Following the recent rediscovery of Risk: Lord of the Rings, it predictably didn't take long before one day someone said we should play it again.
So, after a few phone calls and a quick scan through the simple, clear and concise rules (it is a game of Risk, afterall), it was time to get into it. A great way to use a mild and sunny late winter afternoon (hence the streaming sunlight and long shadows in the pic).
The game varies from the traditional risk in a few ways, besides obviously the map. Principally, there is a 'timer' on the game, with the Company of the Ring (represented by a gold ring on a stand) moving one territory per turn along its pre-determined path until it leaves the map via the dead marshes (that's when the game ends). In the photo here, the ring is in Gladden Fields, with two more territories to pass through. The ring might be delayed in certain locations (it's progress is delayed unless the player rolls a '3' on 1D6 in Moria, Lorien and the Dead Marshes). Additionally, there are certain 'adventure' cards which can make it tougher to advance the company also.
The addition of 'Adventure' cards is another significant change, with 'event', 'power' and 'mission' subcategories. Players draw one of these cards at the end of their turn if their leader has passed through a territory that has a 'site of power' in it. If an 'event' card (eg. wolves, snowstorm) it is played immediately. If it is a 'power card' (eg. 'knife in the back', 'wormtongue') a player keeps it for later use. If it is a 'mission' card a player will try and hold it until their leader reaches the territory named on the card, when they will be able to draw certain reinforcements.
Changes to the game that affect tactics are, most noticeably, the addition of 'leaders' (combat bonuses in attack and defence, can generate 'adventure' cards (see above)), rivers (can only be crossed at bridges), mountains (cannot be crossed), Fortresses (eg. Helms Deep, aids in defensive bonus for combat, worth victory points at the end of the game) and Ports (there are three coastal ports, connected by sea lanes, which effectively make them contiguous to each other despite the actual distance).
There are a few 'minor' changes to some of the classic Risk rules (eg. each turn a player can 'maneuver' one 'stack' or a leader from any one of one's territoritories to any other provided they are connected by other friendly controlled territories - unlike the original form of mass movement, allowable only into an adjacent territory).
In my opinion, the net result of these changes is a game which keeps the bloodthirsty cutthroat nature of Risk, but limits it in time and rewards good play a little better.
Today's game lasted about three hours. Shaun (red) won with 44 points, Adelaide Gamer (green) and Nancy (yellow) tied for second on 15 points, poor Paul got stuck in the badlands of Rhun, coming in on 3 points. I think that everyone enjoyed it. I know I did.
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