RISK: Metal Gear Solid Review
iBrews Gives You: A-
Ah, my first real game review. I’m going to try to keep this relatively short and to the point (along with any subsequent reviews), but since I do a fair amount of board game playing of games I didn’t invent myself, I’ve decided to start throwing some of my opinions out there into the world. So yeah…
To start, I’ve never played Risk. That’s right. Board-game designer Alex has never played Risk. Risk, and maybe Clue, are probably the only two board games that ‘everyone knows about’ that I never played growing up. No real reason just… no one had them. Anyway, I’ve decided I like Risk, or rather, I like this version. And I promise not to harp on this, but I love Metal Gear Solid.
Ian explained as we went what elements of ‘original’ Risk this kept, and what was new. Frankly, I think I would have gone crazy playing normal Risk as a kid. Taking over the entire world? No chance cards or bosses to liven things up? No exciting battleship that moves across the world? Just tons and tons of chance-laden dice rolling? But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Essentially, if I played Risk as a kid, I think every game would have ended like most of our Monopoly games ended– one person being eliminated, then everyone else playing getting quickly bored and then just giving up. And maybe there’s crying. Or a lot of yelling.
This version of Risk seems to do a number of things very well. To start, you don’t have to take over the world. Instead, there are 8 objectives (12 total, but 8 are available in a typical game). In order to win, you simply need to claim 3 of them. They include things like ‘Take Over Europe’, ‘Control 2 of Your Opponents’ Bases’, or ‘Take Over 4 cities in a single turn’. Some of the objectives seem near impossible, such as ‘take over 10 territories in a single turn’, but I would simply choose to play without those in the future, so that’s fine.
As most of my friends know, I generally hate dice-rolling games. I don’t like not feeling in control of my own destiny, so chance elements bother the heck out of me. But this game has a bunch of dice and I like this game. And Satellite Salvo has a ton of dice, and I like that game. So let me amend my dice-hate: I hate unqualifiable dice elements in games; I don’t mind games where the effect of dice-rolling can be modified by good strategy. Satellite Salvo works because even though you’re rolling dice, there’s consideration for how you handle the rolls; ‘do I reroll and hope for the straight, or do I use the three-of-a-kind I’ve already got here? Ah, I’ve got nothin’! At least I still have my Hazard cartridge.’ It’s not a one dimensional, ‘that sucks– you rolled a one, haha!’ like some games.
Risk: Metal Gear Solid Edition works on the dice-rolling front because things like Bosses, Drebin Cards, and the number of armies you have in a given territory greatly affect your dice roll. Bosses allow you to trade a six-sided die for an eight-sided die, and then in most cases, modify your die roll (e.g. +1 to highest attack roll). They are purchased and kept with Drebin Points. Drebin Points are received (like money) based on the number of new recruits you get every turn, and also allow you to buy Drebin Cards. Drebin Cards are defensive or offensive, and assuming you have the points necessary to activate them, allow you to do things like nuke 3 attacking armies, or kill 1 army on every territory of a zone. And as is usual with normal Risk, your ‘chancy’ die rolls are modified because you get one die for every army you attack/defend with (up to 3 die for attack, up to 2 for defense).
Our game lasted about two and a half hours once we got going with most of the game feeling exciting and lively. The one element that felt strange to me from the start was the notion that you could attack as many other territories as you wanted during your turn, as I imagined that could make a turn take forever. In some cases it did, but luckily I was playing with people who made their moves quickly and didn’t spend too much time sitting around wondering if attacking Greenland is really worth the risk. On the objective side, Liz and I tied up pretty early– she got one token for controlling Europe, and one for controlling 18 territories. I got one for taking over Outer Haven in one turn, and another for holding it for 2 turns. Ian built up his forces… more on that later.
The Outer Haven ship is a fascinating notion; basically it’s a country-sized submarine that moves throughout six different places on the board with ‘independent’ soldiers (no player controls them). To take over the ship, you battle from the bow to the stern through its three territories. Once you’ve taken over the ship, you get to move it during the maneuver phase to any of the 6 ports, allowing you to attack/defend across the board in ways that would otherwise be completely inaccessible to you. And, all attacks from Outer Haven add +1 to all of your die rolls. Oh, and it’s probably worth mentioning that the only reason I as able to take over it so early was that I just happened to get a Drebin Card that added +2 to all of my attacks on Outer Haven.
Anyway, Liz was en-route to winning for a while with her massive European army (+5 soldiers every turn just for controlling Europe), but Ian and I ganged up on her and stopped her from claiming her third objective (take over North America). Then Ian moved up in power thanks to his dominance of the entire southern hemisphere and was able to claim the ‘take 4 cities in a turn’ objective. He was then able to take over my base and Liz’s base and claim the ‘control 2 enemy headquarters’ objective, but just then he began to spread himself a little thin by focusing energy on preventing my dominance of Asia (would’ve given me +7 recruits per turn), and Liz was able to nail him in North America and take that third objective at last. Liz was also aided by using Raiden as her boss, which gave +2 to her highest die rolls. Pretty intense.
In conclusion, I’d recommend this game to anyone who likes war games. From what I can tell, it’s a significant improvement on normal Risk, and even if you don’t like Metal Gear Solid, you’re bound to enjoy the way its unique elements modify gameplay for more strategic and less chance-based thinking.
- Quick to learn
- solid ‘starter’ set-up leads well into a more advanced game
- objective-based strategy adds a lot of focus
- game modifiers like bosses and Drebin cards add a lot of punch
- Some of the Drebin cards are too insanely good (Konami Cheat Code)
- some bosses are useless
- still a fair amount of chance in the game
- too bad there’s still player elimination (another problem that plagues Monopoly– no one likes to get kicked out of a game)
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