When I was a teen-ager, I played tons of Risk. Many weekends a group of my buddies would descend upon my house and we'd battle away the weekend. I loved the game. It truly was my springboard to better, more sophisticated games. Once I discovered these more 'advanced' games, however, I really had no desire to revisit Risk.
When Avalon Hill announced they would be releasing Risk 2210 AD, an advanced version of the classic, I really had no interest and, truth be told, was a bit disappointed.
I wished they would put their efforts into something fresher. Still, I just knew I would have to at least try the game. I'm glad that I did.
Production Quality for Risk 2210 AD
First, let me comment on the outstanding production quality. I've said it before... no matter what you may think of the actual games themselves, Hasbro/AH has done an incredible job with the production of this new line of games.
Risk 2210 AD is no exception. The game is filled with gobs of detailed miniatures. The commander pieces even have a silver "dry brush" effect which is quite nice. Now, if they'd just take a bit of this cauldron of money and promote these games, they just might have a big hit on their hands.
Changes for Risk 2210 AD
The game uses the same basic mechanics as Risk, but adds just enough additional features and design twists to make it feel fresh and interesting. Here is an outline of the changes:
Map Changes for Risk 2210 AD
The actual layout of the main board is pretty much the same.
However, since the game is set in the future, the names of the territories have been changed. Gone are such memorable names as Kamchatka, Yakutsk, and Irkutsk. In their places we now have Pevek, Sakha, and Alden (perhaps named after Boardgame Geek guru Scott Alden!)
I understand the reason for changing the names (future world) and I'm sure I'll eventually get used to them, but I'm sure gonna miss those old, familiar territorial titles.
I also found a bit of subtle humor in the renaming of the Western United States as Continental Biospheres. Hey, with some doomsayers predicting that the West Coast will slide into the ocean in the future, at least they didn't do away with the territory all together!
The board for Risk 2210 AD renames some of the territories, including the Northwestern Oil Emirate (Alaska) and the Continental Biospheres (Western United States).
The other main change to the main map is the addition of sea territories. Now, it is possible to wage war at sea and to conquer sea areas. These sea areas are grouped into "colonies" (identical in practical terms to their land based "continents") and earn bonuses for the player who controls all of the territories in that colony.
Paths and Connections in Risk 2210 AD
Further, they do provide additional paths or connections between territories which were isolated from one another in the classic Risk. For instance, it is now possible to attack from Australia (renamed Aboriginal League) to Madagascar via two connected sea areas. This does open up the board a bit, but it is still very difficult to assault Australia or South America.
Humanity just has to be disturbed that, according to the Hill, war will spread from the Earth to the Moon in the not too distant future.
A separate, round board has been added to the game to represent the moon. Like the earth, the moon is divided into 'colonies' and territories. Grabbing complete control of colonies also earns bonus troops and energy for the controlling player.
Getting to the moon is a bit difficult, however, and requires the presence of a Space Commander. More on this later. Getting back from the moon, however, is apparently a bit trickier proposition for our 23rd-century scientists. The ultimate location of attacks from the moon back to the earth are determined by randomly drawing a card from the territory deck. I'm not sure what the rationale is behind this bit of randomness since, as far as I can tell, there is no control over this whatsoever.
Gone are the little blocks, triangles, stars and every other type of weird plastic or wood pieces which were used to represent troops.
In their place are very, very nice plastic miniatures... gobs of 'em. We may have big political issues with China, but we apparently love their miniatures!
In the future, battles will be fought by machines (robots) called, disturbingly, "Machines of Destruction", or "MODs" for short. These MODs are represented by three different types of really nice and detailed miniatures. The only difference is the number of basic troops these represent: 1, 3 or 5. There are more miniatures representing the five commanders (land, naval, diplomat, space and nuclear) and space stations.
One cannot quibble with the quality of the miniatures. They look cool. Plus, there are no color contrast problems such as what is present in History of the World. The five (yes, five ... the game is now only for 2 - 5 players) colors are mustard, black, green, red and blue.
The main board is sufficiently large and bears a futuristic appearance. It's still a bit bright for my tastes, but no where near offensive. The round lunar board is a bit small and is not mounted, being printed on a thicker cardboard stock. Still, it is functional. Finally, there is a nice sized score track wherein players keep a tally of the current number of territories they control, as well as the current turn.
These MODs still need human commanders to lead them. Thus, there are five different types of commanders (mentioned above), each with special powers and attributes. Each player begins the game with a diplomat and land commander. New commanders must be purchased using energy, which is earned in amounts equal to the number of MODs earned each turn.
