Monday, 29 December 2014

40. 'RISK 2210' review. The Cardboard Cartographer issue 14.

Welcome to issue 14 of 'The Cardboard Cartographer' here on 'The Science of selling yourself short.'

Back with semi - regular updates. Yes.
I wanted to get one more in before the end of the year.

In this issue we're going to be visiting RISK 2210 A.D; a re-imaging of the classic board game RISK.

I've spoken before about RISK and how it introduced me to the hobby. For those of you who have never played RISK a lot of the comparisons may not 'click' with you, so I suggest you read issue 5 of The Cardboard Cartographer - which is all about RISK

Without further delay; RISK 2210 A.D.

Google FU.

Risk 2210 A.D. is a 2–5 player board game by Avalon Hill that is a futuristic variant of the classic board game Risk. Risk 2210 A.D. was designed by Rob Daviau and Craig Van Ness and first released in 2001. In 2002, it won the Origins Award for "Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game of 2001"

For more information check out the Board Game Geek page
Additional information can be found on the Wizards of the Coast website

First impressions.

As you expect with a RISK game there is a fair amount of pieces.
RISK 2210 is no exception.

Everything is relatively well made.
The cards are a little flimsy compared to previous editions, but this isn't too big of a problem.

Game Play

RISK 2210 shares the basic functionalities of RISK.
Players take turns in deploying reinforcements, attacking enemy territories and reorganising their armies in order to achieve specific goals.

However, unlike RISK before it, RISK 2210's goal is simply to own the most territories. The game throws in some additional features and these dramatically alter the state of play.

In order to portray this in an understandable manner we're going to break the game play down into more manageable chunks.

Set Up

In RISK you rolled dice to decide which player started the game, dealt out territories, placed troops and that was it.

RISK 2210 is a more complex entity as a whole, and as such, the set up is a bit more complicated.

Firstly, the territory deck is shuffled and four land based territories are drawn from the top of the deck.

 These territories are now 'Devastated Lands,' and as such, players may not enter them/ move through them/ interact with them in any way during the game.
In addition, the cards themselves are discarded to the box for the rest of the game.

Once this is done players must place their M.O.D's (Machines of destruction).

Players set aside a pre determined number of M.O.D's (this changes depending on the number of players) and then roll off to decide who will place their M.O.D's first.

Players then take it in turns placing their M.O.D's on any unoccupied land territory, one at a time, until all territories are occupied. 

Players then continue to place their remaining M.O.D's one at a time until all units have been placed. Players then, in turn order, place their land commander, diplomat and space station.

The next part is deciding first player. 

In RISK 2210 Avalon implemented a 'bidding' process to decide turn order.
Each player receives 3 '1 point power tokens.' Power is an in game resource that we will revisit in more detail later.
During set up, and in every subsequent 'beginning of turn' phase, players bid power, in secret in order to gain first turn. The person who bids the most gains first turn, the second highest goes second and so on. Draws are decided on the roll of a dice.

Once this is completed, you are ready to play the game!

Playing the game.

The game lasts 5 'years' or rounds.
In each year players bid for turn order, in the same manner as during set up.
A player's turn is broken down into 6 sections, which we will look at in turn.

1. Collect and deploy M.O.D's and Energy.

In this phase, players collect their reinforcements. The M.O.D's and energy you gain are calculated in the same way. 

The year/ turn marker also has a grid on which you place a M.O.D.; this will display the number of territories you own throughout the game. The smaller number is how many M.O.D's and Energy you gain for owning that many territories. 

In addition you gain bonus points for controlling a continent. These are collections of territories sharing the same colour.

Like RISK these represent the major geographical continents of earth. RISK 2210 also introduces 'Sea territories' which have similar 'continent' bonuses, and Moon territories, which also have 'continent' type bonuses.

Once these are calculated and collect a Player then distributes their M.O.D's as the please amongst territories they currently control.

2. Hire and place commanders and build space stations.

RISK 2210 introduces some new unit types; Commanders and Space Stations.
Commanders cost 3 energy to build, and each space station costs 5 energy.

Each has their own rules so we'll go into some more detail;

Land Commander - Allows the purchase and use of Land Commander cards. Also is able to roll a D8 when invading from/ into land territories.

Diplomat Commander - Allows the purchase and use of Diplomat Commander cards.

