Cardboard Children – Risk: Star Wars Edition

Hello youse.

Today, RISK. Wait, come back! I’m not – Hey, forget I said RISK. Just – can we – hey, come back! Listen, honestly, friend, I just – YES, IT SAYS RISK ON THE BOX. But listen – please, take your coat off. Please. Give me the benefit of the doubt. Will you give me a chance? I just – look, I shouldn’t have started by saying “RISK”. That was stupid. I wish I could change that. But look – THIS IS NOT RISK. I swear to you. This isn’t RISK. I swear it.

How can I make you stay? Well. What if I say “STAR WARS”? Ah, there we are…

RISK: STAR WARS EDITION (BLACK SERIES)

Okay, I’m reviewing the Black Series version of this game. It’s just a more fancy-looking edition. Nothing’s different in the game. So everything I say about this one stands for the Standard Edition too. So relax.

Well, first of all, the board is shaped like a TIE-Fighter. The middle section represents the area of space around the Death Star, and this will be filled with little plastic TIEs and X-Wings and Y-Wings and the like. The wings of the TIE-Fighter board represent two other fields of battle that the two players will need to deal with. One of these is the light saber battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and the other is the assault on the power generator down on the planet Endor. Yeah, all of this stuff is going on at once, just like in Return of the Jedi.

The game is card-driven, but don’t fear! There are also dice. This does have “RISK” printed on the box, after all. Ain’t no Risk without dice. But the cards are the main focus of the players’ actions – and each side has a deck of command cards to draw from. Six are drawn, three are chosen, and these are played to issue commands to different areas of the board.

The cards all have two or three actions printed on them, so as you activate them you can choose which action you want to use. This works nicely because you’ll probably want to switch up some of your decisions a little as you play, so that you can respond to whatever your opponent is doing.

An order issued to the Death Star area of the board allows you to move and attack with your ships. That’s basic board game stuff, moving and attacking into adjacent spaces with combat dice. It’s important to control the number of enemy ships in this area of the board, because ultimately the game will be won or lost right there. The good guys win by blowing up the Death Star, and the baddies win by shutting the Rebel assault down. This area of the board is definitely where you will make the most “PEW! PEW!” noises, with the “BOOOM” and the “IT’S A TRAAAAAAAP!”

An order issued to Endor will allow your Rebels to make an attempt at advancing towards the shield generator. This is controlled by dice too, with the goodies having to roll to beat a target number for each space they want to advance into. The Empire player can make these rolls more difficult by ordering troopers into these spaces, raising the target numbers. It’s a push/pull, and an important one, because the Death Star can’t fall while the shields are up. This is the area of the board that will most stress you out, because you need those damn shields to fall/need those damn shields to stay up.

The lightsaber battle is a straight fight between Vader and Luke. The Empire player can order Vader (and the Emperor) to land hits on Luke, while the Rebel player is trying to weaken Vader and ultimately redeem him. This part of the game is more of a “bonus area”, a side-battle that will reward the victorious side with bonus command cards that can easily swing the whole outcome of the game. This is the area of the game where you will do the most “TURN TO THE DARK SIDE” and the “KKKKKCHHHCKKKKKK!” and the “FATHER!”

Risk: Star Wars Edition is a brilliant example of how to make a mass-market game based on a well-known property. The story of the game – redeem Vader, destroy the shield, blow up the Death Star – makes the game a breeze to learn. Players know exactly what the point of everything is, and how much value every area of the board has. Within five minutes, you’re up and running – and then it’s all about balancing your play to make sure that you keep a good check on every area of the board, so as not to let things tilt out of your control.

The card play is everything. You select the cards you think you’ll be needing and play them in a stack. Then you and your opponent take turns peeling them off of there. But things will have changed between the point of you choosing those cards and you getting to actually play them – so you’ll often find yourself choosing a different action on a card from the one you’d planned. It makes the game feel exciting and swingy, but it also ensures the game can’t get bogged down by becoming too thinky. It’s think-on-your-feet stuff – exciting, dramatic, fun.

I can’t recommend this enough. You can blast it out in an hour – the assault on the Death Star, with all the drama that entailed. Production is great (the Black Series version takes it to another level) and the game absolutely nails that rich Star Wars feel. It’s always great to see a mass market game of real quality hitting the shelves, and this is one of the very best in a long time. Honestly.

This is not RISK. Not even close. This is Star Wars in a box, for less than you’ll pay for a trip to the cinema. I loved it.

34 Comments

  1. DCEnygma says:

    Question: Is it strictly for two players? If it’s for more, how does it faire with more people?

