Archive For "Write-Up"

Risk Legacy: In Defense of a Disposable Board Game

Risk Legacy is a $50 board game that you’ll probably only play 15 times.

If I had tried to sell you on that concept twenty years ago, you probably would have laughed in my face. Board games have long been vaunted for their replay value and durability. If you grew up in the burbs, it’s likely you knew someone with a venerable iteration of Clue(do) or a mostly complete Monopoly set from 1952. Passed down like heirlooms, these games are often secreted away in closets until a rainy day rolls around, when they are counted on for hours of entertainment (and probably a couple of shouting matches and fist-fights too).

However, this reliability comes with a cost: predictability.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon and you’re playing Monopoly. You’re about half an hour into a match with your siblings, and you’ve somehow managed to secure both Atlantic and Ventnor Avenue. Your brother has Marvin Gardens.

And the only way you’re going to get it is prying it out of his cold, dead hands.

You know the rules of the game too well. Allowing a player to get a complete set of properties is a death knell for everyone else at the table. So you wait, and you wait, and you wait… until someone manages to go bankrupt. Or maybe, they just get desperate enough to make a deal. Then the rest of the dominoes fall and you embark upon a merry-go-round of crushing debt.

The original version of Risk, released way back 1959, often falls into a similar rut. The rules are about as simple as you can get: occupy land, attack your enemies, and try to take over the world. With such obvious objectives, you end up in the same obstructionist patterns as Monopoly – except with global politics rather that capitalist feuds. “We can’t let Matt take New Guinea and get the continent bonus!” “Brooke almost has all of North America, stop her!” “Watch out, Geoff has Irkutsk!”

Well, maybe not Irkutsk. Nobody likes Irkutsk.

To make matters worse, death is permanent and games can go on for (literally) days. Although reaching the end of a campaign can be satisfying, it is rarely worth the hours of outrage that often accompany the play sessions.

Risk Legacy manages to fix most of these problems by making itself disposable. Like a rocketship that discards portions of its hull to hasten its ascent, Risk Legacy hurls new content at its players to propel the game forward. You can never truly settle into a rut because you never fully get a grasp on the mechanics. As soon as you think you have everything figured out, BOOM, a figurative (or literal) bomb goes off and you have to scramble to pick up the pieces.

I don’t want to get too spoilery, but Risk Legacy succeeds because it manages to keep the experience novel through 15 accelerated game sessions. Full global domination is not required – players can complete missions, take over bases, or a do a little bit of both to win a game. The multiple win conditions are complicated by missiles, factions, and mission/event cards: some of which are one-time-only affairs and are thrown away once they are completed. This may seem odd – even sacrilegious – to some, but there is something strangely tantalizing about vandalizing board game pieces.

The marquee mechanic of the game, however, is the fact that the board does not fully reset after every match. Cities can be built to increase the value of countries. Scars can be placed to provide boons or weaknesses to specific territories. And cataclysmic events can be unlocked by meeting certain gameplay conditions. The unlockable content is really what makes the game shine: it is entertaining, surprisingly in-depth, and forces you to reconsider your entire strategy for the game.

There are some downsides to this approach, however. The game’s “race to the most wins” mechanic means that by the twelfth or thirteenth match, some people are likely just along for the ride. Additionally, the constant introduction of new rules makes game challenging for younger players (or even less seasoned gamers). In a way, Risk Legacy is a toybox for meta-gamers. You have to think fast and find the best way to exploit a parade of new rules and mechanics.

But is $50 too much for a board game with an expiry date?

I could make a very compelling argument for the dollars-per-hour entertainment value of the game. I could also draw parallels to linear video games, Dungeons and Dragons modules, and even Escape Room experiences: all of which lose a portion of their charm after the first playthrough.

However, what Risk Legacy really feels like is a giant puzzle that you solve with your friends. Although mortal enemies in-game, you end up banding together to decipher emergent mechanics and unlock new content. When the board is finally complete – and a victor declared – you don’t really feel like you’ve won or lost. Instead, you are greeted with a moment of clarity: like you’ve put the final piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle.

It’s no wonder that so many people have chosen to frame the finished product.

Maybe $50 is a bit much for something that may just end up being wall art. But I don’t think I’ve ever played a game of Monopoly or Clue that I wanted to frame.

Heck, half the time those game boards ended up on the floor anyways.

Beating Superman: Michael’s Entry

Comic books were never really my obsession. I didn’t truly become interested in the superhero genre until I hit my early 20s, and most of my experience with come through trade paperbacks and the DC Animated Universe. Still, I’m always up for a good writing challenge and the task of beating Superman seemed to spark some interesting lines of thought.

My three combatants are an eclectic bunch of do-gooders. I attempted to focus in on heroes who possess powers that naturally countered the Man of Steel’s, but who weren’t necessarily all-encompassing badasses. The result is a well-balanced team that can put up a good fight against nearly opponent, including one of the DC universe’s mightiest heroes.

