NOTE: This review contains no spoilers.
Risk is probably the most well-known strategy board game going. Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve overstretched and tried to ‘take Asia’ or left Brazil weakly defended and seen your pan-American continental powerhouse come tumbling down in just one turn.
Risk: Legacy is a very different concept. In this version, you progress through time, gradually building and conquering your own Earth. You have to be careful, however, as decisions you make now will affect the board forever.
In this game, you’re not looking to take over the world. You’re creating a new one.
Brief Overview of Risk: Legacy
Risk: Legacy is the first of the Legacy games. The box is packed full of sealed envelopes containing new rules or events that you can only open at certain points in the campaign.
Instead of racing to take over the world, the objective is to capture other people’s HQs, making for shorter, more tactical campaigns.
Most notably, though, each game you play sees the board manipulated in several ways by the players, affecting every game that comes after it. You’ll get the chance to name the continents, found new cities, create strongholds and, ultimately, name your new Earth. Best of all, it’s permanent.
Unboxing Risk: Legacy
To get you in the mood for what’s to come, before even opening Risk: Legacy, you have to break a seal with the warning: “NOTE: what’s done can never be undone.”
Providing you’re happy with those terms, the first thing you’ll see on opening the box is a bunch of highly classified envelopes. Whatever you do at this point, no matter how intriguing they might be, DO NOT OPEN THEM. These are only to be cracked open, when instructed, throughout the game.
So please leave them alone (I will be watching you).
In the box, you should find:
- Single-unit pieces (5 colors)
- Three-unit pieces (5 colors)
- HQ pieces (5 colors)
- Game board
- Side board
- 5 faction cards
- 5 dice
- Red Star tokens
- Missile tokens
- Cards (Territory, Resource, Coin, Scar, Starting Power)
- Sticker sheet
- Sealed envelopes
I was really impressed with the presentation of the box. It comes in an espionage-style briefcase and is relatively well made. Right on the very top, you’ll see the underside of the game board. Straightaway, on the board itself, you and your teammates are asked to sign a declaration that you take responsibility for “all the wars that are started and the history that will be made.” No pressure.
Seasoned Risk players will notice the unit pieces are slightly different from usual. This time, each faction comes with their own specific pieces. I really like this element as it brings to life the various characteristics of each team and looks a lot cooler when out on the battlefield. Most of these will be single unit pieces, however, there are some larger ones that count for three.
How to Play Risk: Legacy
The core campaign of Risk: Legacy takes place over the course of 15 games. Throughout this process, players will get to shape and name the map, making other alterations, which have a lasting effect on each following game. At certain points, you’ll be instructed to open the sealed envelopes in the box, which contain new conditions or rules that must be followed.
The game mechanics work a lot like classic Risk – there are six continents, 42 territories, and the battles are won or lost depending on rolls of the dice. However, there are a few quirks, so I’ll walk you through how it’s played.
Unlike classic Risk, the aim of each game is to get four Red Stars. These are like victory points and can be acquired by either capturing other players’ HQs, or in exchange for four resource cards.
Setting up the First Game
Before doing anything else, you must choose a ‘Starting Power’ for each faction. Each faction only gets one, and it’s going to remain that way for the rest of time, so choose wisely! The other powers are to be DESTROYED (throw it away, set it on fire, feed it to the cat…).
You also get to dish out Coin Marks to 12 territories. You can choose to do this however you like, but bear in mind it makes these territories more valuable to control.
The First Turn of Each Game
Players roll a die and whoever got the highest gets to choose the faction they want to be. They will then also take eight starting units and an HQ and place them on any available territory.
Each other player then does the same in turn.
Turns work a lot like classic Risk:
1. Recruit troops
The amount of units you recruit is worked out by totaling up the number of territories you control and your population (cities in your territories make up your population), then dividing the total by three.
You can also get a continental bonus round of troops if you own an entire continent. Add one to this if you named the continent in a previous game.
2. Expand and attack
This is what it’s all about. Now’s your chance to either take unoccupied territories or attack your opponents’ territories. You can do this as many times as you like, even if you lose a battle.
3. Maneuver troops
At this point, you can move troops from a territory to any other connected territory (where there is a path through territories that are controlled by you).
Unless you have a power that says otherwise, you can only do so from one territory to one other territory.
4. End of turn
If you successfully conquered an opponent’s territory on your go, take one resource card. These can be exchanged for troops, or save up four to get a Red Star.
This works just the same as in classic Risk. To attack, take up to three units and move them into a connected territory. For each unit you take, roll an attack die. The defender, for each defending unit they want to use (up to two), should roll a defense die.
