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Casual Saturdays: More Risky Talk – A Brief Discussion of Strategy September 6, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Other Random Stuff.
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I’m not going to pretend to be a RISK expert, but I have noticed a curious strategy among fellow RISK players. Anytime I mention RISK to someone new I meet, if they play it, their reaction is usually along the lines of: “Oh yeah! I love that game! I always go for Australia!” Now, Australia is a very good continent to own: it ensures two extra reinforcements every turn, and is extremely easily defendable because it has only one access point.

However, I’ve noticed that Australia is oftentimes not a good location for your “homeland.” (I’m using the word “homeland” to mean the area you first attempt to take over in the game, and then direct most attacks out from.) Yes, it provides plenty of defence, you can stay holed up there for a long time, and endure through much of the game if you can keep it. However, if you attempt to build Australia as your homeland, there is only one place to move your frontline attacks: into Asia.

Now Asia is huge, and grants seven bonus reinforcements. If you can take and keep Asia, you are probably going to dominate the game. However, most other players will stop what they are doing to ensure that another player does not take Asia for this very reason. I have seen games won where someone’s main goal is to take Asia, but these are rare, and often involve a good deal of luck. In order to move anywhere else on the board, you will have to get there through Asia, and therefore have to keep both your frontline and distant homeland well stocked with troops, and this can often be hard to do.

So, summing up, Australia’s best quality is also its worst: it’s isolated. However, in my opinion, there is a very similar continent which poses much less problems: South America.

South America, like Australia, gives two reinforcements, and is also easily defendable because it has only two access points. However, unlike Australia, from South America, you can easily move to any continent except Australia. South America is connected to North America and Africa. If you can successfully invade from Brazil to North Africa, then you are also connected to Europe. One further invasion (into either Egypt or East Africa) ensures your path to Asia. In other words, South America puts you only one or two territories away from every continent (once again, except Australia). From here, you can use almost any conquering strategy at your disposal.

To clarify, trying to own Australia is certainly not a bad thing. If you have the opportunity to take it, you’d be a fool to pass it up. However, it is not the best place to make as your homeland; rather, it should be more of a side-project. Now, you obviously can’t make South America your homeland in every game. The games that I’ve played involving two players fighting for the same homeland usually end up with one (or both) of those players dying off very quickly. It’s usually better to move away, than to waste a massive amount of troops on a cold war. But, in situations where I can make South America my homeland, I always take them.

Now as I said in the opening, I am no where near to being a RISK expert. But I’ve played my fair share of games. I’m not the world conqueror too often, but I’m rarely the first person to die either. So you may or may not want to take my advice with a grain of salt. This was mainly meant to be me wondering why everyone goes for Australia, when I’ve always thought South America seemed the better choice.

Well, what do you fellow RISK players think?

-LOTRKing

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Casual Saturdays: My Official Report on the New Edition of RISK August 30, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Other Random Stuff.
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For those who haven’t walked down the board game aisle of your local retail store lately, I’ve got some news for you: there’s a new edition of standard RISK. However, this time they didn’t just update the packaging, to those familiar with comic book terms, you might as well call this the “RISK Reboot.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, RISK 2.0 is here. So what’s different, and what’s the same? Is it still the same game, with only minor changes, or has it become something new altogether? Having played this new RISK thrice now, I hope to detail just this, and comment on which changes are good, and which are not so good.

Major changes:
How to Win
Objectives/Rewards
Capitals
Cities

Minor changes:
RISK Cards/Reinforcement Trade-Ins
Location names
Fortification
Troop pieces
Amount of Players

How to Win: RISK is no longer the game of global domination, but still remains a game of conquest and strategy. Instead of taking over the world to win, you must have control of your capital and accomplish three objectives. However, the rule booklet does contain rules for “an updated version of the classic game of global domination.” You simply maintain Objectives/Rewards, Capitals, and Cities, and just keep playing past the point when someone accomplishes three objectives, until someone conquers the entire map. Of course, RISK purists may simply wish to ignore these three new elements and can easily play “Old-School RISK” with this updated edition. Objective RISK does have two advantages: one, it takes significantly less time to play. So when you and a couple friends want to play RISK, but don’t have 5-7 hours to dedicate to a single game, this is the perfect solution. Two, it actually takes more strategy. Not only do you have to keep yourself defended and your frontline strong, but now you must also figure out ways to accomplish objectives before your opponents, while keeping them from doing so.

Objectives/Rewards: Recent editions of RISK have contained alternate rules for “Mission RISK,” and it is a similar concept here. At the beginning of the game, the objectives are shuffled, and then eight are placed face up on the board. This number is not restocked as the game goes on, so the number of possible achievable objectives diminishes as the game continues. Rewards are also shuffled and placed with objectives at the beginning of the game.

