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.