Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Game of World DominationTM

Risk is an entertaining board game for many reasons. It combines elements of stratagy, luck, and a healthy does of psycoligy ("What are you attacking me for? Look, you have to kill him, or you're done! Don't come after me...I'll just kill you.") Risk also has alot of back-and-forth could seem someone is all but done for only to turn in his cards for 50 men and romp straight through his opponants. It is equally true of someone who seems to have the game in the bag, but his power only draws the attention of his enemies who all converge and run him over.

Back Story-- Depending on how you choose to look at it, Risk has either no back story at all, or one of the largest of any game I know. At first look I thought there was no back story at all... the game designers only present you with a map of the world and say "go conquer it". No reason why, no real time frame given (depending on the version being played the peices are often reminicent of the 19th Centuary) ...but overall there is no real plot line that you are continuing. Or is there? Thats when I thought that the back story is assuming a communal knowledge of world history. Because of the use of the map and the games tag line: The Game of World Domination, the backstory (one could chose to argue) is all of modern time. The way the game is designed sets-up (although never says explicitly) you are one of the worlds great generals trying to take of the globe. You are playing the part of a great conquerer comming somewhere after the Mongolian Invasion and before Bush.
Revealed Story-- There isn't any revealed story in Risk. What you see is what you get. Even in the computerized versions there are no plot twists or narration to the game play.

Performed Story-- From the very begining players take on roles as conquering generals. "I am so going to take Australia from you!" "Ha! But you can never take Africa... it's mine!" And the role playing only gets better as the game goes on. Players may not even intend on playing the roles, but the game forces you into it (the Core Mechanic of Risk is moving little army men on a map...real world generals move little army men on a map -- its hard to escape your role). The only exception I can think of is my mom and little sister. They are not world dominating generals, nor do they wish to be. I was foolish enough once to insist we all play a game, and because they really don't have any agressive tendances, or much of an interest in playing a game where you take over the world, they never really stepped inside the Magic Circle and accepted there roles as blood-thirsty crusaiders. Needless to say: it wasn't any fun at all. Infact, I think we stopped after only a few rounds.
Story of Play-- Any game of Risk will have many back-and-forths that make for alot of fun. Someone may start with Europe and part of Africa, but in their conquest to America someone from Asia comes and steals it away. But even more fun than that are the alliances and treacheries of a game. I can recall one game I played with two friends in high school. Because it was an odd number of players we decided no alliances should be made...but after a few rounds I began to notice a trend in the other to players game play, and when I caught them passing a peice of paper a hearty chase insued with some unintentional physical injuries being exchanged. It was a good game.

RISK 2210:
There many versions of risk and they often have a more developed back story since the premace is either not as self-explanitory or is perhaps based on a movie like the (rather lame) Lord of The Rings Risk. This is the blurb about Risk 2210 on the Hasbro site:
In the year 2210, the world is at war.
As the leader of a warring faction, you control the destiny of your people. On the Earth, in the great underwater domed cities beneath the oceans, in orbit, and even on the Moon, you must marshal your forces, send forth your troops, and hire the right commanders to crush your enemies. Build alliances if you dare, but be wary of whom you trust. Energy is the currency of the 23rd century; spend yours wisely and you just might conquer the world--and beyond.

I've never played this version, but it sounds fun. There are additional "territories" in the oceans and the moon is a seperate "continent". So basically they came up with a little back story to explain the map changes.
Has anyone played this version?


Blogger Jane said...

Hmmmm... as a Risk player more like your mom and your sister, I think you touch on an interesting issue here: the backstory of a game, and the roleplaying that emerges from (it in combination with the core mechanic), has a big impact on potential audience and can occasionally break down along gender lines. It's not that I don't like the play of Risk, per se, it's just that roleplaying generals and the goal of world domination don't quite do it for me. I could play the same game with a different story and goal pretty enthusiastically, I'm sure-- . Someone needs to make a less-testerone-aimed version of Risk, maybe one that could be played simultaneously with the traditonal Risk (a la the original version of Ironclad, Frank Lantz's two-games-in-one-place game I mentioned to you the other day.) and then we'd get to see roleplaying armies and roleplaying viral marketers or Mata Haris or whatever jockeying for power around the same table.

October 11, 2004 at 9:41 AM  

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