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Risk variant as the basis for a new game

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teriyaki
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Joined: 02/14/2012

Recently I've had a resurgence of interest in the good old Risk! I've been playing it since I can remember but the many newer games pushed it out of the limelight... for some time. I'm talking about the much-maligned classical Risk but with some rules modifications which actually make it a very good game. Imo the recent Hasbro's attempts to make it "better" by piling new elements on top of it are misguided... by doing so they're alienating the family market and the proper hobbyists and wargamers will never accept it as a "proper" wargame, but I digress..

Anyways, I devised a radical variant which uses almost no additional equipment. You'll understand my reticence in disclosing the idea because it is rather simple and I'd really like to be the first to use it in my game. It solves many problems with the endgame and makes the game truly gripping from the beginning to the end. Now each game lasts approximately 2 hours with almost no deviation due to the number of players or their skill. The variant is strongly themed and the very core mechanic provides a very strong narrative which naturally lends itself to emotional involvement and even a dose of spontaneous role-play.

I have maybe a dozen or so game designs in my notebooks and prototypes but I've never met with such unanimous praise during playtesting. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY I tested the game with is completely crazy about it. I've had experienced gamers, non-gamers, people who hate Risk, people who don't like board games in general... Everybody wants to play one more time! Also during the playtesting I've noticed something I've never really seen during a game before - players who drop out of the game (it happens naturally during the later stage) stay around the table just to see how it ends and enjoy watching the game almost as much as the remaining players!

So, enough of self praise. I'd love to hear some advice on how to proceed from now on. The way I see it, I have several options and I can't make up my mind which route to take:

1) Offer the game directly to Hasbro through one of their agents. This is an option which costs money and is pretty risky (forgive my pun). I'm not sure if there is any chance of them accepting a reworking of their designs, especially from an outsider. Since the variant is really simple, and it works perfectly with minimal additions to the standard Risk equipment I believe I would have to "sauce it up" with cards or some other elements which might feel tacked on. The theme does provide some room for that but it might compromise the simplicity and elegance of the game's current state.

2) Offer the game to another company. In this case I'd need to rework some Risk elements such as the map and especially the combat system... But the existing Risk basic rules work perfectly with the variant as it is. For example, I really can't find a way to make the battle resolution any more elegant, and certain elements, such as territory cards mechanics, are absolutely crucial to the variant and cannot be changed at all.

I'd really like to retain the elegance of the original variant and both of those options seem contrived.. like I'm intentionally fudging the game so I can sell it as anything other than "Risk.." but it really is a completely different game now with a very distinct character of its own. Ideally, I'd like it to be published as a new Risk Edition but I'm not sure Hasbro would go with that... It is a return to the older, simpler times. Instead of adding stuff I reworked existing mechanics and made them strongly themed, without adding to the complexity at all... but giving it quite a lot of depth and especially emotional involvement. From what I can see, this is not the road they are currently taking with Risk. But I might be wrong..

Hmm... Any ideas?

heavyrocks
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Joined: 02/11/2012
Change the aesthetics first,

Change the aesthetics first, then see if it feels like a completely new game or not. Reworking the theme of the game may inspire other rule mods that aren't too contrived. It's kind of hard to give any real advice without knowing how this game works.

Aquilius
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Joined: 04/08/2011
By all means

I'd say make a pitch to Hasbro. They flood the market with games most of us will never dream of buying. It would be good if they started mass producing games that is worth buying. If they don't go for it, self-publish!
The one point I'd like to warn you about though is that you should ask the advice of someone in the field of publishing about whether you'd be better of presenting your game as a variant or as a new game to Hasbro. We game designers have difficulty anticipating how the beancounters wil react. And they are unfortunately the ones making the decisions.

If you Google Riskvariants you get many results. That probably doesn't bode well for another, because most of these variants claim to be brilliant, Assassin Risk is a good example.

jeffinberlin
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Joined: 07/29/2008
It's hard to pitch variants,

It's hard to pitch variants, if not impossible. If you have a great core idea that was inspired by Risk, build a new game around it.

teriyaki
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Joined: 02/14/2012
Well, the problem is that

Well, the problem is that I've taken this variant design as a kind of a challenge.. to utilize all of the Risk's elements and mesh them in a novel way. And this is how I painted myself into a corner - basically if I change any existing basic element, say battle system or the way territory cards work, I am taking away from the game rather than adding to it... I mean I can add fluff to it, like event cards and such that would make it more worthy of being published as a full-blown risk edition but the core mechanic is inextricably tied to the way territory cards work as well as the battle system (the general number of armies per territory and the battle odds). If I try to publish it in an ideal state I'd have to retain these 2 elements (plus the world map) and everybody would rightfully call it a Risk ripoff.

It's a completely different situation from another variant I came up with and which I'll be happy say more about. I wanted to see how I can make Risk as un-Risklike as possible by using only the basic equipment out of the box and I came up with Cliffhanger! Risk (which I'll put on my site once i work out some kinks at the next playtesting). It's a variant where the players are Indiana Jones-like explorers traveling the world, looking for secret treasures and sending out their agents to thwart other players progress. It uses NO Risk mechanics at all! While the variant plays well, there is quite enough room for improvement and I'm planning to create a whole new game out of the idea... it will actively benefit from moving away from its Risk origins. I'll change the map from territory to site-based (say Chichen-Itza, the Pyramids and Hoboken) , add a more involved way of moving around the map (plains, trains and automobiles!) and hopefully create a very distinct family-type game.

The problem is that this first variant I'm talking about is not like that. It's... more Risk-like than Risk from out of the box! It really drives me crazy lol!

Incidentally, nice mention of Assassin Risk (aka Paranoia). This is definitely an example of how Risk could be a much better game without adding any complexity to it... I'd definitely put Paranoia rules into all the official editions. The variant I'm talking about is of a somewhat similar type... though it is more of a total-conversion thing. The goal of the game changes radically and the game-flow is almost completely different now, especially the end-game. Btw, I find Risk a great test-bed for checking out game concepts on the fly and there's been hundreds of variants invented in the past 50 years of its existence, all brimming with nice ideas to mull over... That's why I made a kind of central repository site for the variants I manage to find.. It's still very much a work in progress (forums are not up yet and I've got dozens more variants to polish up and publish) but If you want to check it out, here it is: riskvariants.com.

Btw, thanks a lot for your feedback guys, I'm really glad I found this site. :)

Aquilius
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Joined: 04/08/2011
I'm glad you found this site too.

It seems we have been heading in similar directions with our game designs. I too have used Risk to test game ideas.

The first Risk variant I've created was in 2005, if I remember correctly. It was a simple adjustment to the combat rules: if both sides roll the same or one point difference on the dice then both armies lose a unit, but these units are not completely lost. They are placed on the edge of the board closest to their player, to be redeployed at the end of the current player's turn. This made the game a bit fairer, but lengthened the game. We used to set a time limit on these games of 2 hours. Whoever held the biggest slice of the world when the time ran out was the winner.

Just last week I used Risk to test a new battle mechanic I devised for my own game. Please go check it out on my blog and let me know what you think.
Without enough information about your game I can't say anything helpfull other than that I would strongly encourage you to take your idea and try very hard to translate it to a new game. If you look at Axis&Allies for example, I'm sure this game too started out as a Risk variant. But it was re-themed and units was given unique characteristics and the economy was fine tuned. Still behind all the chrome one can clearly see Risk. It must be worth a shot.

Oh, and thanks for creating the Riskvariants site, it is a great resource.

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