Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Classic Game Reimagined Is Best As The Old Game With A New Layout: The Lord Of The Rings RISK!

The Good: Fun to play, Excellent for building strategy, Easy to learn, Did I mention fun?!
The Bad: Side game is less than thrilling
The Basics: With the The Lord Of The Rings fantasy setting, RISK takes on a more enjoyable game of world domination.

Once upon a time, some friends and I sat down and played the game RISK. It was then that I rediscovered how little I had changed from being a child. Remember your old report cards, from back in elementary school? From back in the earliest days of Kindergarten, mine had the box "Does Not Work and Play Well With Others." I was not a bully (that's the usual reason that box was checked), far from it, in fact. I was an isolationist child and I liked things my own way, in its own particular order. So, when playing RISK, I enjoyed the idea of world domination using my own strategies and ideas.

A few years back for the winter holidays, I purchased The Lord Of The Rings RISK, a reimagined game of world conquest set in the fictional Middle Earth setting. So, instead of defending countries like the United States of America and dividing up Russia, players strive to control the mythical realms of Gondor and Rohan, etc. The game is essentially played the same way.

To play RISK, you open the board which is a map of the world, in this case Middle Earth. Players then assemble armies, which are signified by pieces that have units of one squadron, three squadrons or five squadrons (in this case Elven Archers, Rohan Riders and Eagles for the two "good" teams, Orcs, Dark Riders, and Cave Trolls, for the forces of "evil") and they divide the territories up. Once the world is divided up, the armies move against one another with the goal being complete annihilation of your enemies through conquering their territories. That is done by battles which consist of rolling dice to determine the victors of each conflict.

The Lord Of The Rings RISK is a nice way for people who have seen the films a hundred times to have the chance to do something more active and more social. This is a great way to get together with some friends and have a good time imagining you (or they, depending on who is more skillful) can take over the world. The context of Middle Earth is an enjoyable way to shake things up again and also a nice way to avoid any sort of problems with national pride that might come with playing RISK set in our world (i.e. as you play, no one is likely to take it too personally when you start shouting epitaphs at the lone elf who manages to hold out in Lorien, whereas yelling anything remotely ugly about the people in Florida who just won't die so you can take over the North American continent may be taken with a thinner skin).

This is a game that last hours, like Monopoly, because the goal of it is to completely crush your opponent. If you have good friends, a lot of snacks and a healthy appetite for destruction, the hours will pass quickly. My friends and I have played for six and eight hours and not completed a single game. In fact, the eight hour game found us only able to knock one player out of the game (and that person went in the last ten minutes of those eight hours!). Seriously, the time does seem to fly as you develop a strategy and your opponents figure out your playing personality.

There is a lot to RISK that is not in the rules. For example, when I have a pesky situation where I have one opponent with armies in territories that are rapidly becoming mine, I tend to try to negotiate. For example, if the player had three territories within my country and I have killed off their armies in two of those territories, I often try to negotiate with them: they get to move their troops through my territory to their nearest adjacent territory, usually in exchange for some boon, like a promise not to attack their forces in some other region of the board. It's not in the rules, but it's not prohibited either. It depends on the group you're playing with. How cunning you are and the strategy you develop determines how likely you are to survive for long periods of time.

There is a great deal of room for amazing plays because so much can happen with the role of the dice. For example, one lone defender, with some amazing (improbable) luck, can fend off a whole legion of five armies or more. The game comes down to skill, but in the end, there is a great deal of probability that cannot be accounted for, which is what keeps the game fresh and different every time it is played.

The Lord Of The Rings edition also includes a side game, a way to play the game of attempting to dominate Middle Earth with more The Lord of the Rings mythology thrown in. It is essentially the same game as RISK, save that in addition to fighting for control of the world, there are generals, adventure cards, and a Fellowship that is attempting to destroy the One Ring. Essentially, the only difference is that the game goes 18 rounds (as the ring moves one territory closer to Mount Doom each round and there are 18 territories separating the starting and ending points) and there are a few variables that may turn the tide of the overall war. I found this derivation less enjoyable than the standard RISK game, but it was interesting for a change of pace.

Family friendly, though likely to take too long for a child to truly enjoy, Lord of the Rings RISK is a great game of world domination with a nice, fantasy twist. Every game turns out differently because it hinges on individual strategy and random chance from the dice. Perhaps if world leaders sat down and played this, they would find no need to go to real war.

For other toy and game reviews, please check out my reviews of:
The Return Of The King Eowyn action figure
Lost Shannon Rutherford action figure
Lady plush from Lady And The Tramp


For other toy reviews, please be sure to check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2004, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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