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Subject: "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” rss

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Benjamin Maggi
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"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." Albert Einstein

"Table talk, including alliances, threats, coercion, whining, pleading, backstabbing, and other verbal tirades are not only allowed, but encouraged!" - Risk 2210 A.D. Official Rule Book.

Introduction

I am a RISK game fanatic. There, I said it up front. I am one of those guys who just likes simple war games that are decided on the roll of the dice and lady luck. I admit that the Risk franchise has gotten stretched a bit lately with games that sometimes feature pasted on themes ("Narnia"), are rushed in production at the expense of game play ("Lord of the Rings, non-trilogy edition"), or have strange rules which appear interesting at the onset but later prove to be empty ("Godstorm"), but several winners including "Lord of the Rings: Trilogy Edition," "Star Wars Trilogy Edition", and "Balance of Power" have tipped the scale of awesomeness the other way. However, the version that I get to play the most- and have others request the most- is "Risk: 2210 A.D."

Game Components

This game is beautifully produced. The game's boards and pieces really stood out. The main map features a well rendered, colorful board that is divided into the various continental regions that match the alignment of nearly ever version of Risk ever produced. There are additional regions on the "earth" board which represent underwater colonies and these are colored circles that are connected with thin lines. The only problem I have discovered is that the "around the world" connection lines are sometimes hard to spot between the water colonies. Many games have gone on where people didn't realize that Asia was connected to North America in more ways than the old Kamchatka-Alaska route. As such, I now make sure to point it out several times while explaining the game but not thereafter unless it wouldn't interfere with someone's strategy- if players forget about it, then pointing it out might be considered unfair coaching. There is also a moon board which is just as colorful and printed in a circle which is placed to the side of the main board.

I don't have many gripes with the game's boards but here are two minor problems that frequently come up on the forums: (1) my original "large box" version of the game has pretty thick cardstock but I have read that the more recent "small box" versions have much thinner cardboard. I have never seen the two next to each other so I cannot compare but my game has been played dozens of times without any wear or tear showing. If the thickness of the cardstock really is a legitimate concern then perhaps potential buyers should look for the large-box edition. (2) The board shows how much each continent and water colony is worth in terms of bonus energy and armies but the three values for the moon continents are printed separately on a "bonus army" chart. The makers couldn't cram everything on the main board but it would have been nice to consolidate all of the bonus indicators together. Regardless, if you control an entire region of the moon you should be pro-active enough to look at the separate chart to see how many bonus armies and energy you collect.

The pieces themselves are fabulous and follow in the tradition of many Risk games in that there are several molds for the armies themselves, which are known as "MODs" in the game but which I shall continue to refer to as armies for simplicity. There are three shapes representing armies with values of 1, 3, and 5, and during the game units can be consolidated or broken down into larger or smaller pieces to save space on the board. Despite having a large footprint there are few places on the board where units were actually cramped for space. This is partially due to the fact that the game only lasts for five turns and thus the accumulation of massive armies which occurs in traditional Risk doesn't usually occur here.

There are also commander figures which can be purchased during the game and which add special attack/defense abilities as well as open up options for purchasing command cards and exploring new areas of the board. The five sculpts are completely different: a land commander who has two guns pointed in different directions; a naval commander with a harpoon gun that reminds me of James Bond action sequences; a space commander that has wings sort of like an angel on steroids; a nuclear commander with one giant gun; and a diplomat that appears to be weaponless but behind his back is a gun! These commanders are finished in a silvery over-coating which makes them look pretty cool. The game has clearly come a long way from the original wooden cubes, roman numerals, and various pointed stars found in older games of Risk.

The game also gives out four space stations to each player, which are used as a gateway of sorts to reach the moon. They can be placed wherever as long as it is on land (why does everyone ask if they can put one in an underwater colony? I suspect it is the James Bond franchise at work) and players can attack from them directly to one of the three lunar colonies marked with a white circle. Once up on the moon, armies can go wherever they want. Unfortunately, without a special Command card they cannot attack back down to earth even through their space station. So, taking too many units up to space can leave them stranded. They are allowed to reinforce down at the end of the turn so that is one way to bring 'em home but in general if you plan to go to the moon you should consider it a life-time commitment. Also, there are only three places to "land" on the moon so if the first three players up defend them well then the moon is essentially closed. However, it doesn't matter as that usually means the earth and water colonies are open for business and in-fighting on the moon should take care of their exclusive club.

