If you like games, odds are you've played Risk at least once. You might even be one of the elite few for whom the game became a lifestyle. (All those who dropped out of college to play Risk, raise your hands -- just kidding.)
With a game as venerable and beloved as Risk, it's only natural to be curious, or even just a little anxious, about what might have happened to it in the transition to Risk 2210 A.D.
The simple answer is -- it got even better! You don't need to take our word for that. Read the reviews yourself at
About Board Games
The Wargamer magazine
Westbank Gamers Review and
Thrasher's Wargames Page.
The biggest changes are things that give players a huge range of choices and strategic options that didn't exist in the earlier game. (That's probably part of the reason why so many players added their own house rules to spice things up. That, and the general desire of gamers to tinker with rules.)
Geographically, the map is nearly identical. It has the same 42 areas as before, but they have different names. Greenland, for example, is now the Exiled States of America. (It's obvious there's a story behind the board, a history that is invisible to the players; some day we'd like to get Rob Daviau to share the tale.) The only functional changes are the removal of two connections between continents to improve play and make Asia a little easier to defend. You can play old-style Risk on this map and feel right at home.
Much more significant is the addition of 13 underwater territories divided into five "colonies" (which work like continents -- control the whole colony and you receive a bonus). There's also the moon, too, on its own, separate map board, with 14 Lunar territories divided into three colonies. Typically, the moon is fairly easy to capture (once you build a space station and hire a space commander), but that means it's also hard to hang onto.
These new territories do more than just add further real estate to conquer. They create new avenues of movement and attack between continents. The great fortified lines of old Risk are gone. They aren't practical on this board because there are too many ways around them.
The map is changed in one other way, too, that makes each game different. Before any units are placed, four Devastation markers are positioned randomly on the board. Those four territories are nuclear wastelands where no units can go during the game. They can have a dramatic effect on the game's geography.
Instead of blocks, stars, numerals, or soldiers as in Risk, the Risk 2210 A.D. pieces are now battle robots, or MODs -- Machines of Destruction. They look different but they work exactly the same in the game.
One of the biggest changes is the addition of Commanders. They come in five flavors -- Land, Naval, Space, Nuclear, and Diplomat. Commanders fill a number of useful roles. Their most basic function is to act as super soldiers -- having a commander in a battle usually allows you to roll an 8-sided die rather than the typical 6-sider.
Two of the commanders also determine where your MODs can move and attack. To attack or move into sea territories you must have a Naval commander, and to send MODs to the Moon you must have a space commander.
But perhaps their most important function is that commanders allow you to use cards of various types. Which brings us to . . .
All of the previous changes have significant but small effects on the game. The addition of cards has a huge effect -- they change the strategies in broad sweeps rather than small adjustments. Clever card play can shift the balance of power rapidly.
The cards are divided into distinct decks following specific themes. Players can only buy four cards at a time, so deciding which decks to buy cards from is a key decision.
Like the new avenues of movement, cards open up the board by making no position impregnable, no attack a sure thing. With cards in use, the game is always fluid and positions are constantly shifting.
In the year 2210, energy is used essentially as currency. It's one more aspect of strategy to think about. You don't use it to buy units, but to buy (and sometimes play) cards, to bring commanders and space stations into play, and to bid for the most advantageous place in the turn order. The first turn of the game is a valuable commodity, as is the last turn of the game. Each round, players bid energy for the right to choose when they want to take their turns. Looking ahead is crucial -- spend too much energy this turn and you'll find yourself playing at a disadvantage next turn.
Of all the improvements in Risk 2210 A.D., the turn limit probably has the most sweeping effect on the game. The war lasts five turns. Whoever controls the most territory at the end of the fifth turn, wins. Seizing a continent and furiously sandbagging the borders is no longer a viable strategy.
With only five turns in which to conquer ground, every one of them is crucial. Players almost never get eliminated -- there's not enough time to beat them down to nothing, and there are cards and space stations to bolster their defenses.
This one change alone would have revolutionized the game. Combined with the other new rules -- cards, sea and lunar territories, commanders, and energy -- Risk 2210 A.D. becomes a significantly different, new, more challenging, and more interesting game.