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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Micropose

Ups: Excellent port of classic board game with lots of options; spiffy graphics, fun gameplay; mostly good AI

Downs:  Some problems with AI, multiplayer over net

System Reqs: P166, 32 MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM

Risk has always been an addictive board game.  I still remember my first introduction to the horrible little entertainment. It started out at college with a few simple games with some friends.  We’d move the plastic pieces around the mapboard, drink a few beers, and collect a few cards. Eventually, one of us would take over the world and the others would sulk. But slowly, insidiously, we found ourselves playing more and more.   We developed little strategies that expanded into grandiose plans. We learned where the chokepoints were and started counting cards. We developed deeply-held grudges. We drank more and more, too, and our beer-fuel imaginations spawned increasingly complex Risk variations.  Eventually, we started linking two, then three boards together. We made up rules that included paratroopers and amphibious assaults and atomic weapons. We began to drink even more. Long story short, we all flunked out of school. Helluva game.

Since Risk is both an elegant and simple game, you’d think that it would be a snap to port it to the PC. Unfortunately, the original attempt to translate Risk was a failure. The AI was barely in evidence, and the awkward interface and buggy code conveyed none of the fun or strategy of the board game. Fortunately, Hasbro decided to give it another go, and Risk II not only does the classic game justice, it even throws in its own variation—Same-time Risk—that is an excellent game in its own right.

If you just want to play “classic” Risk, you’ll find that Risk II gives you a dead-on facsimile of the real thing. From the beautiful world map (which gives you a bevy of viewing options) to the game cards, you’ll feel right at home. Even better, the AI plays a better-than-decent game of classic Risk. Some adversaries are programmed to be more aggressive than others, but they rarely make blatantly stupid moves, and will usually give you a run for your money.  Surprisingly, playing against the AI was a lot like playing against human opponents.  And Risk II even throws in some new dimensions to the old classic—there’s a neat diplomacy component and a nifty battle resolution sequence during which your armies are represented by miniature Napoleonic figures that fight it out over the specific terrain you’re contesting.  It’s a hoot. Dice explode, soldiers take gut shots, generals fall off their horses. I know, it sounds kind of dumb, but it really looks quite cool and is so seamlessly integrated into the game that I never tired of these sequences.

I’d be happy if Risk II were nothing more than a competent port of the board game, but there’s more—Same-time Risk is based on the original, but it has enough tweaks and additions to make it a different game altogether. First of all, Same-time Risk has a bunch of new land areas—it includes such places as the Falkland and the Phillipine Islands, as well as much more fragmented continents. You can forget the old tried-and-true strategies—classic chokepoints are easily circumvented now.  Same-time Risk’s game mechanics will take a while to get used to as well. Instead of each player taking a turn in order, Same-Time Risk progresses in phases. Each player plans his or her turn, and then moves are revealed all at the same time. This can make for some very nasty surprises, and when combined with the diplomacy option can make Risk a lot like Diplomacy on caffeine. Combats are resolved in a new way as well. Instead of the standard six-sided dice, Same-time Risk uses a collection of five twelve-sided dice, ranging in strength from white to the mighty black die. The stronger your army, the stronger the die you roll, and since you can attack from two or more continents at once in Same-time Risk, a couple of powerful armies can smash through even fairly strong defenses in a very short time. It makes for a very aggressive game, and I’m still figuring out its subtleties. 

Even within the two games, there are an awful lot of options. You can choose from several different victory conditions, and you can choose several different ways to set up at the beginning of the game. There's even a tournament mode that challenges you to play a series of classic and Same-time Risk games. The replay value of Risk II is very high indeed, and even made even higher since it has all the usual multiplayer options, including hotseat and support on the MSN Zone.

Overall, I give Risk II a very hearty recommendation. I had some problems hooking up with players on the Zone, and the AI can sometimes make goofy moves, but this is an excellent port of a classic game. Until now, Hasbro’s track record in translating its board games to the PC hasn’t been all that superb, but Risk II changes all that. If you like strategy games, pick it up. And try not to flunk out of school.

--Rick Fehrenbacher