Teaching Time: 45 mins
Playing Time: 90-180 mins
Setup Time: 10-15 mins
Value For Money: Mid
Given that I'm doing these reviews to target lesser know games for praise and better know ones to be damned you might expect this review to be unkind. Risk is far from unknown and legacy games are the biggest thing in tabletop gaming for some time. However, I think that Risk Legacy deserves more attention than it has received. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 claimed the BGG number one spot and started the fashion for attaching a legacy element to every game for the next 12 months. I would argue that so far the two most effective and satisfying games to employ the legacy format are Risk and Pandemic Season 1, and I wouldn't swear to which is the most effective. Despite this every gaming shop I've been in for the last few years has copies of both Pandemic seasons, Seafall and Charterstone, while few or none of them have copies of Risk Legacy.
I don't know if this is due to childhood nightmares of never ending struggles over Europe, a dislike of modern gamers towards traditional family favourites or something more fundamental. I will say though that the game play in modern versions of Risk has been heavily overhauled. Unlike re-skins of Cluedo and Monopoly new versions of Risk are newer, better games worth looking at by any modern gamer.
Risk as a game makes the most sense of almost any to have the legacy format applied, after all few events are more likely to permanently change the face of the world map than international war. Cities being founded and nuclear weapons dropped leading to fundamental changes makes absolute sense. Furthermore, in the excellent Pandemic Legacy series the scars and alterations effecting the map are largely caused by non-player directed actions, they mark more often than not the places where players failed. In Risk Legacy every change and mark is the direct result of a player action not reaction or inaction, every change is someone's choice.
I know more people who own Pandemic Legacy Season 2 than Risk Legacy, which considering that Risk is cheaper and has been available for longer is peculiar to say the very least. If your hoping for Pandemic Season 3 or desperate to see Betrayal Legacy and don't yet own Risk Legacy I strongly suggest you seek it out.
Edited To Add
Since I’m trying to review all the current full Legacy games with some level of consistency I thought I’d track back and go over my review of Risk Legacy to bring it into line with the new reviews and allow it to be compared against other Legacy games more usefully.
I will try to standardize my Legacy reviews by using several categories: Legacy Presentation, how does it physically present its Legacy aspects during the game; Legacy access, what level of elements can players reasonably expect to unlock through play and what will be lost; Life length, specifically re-play value before, after and during the campaign mode; Advancement satisfaction, whether the upgrades given to players during campaign mode come at a rate that feels worthwhile; Rules Progression, whether added rules slot in naturally or come and go at such a rate that players never manage to settle into play; and Storyline, Legacy games generally present an overarching story which can be successful or not.
Legacy Presentation: Risk: Legacy uses a set of four envelopes and two boxes with player actions marked on them to unlock and a series of stickers that can be added to the board during or after play. Box value is okay, but mainly due to the relatively low price of the game for a Legacy entry rather than a strong sense of value. Unfortunately for some reason to do with production it is possible to peel off the stickers in such a way that they cease to be stickers at all, though this can be fixed with glue it can be frustrating.
Legacy access: Unlocking is 100% player action driven meaning that unlocks can take place extremely quickly or theoretically never at all. Reasonable play should see most of the visible content unlocked well before the end of the game and applied to the game board. If players alter their actions to unlock elements most of the content can be placed a third to halfway through the game. However, the game does include hidden non-unlockable content, given that there are only six unlocked packages this seventh package means that a significant amount of the game’s content could be missed and will never be accessed by players following the rules as presented, which is a significant disappointment.
Life length: On this basis Risk is almost certainly the best Legacy game currently on the market. Not only is it a fully-fledged game of Risk when you open the box, you can play it infinitely once the game is completed. For that matter you could pause after any game that you play and play it over and over if you wanted. Risk Legacy is the only game I know of currently on the market (as of July 2019) that in no way reduces how often it can be played due to Legacy elements nor requires that a certain number of games be played until it works as a full game.
Advancement satisfaction: The advancement of player factions in Risk: Legacy can feel a little slow and disconnected. Faction descriptions don’t sit very strongly with the unique abilities actually given and later abilities are almost totally disconnected. The upside to this is that players can drop in and out totally freely of a Risk campaign, making it far less demanding than most Legacy games. The main changes come about on the board and these happen at a highly satisfying rate both in game and out, allowing losers of games to feel like they made a real change to the game board and that their odds of victory may shift as the games go on. The game will advance at a solid rate, changing the board significantly with almost every play, though factions may stay the same from game to game.
Rules progression: Central mechanic progression is minimal, in a good way, the game is solid enough on its first game (and significantly streamlined compared to old style Risk) that not too many rules need to be added to the general game’s mechanics to keep it interesting. Rather rules are added to explain on board effects, leaving the central mechanics generally untouched and allowing players that do not wish to engage with such effects able to easily circumvent them.
Storyline: The Risk: Legacy storyline is almost non-existent in and of itself, there are solidified plotlines to underline rivalries that could arise but the majority of storyline is based on player personalities. If players choose to build emergent grudges and rivalries with attendant explanations then a storyline will develop, but the game will not assist in building the storyline for you to any significant degree.