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Posted on Dec 9, 2003 in Stuff We Like

Battlefields Revisited

By Shane Sohnle

Armchair General is proud to present Battlefields Revisited; an ongoing feature where we explore old gaming classics tied in with new units, rule sets and features. A sure-fire method to increase the replay value of your games, or generate some fresh interest in that old classic gathering dust on your bookshelf!

When made by the players and fans of computer and board games, these changes are often called game mods, or variants. They offer new twists on old favourites, and are great ways to extend the life of your entertainment dollar!I was recently in a conversation with another staff member, and was explaining the idea behind this series of articles I was working on. I mentioned that I doubted whether I’d ever played a board game without having to make changes to it to correct flaws, or improve the play balance. "If you aren’t modding, you probably aren’t playing!" was his response. And that sentiment seems to strike a chord with a lot of us!

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On that note, let’s take at look at today’s feature game.

RISK ? Originally published by Parker Brothers in 1959. 2 ? 6 players, ages 10 and up.

Almost all of us have whiled away many an evening with this addictive game; collecting cards, cashing sets, deploying armies, invading territories and backstabbing our friends!What more could a person ask for?Well, how about a few game mods to breathe new life into this venerable classic?

Nukes

There are several variations on this one. The common theme seems to be the two jokers in the deck, which are used to represent the nukes. I’ve played variants where you have to wait to cash a set using the joker and then you gain a nuke, which can be launched immediately, or saved for launching during any of your subsequent turns. (The nuke is represented by keeping the joker, face up, beside your box of unused armies. This prevents there ever being more than two nukes in existence at any given time). Other variants have you only needing to flip the single joker during your reinforcement phase (no set cashing required), and the nuke is immediately launched to start your turn.

The effects of a nuke can differ as well. Some variants have you able to completely empty a territory of all enemy armies, or all armies save one, or still others say only half the armies are destroyed. How about potential targets?Can it be any territory on the board?Or only territories that you are adjacent to?Part of the difference in these variants is your take on whether or not a territory can be empty. In traditional Risk rules, each territory must always have at least one army in it at all times.

Suggested Variant

I’ve played through all of the above variants many times over, and all of the possible combinations. Some were very fast paced and exciting, some bogged our games down to an unimaginable degree, and some were plain game wreckers. Everyone’s tastes and playing styles are somewhat different, so you’ll have to experiment to find which combination of this (and any other) mod will work best for you and your gaming circle. But based on experience, I can offer a suggestion of a good place to start.

My preferred method for employing nukes is to require the joker to be cashed in as part of a set, and then launched immediately. This can help build a little anticipation and angst among the players that hold the jokers, as you might want to time your set carefully so as to get the maximum value from your reinforcements, and there’s the consideration that there might not be any good targets of opportunity for your nuke when you finally do cash in!Also, the potential to be forced to use the joker to form a set when you didn’t want to (2 cannons, 2 soldiers, and the joker) can end up in a nuke that is primarily wasted, forcing you to launch when you’d really rather not. Nukes can be used against any territory on the board, and empty the location of all armies. The first player able to legally move an adjacent army into the territory can occupy it.

I try to avoid games where nukes can be held, as this radically alters the flow of the game. A player with nuke in hand, turn after turn, is less likely to be attacked by people that are desperately trying not to antagonize him; also that means that there is only 1 nuke in play for the rest of the players. And what if both nukes are held?Now the world is separated into haves, and have-nots. Not nearly as enjoyable!

Another factor to keep in mind is that the dynamics of the game itself change when nukes are involved. For example, you’ll not see people massing hordes of armies on their borders. Nuke bait!Reinforcements tend to be spread around more evenly, encouraging others to come and break their region bonus, but not to be likely to get much deeper into the country than that. In a more traditional game, when someone breaks through your border defences, the inner territories are generally quite weak, and are easily taken by the successful invader.

Navies

Let’s start by defining the sea zones.

There are 10; Western Arctic, Central Arctic, Eastern Arctic, NE Pacific, SE Pacific, NW Pacific, SW Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. You can travel off the east/west map edge to the other side of the board (NE Pacific – SW Pacific), but you cannot travel from the north/south edge to the other side of the board. The boundaries on the north/south edge have been shaded black to show that they are impassable. I have also shaded in the Mediterranean and the sea surrounding the various islands composing Greenland, as these are unplayable areas. For all intents and purposes, Greenland is a single, solid land mass, with nothing to be gained by sailing between the islands; and the Med is unplayable due to issues like control of the Suez Canal, Gibraltar, etc. (You can always incorporate these areas if you wish – simply ?mod’ this variant on your own!)

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