting powers. You will choose one, remove the appropriate sticker, put it on your faction card, AND DESTROY THE OTHER ONE. You’ll also affix coin stickers on territory cards, thus increasing their starting resources. You have 12 coin stickers, and can’t increase any one territory by more than three.
Before each game, four territory cards are placed face up on the sideboard. The sideboard also has spaces for the remaining territory cards, coin cards, discards, and missions and events. Missions and events will remain empty until some of the sealed components are opened. Each player either starts a missile token for every time they have signed the board, or a red star token if they’ve never signed the board. Each player gets one scar card that will let them permanently change something on the board. These cards have stickers on them, and when they have no more stickers, they are destroyed. You’ll start in an unoccupied territory with no marks, or an unoccupied territory containing a major city founded in an earlier game. 8 troops and your HQ go in this territory.
On a turn, you’ll do start of turn actions, join the war or recruit troops, expand and attack, maneuver troops, and do end of turn actions. Your start of turn actions consist of possibly turning in four resource cards for a red star token or playing a scar card if you have one that needs to be played.
If you don’t control a territory, you must join the war by placing half your starting troops in a legal territory (no HQ). If there are no legal starting territories, you’re eliminated and must mark your faction card as such. If you do control a territory, you must recruit troops (you can’t do both in a turn). Here you add up the territories you control and divide by 3 (rounding down, unless you get less than 1, in which case you round up). To that number, you add population (2 for a major city you control, 1 for a minor city), continent bonuses according to a chart on the board, and any troops gained from turning in resource cards. These troops go onto the board into territories you control.
Once you’ve done this step, you can choose to expand and attack. To expand, move at least one troop into an adjacent unoccupied territory or city. When expanding into cities, you’ll lose troops based on the population of that city. If you’d like to move into a territory that contains enemy troops, it’s an attack. Take 1-3 troops from a territory (making sure you can leave one behind) and pit them against 1-2 troops from the defending territory. Each player rolls one die per troop involved in the battle (the attacker rolls black, the defender rolls red). Each player puts their dice in order from highest to lowest, and then you compare the results. Higher numbers win, with the loser removing a troop from the appropriate territory. Die rolls can be modified by marks on the board, fortifications, and missiles. If the defender has no more troops in a territory, the remaining attackers move in and claim it. If the captured territory contains an HQ, the attacking party now controls it. Each HQ is worth one red star. If you beat the last troop on the board for a faction, they are knocked out. You get all of their resource cards.
After expansions and attacks, you can perform one maneuver if you wish. Take any number of troops from one territory and move them to another connected territory (not necessarily adjacent, just over an unbroken series of territories you control).
At the end of your turn, you resolve any end of turn scars. If you attacked and conquered at least one territory, you may draw one resource card. If you control one of the territories on the face up cards, you must take that one, refilling the empty slot. Otherwise, draw a coin card. If the coins run out, the player with the most territories earns a red star token (ties go to no one).
The game ends immediately when someone earns their fourth red star. The game can also end if everyone is eliminated. Everyone will then collect their rewards. If you won, you sign the board and date it. You also get one further reward. You could name a continent, giving you a bonus in all future games. OR you could name and found a major city, giving a legal starting territory to you and you along. OR you could cancel a scar, removing its effects from the given territory. OR you change a continent bonus, +1 or -1 from the given bonus to whoever named it. OR you could place a fortification mark on a city, giving it extra defense. OR you could destroy a territory card, removing it from the game FOREVER. If you held on, which means that you were still in the game but didn’t win, you get to name and found a minor city, OR you could upgrade a card by putting another resource sticker on it.
At the end of your 15th game, the player who has signed the most gets to name the world. Future winners will not be able to change the world after winning, though it may be changed through more plays.
And I didn’t even talk about the sealed stuff! At various points during your campaigns, you’ll get to open up sealed packages and use the new components, stickers, and rules contained within. There are places in the rulebook to place stickers with the new rules you’ll discover by playing.
So who woulda thunk that the most innovative game this year would come from Hasbro? Put your hands down, you’re lying. When I first heard about Risk Legacy, my first thought was “Risk, phthhbt.” But then as I found out that it was a game where the game would evolve between plays, I was intrigued despite myself. Now that I’ve gone through the rules, I’m impressed. It seems like a pretty tight, fairly easy to understand battle game. From what I know about Risk, I think this one preserved a lot of the gameplay mechanisms, including the dice-based combat. However, by introducing the red star system, you have an end point that doesn’t involve someone wiping everyone else completely off the map.
One of the criticisms that has been leveled against this game is that it’s a cash grab. Because you’re altering the board, each game is going to be different, but there’s no way to reset and start again. So if you’re playing, you’ll probably be with the same group each time. That might be OK for some people, but for people who like to spread out their gaming, maybe not. Still, I think I’m falling in the “three cheers for Hasbro for trying something different!” camp. Seriously. The OCD in me is screaming at the prospect of writing on boards, ripping up cards, affixing stickers to just about EVERYTHING. The gamer in me is dying to play. I appreciate how Hasbro has been trying to expand their brands in recent years – we had Battleship Galaxies earlier in 2011, and Sorry! Sliders is a big hit. Of course, not everything has been a home run (Monopoly Live anyone?), but I think this one is.
Thanks for reading!
PS: I really want to know what’s inside this one: