So you like Risk?

“To be regarded as one of the best of its kind”
That is a quite the mantle to carry “best of its kind”, the road to being declared a classic is long and paved with many obstacles to be defined as such and is a great honor indeed. Does that mean however that it is truly one of the best?
Not always. We tend to regard a classic in such high regard because of the endurance it has shown over the years to simply be the most commonly known by a wider audience. This is the case for many board games.
Welcome to what I hope to make a semi regular series where I take “classic” board games and put them under the microscope offering modern alternatives that might scratch the same itch but expose you to something new and bring you further into this wonderful hobby.
As a preamble I would like to state that these are my opinions and feeling on things, there will be those who disagree and I welcome discussion and debate on any and all topics covered here so long as they are done so in a respectful manner.
I do not intend any personal offence by “attacking” any games here I believe that for these games all hold value for paving the way for the board games of today.
My general approach to these entries will be to offer a variety of games ranging from light (shorter and less complex) to heavy (longer with more complexity) games. Breaking each game down by what I perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses.
Phew, let’s get down to it.
Dearest Marsha,
Today we press forward onto the African front again. I curse the barren desert between East Africa and North Africa. I have seen more brothers fall to their guns than I wish to recall. Perhaps today fate and fortune will be on our side and we can put an end to this bloody conflict once and for all. I hear the call; we are being rallied for the strike...
All the best,
Blue solider 13
First to go under the microscope is that classic game of global domination: Risk.
What is it that makes Risk so appealing?
  • The thought of ruling the world
  • Being able to destroy your friends
  • The strategy
  • The variations (there is most likely a version of Risk out there for you)
What is it that turns people away from it?
  • The duration (some don’t like those marathon games that last all day)
  • The randomness
  • The friendship destroying potential
With those factors in mind let’s get a conquering.
Light alternative to risk:
I know, I know, you’re wondering how a game that supposedly lasts eight minutes can be comparable to Risk. Well this game has the same conquest that Risk does minus the dice rolls, table space and time commitment.
Eight Minute Empire is a game for 2-5 players lasting around 15- 20 minutes (liars - they said 8 on the box).
The one thing this game does lack unfortunately is true combat. All player interaction is handled through the use of abilities on cards that players will purchase at the start of their turns.
These cards will either let you deploy more armies, erect cities, mobilize your forces across land and/or sea and if you’re lucky, wipe some of your opponents’ puny forces off the face of the planet.
The cards also play a special role in final scoring by collecting goods (pictured at the top of the card) of the same type.
Eight Minute Empire is the perfect game for those times while waiting on something else or for when you just don’t have the time for a full scale game of Risk.
Medium Alternative to Risk:
  • Small world
  • Nexus Ops
Small World is a fantasy themed game of global conquest (no matter how small the globe may be). The game is fairly simple and straight forward; you purchase a randomized race that comes paired with a special power.
The races are made up of your typical fantasy fare (orcs, elves, goblins, act.) and the special powers can be anything from making one of your opponents unable to attack you for a round to allowing you to conquer territories you wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
So what’s the big deal then? Well nothing in this game lasts forever, at some point you will run out of units for your chosen race and will have to shift into decline (extinction) and pick new one.  This allows extra strategy in looking several turns ahead to the next race you want and how you might leverage their power.
Small world will typically play in around 1hour - 1.5 hours and is a race to the highest score through area control.
While it may not scratch all the same itches that risk does, Small world lets you have the fun of military conquest over your friends in less time and you can (for the most part) walk away friends at the end of it.
Nexus Ops is a Sci-Fi battle for rubium (a rare energy source) on an alien moon.
With different units you can recruit (all having different stats), and two ways to play them, Nexus Ops is a fantastic step up from Risk. The best part about it? It forces you to play aggressively, where each battle you win awards you 1 of 12 victory points. Sitting on the sidelines waiting for you opponents to wipe each other of the map will result in your loss. There are secret objectives that get dealt out over the course of play with the majority based on combat.
The interesting part of the game to me is the different units. Much like Risk, all players have the same units they can recruit, but the stronger units feel stronger. Want to bring your squad of humans against my alien dragon? Ok, you only hit on rolling the 6, I hit on everything above a 2, oh, and I get to go before you because my dragon is quicker.
There are a few interesting variants that you can incorporate to make the game either longer or shorter if time is of the essence.
These are just a few games I would recommend you try out if you’re looking for something fresh in your gaming.
Just a quick recap for those who may not have felt like reading my ramblings:
Light Alternative:
Eight Minute Empire
  • Quick (it’s in the name)
  • Straight forward
    • Unfortunate lack of combat
Medium Alternatives:
Small World:
  • Simple game play
  • Tons of variety
  • Decent depth
    • Not quite global domination
    • No dice to roll
Nexus Ops:
  • Similar complexity
  • Dice to roll
  • Lots of fighting
  • Victory condition
    • Not quite global domination
I also chose for this first instalment not to dig deeply into any heavy alternatives for two reasons:
  1. I feel that risk is a fairly heavy game just in terms of length and if that’s what you’re after then go nuts; they can last 4+ hours easily
  2. Plenty of these games have been reviewed at lengths in other blogs, and each game can take many paragraphs only to give a brief overview about them,
Though if you are interested in a few by name, here they are:
Until the next time when I throw another classic game under the microscope, may your conquering be grand and uncontested. Amid all the conquest, I would like you all to remember to Eat, Drink, and Play!
Till next time
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