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Risk Legacy, Part One: The beginning

2013-03-06 21.31.15

The Idea

I love board games. I love beer. I’m not the only person with these interests, I knew, so from the inception of the idea for My Embeered Life I knew I wanted to feature games heavily.

I’ve wanted to play Risk Legacy for a while, but lacked the opportunity. It’s not the Risk you’ve all played: for one it doesn’t take three hours to play, but its main selling point is that it actually has a 15 game campaign wherein the world and rules change as you go. The 15th game will be far, far different from the first, and our game will not be the same as your game at the end.

Obviously this means you need to play it with the same group for all 15 games. My path was clear: assemble a group of four other beer lovers and go to war.

Dramatis Personae

Julia Burke

2013-03-06 20.25.42The Associate Editor for Buffalo Spree, Julia has been writing about beer for five years (not counting the “Ode to Pizza Plant” she wrote in ninth grade). Also known as the “NY Wine Wench,” Julia has written for the New York Cork Report and the Great Lakes Brewing News. She once baked us cookies.

Digits of pi memorized: 4

Dan Conley

2013-03-06 20.27.23Your handsome, intelligent, witty author. Excited to finally have an outlet for all of his dumb ideas. In trying to overcome his abuse of comma splices he seems to have delved into the world of sentence fragments.

Favorite Nicolas Cage movie: The Wicker Man, and I’ve only seen the highlight reel

Justin Frost

2013-03-06 20.24.59An avid homebrewer, Justin’s philosophy is that if it’s not Belgian it doesn’t matter. In addition to working in the draft beer dispensing field, he’s also an administrator of, guaranteeing that Dan will let him win because he spends too much time on the site to get banned.

Favorite logical fallacy: The appeal to probability (“There should be no math in Diplomacy”)

Matt Kahn

2013-03-06 20.24.22Matt currently spends his days as a biologist, which puts him on the life path of “probable future Spider Man villain.” To escape this fate, Matt and his business partner Corey Catalano have started Big Ditch Brewing Company, the next brewery set to open in Buffalo.

Best color with a name longer than eight letters: Periwinkle

Alex Placito

2013-03-06 20.23.54One half of the A.P.E.S. homebrewing duo, Alex’s tendrils have crept into every facet of the Buffalo beer scene. The current president of the Niagara Association and member of the Sultans of Swig, if you’re fermenting barley in the city he wants to know about it.

Song he’s most embarrassed to admit he likes: Anything by the Spin Doctors

The Beer

My idea for the evenings was to have everyone bring a beer that we share while playing. There would be a theme, or at least a style, for each night.

The initial theme was: “A beer you’d go to war for.”

In practice, it appears none of us are drunkards as we barely got through one person’s beer.

Alex: homebrew

Alex makes a good point: if he would go to war over any beer, shouldn’t it be his own? He brought bottles of three different beers he had made: a pale ale, a saison and a Flanders red.

2013-03-06 22.40.23They were all excellent (shortly after I met Alex his pale ale took the gold medal in the Amber Waves of Grain homebrewing competition), but the runaway favorite was the Flanders red, which was part of a group brew and barrel aging project that also included CBW’s Rudy and Ethan.

If he would like to go to war with that beer next game I certainly wouldn’t mind.

Matt: Lagunitas Sucks

We only opened one bottle of the six pack he brought, and it was at the end of the night so we didn’t get a chance to go into why he chose this beer.

We’ll start with it next game and go into it more then, but obviously it’s a great choice, and one I’d suspect most if not all of you have had.

The rest of us: beers of mystery

You’ll find out in two weeks!

The Game (1/15)

From the start there was plenty of the requisite trash talking.

Between initially just hanging out and talking beer, taking pictures (they’ve made a grave mistake, indulging my silliness) and doing the initial setup we only played one game. In the future my plan is to play two games per night, as they should take 30-90 minutes each.

The game’s rules are similar to the original game but tweaked slightly in a few ways that I really like. You still earn a card after defeating an enemy in a turn, but rather than drawing a random card you can choose from either one of four territory cards if you currently control it, or otherwise a generic one coin card. Each territory card is worth one or more coins, and coins can be spent (rather than sets turned in) to purchase more troops. We first added 15 coins to cards, making them more valuable and, therefore, more desirable to go to battle over.

Well, sort of. I added a second coin to Western Europe and nobody ever controlled it during the game. But there are 14 more games to play.

Another change is that, rather than spread out across every territory at the start, we each have a HQ that we place along with eight troops on one country. On the first few turns we all earn the base number of troops and expand into adjacent territories as though we were “capturing” them from nobody. I like this change.2013-02-21 17.21.16

I went first, choosing the offensive faction the Enclave of the Bear. Of the two initial abilities, I went with the one that lets me immediately destroy all enemy troops if I roll three dice and get an unmodified three of a kind (the one you don’t choose is ripped up). I placed my HQ in Western Australia (as you do) and expanded to control the entire continent.