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      Aerothorn says:

      You can play it in teams – I did a four-player game. This is really just a hack on the two-player ruleset – each player chooses their own cards from a smaller hand, and then you alternate play so it’s empire-rebel-empire-rebel before a rounds starts. It is at its heart a two-player game, but it’s also lightweight and fun enough that four player is still a good time for all, particularly for people who don’t play board games much.

    • Kabukiman74 says:

      According to boardgamegeek you can play with up to 4 players, however 2 is recommended.

      link to boardgamegeek.com

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    Aerothorn says:

    Also: the rulebook has some really terrible ambiguities that lead most people to play the game wrong, creating a significant advantage for the rebels. See link to boardgamegeek.com for clarifications.

  3. Edgewise says:

    OK, I get it: it’s not Risk. Clearly, based on what you describe, this is a entirely different game.

    So why do they call it Risk?

    • DD says:

      Because people know Risk and are more likely to buy it just based off association. Looks like the decision was based off making more money and nothing else.

      • Rindan says:

        I hope those mass market sales drastically outstrip the very large board gamer sales, because otherwise this is a really fucking stupid decision. Nothing inspires hatred in a board gamers like Monopoly and Risk. My hatred for these games is deep and vastly outweighs how bad they are. The core problem is that when people hear the word “board game” they they used to think of these two vile games and recoil. I missed out on a childhood of gaming because I thought board games suck like the way Monopoly and Risk suck. It wasn’t until I was an adult and played good board games that I realized the horrible mistake I had made, and I squarely blame Monopoly and Risk for it. It is like thinking that beer sucks because you thought all beer taste like Bud Light.

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      Aerothorn says:

      This is an American game designed for the American mass market. The American mass market doesn’t know what a “wargame” is. The only wargame they know of is Risk.

      Therefore, the Risk communicates “this is a lightweight wargame.”

      It’s misleading to the hobbyist audience, it’s not great, but it isn’t *dumb*.

    • gwathdring says:

      The bad news is that it’s a marketing gimmick. The good news is that Hasbro doesn’t give a crap about the sanctity of RISK and lets designers do all kinds of beautifully weird and amazing things in licensed RISK games.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      I haven’t played THIS version. But I do have the ‘Clone Wars’ edition of Risk.

      And they still call it ‘Risk’ because of the basic, underlying ‘troop dice’ mechanics: roll ‘X’ number of dice based on the number of troops attacking versus the number of troops defending, remove the casualties, repeat as many times as the attacker wants, so long as there are still troops left to move into the conquered territory.

      Most ‘Risk’-labeled games, these days, have that same basic mechanic, but then go about as far away from ‘Risk’ as you can go, with frequently good results (‘Risk: Battlefield Rogue’ is amazing, imo).

    • Reapy says:

      I think they have to be careful with using “Risk”. I almost didn’t read this article, and this is a game I’d probably want to buy after reading.

      I used to play risk every new years eve with friends, thought it was the best, it was the only thing I knew. Then I learned about “REAL” boardgames, and very clearly saw all the issues with risk, and remembered the end game fatigue and lack of options etc, and just placed risk in my mind as the culmination of “Ameritrash” boardgames.

      So when I see Risk star wars, I immediately thought it was risk with a galaxy map and star wars themed pieces.

      I guess if they keep going this way though it should eventually reclaim the Risk name back from the trashbin in my mind.

  4. Phinor says:

    I was actually thinking of buying this the other week but I noticed it’s published by Hasbro so.. no thanks. The (regular version) game costs 60€ here, while the RRP is $30 in North America so when buying, you’ll pay even less than that. Typical Hasbro pricing and I just can’t support that no matter how much I want the game.

    Same issue with the recent MTG Arena of the Planeswalkers.

  5. Veles says:

    Sounds like a similar (although simplified version) of Star Wars Queens Gambit

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      Aerothorn says:

      It is, in fact, directly based on Queen’s Gambit, which is sadly out of print and costing hundreds on ebay.

  6. Silent_Thunder says:

    I know it actually doens’t have anything to do with risk, but I would love a star wars themed Axis and Allies.

  7. xyzzy frobozz says:

    Star Wars.

    Fucking Star Wars.

    Fucking Star Wars everywhere!

    MAKE IT STOP!!!!

    • gwathdring says:

      Why? Some people like it. You don’t have to come in here, you know.

      • Fattsanta says:

        Shut the hell up. Starwars is lame and you are too.

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        Wisq says:

        I agree that coming in to a Star Wars article just to complain about Star Wars everywhere is a bit tacky, but I can see where x.f. is coming from here. Star Wars is now showing up everywhere whether you like it or not. My supermarket is busily selling toasters shaped like Darth Vader’s head, for example.