Then, line up each player’s dice in descending order. If your corresponding dice is higher than your opponents then their troop is defeated and removed from the territory. If there’s a tie, the defender wins.
You can continue attacking for as long as you like. If the defender has no troops left, then you take the territory.
Risk: Legacy has a number of new rules and features that mix things up nicely, such as Event and Mission cards, or Missiles and Special Faction Powers.
A notable addition is Scars. These are permanent conditions placed on territories that affect different aspects when in battle. For example, one of your territories may find that it’s been affected by an Ammo Shortage. It is possible that these can be overturned, but it adds a new dimension when planning your strategy.
Your First Game of Risk: Legacy
Customizing Territory Cards
When setting up Risk: Legacy, you’ll need to dish out 12 coins to different territories. It’s entirely up to you how you do this, but bear in mind it has a big impact on the value of those territories and its effect is permanent.
You can put up to three coins on one territory. If you do put three on one, it will become hotly sought after. Similarly, you could also choose to spread out the extra coins, or concentrate them in specific areas. This will alter how people use the map. So think about what kind of game you want to play.
Another option is to just do it at random! (This is what I chose.)
Stay Focused on the Points
Unlike traditional Risk, the aim is to collect four Red Stars. If you’re not used to the new game, it’s easy to get distracted playing your normal strategy and building up slowly. This is part of the game, for sure, but don’t get side-tracked or you may find you’ve let someone get away with an easy win.
Keep your HQ well defended and keep your eye on those Mission Cards!
Don’t Ruin it for Yourself
Part of the excitement of Risk: Legacy is the unknown. The envelopes may look enticing when you open the box, but leave them alone. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.
Keep It Legible
People have bad handwriting and sometimes, that’s fine. Mine, personally, looks like one long signature. But when it comes to writing the place names on the board, make sure people can read them. After all, you want your legacy to live on, don’t you?
Pros & Cons
- Your game will become unique to you
- Great innovation on a classic
- Can act like a standard risk board
The stand-out feature of Risk: Legacy is that no two worlds will ever be the same. The world you create is unique to your board. This comes down to everything from the specific powers you give to each faction and the distribution of your cities, through to the resources you give each territory card.
Most notably though, your board will have totally unique and personal names for the continents and cities you’ll be battling for. While this doesn’t have any material effect on the gameplay, it’s just damn cool. And it’ll be that way for eternity.
I was also really impressed with the new rules and mechanics introduced from the beginning and throughout the game. Risk is, of course, a brilliant strategy game in its own right. But the addition of the points system mixed things up well. The game has evolved to become shorter and now depends on more tactical maneuvers to win, rather than grand sweeping offensives to conquer all four corners of the world (one scenario where that idiom actually makes sense…).
Of course, this might not be to everyone’s taste. But, a big bonus is that the board can act perfectly well as a standard Risk game, too, should you fancy a classic showdown.
The ongoing revelations as you open new envelopes were also really exciting and helped give each game its own quirks and memories.
- Best with a regular group of players
- Your changes are permanent
There are a couple of drawbacks, however. Firstly, it’s most fun if you play each game with the same group of people. You can certainly play with different players, but the real delight of Risk: Legacy is the world that you create together. For many people, this will understandably be easier said than done – especially considering there are a total of 15 games to be played to complete it.
Also, remember that the changes you make to the game are permanent. Now, this is something I personally love about the game, but it’s not for everyone. You may find yourself a little frustrated with some people’s choice of city location, or, more likely, what they decided to call a territory. ‘Poo Land’ may have sounded clever at the time, but it can be a little disheartening several games down the line when it becomes the totemic stronghold of your crumbling empire.
Risk: Legacy is a brave but fantastically-implemented innovation on the classic Risk game. If you’re a band of imperial campaigners looking for something to take on over the course of several gaming sessions, then it will be an incredibly satisfying and entertaining experience.
You’ll get to name the continents, found new cities, create strongholds and, ultimately, name your new Earth. Best of all, it’s all permanent.
If you’re a band of imperial campaigners looking for something to take on over the course of several gaming sessions, then it will be an incredibly satisfying and entertaining experience. After all, how often do you get the chance to create your own world, and then battle to control it?
The secret documents and evolution of the game are really well done, and the new rules introduced as you progress will make sure to keep things especially interesting.
That said, if you’re unlikely to have the manpower or time to see it through to the end, it’s perhaps worth sticking to the original, as I don’t think you’ll be able to get the most out of it. Risk: Legacy is a big commitment!
If you have got a team together, though, start brainstorming names for countries now. You don’t want to panic and be stuck controlling ‘LOLville’ for eternity.
Have you tried Risk: Legacy? What did you think about it and/or legacy games in general? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Drop a comment below and take a stand.