I picked up Risk Europe (Hasbro, 2015) for an inexpensive $14.99 at Tuesday Morning a few weeks back. I personally steer away from too many “mainstream” game publishers as I find the games generally unimaginative. When I saw Risk Europe, I consulted BoardGameGeek.com and saw that it rated a respectable 7.7 (Good…almost Very Good) so I bought it and rolled it out for our family #gamenight.
Risk Europe is not your usual Risk fare. The game is both a resource builder (ala Classic Risk) but using card driven mechanics. Each faction has eight King’s Orders cards; each round the player picks two cards and places them facedown in front of them. The round is played out in two turns where the cards are turned over in the order placed. Battles take place at the the end of the round (two turns). Each round, each faction has two-less cards; the deck is reshuffled every fifth round. Cities are worth variable value and each has a special characteristic.
Visually, the game is very attractive; the map is nice, and the colorful DoaM (Dudes on a Map) factor is fun. But something missed for us in this game.
Risk Europe is actually four different games. The standard is the four-player version and there are 2- or 3-player versions using Mercenaries. There is also a Kingdom Missions variant. We played the 3-player version using a Mercenary fourth faction. This faction is basically “for hire” each round (a set of 2 turns).
Little RMN took Constantinople and Rome as his beginning cities. This gave him an immediate advantage because Rome is worth two crowns (8 needed to win). Middle RMN had Stockholm and Berlin. The Mercenaries were set up (randomly!) in Madrid and Paris. For myself, I was split between Kiev and London.
For two and half hours we battled fruitlessly back and forth across the board. The Mercenary army traded hands many times. When the RMN Boys controlled it they used it to batter (and eventually conquer) England while I used the Mercenaries to grab cites in front of the other kingdoms. With the eventual loss of England, my treasury was reduced and I could not pay enough for the Mercenaries. Middle RMN hired them for several rounds and backed them out of several cities allowing him to take them.
At the end of 2.5 hours Little RMN was ahead 5 banners to 4 for Middle RMN and the Mercenaries. I was behind at 3 banners. We called the game due to a late start and little end in sight.
One rule we didn’t use was Crown Cards. With only 15 cities on the board, and eight needed to win, one must literally conquer half the board! Crown Cards are the second most expensive item available to purchase and count as a crown for victory. Maybe it was the first play but all of use focused on purchasing units rather than Crown Cards in their spend actions. There was also admittedly a bit of Analysis Paralysis as we all learned what the limits of the King’s Orders cards were.
Am I being unfair to Risk Europe and panning the game after one flawed play? Maybe, but these days I have discovered that the games that attract me the most are games that evoke a narrative. In Risk Europe, I want to imagine being a King in the Middle Ages, building my Empire across the continent. I didn’t get that feeling. Maybe its the 3-player variant with a Mercenary Army that seems overpowered; maybe we need to really play with Crown Cards or use the secret missions in the Kingdom Builder variant. I think we will get Risk Europe to the table again – eventually – but only when we know we have a 3+ hour block of time and all players understand all the rules.