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What a bargain! What a steal! 5 reviews for the price of one! Act now, supplies are limited!

Growing up, when I had no idea it was possible to have fun shipping corn to Europe, I was a huge risk fan. Since then, I’ve been introduced to a larger world of gaming, and I’ve played little risk since. This review is sort of a blast from the past for me as I compare and contrast 5 versions of risk.

This review will include the following Risk incarnations:

Risk (referred to in this review as vanilla risk)
Risk 2210 A.D. (referred to as 2210)
Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition (referred to as LOTR)
Risk: Star Wars Original Trilogy Edition (referred to as SWOT)
Risk: Star Wars – The Clone Wars Edition (referred to as clones)

This review will be cross posted under each of the 5 games.

Now, let’s for it, shall we?


Theme:
Vanilla: Takes place on Napoleonic earth. All things being equal, there’s just something about TAKING OVER THE WORLD that is more fun than trading resources to build settlements. This game is the foundation for all Risk themes: war, battles, conquering, world domination, and military conflict.
2210: Earth is a very different place in this sci-fi themed risk. Players must TAKE OVER THE WORLD…and the moon. Just watch out for the martians. Not that there’s any martians at all I this game, it’s just a good idea to always be watching out for them.
LOTR: As the name would indicate, the theme is Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The design is taken more from the movie than the books. The risk engine is a good fit for the epic battles of the story. It always seems to work out that the biggest battles are between Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul. The story element of the fellowship sneaking around is minimally represented.
SWOT: This game features The Star Wars galactic events that occur in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. The empire, rebellion, and the Hutts vie for dominion over the galaxy.
Clones: The Star Wars galactic events that occur in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith are represented in this game. The separatists lead their droid armies against the republic’s clone troopers. Does a good job of representing Darth Sidious using war as a distraction until all of his plans are in place to execute order 66. In terms of accurately representing a theme, this one may be best.

Rank from best to weakest theme:
LOTR
SWOT
Clones
2210
Vanilla



Components:
Vanilla: Features nice little infantry, cavalry, and artillery miniatures, although they all function the same. It might be fun to try using the red and blue army pieces instead of influence markers in Twilight Struggle. The map is very simple, clear, and functional.
2210: Your armies are represented by miniatures of 3 different mechs. I gotta say, the mechs are pretty cool. More than any of the other versions, this one makes me want to pick of the pieces and start playing with them by themselves. Each player also gets 5 different Commander pieces. The map is the same as Vanilla but with some additions – underwater territories as well as a moon that needs to be conquered. The territories have clever new names, such as the “Amazon Desert”.
LOTR: The miniatures have wonderful sculpts. The large cave trolls and eagles really stand out. If you want your armies to look threatening, just swap out for cave trolls! Boy do they look intimidating! You also get orcs, elven archers, Nazgul on horses, Rohirrim, and a nice One Ring to Rule them All. This one definitely has the best map. Anything based on Tolkien’s map (even though the dimensions are distorted) gets extra points in my book. It’s very nice to look at. Also, it has more territories than any other map in this review. More territories and more regions means more options.
SWOT: The miniatures in this game are rather mediocre. The stormtroopers barely look like stormtroopers and aren’t distinct from the rebels. Ships are represented by cardboard tokens, which is a dull way to portray an X-wing. The exception is the hutt pieces. Those rancors are so darn cool. Haven’t you always wanted to command an army of rancors to TAKE OVER THE WORLD? I’ve swapped out a lot of the miniatures in this game in favor for some of my old star wars micro machines. That helps make it a little more fun. The map design is better looking than the clones map. It also provides some strategic options.
Clones: Like SWOT, it has mediocre miniatures. The battle droids and clones look nice, but they don’t scale well with the figures that are supposed to represent larger armies. The 1 army figure is much bigger than the 3 army figure. This game also has cardboard tokens to represent ships. The map is rather dull both visually and strategically.

