Risk: This Is How The World Ends

Ted’s Campaign

Sam wasn’t able to make a number of the games, so we had a lot of 4-player sessions. This changes the texture of the game immensely. The map has more space, so placement order isn’t as critical. This changes draft priority, and allows for later conflicts and more time to bolster one’s armies. It also keeps one more faction out of play, which prevents them from acquiring knock-out or missile powers, which effectively removes them from the game.

It’s a long list of “if this than that” and “what ifs” in Risk: Legacy. That is, I think, one of its major strong points; our world is unique, it developed as only our could. Ours is a story nobody else has.

Unfortunately that isn’t a happy story for everyone else it seems.

Game 11

Sam is able to make this one, which is kind of exciting. He’s low on missiles, and everyone underestimates him. I hope to get a large exchange of cards late and win the game with a single push. I wait just long enough for Sam to do a smaller push and wipe me out, claiming my considerable card stack. He wins next turn. It’s two victories for the guy who didn’t have any going into game 9, so it provides a bit of hope for the campaign.

Game 12!

Sometimes hope is just a word.

I won. It was another game of someone having a lock on their turn, but somebody sneaking in a moment earlier and taking the victory. It wasn’t guaranteed for me, a lot of rolls had to go my way. But as Ted has said, “if you have a 40% chance of winning with a course of action, it’s worth trying.” So I gambled, pushed across the board, and took enough bases to win. If anything, it continues to demonstrate how important it is to protect your base.

This is my 6th win, and it gives me a plurality. Games 13-15 will have no bearing on who wins the campaign, as nobody can match my 6. Ted says a couple things, boiling down to, “Congrats, even though it’s not a game about winning, but we’ll keep playing, because it’s still fun.” Imagine my dismay when I found out he didn’t really believe that.

See, I’m usually the first person to get to Ted’s, as my work lets out earlier than everyone else’s, plus I live closer. So we have time to chat about the game before it gets underway. And again I had to hear Ted talk about how un-fun the game has become, and how it’s (mostly) my fault. I felt bad about it the first time this was thrown at me around game 8. But I’ve done my best since then to play tough but fair, and not politick or twist the game around. I don’t need this again. At some point it needs to be said. There was terrible play early on, a bunch of people made bad decisions and fought the absolute wrong opponents, and Ted didn’t try hard enough. I may have done some early prodding, but I’m not the sole architect of the game being so busted.

Game 13

I win the draft and take Mutants, the only time I’ve played them. At this point most of the people in the table are anxious to crack open the final packet, the Capital City. We start with the appropriate mission (randomly I swear), and a territory card that works for it comes out a few turns in.

This is where it becomes obvious how busted the game is. Aaron has a great chance to take the territory needed to make the mission happen. However, my stack of missiles is enough to keep it protected, even when Ted (the one who owns it) is playing missiles to help Aaron take it. He’s rebuffed, and I take it my next turn, giving me two points. I lost my base earlier, but I’m able to take it my next turn, though with only 3 armies on it. So when I’m at 3 points I see Ted checking his options. At this point I feel compelled to say, “I know I shouldn’t say this, but you should really defend your base.” He does, sort of. He ups the army count from 4 to 7, though he has more he could use. So when my turn comes around, his is the most reasonable target to go for. Even after the Capital City battle, and even after I spend missiles to defend my base, I still have 1 to use against him. I’m able to swing a double loss into a double win with it, and I have more than enough strength to take the base and the win.

I feel crappy for doing it, and I apologize to the table. The campaign is called here, as nobody wants to watch something like that again.

Aftermath

So yes, the game got busted. I took some wins I shouldn’t have, obtained a stronghold, gained an advantage too difficult to overcome (with 3 other people; it would’ve been much different if Sam could’ve made it). But After mulling it all over again, I’m pretty sure that I’m done apologizing for this sort of thing. Ted said that games aren’t about winning, they’re about competition. Yeah, I get what he means, but it’s a game, moreover it’s Risk. Says it right on the box, above the word Legacy. It’s an Ameritrash classic which has always been about random swings, massive armies, and grinding everyone else at the table into dust. The fact that it has a 15-game meta framework does not change that core stylistic design. I agree that the game is somewhat broken, but sometimes the players are too.

I hate that I have to feel crappy all over again while I type this. I hate that I’m in a position where I have to apologize for playing my best. I hate that everyone thinks it’s the game that’s screwed up and not their own stupid shitty play. It’s Beyond Boardwalk all over again; a lot of new mechanics and cool choices, but the same game at its core, with hurt feelings and sour looks when you lose.

You know what? Fuck it. I won, I’m not going to feel shitty about it. Besides, the other campaign manages to be balanced, despite having similar issues.

It’s Risk. Says so right on the box.

Greg’s Campaign, Game 8

So, that stronghold I had in Australia in Ted’s game? Jess has one in South America here. It’s not as great, as it still has two entry points and her city is surrounded by ammo shortage scars, but it’s still nice to have a guaranteed quality starting location. The faction she gets has an “ignore ammo shortages when defending” bonus to it, so her setup is pretty good.

The factions here aren’t fully loaded with powers and scars, so it’ll be interesting to see how they develop. The Saharan Republic has a sweet one-two combination of being allowed to use their redeployment in any territory they control, and being able to reinforce to one unoccupied territory per turn. I use it to get around the nuclear fallout in Australia. It’s not a great bonus, but it keeps my base protected, as the mutants are on the other side of the map.