Without further adieu, here are the challengers:

 


Captain Atom

When facing off against Superman, you’re going to need someone to engage in hand-to-hand combat and soak up some blows. Captain Atom seems like an obvious candidate for this job; possessing strength and speed comparable to Big Blue’s. Add flight, energy projection and matter transmutation into the mix and you have one formidable combatant.

The stand-out power in this matchup, however, is the ability to absorb and expel different types of energy. Being able to negate Superman’s heat vision is an obvious boon, giving Captain the ranged advantage. When things draw into close quarters, a little bit of red sun radiation could slow things down a bit and give the other team members time to get their shots in.

Just to be clear though: Captain Atom is more of a distraction and a meat shield than a true threat. In an extended fight, Superman would tear the Captain apart with his endless stamina and his near limitless abilities. In reality, he’s just serving as one helluva distraction while the other two group members execute their strategies.

 


Doctor Fate

There are very few things (asides from Kryptonite) that Superman has shown a vulnerability towards, but magic happens to be one of them. It’s not that Superman has glowing red weak spot for the mystical arts; he just happens to be as susceptible to them as anybody else. In order to defeat him you need to exploit this weakness, and Doctor Fate seems like the right candidate to carry out the task.

Doctor Fate’s job in this particular fight is to immobilize and weaken Superman. Energy blasts, mystical shackles, disruptive telepathy and telekinesis will be used liberally, attacking the Man of Steel in ways that cannot be countered through brute strength and speed. Fate’s powers are vast and unpredictable, allowing him to engage Superman with a wide variety of abilities and tactics.

As the fight wears on, Fate will ensure that Captain Atom doesn’t get too overwhelmed and will attempt to create openings for our third member to deliver his finishing touch.

 


Metamorpho

Metamorpho is a personal favourite of mine. His powers allow him to change his form into almost any element in existence, making him a sort of chemistry based superhero. This ability is useful in almost any fight, but plays a special purpose in this particular encounter.

While Doctor Fate and Captain Atom expend their energy distracting and slowing down Big Blue, Metamorpho will bide his time and await the perfect instance to engage the enemy at point-blank range. Once that moment arrives, Metamorpho has various methods to deliver the final blow to Superman. The most obvious choice, of course, is turning himself into Kryptonite gas and swirling into Superman’s respiratory system.

Other approaches (noxious gas, extremely durable bindings, etc…) may work as well, depending on which iteration of the Man of Steel is in play and how much he has been weakened by prior assaults. Regardless, Metamorpho has a vast enough pool of abilities that he’s bound to find something to debilitate a weakened Superman for a short period of time. Perhaps just long enough to reverse whatever foul mechanisms turned him against the Justice League in the first place.

Well there you have it! I hope you enjoyed my wee bit of speculative superhero fiction. Thinking of strategies to take down Superman is rather fun, mostly because he possesses such a ridiculous range of abilities. Stay tuned through the next week or so for more Write-Up entries!

April Write-Up: Beating Superman

Well, it looks like we’re going to try and make this thing a monthly event after all! I really enjoyed how the Ultimate Fantasy Party Write-Up turned out, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to recruit a few more additional writers for this month’s topic. We’re going to flip genres around a bit on this one and revisit a classic question: how does one defeat Superman?

Now, that question is a little too broad for my liking, so we’re going to turn it into something a little more fun to write about. Let’s say that Superman has gone rogue again (for the hundredth million time). He’s either being controlled by Lex Luthor, has been brainwashed by Darkseid, or has been turned evil by some other equally sinister method. Point is, he’s wreaking havoc across the globe and someone needs to stop him.

The Justice League doesn’t want to launch a full strike against Superman because of his near god-like powers, and the overwhelming likelihood of collateral damage. Instead, they decide that they will assemble a small group of heroes to quickly and quietly take out Big Blue. The only question is: who is brave enough, smart enough and strong enough to face the Kryptonian juggernaut?

Your task for this month? Tell us what group of heroes you think would be best suited to take down the Man of Steel. Email your thoughts to us – and if your writing prowess proves to be adequate – we’ll post it in on the bliggidy blog. The specific rules are listed below:

  1. Your group must be 3 members or less, and must consist of heroes who at one given point in their career were members of the Justice League.
  2. Assume that no one in the Justice League currently has access to Kryptonite of any colour or type. That would make things too damn easy.
  3. I am instituting a Batman Ban. The Batman vs Superman dynamic has been done to death, so we’re going to omit it completely.
  4. Please describe how each individual hero will contribute to the fight, and the overall battle strategy.
  5. You are not allowed to re-use strategies that have already occured in the comic books, cartoons or movies.
  6. No killing Superman, or sentencing him to a fate worse than death. You must defeat him non-lethally.

Need some examples in regards to formatting? Please look to the past Write-Up posts for inspiration, although don’t feel like you have to mimic the layout exactly. There are no length requirements, but try to be descriptive and thoughtful with your prose.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, April 8th. If I receive submissions from more than 5 people then I will up a meager retro-gaming prize to whomever has the most creative, well constructed Write-Up. You can email your party setup to me directly, or post a link to your work in the comments below.