The stage was set. The battle had started, and after the first skirmish I was on top.
Let me go back. Five local beer lovers — myself, Julia Burke, Justin Frost, Matt Kahn and Alex Placito — are gathering biweekly to drink some great beer and play Risk Legacy, a streamlined version of the game with evolving rules and countries.
I had won the first game, but that was just the first of 15. I founded the city Shady Conley in my home base of Western Australia, meaning only I could start there, but the writing was on the wall.
For one, I dun goofed. Only I could start in Western Australia, sure, but that didn’t stop anyone from starting in Eastern Australia, preventing me from starting in my capital due to the “no adjacent headquarters” rule. Magnanimously, I pointed this out, and predictably the dice forsook me and gave Justin — my rival, my scorned once-ally — the opportunity to banish me from my homeland.
This story is going to need some beer.
We didn’t drink most of the beer that was brought the week before, I think all subconsciously wanting to keep our wits about us or, in my case, not wanting to be the only lush at the party I threw. After some teetotaler jokes, we made some more progress this week. Continuing along the theme of “A beer you’d go to war for”:
Literal Pre-game Beer: Frank
I knew the beer we would be drinking, and I knew we needed something close to sessionable (albeit not actually a session beer according to the guidelines I’ve previously set). Having just taken second place in NIPAC, everyone assumed I had brought The IPA. I probably should have, but I brought The IPA to our initial gathering and, besides, 6.2% vs 4.6%. We had imperial stouts coming up, man.
Matt: Lagunitas Sucks (Lagunitas)
Matt would go to war for Sucks because “it’s a pretty damn good beer.” He considers it close to the quality of the much-adored Heady Topper, but much more widely available. In fact, it’s the availability that he thinks hurts its regard, as scarcity can increase mystique and desirability.
Alex got some grilled pineapple in the flavor, which surprised him. I’m not sure I was able to pick up on it, but I admit that my palate has gone to hell while his is honed regularly.
Julia: Krysztoff (Custom Brewcrafters)
Ah, Krysztoff, a beer which I have to Google the spelling of every single time. I hadn’t had CBC’s baltic porter but I was very impressed with the bottle Julia had been cellaring. She said she’d go to war for it because it’s the beer she would take with her when travelling to show people what New York State brewers could do. She added that The IPA had unseated Krysztoff (I’m hitting ctrl-v each time, if you were curious), which I thought was very nice of her, but I can see why she’d present it as an example of our collective prowess. It was, after all, the NY Cork Report’s 2011 Beer of the Year.
Justin: Old Rasputin (North Coast)
“Not only does Old Rasputin fortify you for battle,” Justin says, “but it inspires you to create battle.” It’s a wartime beer. The label, indeed, is a chaplain giving a blessing to departing troops:
“Onward, imperial soldiers, Onward, to eternity.”
Game 1 (2/15)
Alex was able to choose first, setting up shop in Central America (Mexico). Somehow, we all ignored this and let him be. Julia started in Western Europe, Matt northern Asia’s Yakutsk. I began to hope I would be allowed to claim my birthright, but Justin’s eyes took on a glint as he placed his headquarters in Eastern Australia.
To hell with that, I thought! I started in Southeast Asia, the gateway from Australia to the rest of the world. We all knew the two of us would have a showdown, and I decided we’d do it right away.
This was a mistake.
For one, I didn’t try to take Indonesia from him, meaning he got two bonus troops his second turn. This sealed my fate, and I had nowhere to go: with Justin to the south and Matt to the north there was a Conley Sandwich. I tried convincing Matt that I would leave him alone but he was justifiably skeptical. I quickly found my HQ in the hands of Justin’s Khan Industry mechs. My attempts to spread out into western Asia were crushed, though I somehow was never eliminated from the game. Ultimately I saw the writing on the wall and holed up in Afghanistan, making no moves but letting my reinforcements build to deter my enemies from… what do the kids say? Stepping? I didn’t want them to step.
Because oh yes, a greater threat was growing. You see, while Julia cautiously expanded throughout Europe, Justin steamrolled me and Matt prepared for his inevitable duel with Justin, Alex took over the entire Western hemisphere. I tried to warn them! Now, maybe my voice took on that high pitched squeal it does when I’m spewing bullshit and everyone knows it, because “No, don’t attack me, go fight Alex in North America!” was self serving. But it was also true, and in hindsight I should have started in Argentina, but as my troops were slaughtered I saw Alex coasting to victory.
Ultimately Matt did have an ill-fated excursion into Alaska, but Alex’s troubles came from elsewhere: his rapid expansion had been unopposed, meaning he had huge tracts of land but no victory cards. Meanwhile, Justin’s blood-stained hands held two HQs and four cards. Combined with his “have not won a game” starting victory point, on his next turn Justin was going to win.