Certain commanders are needed in order to initiate combat in certain areas. Naval commanders are required in order to invade into or out of sea areas, while space commanders are needed to invade the moon. These commanders need not be in the invasion territory, but the player must have them present somewhere on the board.
Aside from giving some added dice bonuses if involved in combat (rolling an 8-sided die as opposed to the standard 6-sided die), the main benefit of a commander is the ability to utilize command cards.
If a player has a particular commander in play, he may use some of his energy tokens to purchase command cards of the corresponding type, but only four per turn (a rule we overlooked in our first game).
These command cards grant a variety of special powers (adding extra MODs to territories, killing opponent's MODs, retreating, etc.), some of which can dramatically alter a battle or even the entire board. A few of the cards do require the expenditure of energy tokens in order to be utilized.
For better or worse, the acquisition and use of these cards is a major part of this new version of Risk. I can already see that some Risk purists will object to the introduction of these cards. They can shake up the game quite a bit and do add some randomness to the proceedings. Of course, the tons of dice rolling is still present, so who can seriously argue about randomness in the game?
Still, I rather enjoyed the presence of the cards as they gave you much more to plan and think about. Clever use of these cards will likely be rewarded and you derive a much greater sense of accomplishment from clever pay than what is derived from simply using the traditional "human wave" method of attacking which dominated the classic game.
As mentioned, players now earn energy tokens in addition to new troops (MODs). These are earned in amounts equal to the number of MODs you receive each turn, which is identical to the traditional method (number of territories divided by 3). Any bonuses for controlling continents and/or colonies earns extra MODs as well as energy.
As described above, energy tokens are used to purchase commanders (3 tokens) and Command cards (1 token each). They can also be used to purchase new space stations (5 energy tokens), which are needed in order to launch expeditions to the moon. Further, space stations also aid in the defense of a territory, allowing all troops located there to roll '8' sided dice. A player can only possess four space stations at any time during the game.
Finally, energy tokens are used to bid for turn order. I really like this addition to the game. At the beginning of each new turn, players participate in a closed-fist bid by placing a number of energy tokens into their hand and revealing them simultaneously. In order of most energy tokens bid to the least bid, players choose which position they wish to move during that turn.
I felt that moving first was a big advantage early in the game as it allowed you to conquer new territory. Your opponents then had to fight to re-conquer lost territory. Thus, even if you lost some of your newly acquired territory, you likely would still have more territory than you began with. Your opponents, however, had to fight just to get back to the number of territories with which they began the turn.
Managing your energy tokens is extremely important early in the game when energy tokens were scarce, but decreases somewhat in importance as the game progresses.
Why? Well, if you are successful in increasing your territorial possessions, then you are acquiring more and more energy tokens each turn. Soon, you will have an abundance of them, so you can pretty much purchase just about everything you want on a turn. If you are not doing so well territorial-wise, then energy can, indeed, be scarce, making the management of these tokens more important.
I see this as a potential rich-get-richer problem which did surface in our game, but since we misplayed the critical rule on Command cards (we mistakenly allowed players to purchase as many as they desired on a turn), I will reserve judgment until I've played further.
Devastation Markers: Four territories begin the game "devastated" from previous wars. These territories are determined randomly and are completely impassable. This can really shake-up the board layout and force players to alter attack strategies. There are command cards which allow for the placement of even more markers.
Unlike classic Risk, which can go on for hours and hours, days and days, Risk 2210 has a five-turn limit. That's it. You have five turns to acquire as much territory and continents/colonies as you can. At the end of five turns, points are tallied to determine the victor. Points are earned in the following manners:
- Territories you control: 1 point apiece
- Continents and Colonies you control: Bonus points per the chart (2 - 7)
- Command Cards: Certain cards give victory point bonuses if their criteria are met
Thus, the game discourages a conservative approach. With this severe time limit, you must be aggressive and attack. Sure, defend your borders and properly manage your Command cards, but attack, attack, attack.
I really enjoy the turn limit as it reduces the game to a much more acceptable three to four hour time duration. Many of our college Risk games would drag on all night. I'm just not eager to put that much time into a game of classic Risk as it is primarily a dice fest.
This new version, however, adds enough twists and strategy options in a much shorter time frame. That means it will likely be a regular visitor to our gaming table for the foreseeable future.
Bottom Line on Risk 2210 AD
If marketed properly, Risk 2210 AD could be a cross-over game for teenagers and those in their early 20s to German-style board gaming and wargames.