I get a nice set of cards, but I don’t get to use them. Jess manages to take a few quick cards, and when nobody expects it (and I’m in no position to stop her), she turns in cards, marches through two bases and 9 territories, and grabs 3 points in a turn. I believe her base was a critical component, not because of the continent bonus (which I don’t believe she ever held), but the unbeatable population amount which gave her some great events.

Aftermath

This gives her two wins. At 8 games, everyone has two wins, except for Greg who hasn’t gotten on the board yet. It’s odd for me, knowing what’s in the remaining packets, and seeing how the game could play out. It’s difficult to keep that knowledge from coloring my decisions. Still, this game is progressing much differently, with a completely different set of players, so I’m excited to see how this one ends.

WHERE WE STAND

Greg’s campaign

Winston: 2 Wins

Brandon: 2 Wins

Spooky: 2 Wins

Jess: 2 Win

Packets Open: Second Win, 9 Minor Cities, Player Elimination, 3 missiles

Ted’s Campaign (Called)

Brandon: 7 Wins

Ted: 1 Win

Aaron: 2 Win

Mark: 1 Win

Sam: 2 Win

Packets Open: Everything

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The time I told my girlfriend she could concede. Then she beat me.

As someone who plays games in a variety of settings, something that comes up often is the relationship between winning the game and having fun. While in a perfect world, everyone would have fun all the time when gaming, whether they won or not, sadly, reality sneaks in and finds you in a game you know you’ve lost but isn’t even halfway over yet.  I’ve been in a game of Dominion where my opponent had taken a path to drawing his entire deck each turn and in doing so, would make sure to attack me with multiple cards. Or the game of Race for the Galaxy where my opponent had multiple six cost developments working in tandem while I was still struggling to get my consume x2 VPs engine going. In either case, I see no issue with stopping a two player game when its clear who the victor is going to be.

Well, I’ve been on both sides of these games plenty of times and so in a game of Dominion recently where I was trouncing my girlfriend, G, I told her that she could concede if she wanted to. Here’s that story:

Game: Dominion

Cards: Transmute, Vineyard, Apothecary, Scrying Pool, Courtyard, MenagerieSteward, Coppersmith, Smithy, Fairgrounds

Pregame thoughts:

So there are three important things to notice about this set in my estimation:

  1. There are no split buys
  2. There are no split actions
  3. There are no five cost cards

These three things make me assume that it’ll be a generally boring game, especially since the steward allows you to clear out your estates and coppers fairly early on. Then it just becomes a race to golds and from there a race to five provinces right? The alchemy cards are relatively weak without any extra buys, which makes the cards I’d focus on be the Steward, Silver, Smithy, and Gold (in that order).

The Game Itself:

We both buy Stewards on our first turn, while I buy a Silver, she buys a Smithy. We both begin cleaning out our decks and while I buy almost nothing but currency, she buys, well, everything. A Potion here, a Menagerie or two there and suddenly I’m buying my first Provence while she has no Golds. I’ve had a couple of nice draws (turns where I had exactly 6 while she kept getting stuck at 5) and I’m buying my second Provence when she decides to grab a Transmute even though she Stewarded away two Estates already. In short: things look grim and she’s already mentioned more than once that she screwed this one up.

I don’t disagree. Instead as I buy my third Province I sheepishly tell her that she can concede if she wants to. She won’t hear it. We’re both a bit stubborn, but this is the sort of situation I worry about when trying to bring someone into gaming. If they weren’t a big boardgame person before and they have enough bad experiences, then they don’t want to play anymore. So even though G is mildly obsessed with Dominion, I worry about the 6-2 beatdown I feel is coming.

But it never comes. She hits the Transmute/Estate and then a Transmute/Vineyard. I start getting 5 instead of 6 and foolishly buy a Coppersmith rather than a Smithy (honestly, an incredibly dumb move that I have no real reasoning on what I was thinking. I think I had two hands of Gold, Silver, Copper, Copper, Provence in a row and rather than just grabbing the Gold I thought maybe I’d grab a Fairgrounds later). She buys her first Provence and her second Provence in consecutive turns. She buys her third on her next reshuffle. My Golds that had been paired together earlier in the game now made sure never to be in the same hand, and with my 1 Smithy and one courtyard I found myself getting a Duchy “just in case.” She’s meanwhile grabbed an Apothecary that hits three Coppers and Transmutes a Transmute into a Duchy. She buys a Fairgrounds for good measure but by the time I get my fourth Provence its too late, she has me by a Duchy and a Fairgrounds and I’m left trying to go back a few moves to see how on earth that just happened. Final score: G 31 – Josh 28

The Post Mortem:

I don’t have the suckerpunch feeling that might happen if this was in a tournament, but afterwards the general feeling I have is just confusion. How did that happen? G, meanwhile, is doing a little wiggle of a happy dance in triumph. Overconfidence can bite you, and that’s the only explanation I have. Rather than buying that third Provence, when things were looking so good, I should’ve bought another Gold. Rather than taking the Steward’s +$2 later on, I should’ve trashed the Estate and Copper in my hand to grab another Silver. Rather than seeing the mess of cards in G’s deck, I should’ve realized that those Menageries she bought early would be hitting a lot more often now that she had diversified.

Really though, its as simple as this, just because things look bad doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way, especially in a game like Dominion. And if you don’t mind a good beatdown every once in a while, you’ll steal a few victories that will leave your opponents scratching their heads.