        I miss the days when movies came out, people decided whether they were any good or not, and then we got merchandise for the good ones. At least it was hype about something decent that you could go watch, instead of this absurd hype train towards something nobody’s even seen yet.

      • xyzzy frobozz says:

        I didn’t realise that the RPS comments section was only for people who wanted to circle jerk in an echo chamber.

    • guygodbois00 says:

      “Moichandising!We put the pictures name of everything!Spaceballs: the Flame Thrower!”

  8. melnificent says:

    What is the problem with risk?
    It’s simple enough my kids can play it too.

    • Ksempac says:

      Ok, i don’t know if you will see this reply, but I’m gonna answer your question:

      Among boardgamers, Risk and Monopoly have a reputation for being terrible games.

      Risk is 60 years old, Monopoly is even older than that. Their mechanisms are extremely outdated. They both features uncontrollable card draws and unmitigated dice rolls, which mean they are very much luck based. Whatever great strategies you use in classic Risk, if the dice fail you hard at the wrong time, you’re just gonna get screwed. 1 defender can somehow stops an army of 10 guys, or our opponent can get lucky on the reinforcement cards and get 10 more dudes, while you get only 3. Worse, theses games take a very long time to play out.

      So, you end up with a game you can’t control, that you may lose just by sheer misfortune, and yet you’re gonna have to endure that for several hours. That’s a recipe for disaster. That’s the kind of stuff that actually soured some people on boardgames. “Ah yeah, boardgames, that’s like Monopoly. When i was a kid, we played that on rainy sunday afternoons with my family when we had nothing else to do. It was so boooooooooring”

      And that’s a real shame, because much like video games, boardgames have improved a lot since theses venerable ancestors.

      If you wanna manage some estate, there are tons of games that do that better than Monopoly, usually with a few or even no random element.

      If you wanna conquer countries, there are great wargames which features the thrill of the dice rolls but will have ways to mitigate randomness so that your strategy matters more than your luck.

      Moreover, average playtimes tend to be shorter, with tighter mechanisms that ensures that things don’t drag on. You can find great games that play in 1h, or if you’re deeply involved you can also find games that takes 5h, but they will provide more fun than the slow drag of Risk or Monopoly.

      Finally, better mechanisms doesn’t mean theses newer games are harder to understand, there are new games being released for all kind of age ranges. It’s just that mechanisms have been improved to add fun without adding complexity.

      All of that are the reasons boardgamers really dislike Monopoly / Risk. The more extreme ones would tell you they want to burn all the copies of theses games so that people can discover newer games. The less extreme ones would say theses were great precursors that belongs in a museum for their role in boardgaming culture, but shouldn’t actually be played anymore.

      • xyzzy frobozz says:

        Oh god I hate Monotony.

        No skill whatsoever. Just roll the dice and whoever happens to land on the best squares slowly bleeds the other players.

        How it ever gained ANY popularity is beyond all reasonable comprehension.

        • rmsgrey says:

          Actually, if you play by the official rules, Monopoly does have some genuine strategic trade-offs in there – when to buy and when to auction; how far to push an auction; how much cash reserve to keep when building houses; when to mortgage and which properties…

          One of the big problems with Monopoly is that there are a bunch of “standard” house rules that strip the decision-making out of the game – no auctions means you just buy everything you land on until you run out of money; free mortgages and full-price building sales mean you just store your cash as buildings rather than needing to avoid overextending; money on Free Parking just extends the game without changing the fact that you can guess the likely winner after the second lap of the board…

          And if you look into the history of the game, it wasn’t intended to be a fun game – it was supposed to educate players about the evils of capitalism – so treating it purely as entertainment is missing the intended point – the game’s supposed to do terrible things to everyone but the top dog.

  9. Gap Gen says:

    We played another version of Star Wars Risk based on the prequels where at some point the bad guys (I honestly forget who) could activate some order that randomly turned some of your units against you. They did this and converted our entire army. So, yeah.

  10. Philopoemen says:

    The best Star Wars/Risk game was which was not A Star Wars game, but should have been.

  11. wraithgr says:

    Is it a broken tie fighter? Its wings are all bent out of shape…

  12. minijedimaster says:

    Seems like a dumb concept for a Risk game. Should be a map of the Star Wars galaxy with different planets to conquer and regions of the galaxy to take over for bonuses.

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    turkeydrumstick says:

    “less than you’ll pay for a trip to the cinema.”

    I wish. The plain version cost €50+ over here.