Space  Commander- Allows the purchase and use of Space Commander cards. Also is able to roll a D8 when invading from/ into lunar territories. Is a requirment if a player wants to invade from/ into a lunar territory.

Naval Commander  - Allows the purchase and use of naval Commander cards. Also is able to roll a D8 when invading from/ into water territories. Is a requirement is a player want to invade from/ into water territories.

Nuclear Commander - Allows the purchase and use of Nuclear Commander cards. Always may roll a D8 when invading.

All Commanders Defend with a D8

Space Station - Each Space Station generates 1 addition M.O.D for the controlling player. In addition all units in a territory which contains a space station defend with D8's. If a territory containing a Space Station is invaded and falls, the invading player may replace it with one of their own for free (assuming there have any remaining to do so).

3. Buy Command Cards.

To buy command cards, you must first own the corresponding commander. A command card costs 1 power to buy.

4. Play command cards.

Immediately after a player has finished buying command cards they can play as many command cards as they like/ can afford.
Some command cards cost power to activate, other do not. They have a variety of effects; generally they affect the area they correspond with; Land commander effects land territories and so on.
Nuke commanders and diplomats on the other hand or offensive and defensive respectively.

5. Invade territories.

This phase is the classic RISK phase.

Players attack a territory by rolling dice and comparing them to their opponents roll.
For every dice roll that 'wins' the relevant player looses a troops. In the case of drawn rolls the defender wins the roll.

Example; Player A is attacking and rolls 3 dice. He gets 2, 5, and 6
Player B is defending and rolls 2 dice. He gets a 5 and a 5.
Player A's 6 beats the defending 5 of player B. Player B losses 1 troops
Player A's 5 draws with B's 5. As player B is defending, Player A losses 1 troop.
The third dice is discounted.

 The amount of dice that can be rolled is determined by the amount of troops a territory has. If a territory has 1 or 2 troops it can only roll 1 dice, if it has 3 or more it can roll up to 2 dice and if it has 3 or more it can roll up to 3 dice.

Rolling more dice increases the chances of a player winning a roll off, but also increases the risk of taking more casualties.

In addition, when a territory is conquered, the attacking player must move a minimum amount of troops corresponding with the amount of dice rolled; if you rolled three dice and conquered a territory, you must move at least 3 troops.

This goes on until the attacker decides to stop or the territory is taken.

The added complexity in RISK 2210 comes with the commanders and their ability to roll a D8 depending on type/ location when attacking, and while defending.
In addition, certain commanders allow for additional movement.
Sea commander allows a Player to move into/ attack sea territories. In the sea commander dies the player may not continue to attack sea based territories
Space commanders allow a Player to move into/ attack moon territories. If the space commander dies you may no longer move troops from land territories to moon territories, but may still use the troops based on the moon.

Here is an example of a player (orange) attacking another player (red) form the water territories.
The defending player (red) is also defending with a Diplomat Commander.

Fortify position.

Quoting the rule book is the best option here -

'No matter what you have done on your turn, you may end your turn by fortifying your position. You are not required to win a battle or even to try an attack to do so. Some players refer to this as the "free move." To fortify your position, move as many units as you would like from one, and only one, of your territories into another. The two territories (the one you are moving from and the one you are moving to) need not be adjacent but there must be a safe “path” between them. This means that you must be able to travel from the first territory to the last through territories that you control. If you have to pass through an enemy territory or an empty territory then you cannot fortify between the two territories. In moving your units from one territory to another, you must leave at least one unit behind. When fortifying from the Moon to Earth (or vice-versa) you must be able to travel from a Lunar landing site down to a Space Station you control (or the other way around). This does not break the path. You may fortify to and from territories underwater or on the Moon even if you do not have a Naval or Space Commander in play. After you have finished fortifying, you may play any Command cards that say "Play at the end of your turn."

Once this is finished it is the next players turn.
This continues until each player has had their turn, at which point the year ends and the whole process starts again

the game ends at the end of year five.

Winning the game.

Players add together all of their territories (this is done by looking at the score tracker), players then add their continent bonuses to this total,  players may then play any action cards that grant them additional points.
the total is the amount of points scored. The highest number wins.

In the case of a draw, the tied player with the most remaining energy wins. If it is still a draw it is the player with the most units on the board. In the rare case that it is still a draw, it is simply a draw.

Personal Opinion.

I'll quote issue 5 here;

'RISK is the game I love to hate to love.

