Sunday, April 25, 2010


As most of you already know, I am an avid boardgamer. In my experiences I have come across some terrific games along with some sub-par games, but very few can raise my ire as much as Risk. I am sure we are all at least somewhat familiar with this game and its basic premise of world conquest. For those of you who have actually played it, I am sure you are very aware of how deeply flawed it is. I used to play this game quite a bit back in the day, but have since grown leery of it. In fact I don't think I've so much as touched it in the past 7 years. Here are my memories and misgivings of this "classic" game.

So first off, nobody remembers exactly how we're supposed to divide up the territories, so every time we play it changes. Sometimes we just take turns placing units on the board, other times we just draw cards and trade them until everybody is happy with what they have. Whichever way we decide to divide it up, the outcome is always the same: we each have an entire continent to ourselves right off the bat pretty much, and I normally end up with Europe. We all take over what little we don't already control of our respective continents. North America and Africa then proceed to take over the poor sap stuck with South America, with the North invariably winning thanks to having more manpower. Australia just stockpiles everything they have in Indonesia, but it doesn't matter at all since Asia (who nobody bothered to stop from gaining control of Asia) is doing the same thing in Siam. Australia is knocked out and keeps South America company playing Halo. North America, forgetting that Kamchatka connects to Alaska decides that Europe is the biggest threat and turns its attention there. Africa, with little other option, does the same. Europe vainly attempts to defend Iceland while making forays into Africa and desperately trying to make an alliance with Asia who is just stockpiling, waiting for the dust to clear. Europe rage quits. North America and Africa realize that Asia controls half the board and has twice as many units. Its too late to do anything. Asia wins.

Aside from being repetitive, annoying, and boring, Risk has some serious flaws. The dice rolling mechanic, which pretty much defines the entire game, relies completely on luck and doesn't reward strategy so much as having a fuckton of units in the hope that they'll eventually win. That still doesn't always work as I've seen 5 defenders stave off an army of 50 attackers thanks to lucky rolls. Then there's the cards which give an increasing amount of units every time somebody plays them, the idea being that you should put off using them until the best moment. But there is a hand-limit of 5 cards. The result being whoever goes first has to play his cards first and receive the least benefit, and whoever goes last receives a ridiculously huge army. Later on in the game this mechanic tends to favor whoever is already winning, while the losers cry over how unfair the game is.

Risk is a great game for breaking friendships and terrible for forging new ones. It is incredibly anti-social. At first it seems good. People are making secret alliances, joking around, and generally not being antagonistic. But by turn two alliances have been broken, players are alternately sobbing, gloating, and swearing, and pieces are knocked over whenever an attack is successful or unsuccessful. Huge arguments ensue over whether a die roll is on a slant. People scream, punches are thrown, while others laugh until its their turn to lose half of their countries.

In conclusion: Risk is a terrible game that should not be played under any circumstances. The only game that may be worse is Monopoly, but that tends to end less in blood and more just sheer boredom. But that's for another review, so I'll leave it at that.

P.S. For more on Risk watch this hilarious episode of Undergrads.