Alex’s only chance was to tear across the Bering Strait and claim Yakutsk from Matt. The dice rolled, his troops advanced. In the end, Yakutsk fell and victory was snatched from Justin’s hands. Thus was La Ciudad de Fuego founded in Argentina.
As I “held on” and wasn’t eliminated, I could found a minor city. Controlling a minor cities add 1 to your population (each country you control, plus any city bonuses, are added and divided by 3 to determine your troop bonus at the start), with the major cities rewarded for winning a game giving +1 to population and +1 to defensive rolls. I wanted us to found all of the nine minor cities by the end of the night, as it would cause us to open one of the game-changing packets in the box. I founded “Tenacity” in Afghanistan, it being the spot of my salvation. Tenacity. Tena-city, get it? Get it?
Julia founded Persephone in Russia, which to my shame I did not realize was a Firefly reference. Justin placed NikeTown in Southeast Asia and Matt Tootsville in the Middle East.
Game 2 (3/15)
This time Eris favored Matt and he was able to choose his HQ first. Going clockwise I would choose last, and he ripped off that band-aid quickly as he headed into Eastern Australia. Alex was able to claim Argentina and La Ciudad de Fuego for himself; Julia chose to set up shop in Egypt and Justin in the Western United States. I didn’t know what to do: I saw Asia as an eternity of bloody red queen futility, so I headed to Persephone in Russia.
Justin, in North America, immediately reached out to Alex to his south. He proposed that they leave each other alone and only fortify Central America/Venezuela with two troops each. I cautioned against it, saying they should fortify a bit more strongly than that, but did anyone listen to me? No. The truce was formed.
And broken. On round two. The second time Justin held dice his tanks steamrolled into Venezuela. I tried to warn Alex, I did.
I suggested the same sort of truce with Julia, as her headquarters bordered Southern Europe. She agreed but would agree to no troop limitation. I believe we made it all the way to turn three before her treacherous core was exposed and my continental hegemony destroyed.
I had overextended myself. Naively believing I could trust Julia for more than two seconds I had placed nearly all of my troops in Iceland to discourage Justin from invading from Greenland. The real tragedy had yet to come, however.
Matt. Matt, with half a world between his Australian empire and the rest of us. Asia isn’t that big if you make a beeline for Russia, as I found out when he took me from behind. The innuendo came quicker than the “that’s what she said” at the end of this sentence (wasn’t that a Sesame Street book?). It only got worse when he slipped into Africa.
Alex reached for the dice. “That’s it, isn’t it?” Matt said. Then we saw it: he controlled three headquarters. Combined with the starting VP for not having won, he had won without us even noticing.
Using my continent.
He founded the major city Creepytown in Kamchatka, which was a reference to Justin being creepy for reasons we couldn’t remember (as I said, imperial stouts and baltic porters). Julia added Koskilde in Scandinavia and Justin iPadlandia in China. The minor cities were all founded, with Alex and I left to make certain country cards more valuable if obtained after a successful turn.
Matt pointed out that so far each game had been won by the player going first. We thought that was a little strange. But then we opened the packet.
The Game Changes
Risk Legacy is a game that contains “spoilers.” If you’d like to play it yourself, you shouldn’t read this post, or actually any other posts in the series. I’m going to be explicit about what happens and what we find.
Still there? Good.
There were two big changes in this packet: the first was a new type of scar. A scar card is dealt to each player at the start of the game, unless there aren’t enough for everyone (like these two games). So far there had been two types: Ammo Shortage, found in Greenland, subtracts 1 from the highest defensive die rolled; and Bunker, in Central America, adds 1 to the highest defensive roll.
We now have a third scar type: the Biohazard. Any occupied country with this scar loses one troop per turn. Justin immediately declared he was gunning for Western Australia if he was dealt one.
Now, scars are mostly permanent: there’s a big difference between mostly permanent and all permanent. Cities, once founded, are there forever. There can only be one scar on a country but as one of the rewards for winning you can destroy one. Until now this wasn’t very attractive but I can see an irradiated headquarters being cured in lieu of other rewards.
The other change was to the start of the game: previously we would each roll a d6 (a six sided die, or simply “a die” to most people) and starting with the winner we would each choose our faction and starting location.
Now there are draft cards: 1st-5th faction, 1st-5th location and a varying number of starting coin cards. Coins thus far haven’t been used: you can turn in coin cards to buy more troops, but the cards can also be used to buy VPs so we’ve largely ignored them. If I can start with three coins, well, now we’ll be in business.
We now take turns drafting one type of each card. Maybe I don’t get to choose my HQ location first, but I can guarantee I have the offensive focused Enclave of the Bear faction. Or maybe I eschew both and start wealthy, giving me an initial burst of troops I can use to mow down my enemies.
War has changed. I look forward to our next battle.