Most people of a certain age have a set of games that they played back in the day. On my list would be Monopoly, Life, Stratego, and Risk. These are the games I played with family or friends and enjoyed through college in a few cases. A few weeks ago one of the gaming regulars brought in a copy of Risk Legacy to gaming night. How would an updated classic fare in a room full of trendy eurogamers, deck builders, and wargamers? Pretty darn well!
As many may remember in a game of Risk you try and take over countries and expand your empire of tiny army tokens. Each turn you get more tokens depending on how many countries you control and usually after some time one player gets a gigantic pool of reinforcements and then conquers the board. Risk is fun but I remember that it could take a while to play and that once you start losing there isn't much to do but wait out the hours.
Risk Legacy takes the basic mechanics of Risk and adds some new twists. You play on a map of a parallel earth. You and the other players are colonists who have landed to populate the new world and each players has a faction with some special ability. At first the game is classic- the map is the same, you have tokens which behave in the same way, and one player eventually swamps the others and wins. The main difference at first is just that it's easier and faster to win.
After the first game Risk Legacy begins to really shine. The players get to add cities to the map with stickers. Then they get to add "biohazard" areas, forts, and other special markers. Each is done by applying a permanent sticker to the board. The factions then begin to acquire special abilities. Finally, when certain events occur you open sealed envelopes which contain new rules, stickers, and some wild surprises.
The result of all this is that as the players finish games they get to alter the game board and alter how the game is played. Some regions will get defended cities, some will get wastelands or worse. Each game adds one or two changes and the results end up balancing out well over time. Each continent ends up with some benefits and some hazards. Each faction gets some special abilities but no one faction begins to overshadow the others and because players trade factions there is pressure to make each one effective. From a gamer's point of view you get an evolving board which reflects the past battles but remains balanced and playable.
From a player's point of view you get an earth covered with cities and continents you can name yourself. You can use silly names, your own name, whatever you want. There are spaces on the board and stickers to write things and a log to rack who has won battles. We've settled Boca Raton, Cleveland, and Lameville. How fun is that?!
Finally, a single game of Risk Legacy can be over in less than an hour. We've gotten in two or three plays in a given night. The rules are well written and have answered every issue that a gang of competitive hard core gamers can come up with. We've battled and watched cities sprout up and opened secret envelopes with crazy surprises in them.
I've been very pleased with Risk Legacy. It's fast, fun, well playtested and balanced. It combines great design with good fun and it's simple. For any group of players who might enjoy Risk this game is highly recommended.