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Richard Jeffrey
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I think there's a big hairy pitfall in world building that many writers with an rpg background fall blithely into. It's a little thing I call "rpg-think", and there is no quicker path to shallow and derivative settings than doing this. See my guest post at the ConTessa blog in which I dig into the hazards of letting game mechanics influence world building choices.

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Here's the second of my 2-part guest post about "rpg-think," and how to avoid it.

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This is a pretty striking image: Asclepius, the god of medicine, fending off Death. What imagery adorns the hospitals in your world?

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"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” - Cersei Lannister

There are four areas of the world where Risk games are designed: Argentina, Brazil, Italy and the United States. In the US there are two companies who produce Risk versions: Hasbro and USAopoly. Most of the games published by USAopoly are single print runs and connected to a particular (popular) theme. They have offered two Halo games, Plants versus Zombies, The Walking Dead and others. Their latest entry is Risk: Game of Thrones.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the production values in the game. I have played games on paper maps with cardboard chits, games where the generic pieces had to be marked as the shapes were identical and the colors impossible to differentiate; I have even played games on maps that were pieced together from different games and the units were taken from a variety of other games. Then there are the games from Fantasy Flight, Ares and Asmodee - some of their products include the best components ever included in board games. The Game of Thrones from USAopoly can join this elite group. Everything is top notch. 

There are two boards, components for seven players with unique sculpts for each player and individual plastic containers to hold the units. Each of the seven ‘families’ has a small deck of character cards specific to their family. In addition to the quality of the components, the quantity is more than I have seen in any Risk game with the exception of possibly Godstorm. Note: there is a board specifically for 2 players and then the second board for 3 to 5 players. When playing with 6 or 7 players, bothe map boards are used.

(There are two odd things I noticed. First the game is listed for ages 18+. I cannot fathom why that should be. Second, there is a map of the world of Game of Thrones printed on the inside of the box cover - something I don’t think I have ever seen.)

Components can make the gaming experience more pleasurable but it is the game play itself that is critical. This is a ‘Risk’ game so does it play like Risk? In short: yes and no.

The instruction manual provides the rules to play classic Risk on these maps. Doing so results in a Risk version that is extremely fluid. On the 3 to 5 player map there are ports that ring the land mass. All ports on the east side are ‘adjacent’ and all ports on the west side are ‘adjacent’. (They are color coded.) This provides the opportunity for many surprise attacks. Playing this version allows for a complete domination game (as in the classic version) or the tournament type game where at some point a special card is revealed in the territory deck and players score points according to the total number of territories and continents they control. Because the map is so very fluid, fortunes can change rapidly. For those who enjoy the classic game, Game of Thrones in this mode will be familiar but challenging. This is not typical strategic warfare, this is guerrilla warfare. If you enjoy the classic game, the fluidity of the map will require new strategies, new challenges.

There are additional rules that encompass all of the (many) components and the Game of Thrones theme. In this version players are attempting to gain 10 victory points by completing objectives worth 1 to 4 points each. These objectives range from accumulating a specific amount of gold to controlling castles and ports. It is in this version that the Maester cards and Character cards are used. Though the mechanics for combat and reinforcements are from classic Risk, the game does not play like Risk - and this is not a bad thing.

When played in this manner, Game of Thrones plays like a giant version of Nexus Ops. (Note: I enjoy Nexus Ops and wondered why similar games were never released.)  It appears much more chaotic as the objectives are so varied. There is less combat than in the classic game and rarely will a single player be targeted for multiple attacks. The nature of the objectives, as in Nexus Ops, forces players to slither around the entire map. For example, one objective is to control 9 ports. As the ports are spread along the outside edges of the map and only ports of the same color can be used for invasions, this requires players to traverse the interior of the map to reach the ports needed. Reaching the ports on the opposite side may require attacks on all other players depending on who controls the intervening territories.

There is an option to include as much or as little of the ‘chrome’ such as the Character or Maester cards. There are fewer battles than found in a classic game and because a single player is rarely targeted repeatedly, it is less ‘offensive’, more girlfriend friendly than classic Risk. 

Of the two versions of play in the rules, it is the classic version that feels more like Game of Thrones than the version that includes all of the chrome. In the classic version, you are attempting control of vast areas; attempting to dominate the other players - attempting to sit on the Iron Throne. In the second/chrome version, you are scoring points - it is similar to Nexus Ops or even a touch of Small World. 

The MSRP for the game is $75 (US) which seems heavy for a Risk game. However, you really are getting two, good games for that price. These actually could have been released as two separate games.  I found both versions enjoyable. Depending on the group, I would be willing to play either version and (most important), have a good time while playing. 

Note: At times we found the 'chrome' version ended too quickly so we often play to 15 or 20 points.
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One simple rule for starvation, dehydration, exposure, suffocation, and other dangers. Written for D&D, but it shoudl be easy to use in any game.

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