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Subject: Risk: Balance of Power. Review rss

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Keith Pottage
United Kingdom
Nr Wakefield
West Yorkshire
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RISK:BALANCE OF POWER is the first game in the series to be designed specifically for 2 players. The game comes in a medium sized box, the board, playing pieces and cards are of good quality and you'll like the pastel shades used to colour the map. However there are a couple of odd things about the design. The box features a drawing of a medieval army armed with pikestaffs whereas the game, with two airfields, is set, presumably, in the 20th century. Also the good people of Denmark will be amazed to learn their homeland is regarded as being as mountainous as Norway and Switzerland.

The board shows a map of northern and central Europe; the Iberean peninsular and the Balkans don't feature. There are 30 territories, of which 11 are regarded as having rough terrain, (swamps or mountains). The territories are divided up into six regions, of between four to six territories each. Lines show where players may attack across the seas. In addition there are flat plastic arrows in red and blue to denote each players' armies, (and others in biege for the neutrals), various cards and tokens, three red and three blue dice, little grey pieces representing cities and seven rules cards in a folder. We were very impressed with the overall production, especially the well-illustrated rules which covered everything simply and clearly.

The game comes with a basic version and an advanced Command Room version. Between them they consist of a mixture of the original Risk rules, various elements that have been tried in other versions, and some new ideas.

In the BASIC VERSION each player places his 27 units (referred to somewhat inaccurately as troops), his capital, the cities and neutral units on the board according to one of the four set-up maps. Eight of the twelve objective tokens are chosen and laid out for both to see and the game begins. It is pretty much as you would expect. Each turn you draw troops according to various rules. You add up the territories you occupy, counting any with a city as being worth two. Then divide this number by three, ignore any remainder, and collect that number of troops...though always claiming at least three. You then also get an extra one for each of the two capitals you own. In addition you get bonus troops if you occupy every territory in a region and for handing in cards. You can take one of these cards at the end of your turn provided you have taken over at least one of your opponent's territories and not fulfilled one of the objectives. Each card shows a territory on the board (not used in the basic version of the game) and either one or two stars. When you hand in the cards you claim extra troops...the more stars, the more troops.

Then you allocate your troops to your territories and begin attacking. If you attack a territory containing neutral units your oppnent plays for them. Attacking is by the tradition Risk rules. You must keep at least one unit out of the action, then attack with as many others as you wish. You roll up to a maximum of three dice, the defender up to two, each depending on the number of units the commit to the fight. The highest of your die results is compared to the highest of your opponent's and the one with the lowest loses a unit. Ties are won by the defender. Then the next highest rolls are compared. The attacker can continue until either he wins and moves troops into the conquered territory, or gives up due to stout defending. An attack into rough territory means the attacker can only use a maximum of two dice. (I've often thought this rule should also be applied to attacks across the sea, in this game between the UK and Norway for instance, but the designer obviously disagrees).

If, on your turn, you complete at least one of the eight objectives you take the token for ONE of them and keep it. These usually require occupying a certain group of territories linked by, say, being a coloured region, by nature of their terrain type or by having various symbols on them on the board. Once obtained you cannot lose your objective token even if you then, for example, later lose the territories that enabled you to claim it originally. The first player to obtain three objective tokens and keep control of their capital wins. Or you can win by eliminating all your opponent's troops.

Time has demonstrated just how solid the basic Risk system is. It moves quickly, has only a small element of luck as the die rolls tend to even out, and the board changes reasonably quickly, (though not too quickly). How the games pan out depends enormously on which of the four set-up maps you use. The first spreads both players' units all over the board, which means the game soon features battles all over Europe and brings in every element the game has to offer. The second places both players' troops in Eastern Europe, which results in lots of face-to-face action, very little expansion westwards and usually a victory by player elimination. Set-up three has each players' 27 units spread evenly over nine territories on opposite sides of the board. Between them every territory has five neutral units, a buffer zone that leads to very little face-to-face conflict and virtually no cards being claimed. The fourth set-up map places one army in the British Isles, the other in Poland and the Baltic states.