Capitals: Those who have played RISK II (the computer game) may be familiar with the “Capital RISK” variant. Once again, the rules here are similar. At the beginning of the game, each player chooses one territory to serve as their capital. They cannot ever move their capital, so it is wise to pick an easily defendable position. (In other words, don’t stick it in the middle of Asia, unless you plan on losing.) As mentioned earlier, you have to be in control of your capital to you win the game. If someone takes over your capital, you will eventually have to take it back. Even if you are playing the global domination variant, capitals are still important, as some of the objectives involve them. You also get one extra reinforcement each turn for every capital you control (including your own).

Cities: At the beginning of the game, fifteen territories are chosen at random, and a city is placed in each of these territories. When you get reinforcements, you count the amount of territories AND cities that you own, and divide this number by three to get your number of reinforcements. For example, if both John and Ben own twelve territories, and none of John’s territories have a city, while all of Ben’s territories have a city, then John will only get four reinforcements, while Ben will get eight.

RISK Cards/Reinforcement Trade-Ins: Instead of having an infantry, a cavalry, or an artillery on each, cards now have either one star or two. (There are more one-star cards than two-star.) Trading in a certain amount of stars will get you a certain amount of troops. You can now have more than five cards in your hand, but you can only turn in cards at the beginning of your turn (even if you kill one of your opponents) and cannot turn in more than ten stars at once. This, I in my opinion, is the perfect solution to the ascending trade-in/set trade-in problem. Those who thought that ascending trade-in amounts that granted up to sixty troops were too powerful will be pleased to learn that even ten stars only grants one thirty troops, and seeing as how most cards are one star, it will take a lot of “saving” to turn this in. Likewise, those who think getting a maximum of ten troops is too few should be appeased with the new trade-in system. Also, there are no more wild cards.

Location names: To those who have been worrying: don’t worry, the board still has forty two territories located in the same areas, with the same “adjacencies,” sea-line connections, etc. The ONLY thing that has changed on the board is the names of a few locations. Quebec is now Eastern Canada. Ukraine is now Russia. Congo is now Central Africa. And Siam is now Southeast Asia. These have all been done (likely) in the effort to “modernize” the game (which I will discuss later.)

Fortification: This isn’t really an update if you are familiar with the previous edition of RISK. At the end of your turn, you can fortify from any one territory that is “connected” to another. “Connected” is defined as owning every territory in between two territories. For example, if you own Eastern Australia, South Africa, and everywhere in between, you can move men from E. Australia to S. Africa. If an opponent takes the Middle East, and you don’t own any other “connectors” to East Africa, then the furthest west you can move is India.

Troop Pieces: This is yet another thing that will probably serve as an annoyance to “RISK purists,” the pieces are no longer infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Now, there are big arrows and small arrows. Small arrows count as one troop, big as three. At first, I thought this was ridiculous. What happens when you stockpile men in one location? First off, with objectives now taking precedence, it is quite unlikely that you will be stockpiling anywhere (except perhaps your capital). Second, because the pieces are much more compact than previous ones, you can fit much more into one territory. To those who are annoyed by this: remember, the pieces have changed frequently. Originally, they were just colored blocks. Then they became roman numerals identifying their quantity. Then they finally became the pieces we are familiar with. (I’ve actually played with all three versions too.) This is just the next step up the evolutionary ladder. The only time I could see this as being a problem is when you are playing Global Domination. In which case, you may need to start using an unused color if you gain too many men (I’ve had to do that in the “Old RISK” anyway), or you could say from the game start that big arrows are five troops (or whichever amount you choose). Once again, this is probably in attempt to modernize the game. Yes, I enjoyed the Napoleonic flavor of previous editions, but modern can be fun too. I’m neither upset nor excited by this shift in time-setting. I suppose it is all up to personal preference.

Amount of Players: RISK is now for 3-5 players, not 2-6. The board only comes with five troop sets, and no rules are included for “2-Player Neutral Army RISK.” I see this as an improvement. Six player games I’ve participated in rarely turn out to be fun, the board is much too crowded, and one or even two players lose very quickly because they are simply in other people’s way, so everyone stomps over them before they can even begin to set up an adequate frontline or home-front. Having only five troop sets ensures that this doesn’t happen. Likewise, two-player RISK with neutral armies takes way too long. (If you want to play with two players, play Lord of the Rings RISK which, in my opinion, is actually best to play with two. Four can be fun also, just NEVER play LOTR RISK with three players, trust me, it just doesn’t work.)

