Reviewed by Herb Levy
RISK 2210 A.D. (Avalon Hill/Hasbro; $44.95)
One of the staples in the line of Parker Brothers games is Risk, the classic game of world conquest that first appeared in 1959. Now, following a path blazed by Monopoly (another Parker Brothers classic) which has inspired a load of games based upon itself, Risk serves as the inspiration for a new game of conquest. But now, world conquest includes the moon in this game of future history and outer space conflict: Risk 2210 A.D.
Risk 2210 A.D. is yet another one of those large boxed, beautifully produced games that is the norm for the line from the New Avalon Hill Game Company. There are two game boards (a mounted one for the Earth, a heavy cardboard one for the Moon), five sets of MOD (Machines of Destruction) armies as well as five sets of Commanders, sets of Command cards and Territory cards, energy chips, a variety of markers, dice and 14 pages of rules. This moderate complexity game is listed as for 3-5 players (although rules for 2 player games are provided) but plays best with 4 or 5 and takes at least two hours to play.
Game play is based on Risk (and, if you’re not familiar with it, rules for the classic game are included in the rulebook). In the classic game, you basically try to conquer the most territory/continents by deploying your armies and rolling dice. This variation adds more elements to play including energy (which is the game’s currency), the presence of Commanders and Command cards and water and moon areas that are targets for conquest. These additions give Risk 2210 A.D. its own, separate, identity.
To begin, players choose a color-coded army (green, blue, black, red or brown) consisting of anywhere from 25 to 35 MODs (depending on the number of players) and are bankrolled with three 1 point energy chips. The land Territory cards are shuffled and the first four are drawn. These drawn areas are considered “devastated” from previous fighting, are marked accordingly (with a counter) and become impassable areas for the entire game. Now, in turn, players place one MOD into any unoccupied (and “un-devastated”) land area until all have been claimed. Any remaining armies held by players are placed, three at a time, into any of their already claimed areas until all initial armies have been placed. Players also start with a Land Commander, a Diplomat Commander and one Space Station. (More on these units later.) These are placed into any of their own occupied territories. Now play begins.
To start each round (called a “year”), players make a secret bid using energy markers for turn order. High bidder chooses when he will go (first, last or somewhere in between). Next highest bidder chooses from the remaining options and so on. Ties are resolved via die roll. Spent energy markers are lost to the bank. Players follow the same basic procedure each turn.
First, a player charts (on the “Army Status Report”) the number of territories under his control (control defined as having a MOD or a Space Station placed there). The chart yields the number of new MODs recruited to your side AND the amount of energy you have earned to begin the turn. (Additional MODs and energy are won by controlling entire continents – similar to the original game.) These new forces begin the game in any territory already occupied by friendly forces. You can now hire (buy) Commanders and Command Cards.
Commanders are a new wrinkle to game play adding a layer of strategy. Commanders come in five “flavors”, each with a specialty of their own as well as the ability to allow the player to activate Commander Cards provided that the “matching” Commander is in play. The five are: Diplomat (aids in defense and more), Land (allows quick recruitment of new forces and uses an 8 sided die in combat and more), Naval (needed to send troops into water territories and more), Nuclear (able to attack ANY territory on the board and more) and Space (needed to attack on the moon and more). You can only purchase a Commander you do not already have in play. (All players have the potential of having all five types in play.) Each Commander costs 3 energy. When you have all five Commanders in place, you may now purchase Space Stations (at a cost of 5 energy each, up to a maximum of four stations).
On each turn, you can purchase up to four Command Cards for 1 energy each. These cards give players special actions that may be used to attack, defend, increase your score etc. but they are linked to certain Commanders. As mentioned, you MUST have the right Commander to activate the matching Command. The cards also have an “Activation” cost. Values range from 0 to 4 energy. If you don’t have enough energy, you cannot play the card even if you have the Commander. (Nine blank cards are provided so you can, if you so wish, create your own Commands.)
Now comes the core of the game: invasion! As in classic Risk, armies from adjacent territories may attack enemy territory. Attacking armies must consist of at least two units and attacks are done by rolling the dice. Attackers roll 1, 2 or 3 dice (at least one attacking unit more than the number of dice rolled); defenders roll a minimum of 1 die (2 dice if at least 2 two units occupy the defending territory). High numbers rolled on both sets of dice are compared. High roll defeats low roll at a cost of 1 unit per defeat. (For example, if the attacker throws 3 dice and rolls 6, 5, 3 and the defender rolls 2 dice and rolls 5, 4, the defender LOSES two units. Ties go to the defender.) Some Commanders allow the attacker to roll an 8-sided die, a distinct advantage. Areas with a Space Station DEFEND with an 8-sided die. As an additional incentive to be aggressive, a player able to attack and take over three territories in a turn earns a bonus of 1 energy AND 1 Command card! Once the battle is over, the player may move armies from one (and ONLY one) adjacent territory to another. Once all players have completed their turns, the year is over and the next year begins.
At the end of the fifth year, final scores are tallied. Players earn 1 point for each territory controlled whether on land, water or moon. Bonuses earned for controlling complete continents and colonies are added. Any cards not already played that give a bonus are played at this time too. The player with the highest score wins!
Risk 2210 A.D. is an interesting variation on a classic theme. Expanding the areas of conquest to the water and to the moon create new strategic choices tied to the use of Commanders who are required to launch water and lunar invasions. The use of Devastation markers help change the board configuration which can also lead to shifts in strategy. The use of Command Cards and their interaction with energy (in buying the cards and activating them) adds another intriguing layer to play. Of course, be prepared to roll those dice! This game demands lots of dice rolling and bad rolls can derail the most carefully prepared plans. In order to curb the never-ending problem of the original game, Risk 2210 A.D. abruptly ends after the fifth “year”. While this does make the game more manageable time-wise, it creates an imbalance. The player to go last in the final turn can “go for broke” and take chances he normally would never take if he knew his opposition would have a chance to get back at him. We suggest that at the end of the FOURTH year, each player, when starting his turn, roll a pair of six-sided dice. If a “7” is rolled, the game immediately ends! Otherwise, it continues. This may lengthen the game but it does cure that imbalance as a player cannot leave himself vulnerable since he knows that there is a good chance the game may continue. On the other hand, a roll of 7 does come up frequently enough to insure that the game will not go on “forever”.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but far too often, the flattery rings hollow. Not here. Risk 2210 A.D. is a pleasant surprise. Risk is a game of classic stature; Risk 2210 A.D. stands tall on its own. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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Winter 2002 GA Report Articles