A couple months ago, I was sent a copy of Risk Legacy, Hasbro’s new spin on the classic board game of global dominance. I was never a huge fan of Risk. I remember getting a copy, maybe for a birthday, and for a while never actually finished a single game because it went on for so long and we usually lost interest or ran out of time. Then on a rare afternoon at home with just my dad, I taught him how to play. He wiped me out in 45 minutes. Somehow I never played the game in college (though I knew friends who played it obsessively). It wasn’t until about five years ago that a friend of mine got the Star Wars: Clone Wars edition of the game and really wanted to play, so I gave it a shot. My brother (also a Risk newbie) and I were on a team against him, and he trounced us pretty handily well before we’d gotten very far into the timeline.
All that to say: I simply haven’t played a lot of Risk, and certainly don’t consider myself an expert on the subject.
However, this latest version, Risk Legacy, raised a host of interesting questions for me, even about larger issues pertaining to worldviews and how I raise my kids. Most of my thoughts were along these two lines: first, about the nature of game development, particularly in sequels and reboots; secondly, about how my personality is tied to what types of games I prefer. I’ll focus on the first line of thought in this post, and get to the second later on.
If you’re looking for a game review, this isn’t it. But if you’ll allow me a little philosophical blathering, it could be fun. I promise to include references to board games, sci-fi novels, and iPad apps.
On the Nature of Sequels
Ok, I’ll start with Risk Legacy. Here’s the gimmick: everyone’s copy of the game is the same at the start, but as you play the game you’ll affect your own version of the world. There are stickers to be placed on territories — cities add to your population for collecting troops, bunkers make territories easier to defend. Each faction gets to choose a special power on the first game, and there are additional powers which will be “unlocked” as you play. In fact, the first fifteen games played on the board will mold and shape both the battlefield and the troops, so that in time your copy of Risk Legacy will be unique, with its own characteristics. There are packets of cards and stickers which are to be opened only when certain conditions are met. You can tear up certain cards, never to be used again. You write on the board. “What’s done can never be undone.”
When I initially saw the game and read about how it worked, I had two conflicting emotional reactions. The part of me that loves to try a new game, thought it was a brilliant way to inject some much-needed variation into the game of Risk. A board that forces people to change their strategy from game to game? Fantastic. But another part of me, the one that tries to keep all of my board games in pristine condition and refuses to throw away all of those big boxes that I’ve replace with smaller versions, shuddered at the thought of making these permanent alterations to a game. Tearing up a card? Unthinkable!