So there you have it, a fairly detailed description of similarities and differences between this new RISK, and the older editions. For the most part, I like the changes. However, if I could change one thing about this new RISK (or unchange I suppose, depending on how you look at it) I would include rules for the original Global Domination, no Objectives/Capitals/Cities, “Old School” RISK. Yes, I understand, and even approve of the updates they’ve made. But they can’t just overlook the original version that has existed for decades. Hopefully, when the release the next version, they’ll keep these new rules, and include the original rules, just for old times sake. So, knowing everything I know now, would I still have bought this new edition? Most definitely. But I’m also definitely keeping my older board, for those times when I and some friends DO have seven hours to kill, and are in the mood to take over the world.

-LOTRKing

08/08/08 – The Day the World Will Lose the Game! August 8, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Other Random Stuff.
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I lost the game! As declared by losethegame.com, 08/08/08 is the Day the World Will Lose the Game!

What is the game exactly? There are only three rules:

Rule 1: You are playing The Game.
Rule 2: Whenever you think about The Game, you lose.
Rule 3: Loss must be announced.

For variations and a brief history of the game, see my post from a while back.

Now that you’ve lost, tell all your friends! If you have facebook, you can join “I lost the game” group here, and you can become a part of Lose the Game Day 08/08/08 event here, as well as send invites to all your friends! (Or you could always just provide a link to my blog. 😉 )

On a managing note, there will be no review today because I’m out of stuff to review. Also, there will be no “Casual Saturday” tomorrow because I will be out of town. See you all on Monday!

I lost the game!

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: I Lost the Game June 21, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Other Random Stuff.
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WARNING: Today’s post will either cause extreme amusement or extreme annoyance; if you do not wish to risk being extremely annoyed, do not read today’s post.

Right, today I thought I’d take the time out of my life to make you waste some time in your life by teaching you what its players refer to as “The Game.” What is the game, you ask. The game is extremely simply simple, even a child could understand it, and has only three rules which must never be broken (or else you would then be dubbed a “cheater” and cause other players to distrust you in aspects of life beyond the game). The rules are:

1) You are playing the game.
2) Whenever you think about the game, you lose the game.
3) Loss must be announced.

The point of the game is to forget that it exists. There are several variations of the game, and variations of your own may be created, but the three core rules may never be changed. The most popular variation includes a “grace period” in which you cannot lose the game. For example, if I were to think about the game right now, and then say aloud “I lost the game,” I may have a grace period of ten minutes (or five or fifteen, I’ve even once heard of a group of people that played with thirty, but that is too long in my opinion) before I have to announce that I lost the game. This allows me ten minutes to get the game out of my head and stop thinking about it. Grace periods are often employed to prevent infinite losing, simply because if you think about the game and say “I lost the game,” you will likely think about the game again as you are saying it, and will then have to say it again, etc., etc. Another popular variation includes you being “safe” during the grace period if you hear a loss announced. For example, if you are in a room with seven other people who play the game, and one of them says “I lost the game,” rather than then having a chorus of six “I lost the game”s, the other six people would not have to say “I lost the game” unless another one thought about it at the end of the grace period.

No one knows exactly who invented the game, but it is often acknowledged that it originated somewhere at a British university. To give the Brits their proper respect, some believe that the game can only be won if the British Prime Minister announces on national television that he/she has lost the game. This would cause the winning of everyone in the world, but only for their regularly practiced grace period. There are others who say that whenever you are not thinking about the game (and therefore not losing) you are winning. I think this is rubbish. Just because you aren’t losing a game, doesn’t mean that you are winning (whoever thought that up has clearly never played Risk).

Of course, those who have read on this far may find this to being the silliest and most annoying crap they have ever heard. But think of the prank capabilities that come when others know the game. You could give them a glass of water in a paper cup with the words “the game” written on the inside bottom. You could send an email with the words “lose the game” embedded within. You could play a game of hangman in which the message is “lose the game.” Perhaps the most fun part of playing the game is figuring out how to make other people lose. Of course, performing any of these pranks requires you to announce that you lost the game before the person is around, and then accomplish the prank within the grace period.

Well, now that you know about the game, you must always abide by the three rules. You now know about the game, so you are therefore always playing it. Whenever you think about it, you will lose and must announce ASAP that you lost the game, failure to do so will make you a cheater and dishonest in the eyes of other players. But to ensure your enjoyment, teach your friends about the game, they will be eternally grateful! (Or angry, these emotions are sometimes hard to tell apart. 😉 ) Further information about the game can be found at losethegame.com

I lost the game! (Image how many times I had to say that aloud while typing this.)

-LOTRKing