Matt went with the mobility-focused Saharan Republic and chose the ability to allow his end-of-turn maneuvering of troops to be from any two countries, not only ones that are connected by friendly territories. He put his HQ into North Africa and took over the continent.

Alex chose the defensive Die Mechaniker and chose the ability to completely defend a territory for the rest of the turn if he rolls two unmodified 6s. He started in Argentina and expanded to control the continent, eyeing Matt’s HQ across the Atlantic. It was clear these two were going to either fight soon or have an uneasy truce.

Julia had two factions left to choose from and decided on the always-expanding Khan Industries. Her ability was to place one troop in each HQ she controls at the start of her turn. She started in Greenland and moved into North America.

Justin was left with Imperial Balkania, the faction that’s most rich in troops. The order we played in, and therefore the ability to pick factions, will change in each game, though the powers are permanent. He chose the ability to round up instead of down when dividing his population by three at the start of his turn, meaning controlling 10 territories will earn four troops instead of three. He started in Mongolia and began to spread through Asia.

I’ve seen The Princess Bride. I know you never get involved in a land war in Asia (I was also fairly certain none of my opponents were Sicilian). Justin could easily have trapped me in Australia, and a bloody war in India, Southeast Asia and China would have guaranteed we would both lose. I suggested a truce, which he agreed to: we leave each other alone and focus on Africa and Europe. There were collective groans: “It starts!”

2013-02-21 17.17.46

I have no idea what’s in these

Alex and Matt made no such truce, and on his turn Alex took over Matt’s HQ. This set Matt on a diaspora he would never recover from: as I invaded from the east he cut his losses and left Africa. He headed into Europe until Justin’s troops rolled over him on their way into Greenland. Justin put a “scar” on Greenland to help in his fight against Julia: Greenland now has a permanent -1 to the highest rolled defensive die, meaning Justin took Julia’s HQ only to find Matt’s entire army at his doorstep.

At this point, Alex was in a commanding lead: rather than need to defeat all other players, to win in Risk Legacy you need four victory points. A player who has never won a game starts with 1 VP, which this game was all of us. You also get one VP per HQ you control, meaning his occupation of Matt’s North Africa HQ put him one away from winning. All he had to do was turn in four cards for a VP and the game would be done.

With Matt out of the picture and me unwilling to get into a bloody African fight so close to the start of the game, it fell to Julia to stop Alex’s advances. He headed into Mexico but her mechs stopped him dead in his tracks, denying him the victory card multiple times. She had to deal with Justin and Matt coming in through Europe as well, which put her on the defensive.

And then there was me. I didn’t have to deal with Justin, and Julia was half a world away. Matt had given up on Africa, which meant Alex was my only real opponent. That is, until I realized that I had one starting VP, one for my HQ and four cards I could turn in for a third on my next turn. I had to take Alex out of the Middle East to reestablish a connection with my Asian troops, but at the end of my turn I pulled my bears out of Africa and back to Southeast Asia.

Justin immediately knew what was going to happen: only China, currently uncontrolled, stood between my army and his HQ. On his turn he reinforced Mongolia, but the Enclave of the Bear took his HQ and gave me the victory in our first game.

The Aftermath

At the end of each game the world changes.

For winning, I was able to found a major city. It gives +1 to defensive rolls and counts as an extra country when calculating troop reinforcement. I also got to name it, and on the suggestion of the others Western Australia now has the city Shady Conley. I chose my initial HQ because now only I can start there. Since HQs can’t be in adjacent countries, I’m now the only person who can start in Australia, assuming I can choose my HQ first. That doesn’t stop anyone from starting in Southeast Asia and moving southward, of course, which Justin was very clear he was intent on doing.

The other players, for not having been eliminated, could either add another coin to a territory card, as Matt did, or found a minor city, giving the +1 population bonus but not the defensive bonus or the starting ability. Alex founded “Burg” in North Africa, Julia “Wenchport” in Alberta and Justin “Conley’s Shame” in Mongolia, the site of his defeat.

2013-03-06 22.31.05

In Conclusion

Okay, right. Some people might say I broke my truce with Justin. I would reply that it had come to its natural conclusion. Truces only last in Risk until they don’t.

Will he have every right to come after me with great vengeance and furious anger? Of course. But I’m not the one who only left an empty country and two troops between me and an enemy army. So, like, when you think about it, I’m the real victim here.

I’m not going to win game 2. Or game 3. Maybe game 4 if I’m lucky. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a blast playing. More cities will be founded, more backs stabbed. Packets of new rules and scars will be opened, changing the game. I don’t know what’s in them, and I don’t want to. I want to find out as we rip them open.

Games 2 & 3 in two weeks.