Space Stations can also be purchased for their D8 defense capability and used as guard towers, though this is both an expensive and dangerous proposition: if another player successfully takes over the territory with your space station it immediately becomes theirs. Which means that if you used it to guard your continent not only do they have a foot-hold in it but they also can use your (former) space station to defend themselves. Annoying, eh?

This game only supports five players instead of six, which is both a blessing and a curse. I have showed up to many parties and found myself odd-man-out in playing my own game but usually enjoyed watching it anyway. There are several different official expansions and unofficial variants on the web and on BGG and some allow for more players. Having never tried them myself I cannot fairly judge them but I like how there are only five supported players. Having six would really cause some aggressive battles resulting in player elimination, which doesn't normally occur in this game.

There are also some territory and command cards which are colorful and glossy. They even included some extra blank cards to be used for replacements or for writing your own text on, which is very cool but could lead to the potential problem of card identification if all the cards are evenly worn and dirty and a brand new shiny card pops up on the top of the deck. Though not the thickest cards I have ever seen (and the small box version may actually be worse) mine have lasted me through dozens of games. I have not ever thought of sleeving mine because new versions of the game are easily available and I think the parts are still available from the manufacturer. But, for those who are obsessive about sleeving this game might be a potential candidate for at least the command cards.

There are also a bunch of white and black D6 and D8 dice, but in my opinion not enough to go around. Do yourself a favor and pick up another half dozen of the first and a couple more of the second, and the game will go a bit faster. Finally, the rules are well written and list good examples which help for some situations that come up. However, a FAQ exists and a good player aid is available on BGG (http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/36837/player-aid-pdf ).

Playing the Game

Unlike many Risk games, this one does not revolve around the basic mechanic of player elimination and global dominance. Because it takes the regular Risk board and adds 14 new moon colonies and 13 underwater colonies, and at the same time shortens the game down to five turns total, it is nearly impossible to eliminate another player militarily. There are just too many areas for everyone to spread out in, and due to the requirement of having Naval and Space Commanders for reaching the underwater and moon colonies some players won't even be able to reach all of the board. Instead, the game revolves around the collection of victory points which are based on: (a) military conquest, (b) territory acquisition, and (c) colony influence cards (which act just like victory Points). Taking the most land and holding it is more important than killing other players. And, since no one person can do everything there are always options open to all players. Because of the additional connections between continents thanks to the naval colonies there is no "rush for Australia or South America" in this game. Thanks to the four random desolated territories that are drawn for each new game it is frequent that many places are cut off and dead ends in normally open countries are created. In sum, one strategy will not work for every player in every game. This freedom alone makes the game great in my opinion.

Setting up the game takes all of about five minutes, and involves separating the eight decks of cards (five types of command cards, three types of territory cards), randomly drawing the four nuclear devastation territories and placing the cardboard chits on them, and then having each player count out the number of armies they start with. Next, players randomly choose starting land areas in random turn order and then fill up their newly acquired lands with units. This last step, in my opinion, is not part of the "set up" but instead should reflect the calculated decision making process that will impact the entire game. In essence, when you start placing pieces the game has begun. Failure to appreciate that will hurt you later on. Trying to get an entire continent should be a goal but preventing others from doing the same and foreshadowing future expansion areas and weaknesses in your defenses must also be accounted for. Unfortunately, this step sometimes adds up to thirty minutes because players agonize over where to place guys.