Rank from best to weakest components:
LOTR
2210
SWOT
Vanilla
Clones


Strategic depth:

Vanilla: There’s not much strategic depth to vanilla risk. At first you need to decide which continent is the best to go for. Once you realize that it’s Australia, all you have to do is bash the leader, swallow up the weak, and make sacrifices to the 6 gods.
2210: This game has strategic depth far beyond vanilla. It provides choices in which type of territories to focus on: land, water, or moon. Each has its own advantages. In addition to managing your army resources, you also obtain “energy”. This is used to purchase cards, bid on turn order, etc.. Bidding on turn order can be very powerful. It’s a big advantage to go last on one round and first on the next round. It’s also important to strategize your energy use to prevent your opponents from doing this. This game also lets you build bases (which give defensive bonuses and moon access) and commanders (each with their own ability), which adds more options to the mix. Compared to vanilla, you’ll find yourself actually having to make decisions in order to win.
LOTR: As mentioned, the map is big. This means plenty of options to choose from. There are many regions that are worth going for. There’s also enough territories that it’s a viable strategy to not focus on whole regions but to simply have lots of territories to fuel your orc factory. More territories on the map means there are more armies being put out by each player per turn. This helps you manage a few unlucky die rolls. If you’re only getting 3-5 armies per turn like vanilla, two unlucky die rolls can wipe out your entire placement for the turn. But, if you’re getting 7-10 armies per turn, you can still survive an unlucky roll or two.
The leader pieces also add new strategic options. If you leave your leader sitting on a stronghold, you will have a very secure defensive position. But, without your leader out gallivanting around the sites of power on the board, you will not be drawing the special cards. In my experience, this one more than any others made me stop and think how to best crush my opponents and expand my territory.
SWOT: The nicest strategic element of this variant is that each of the 3 factions has its own victory conditions. The empire’s victory condition is to eliminate the rebellion. The rebel’s victory condition is to just kill the emperor. Each turn, the empire player places a token face down. It could be the emperor, or it could be just a run of the mill Imperial base. The empire player must choose wisely and bluff safely where he puts these tokens. The empire player also has the death star to control. If TAKING OVER THE WORLD is fun, than blowing up planets in the process just makes you want to cackle in evil laughter for an awkwardly long amount of time. Neither the rebel nor imperial player has hutts involved in its victory condition, but they must play wisely in order to not let the hutts get too far. The hutts need only to conquer 10 out of 13 special resource planets on the board. The mixture of all the victory conditions makes the game dynamic.
Clones: All of the strategy revolves around order 66. When called, all clone controlled planets are subject to a die roll to see if all units succumb to their orders to slay their Jedi commanders. The earlier this happens, the more likely the clones will be loyal to the Jedi. The later this happens, the more of a sure thing the clones will wipe them out, all of them. The clones player has the military advantage (he’ll usually be drawing a lot more cards) and must press his advantage early. By capturing separatist leaders, the player can get more cards and thus more clones. The Sith player needs only to live long enough and victory will be certain. The strategy is minimal. It’s pretty much crush swiftly if you play the clones, and buy time and defend the separatist leaders if you’re the droids.

Rank from best to weakest strategic depth:

LOTR
2210
SWOT
Clones
Vanilla


How The Game Ends:

Vanilla: The positive aspect of this game is that it ends authentically. Meaning, in a game where the object is to TAKE OVER THE WORLD, the game doesn’t end until someone TAKES OVER THE WORLD. This is its gift, and it is its curse. This is one of those games that often takes hours and hours and hours. I’m very supportive of games that take a long time, I’d just rather spend those hours a more mentally challenging game.
2210: Since risk takes much longer than most people are willing to invest in a board game, most of the variants have some sort of time limit built in. In 2210, everyone gets five turns, then add up victory points based on territories and regions. Thus, the person going last on the 5th turn has the advantage of pushing his mechs as far as they can go without fear of reprisal or having to take heed to defense. While this seems too simple of a way to end a game, there is a silent auction mechanic to determine play order. The craftiest player will save up his energy tokens to make sure he plays last.
LOTR: In this game, the fellowship of the ring moves one territory per turn until it reaches the fires of Orodruin. When this happens, the game ends and everyone counts victory points based on territories and regions. Like 2210, the player going last has the advantage. Unlike 2210, there is nothing that can be done about it, except holding onto cards that hurry up/slow down the fellowship when they are at mount doom. This often makes the winner the person who had the final turn. This can be a negative play experience if you played well the entire game, but got bested by some chump who spread out on the last turn, like butter scraped over too much bread.
SWOT: Each faction has its own victory condition. There is no artificial mechanic to end the game, it simply ends when that condition is met. Despite that, the game still only plays in about 2 hours.
Clones: Although Order 66 doesn’t end the game in and of itself, it does mean the end is near. After order 66, the emperor is revealed and is placed on a territory. The clones can win by conquering that territory. The game will end in 1 of 2 scenarios. If the clones are doing well militarily, it forces order 66 before the time is ripe. This leads to a poorly executed order 66, which puts the emperor on the table with and the republic player is usually powerful enough to kill him. The other scenario is if the emperor is able to call Order 66 when everything that has transpired has done so according to his design. Then, nearly all clone armies betray the Jedi and it only takes a turn for the last remnants of the Old Republic to be swept away.

