Review: Risk Legacy

Risk Legacy is the greatest board game I’ve ever played.

COOL THANKS FOR READING BYE.

Nah, I’m gonna write something proper here. Because I think Risk Legacy is a game that everybody should play.

Spoiler Warning, maybe? It’s best played with absolutely no knowledge of what actually happens in the game. But I’ll just be talking about gameplay mechanics, etc. Just don’t look too closely at the photos if you’re worried about that kinda thing.

But what is Risk Legacy, anyway? Isn’t it just plain ol’ boring Risk? No.

Risk Legacy ain’t yo momma’s Risk. It’s an arduous campaign of death and destruction that demands your blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a game that you have to literally sign before you start, swearing that everything that happens from that point on is your own fault. It’s a game where your mistakes come back to haunt you forever. And it’s so much fun.

The basic idea is this: the classic territory-domination gameplay of Risk, but with ‘legacy’ elements. By ‘legacy’, we mean that the outcomes of previous games affect future ones. Found a city in a region in one game, and it’ll be there the next game. Ten games later that might the stronghold that everyone’s fighting for. Real choices with real consequences.

There’s personalisation elements: winning games gives you the option of naming cities and continents. And there’s destruction: cards are literally torn up and discarded. Permanently. The game chews you up and throws you out, but you’re also doing the same to the board. The resulting wine-stained, food-encrusted, scribble-laden board is a unique treasure.

Then there are the boxes. Every game should have boxes. These are sealed compartments within the game’s case, only opened once certain conditions are met. And their contents literally change the entire game. I remember one in particular had us all screaming for ages, and we never scream out loud. The only letdown with this element is that a few times we played in a way that would specifically lead to a box being opened, because we loved them so much, rather than them naturally occurring in the game. But it’s such a great concept I don’t even care.

With a campaign of 15 games to play, and a playtime of a couple of hours for each game, there’s hours of entertainment to be had with Risk Legacy. Alliances are formed, rivalries develop, and – most of all – memes are born. Oh my god, the memes. For instance, dice rolling is a large part of the combat, and we ended up using a massive Oreo tin as the arena for these rolls. Somehow it became known as “The Thunderdome” and I still call it that to this day. Or how we would all raise a glass and toast “to the game!” at random intervals.

There’s not much else to say about this game other than I wish I could erase it from my mind and play it all over again. The game works in such a way that you could keep on using your board for endless games after the campaign is officially done. But that feels somehow profane. Our completed board is a sacred thing, and shouldn’t be desecrated by ersatz imitations of previous battles. I proposed burying the board in the garden, but that wasn’t a popular idea.

I guess the elephant in the room here is Pandemic Legacy. Somehow this is the one that everyone always talks about. If you don’t know, Pandemic Legacy is a co-operative disease-battling game… with legacy elements! (Risk Legacy came first by the way). I’ve also played a full campaign of Pandemic Legacy, but it just didn’t do it for me in the same way. It couldn’t scratch that itch.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it didn’t compare, and I think it’s because PL is co-operative while RL is PvP [player vs player]. There’s something about everyone trying to beat each other over the course of 15 games that I really love. A clear winner emerging and everyone temporarily banding together to bring them down. There’s power dynamics at play that a co-operative game, where you all win or lose together,  just can’t have. I’d recommend both, just Risk Legacy first any day.

So, should you play Risk Legacy? OH MY GOD YES WHY AREN’T YOU PLAYING IT ALREADY? Just invite me to come play too.

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