There are five turns or "Years" and at the start of every year players bid for turn order using a blind auction with the caveat that all bid energy (money) is spent regardless of ties. So, bidding a lot but not getting your first choice is a bad move. Going first is usually a good thing as is going last, because each round's continental bonuses are awarded at the start of your next turn. A killer combination is to go last in one round and then first in the next round, which allows you to stretch yourself thin in the first and reap the benefits of it in the second. Just make sure you have enough money to bid and win the turn order for the second auction or you will be open to attack! Final score is calculated after the last player goes in the last round, so going first in Year 5 is usually a bad thing. Unfortunately, many players do not pick this up in their first game so I remind them of it while going over the rules.

Once turn order is decided, players at the beginning of their turns collect energy (money) and armies equal to the number of territories they control divided by three, plus any continent bonuses. These armies can be placed anywhere, and the money can be spent on a couple of different things. There is also an extra army placed on any space stations. Players can purchase new Commanders and Space Stations, purchase up to four total Command cards in any of the five types as long as they have the corresponding Commander in play, save money to be used to pay the cost for playing certain Command cards, save the money for future turn's usage, or save money to be used in next round's turn order auction. No matter how much money you have you will always discover that you need more.

Command cards are not new to the Risk franchise but the ones in this game are, in my opinion, especially deadly. I have played several versions of Risk where cards give you objectives to accomplish with subsequent rewards for success. While there are some of those types present here, most of the cards seem to me to either add additional units before or during battle (frequently to the surprise of other players) or most notably allow for the attack of other players without requiring the person playing the card to be present at the scene of the attack. Rockets and bombs raining from the sky are a possibility in this game, and the targeting of Commanders whose fate is dependent on the roll of a D8 happens every turn it seems. But, many Diplomat Command cards can be used to thwart this type of behavior so perhaps the designers put in a system of checks-and-balances. If you are the type of player that hates random cards then this is not for you.

Attacking each other is just like regular Risk except that Commanders always defend with a D8 if present at the battle and can add D8 attack bonuses if the area of combat involves their namesake (land commanders substitute a D8 roll if attacking to/from land, naval commanders do the same for any combat to/from water, space commanders... ). The careful placement and usage of commanders can thus swing the battle decisively. However, they must be protected as they are vulnerable to both cards and over-powered armies belonging to other players. Thankfully, they are also relatively cheap to purchase and are easy come, easy go. But, if you lose your commander you cannot play any corresponding command cards until you replace him, so beware!

The game continues for five turns and then the final score is calculated.

What I like About This Game:

1.) Experience: Usually this game leads to a great game experience. I am not talking about the concept where theme and production intersect into gaming nirvana- I never actually feel as though I am a space commander or a crazy military leader about to desolate another country by launching nuclear weapons at the push of a large, red, well marked button- but in general people laugh and have a great time playing this game. Even after a couple of hours. That cannot be said for all versions of Risk, or any type of game for that matter.

2.) Interactive: you cannot go through the game without running into other players (it is a "war-game", of course). The board isn't too cramped for five players and the many connecting routes allow for lots of options to attack (or be attacked by) others. Additionally, "turtling" or hiding in places like Australia or South America will not only fail in this game but also usually lead to the defensive player losing the game points wise. This game rewards the bold, if not the crazy.

3.) Light: this game isn't a brain burner nor does it have a thick rule manual. There is a clear end-game mechanism in place with the five turns and the last round's player order has a big impact on the total outcome. At no time during this game do we ever end up referring to the rules for advice or clarification, and though there is some downtime between turns it can be used to run to the kitchen for more pretzels without forcing the game to crash at a standstill. Though players are hesitant to roll for each other, and taking turns for one another is discouraged because of hidden cards which can impact the battle, this game goes fast- making it a great choice for kids or teenagers.

4.) Open: Players are not forced into what they must do to survive. Unlike some war games, they don't have to race for Australia, or build up infantry in Russia, or hold on until reinforcements arrive. True, there are some decisions that are best not made (don't try and take Asia on your first turn) but beyond that each person must make different chioces. Since players have hidden cards, even those with strong visible military advantages can never be positive of the outcomes of a battle until it is over.

5.) Elimination: unlike regular Risk, player elimination isn't generally a goal in this game and it realistically isn't even achievable. This is due to the large board and the short number of turns each player receives. Players are never left sitting around wondering what to do for the next few hours while the rest of their friends continue to fight on like in regular Risk.

