Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not Your Father's Risk

It's a "gateway game."

It's the game from whence all other strategy games derive.

It's Axis and Allies' dad.  It's Smallworld's grandpa.  It's Settlers of Catan's great uncle.

It's Risk.  And my oldest is finally old enough to play it. This was a momentous day. He's actually younger than what the box says the recommended age is, but Gamers know those recommendations to be lies.  The moment one of our offspring shows interest in a Big Game and the capacity to think even remotely strategically, we're busting-out dice.

Classic Throwdown
But we know it's delicate.  We can't scare them off right away with Axis and Allies; too young, and all they want to do is play with (and lose) all the airplanes and tanks and ships. But clearly, Monopoly is for weaklings and people who really don't enjoy gaming. It's not about easing them into it; for Gamers, it's all-in. It's about finding the right game that takes their mild interest in gaming and explodes it into weekend-long Diplomacy sessions over Christmas break. Risk is one of those perfect "gateway games."

Now: that's an older pic. That was taken well before Christmas, 2013.  But true to its "gateway" nature, Smitty Junior took one look at the next level of game, and insisted on jumping in.  No longer content with simple Risk (though we still play it and he's giving me runs for my money, which freaks me out), we've now entered a whole new world of complicating factors with:
Risk GodStorm.

With a third, neutral army, this contest is a confrontation between the Egyptian pantheon - unfortunately ousted from Egypt - and the Norse pantheon - unfortunately with Thule stricken by the loathed Plague marker.  Minor setbacks for Ra and Odin as they battle over 5 short epochs for control of humanity (I was surprised; I thought Ike would have picked the Greeks, and I was torn between the Norse and the Celts. Nobody GAF about the Babylonians).

This is the first time I've opened this game in 6 or 7 years, and Junior's first time ever.  I've made a few tactical mistakes, and that little bugger has taken advantage of them.  But like the title of the post says: this ain't your daddy's Risk. This version has twists and turns: gods can change the tide of a battle, and can bestow a number of enchanted artifacts and miracles. Just when the age-old Risk tactics seem to have your opponent on the ropes...BAM: the dead walk again, the living crumple to dust, sea lanes become impassable, just to name a few. And this kid? He gets it.  He sees when it's time to deploy a miracle.  Heck, he spread himself thin just to take a serious beating, which in turn put enough of his troops into the Underworld (on the left side of the game board with the colored blobs around it) that he commands it completely. Shrewd move, padawan.

In which I nearly lost to a kid under 10
But alas.  The game lasted every step of the 5 Epoch game - by points alone, it was a tie - but ultimately the Vikings prevailed over the Egyptians. Ra and Set, Osiris and Isis; that venerable quatrain were forced to kneel to the might of Odin's power, Loki's secrets and tricks, Freya's mystery...and Thor's hammer.

Better luck next time, bud.  And I'm sure "next time" isn't far off...