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Spheres of Influence: Struggle for Global Supremacy» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Spheres vs. Risk rss

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Ryan Kelly
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In the interest of full disclosure, I have been playing Risk since I was a youngster in the mid-1980s. While this is the closest game that I can think of to relate it to, it is not my intention to start a debate about which game is better. There are similarities and differences, and I will endeavor to outline them thus:

Materials:
The first thing you'll note about Spheres of Influence: Struggle for Global Supremacy [SoI], is that the box is heavy. The board and bits are all quite solid; the quality is definitely there. Given my experience with card wear in TCGs, it is my hope that after the included cards start to wear significantly, I'll be able to replace them without buying a whole set.

Materials-wise, a rather glaring thematic difference between Risk and its variants, and SoI, is that the units are represented in SoI by colored plastic cubes. This doesn't really bother me, as I'm sure it was a production decision to keep the cost of parts (and thus the cost of the game) under control.

As a board gamer, I do tend to gravitate to games with lots of bits and such games do tend to be more expensive.

Setup:
Setup in SoI is relatively quick and simple, at least on its face. With fewer players, individual players may get to play with more than one faction, but the board still starts out on the first turn mostly empty. Decisions made in the opening of the game tend to be made with the possibilities of long-term strategy in mind, particularly since unlike in Risk, there is no "turtling up" in Australia. All spheres have equal strategic and scoring value, though perhaps for different reasons.

Game Play:
While possible, the object of the game in SoI is not player elimination. The game revolves around color-coded "spheres of influence," superficially like the continent bonuses in Risk. In this regard, SoI could be considered somewhat more realistic in its depiction of geopolitical gamesmanship.

For example, the Middle Eastern sphere of influenc has -- yup! You guessed it! -- Oil. Their neighbors to the Northeast in Siberia have a considerable amount of industrial production potential. A large part of the game's strategy is balancing these concepts. If you find yourself lagging in industrial production potential, you'll have fewer units to use than your opponents. If you have less oil, you may have superior numbers, but fewer turns per round with which to use them.

With smaller games involving 2-3 players, industrial production and oil are tracked separately for each faction, as are controlled spheres. The number of factions in a game will determine how many rounds are played, and the faction with the most spheres controlled at the end of the game wins.

The combat system works to mitigate the vagaries of RNG somewhat. Land-to-water, water-to-land, and land-to-land combat will each give a defender a varying degree of an edge to reflect inherent defensive advantages, but there are points of interest on the map that allow card draws to swing the tide of battle in ways not otherwise possible.


Final Thoughts:
Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower network lauded SoI as a "Risk killer." The curmudgeonly old man-gamer in me has a really hard time parting with my collection of Risk variants (I currently own Godstorm, 2010, and three printings of the original spanning over 20 years), but I can totally understand Tom's excitement.

If you have fond memories of Risk as I do, SoI is a refreshing change of pace. If you were the guy who seemed to always get picked on, who could never get the dice to fall your way, there's a pretty good chance that SoI has addressed the things about Risk that irritate you.

SoI is one game that is fairly easy to post-mortem. Every decision is consequential, and even in a loss, it's fun for me to go back and figure out just where things went south.

Overall, I highly recommend SoI. More information including a PDF of the game's rulebook is available at http://www.littlenukegames.com
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Andrew Prizzi
United States
West Newton
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Thanks for a nice review. I've been on a the fence with this one for awhile.

What do TCG and RNG stand for?
 
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Gary G
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Nice review.

Total Risk killer on playtime alone though. I can get 10 people on a board and get game done in 2 and a half hours. Or everybody can sit and turtle on a Risk game for 4 hours and someone will eventually feel like rolling across whole map.
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This one pretty much killed risk for me. This is my go to game for getting people who normally just play risk/party games into the more specialist board game niche.
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K Septyn
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prizziap wrote:
Thanks for a nice review. I've been on a the fence with this one for awhile.

What do TCG and RNG stand for?


Trading Card Games and
Random Number Generation (dice)
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Ryan Kelly
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orabbi wrote:
This one pretty much killed risk for me. This is my go to game for getting people who normally just play risk/party games into the more specialist board game niche.


I haven't played the original Risk in a long time. Years really. I do prefer the variants such as 2210 and Godstorm but it can be hard to find other players for those as well. My reasoning for holding on to as many copies of Risk as I have is purely sentimental.
 
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Ryan Kelly
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Also worth noting:

I had seen a few people make mostly favorable comparisons of SoI vs Risk in the forums elsewhere. I thought that such comparisons would make good fodder for a review so here I am. :laugh:

I think most of the folks that have played both Risk (including its variants) and SoI seem to prefer SoI. A fine endorsement of the folks at Little Nuke Games.
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