What I Don't Like About This Game:

1.) Luck: Every game with dice has luck, and every game with hidden information has luck. Everyone is equally able to roll good or bad dice values and I don't buy any excuse that it alone can make a person lose. (See my review of A&A Pacific 1940, where dice did cause me to lose: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/495869/how-not-to-play-it). But, it is frustrating to build up a big army and get slaughtered by terrible die rolls. Even worse, to plan and build up a large army but have one or two surprise command cards chop 'em down or kill your leader is annoying. Still, the laughing and taunting that ensues happens frequently enough to smooth over the pain. At least that is my story.

2.) Number of players: this game doesn't play well with three. Unlike regular Risk where an even numbers of players can form unofficial alliances, here there is so much of the board to conquer that alliances can shift and change quickly. Turn order and the number of turns also have a lot of influence on alliances. But, if there are three players I have still seen two gang up on one. This doesn't usually result in the solo player's elimination but it does cause hurt feelings. With four or five, that doesn't happen with smart Risk players. (Though I did see at least one game where four players ganged up on one and ignored a "run away leader" until the last round and even then only because I kept pointing this out). You can play regular Risk using this board with two players and have a neutral "third" player... you know the one I mean... the one that when you have to attack seems to only roll sixes but when your opponent attacks seems to defend with "ones" like it bought them in bulk at the store. Arrr! But, I have only played Risk 2210 on this game board.

3.) Time: This is a long game, usually around 3 hours or more, and for new players there isn't a way to speed it up. For gamers this is fine, but for casual players or those who aren't into Risk games this can drag. Since cards are situational and the board changes in composition after each player's turn, sometimes advance planning cannot be done. And, due to hidden cards it is very difficult to fairly roll for another player when he is away from the table.

4.) Cards: Not only are the cards random in their powers and luck based, but having too many can really throw a game one way. If you find that your games usually have this problem then limit the number of cards that can be purchased each turn from four to three or restrict the number that can be played each turn. Or, limit each player to a hand limit. Personally, I think that they are critical to this game and if you don't like card-driven wargames then you should pick something else to play instead of trying to "fix" this one.

Conclusion:

I really like this game and it is in my opinion the best version of Risk out there. I prefer Risk: LOTR Trilogy edition more [see my review here: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/609594/a-quotpreciousquot-ga... ] but that is because LOTR doesn't seem to play like a Risk game as much as a strategy game. Risk 2210 leaves no doubt that deep down it is a Risk game. It is light, fun, random, easy for players to learn, has enough strategy to make people think before they rush into Africa with a ton of troops, and at about $25 new online it quite affordable. Any of the negatives I have found with this game are generally a function of the players, not the game itself, and with the right group of people this will really shine. I highly recommend it!
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nice review.
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Peaceful Gamin'
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You found our Geekbadge Overtext. Congratulations! :-)
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By the way, you would probably like this:
3D Risk
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Jordan Stewart
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Solid Review.

Benjamin Maggi wrote:
I am one of those guys who just likes simple war games that are decided on the roll of the dice and lady luck.


Looks like you don't currently own Nexus Ops. Have you heard of it and/or played it?
Seems like it would be right up your alley. If you haven't played I'd suggest tracking it down and trying it out.
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Ethan Van Vorst
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Great review! I thrifted this game last year for $5 (complete even!) and have been looking for a chance to play it. But I doubt I'll be able to get more than 2 to play it. :(
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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JordanZS wrote:
Solid Review.

Benjamin Maggi wrote:
I am one of those guys who just likes simple war games that are decided on the roll of the dice and lady luck.


Looks like you don't currently own Nexus Ops. Have you heard of it and/or played it?
Seems like it would be right up your alley. If you haven't played I'd suggest tracking it down and trying it out.
:)


I have played it and like it a lot. I am only willing to buy the neon colored "see through" edition, however, and as of yet haven't stumbled across a good deal for it.
 
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mar hawkman
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lol, both versions are quite good. If you buy the new one you can always get the old one later.
 
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