Rank from best to weakest on how the game ends:

SWOT
Vanilla
2210
LOTR
Clones


Other info:
Play time:
Vanilla: 2,3,4,5 hours…
2210: 2-3 hours
LOTR: 3-4 hours
SWOT: 2 hours
Clones: 1.5 to 2 hours.

Number of players:
Vanilla: 2-6. Plays best with 3 or 4. Avoid playing with 2.
2210: 2-5. Plays best with 4.
LOTR: 2-4. Plays best with 3. 2 players isn’t great, although not terrible.
SWOT: 2-5. Plays best with 3 or 5 players. Odd numbered players are best because it means the hutts are active.
Clones: 2-4. Plays fine with 2, 3, or 4. Of all the variants, this one has the best playability as 2 player.



Rank overall:

LOTR
2210
SWOT
Clones
Vanilla


Bonus!
How much geek gold would you pay for 5 game reviews in one? Don’t answer now! Because wait, there’s more! Act now, and you’ll receive an entire paragraph about two other Risk variants! Having only played them once, I’m not able to give them a full review, but here’s my take on 2 other variants of risk:

Castle Risk: If you haven’t played it, don’t worry about it. Played it once and it didn’t seem that exciting. It’s been a long time since I tried it so I don’t remember a lot. I just remember the impression of not having tons of fun. The turn order is reversed – you place your armies out last.

Risk: Transformers – Cybertron Battle Edition: The interesting aspect on this game was that parts of the board itself transform. Certain territories can change and/or expand. This game was clearly intended for a 10 year old. It wasn’t able to do much for me. The rules were dumbed down to a 10 year old level, leaving some ambiguities and timing questions. Another game you can pass on.
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Phillip Aquino
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Re: LOTR Risk Compared & Contrasted to 4 Other Versions of R
Actually, I kind of like Castle Risk because of reversed army placement.

In the original risk, you are punished for conquering by having to spread out your forces.. if you don't utterly crush your enemy, you WILL be crushed for attempting to do so. But in Castle, you can attack and then bolster your forces where the battle didn't go so well. And the reversed placement gives you at least a little idea of what your enemies are going to do because they can only attack with what they have at the beginning of their turn. So attacks aren't as random (you still can get the massive reinforcement card drops, but at least the standard end of turn reinforcement lets everyone see what you might be setting up to do.)

Ultimately it's still the same game, but I personally found it to be a better game than regular risk. Better flushed out cards, castles!, secret armies, and the reversed army placement are what do it for me.

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Chris
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I'm willing to admit Castle Risk may be better than I made it out to be. I only played it once. Perhaps after more plays there would be more in the game to discover. With all the other games available to play, this one just never hit the table again after the first play.
 
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Ashton Sanders
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Re: LOTR Risk Compared & Contrasted to 4 Other Versions of R
Great Review,

Just a note about ending LOTR Risk (where it's last person gets the advantage). All you have to do is when the ring is about to fall into the fires of Mount Doom, instead of having to roll 4+ make it have to be a 6. That way, the ring can perch on the edge of destruction for a couple turns and no one knows who's going to have the last turn.

That way, the last turn suicide has only a 18% chance of winning instead of %50.

-Ashton
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Re: LOTR Risk Compared & Contrasted to 4 Other Versions of R
I played a lot of Castle Risk as a kid. Ultimately, I got turned off from the game because naval attacks were just too powerful. If I remember correctly, there was only 1 space on the board that wasn't reachable by water, and so the strategy was to load up a boat with reinforcements and go attack your enemy's castle as soon as possible. A friend of mine even took this strategy to a whole new level. He'd place all of his extra starting armies on 1 territory in the hopes that he'd be able to take a boat on the first turn of the game and conquer a castle. This strategy was a make or break affair, and regardless of the success or failure of the maneuver, it seriously screwed up the game.
 