I love it because It is a classic. It has luck, it has strategy and its main mechanic is based on player vs. player conflict. This keeps up the intensity and makes sure you're always on edge. The combination is an exciting but stressful gaming experience.

I hate it because it is RISK. It is old as time itself, and thus, inherently flawed.
Firstly, if you fall behind in the game for whatever reason, you probably won't recover. While I like this in the sense that it makes you think through your actions, it can sometimes be a result of severe bad luck on part of one player.'

These points transcend every version of RISK and hold true here.

However RISK 2210 does mix things up, so I will add some extra perspective on my previous judgement.

Positives first.
It still maintains that luck to strategy ratio, and it certainly maintains player vs. player conflict.
It does try to deal with the flaws I previously mentioned.
We'll work our way backwards here.

'Third. Tactics or the lack of variables

This point is essentially null and void. With the combination of Space, Sea and commanders and their cards, the amount of tactics and variables is exponential. In this regard there is no sure fire strategy that I can observe.
Australasia for example, now has two additional points from which it can be attacked thanks to the Sea territories. Also, with certain Space Commander cards, you can attack any territory on the board from space.

Second. 'The game lasts forever.'

Again, this simply is null and void. The five year turn marker creates a 100% guaranteed end point. While some see this as limiting, something needed to be done to bring this game into a realistic time frame. The jury is out on how effective a compromise this is, but it certainly does the job.

So is it an improvement?
Depends who you ask, but in my opinion, no.


To explain why we have to visit my first criticism of the classic RISK again. 

'if you fall behind in the game for whatever reason, you probably won't recover.'

While this was an aspect I thought fit in well with the grand strategy aspect of RISK, I feel it is a huge flaw in RISK 2210.

In RISK, in fact, in most games, if you take the lead you paint yourself as a target.

Now, in RISK if enough players band together they can chip away at the leader and possibly bring them down to a level at which the other player can make up ground.
This is why the game went on forever.
The indefinite time period sucked for those who were crippled, but also gave them a window to re-enter the game.
Most of the time this re entry wasn't really possible (unless the 'golden cavalry rule was implemented, to which no one could stand up to...), but it was a possibility.

In RISK 2210 this is slightly redundant.
The time limit does not allow for a 'wearing down' of the leader.
However, while this is annoying for those losing, it isn't my main gripe.

My problem is with the role of the leader in the game as a whole.

RISK has always rewarded the leader; the player with the most territories and the best continents gains the most troops as reinforcements.
In RISK 2210 the same holds true, except the also gain the equivalent number in energy.

The majority forces were there to allow you to mitigate the massive target you had painted on your head.  In all honesty, it was exceptionally hard to maintain control against a multitude of players.
This system, while slightly resting on an 'us vs. the leader' cooperation between players, was balanced (at least to some extent).

In RISK 2210 it isn't just the additional troops (and the multitude of extra continents you can take with them), but it is also the additional command cards/ commanders you can buy and use with the energy that takes it to another level.
These card can be crippling, especially if you are a player who is not in the lead and can't afford that possibility.

Not only do these help you maintain the lead, but they will exponentially propel you into the lead. Even if all players band together you can pretty much weather the storm.

Now I get that RISK has never been about supporting the little guy. it punishes people for bad strategy.
RISK 2210 doesn't just punish people, but decimates them.

I guess what I'm saying is that, with RISK, if I'm losing, there is a little hope I can worm my way back into the game. This keeps me somewhat invested in the game while I play (RISK Legacy is fantastic for this by the way).

RISK 2210 on the other hand, does not. 

It can be midway through turn two and I can just think 'player x has won.'
Without a tangible way back into the game I have little to no interest and that simply isn't fun for the majority of players.

I know this a damning review. I guess I just feel that with a few simple tweaks this game could have been amazing.
There are some solid ideas that improve the general game play.
Admittedly there have been
14 expansions, so maybe they change the games balance.

However, I think the telling factor is that this game was originally released in 2001.
Since then games have become more balanced and have attempted to keep players in the game, with a chance of winning for as long as possible.

I think that is a much more fun and competitive way to design and play a board game

As usual I'll throw this one over to the readers for additional debate.
What is your opinion of RISK 2210, or the RISK franchise as a whole?
Do you have a favourite version?

Either leave a comment on this post, or tweet me @DarkHaZZl3 on Twitter.

Thanks for reading. Until next time