The COMMAND ROOM version has three additions to these rules. (1) In the set-up nine territory cards are drawn at random and a city placed on each. Then one player places ALL the troops (27 for each player and 60 for the neutrals) on the board, with at least one in each territory and only the neutrals in those with cities. Then the other player selects the side he wishes to play. Not wholly original, but new for Risk and rather neat. It's also quicker than it sounds. (2) When neutral units are eliminated they are placed on a card, which has ten spaces numbered from 12 down to 3. They are placed, one per space, starting at 12. Then, at the start of the next player's turn, he rolls two dice. If he rolls a number that one of the neutral units is resting on, he claims half the units and can place them on any territories on the board that neutrals occupy. This rule is optional and, though we play it, we never find it affects play very much. The same cannot be said for number (3) Here both players, whenever they lose troops, place them on another chart with twelve spaces. Then, at the start of his turn, he can remove some, or all, of them and claim various advantages before he plays. These range from rerolling a die with a 1 when attacking a site (which "costs" you two of your defeated troops) to building an airfield (which costs you ten) which allows you to add a one to your highest die roll in every battle, whether attacking or defending, in that territory or any adjacent ones. This third elemnent of the COMMAND ROOM version works well. It gives you more choices and encourages you, rather callously perhaps, to keep attacking...because even if you lose more troops you will then have more to spend on the various advantages at the start of your next turn.

Depending on the version you play, which set-up map you use in the basic version, and the objectives you draw, game length can vary quite a lot, from 20 to 90 minutes.

RISK:BALANCE OF POWER is a very good addition to the Risk series and one the designer, Rob Daviau, can be proud of. The two versions, various set-ups and different objectives mean a lot of replayability, and being for two players it could have considerably more appeal than other versions which only play at their best with four or five players. It deserves to be a success, and we think it will be.




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Mark Chaplin
United Kingdom
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Thanks for posting a summary of play. Did you enjoy the game? How many times have you played? Do you prefer it to classic Risk?

When we played it, we were really surprised by how strong an opponent the neutral player is now. Before, she was merely a speed bump. Not any more. In some situations she was tougher to beat than my mate Jonathan.



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Keith Pottage
United Kingdom
Nr Wakefield
West Yorkshire
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We've played the game eight times, four with the basic version (once per set-up map) and four with the Command Room version. We've enjoyed each game, though two of the basic games, set-up maps 2 and 3, were over very quickly.

I agree with you about the neutrals usually being tough opponents. Certainly neither of us has got close to claiming the objective token for eliminating them. It's important that to claim the token you have to eliminate the final neutral unit, even though your opponent may have done most of the work. This could lead to some tricky tactics when they've only a few units left. Also it could mean using the Command Room rule, where neutral units can be put back on the board, more often.

It's quite a while since I played Classic Risk, though I'm sure I'd still enjoy it. But I'd have no hesitation in recommended someone buy both because of the differing number of players. And considering the low opinion I usually have of most expansions and "series" games in this hobby, that's saying something.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading what other players think about it.
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Soren Vejrum
United Kingdom
Richmond
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keithpottage wrote:
Also the good people of Denmark will be amazed to learn their homeland is regarded as being as mountainous as Norway and Switzerland.


Denmark IS as mountainous as Norway and Switzerland. There is Himmelbjerget (The Sky Mountain) towering a massive 147 meters above sea level, and there is a number of other even higher (170+ meters) mountains, too.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himmelbjerget
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Gordon Adams
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I enjoyed reading your review,Keith.

My curiosity about this "variant" had me saying "NO, I will not buy another Risk ! ", but now....I think I will The reason ? It is a 2 player and it does seem rather more tactical than I had supposed it to be.

Kind regards.
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Get Funkadelic
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West Allis
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Thanks for the review Keith!

Can you help us yanks out? Do you know of the most inexpensive place that someone in the US might order the UK version from? From what Rob mentioned earlier, we'll have to wait a year to play this otherwise.

Any help would be most appreciated!
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Richard Watney
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one problem - if you don't concentrate, you will find yourself whistling the Dad's Army theme tune. incessantly.

other than that, the map features and predetermined setup make this much more interesting than vanilla risk, though i still can't fathom how particular countries suddenly developed land bridges...
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Keith Pottage
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Nr Wakefield
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Here are four games suppliers in the UK. I've used them all and find them very reliable. They are all stocking RISK:BALANCE OF POWER at the moment at reasonable prices, but you'll have to enquire as to how much it would cost to have them sent to you.

Enjoy the game.

http://www.shiregames.com
http://www.leisuregames.com
http://www.iguk.co.uk
http://www.boardgameguru.co.uk
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Get Funkadelic
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keithpottage wrote:
Here are four games suppliers in the UK. I've used them all and find them very reliable. They are all stocking RISK:BALANCE OF POWER at the moment at reasonable prices, but you'll have to enquire as to how much it would cost to have them sent to you.