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There are cosniderably more than only one space on the board not reachable by water. "Water attacks" are NOT any more powerful than any other attack; it just forces players to protect the castle and in principle any other coastal space on the board. [See also my Rish Greeklist.] It makes the game such that one cannot simply put all one's armies into a single juggernaut and sweep the board. This is what makes Castle Risk so different from the original.
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Not a bad review though I disagree on a couple of points-- especially about Castle Risk. I'd suggest you try it again and play it as its own game; the strategies are completely different from the original Risk. Likewise, I find in LOTR Risk that Good vs. Evil where points don't matter makes a MUCH more enjoyable game; plus it's then strictly succeed or fail and so there's no last rule annoyances. Finally, in my experience with the original, the power of holding Australia is grossly over-estimated although clearly it IS a good strategic position.
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I tried LOTR the other day with the game only ending on a roll of a 6. It worked pretty well. There was definitely no incentive to sprawl your territories beyond what you could defend. I had one of the cards that prevented the ring from moving and saved it for the last turn. An opponent rolled a 6, and I played the card to continue play. After playing the card, I took a closer look at the board and realized I was in a good position and should have let the game end. Fortunately, because no one had motivation to spread out unnaturally, I was able to maintain my lead and won by 10 VPs.
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Quote:
Finally, in my experience with the original, the power of holding Australia is grossly over-estimated although clearly it IS a good strategic position.


Australia certainly doesn't guarantee victory. In my group, when we used to play risk, Australia can even be a liability. Australia was so coveted that often there would be two players that would dump all of their starting armies in Australia, and let fate decide who will win it. Both players wanted to assure mutual annihilation. After this happened a few times, people would get wise and a third person would dump all of his armies in southern Asia, and would sweep up Australia after the dust settles.

That said, all things being equal, I agree with the consensus that it's the best continent to start the game off with.
 
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
Quote:
Finally, in my experience with the original, the power of holding Australia is grossly over-estimated although clearly it IS a good strategic position.


Australia certainly doesn't guarantee victory. In my group, when we used to play risk, Australia can even be a liability. Australia was so coveted that often there would be two players that would dump all of their starting armies in Australia, and let fate decide who will win it. Both players wanted to assure mutual annihilation. After this happened a few times, people would get wise and a third person would dump all of his armies in southern Asia, and would sweep up Australia after the dust settles.

That said, all things being equal, I agree with the consensus that it's the best continent to start the game off with.


Certainly Australia is the best continent to start with in that it is the most defensible; it has only one entry-path as opposed to at least two for all other continents. Even when it does not become hotly contested as it most often DOES in my experience as well, "most defensible" is by no means the same as "impenetrable". Besides, if the other players allow the player controlling either Siam or East Indies to build a functionally unstoppable force there, they frankly deserve to lose.

Many I have played Risk with play it FAR too conservatively and therefore will almost always lose to an aggressive player. One cannot and frankly must not give other players time to build up. When in doubt, attack, then attack and attack some more! In a good game of Risk, the front-lines between players shift back and forth like the opinions of candidates for prime minister in a political debate. Winning involves making the tide come in, no matter how the surf may wash back and front on the sand.
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:ninja: Do you know any page where i can get a printable version of the lotr risk??? I mean, board, territory and adventure cards. I have the first lotr risk and i really need the other half.
 
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
At first you need to decide which continent is the best to go for. Once you realize that it’s Australia, all you have to do is bash the leader, swallow up the weak, and make sacrifices to the 6 gods.


Woah-ho-ho... South America is far superior to Australia. Not only is it more incognito, but it prevents the weak boarders of Asia crippling you.
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Talking about strategies. My strategy ended up being to make it to the last 3. Family members were so worried about me winning they would team up against me and would preferentially wipe me out. My strategy was to hang out in Asia capture one country a turn, hold as many cards as possible in hand and wait until I could wipe someone altruistic of the board without suffering the same fate the next turn. By altruistic I mean a player who does personally very damaging things just to stop me winning. Once down to 3 it was game on.
 
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Nice review, althought I think that the best version of Risk is Fanaat.
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
This can be a negative play experience if you played well the entire game, but got bested by some chump who spread out on the last turn, like butter scraped over too much bread.


Brilliant.
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All of the re-imaginings of Risk would suit me better than the original, and you've pretty well summed up why. I tend to agree with your eventual conclusion of the LotR version as the best overall.

You didn't mention Risk: Godstorm? I've seen some fans advocate for it but I think it was a "Risk too far"...
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jrcatania wrote:
Yes. Very Good review.
What about Narnia Risk ?

Before he deleted all his content along with his account, Pat Hirtle gave a scathing description of Narnia Risk Junior which contended it was a broken game. He described playing it with his daughter or rather trying to and discovering that it was so random one could not plan who or where to attack. Unfortunately that's all the info I've been able to find and it's no longer here on BGG.
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