Enjoy the game.

http://www.shiregames.com
http://www.leisuregames.com
http://www.iguk.co.uk
http://www.boardgameguru.co.uk


Thanks Keith!

I have one on the way from iguk
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Paul Nomikos
Canada
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Keith,

Many thanks for the rules. The Canadian version of the game is missing some of the rules (very critical rules I would say). Many thanks for describing them here.

Paul
 
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Thrylos wrote:
Many thanks for the rules. The Canadian version of the game is missing some of the rules (very critical rules I would say). Many thanks for describing them here.


I just saw this in Zellers last night. Very interested in picking it up. What rules are missing from the Canadian version?

Thanks,
Kevin
 
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Dvonn Yinsh
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The missing Canadian rules are posted in the Files section.
 
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Ah, right down there. Sorry, didn't see it. Thanks!
 
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Rob McArthur
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candoo wrote:
The missing Canadian rules are posted in the Files section.


Thanks for that! I was reading the rules and realized that nowhere did it actually say how to win?!?!? Seems the Canadian edition is also missing the 'Parts List' (which must be how they forgot the missing page )
 
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Cody Chance
Canada
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My only complaint (but it's a big one!) is that the maps the authors provide are VERY unbalanced. One team always has a much better chance of winning than the other. So, I created a couple of my own that work better.

Check them out at www.squidoo.com/risk-bop.

Hope you like them!
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Ferry Wanderer
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mysta02 wrote:
My only complaint (but it's a big one!) is that the maps the authors provide are VERY unbalanced. One team always has a much better chance of winning than the other. So, I created a couple of my own that work better.

Check them out at www.squidoo.com/risk-bop.

Hope you like them!

My thoughts exactly. Just played scenario 4. The red player can take a region easily in his first turn. From turn 2 on, the red player can then add 9 armies every turn, and blue has to work very hard to keep his 4 additional armies.
In our play, red won by defeating blue in probably 5 turns. We didn't even look at the objective cards.

This is the third time we play risk-bop, and each time we choose a different scenario. Almost every scenario has these strange kind of things. I don't know who tested those....
We promised ourselves never to play another pre-made-scenario from the card. But we will try yours, thanks.
 
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Joe Donnelly
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keithpottage wrote:
.

The COMMAND ROOM version has three additions to these rules. (1) In the set-up nine territory cards are drawn at random and a city placed on each. Then one player places ALL the troops (27 for each player and 60 for the neutrals) on the board, with at least one in each territory and only the neutrals in those with cities.


This is in error. The neutrals must be deployed in the four SITES, not necessarily the cities.
 
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Joe Donnelly
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mysta02 wrote:
My only complaint (but it's a big one!) is that the maps the authors provide are VERY unbalanced. One team always has a much better chance of winning than the other.


Absolutely right. In Training Map 3, Red sets up in control of the green region. Not only does that guarantee more armies than Blue has access to, but Red can claim an objective without having to lift a finger. Hard to believe these maps were ever tested.

Decent game overall, though, after one prints out the missing card (again: quality control, where art thou?) and uses the advanced set up procedure.
 
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Yard Ape
Canada
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Sunray11 wrote:
mysta02 wrote:
My only complaint (but it's a big one!) is that the maps the authors provide are VERY unbalanced. One team always has a much better chance of winning than the other.


Absolutely right. In Training Map 3, Red sets up in control of the green region. Not only does that guarantee more armies than Blue has access to, but Red can claim an objective without having to lift a finger. Hard to believe these maps were ever tested.



I'm not sure about this.

Scenarios one and two turned out well for us. After playing scenarios three and four we both believed that the three- and four-turn wins were the result of strategic error by the losing side.

Given the variables introduced by the neutrals and the special tactical powers we believe that scenarios three and four require at least two more plays each to determine whether they're broken.

Interestingly, we've had similar quick wins in the new multiplayer version, and again in each case there were obvious strategic possibilities for preventing them in retrospect.

I suspect a cognitive bias from Old Risk toward single front-line strength strategy. That doesn't ever work in Revised Risk.
 
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Andreas Dandoulakhs
Greece
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Hello Guys,

I have also the "Risk - Balance of Power (2008)" Greek Version.
I'd like to know,
if the troop components are the following :

10 (Blue, Red) Big Arrows
40 (Blue, Red) Small Arrows
68 (Green) Small Arrows

?
 
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