Shortly after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, Mike, Pez, Roger, Wade and I all got together to play a game called Attack!. At the time, it was described to me as “Risk, but better”: it introduced air and naval combat into the mix, and reduced some of the random nature (but not all). It was also an incredibly long game, such that after four hours, we were all too tired to continue as we had work in the morning. So, Pez pulled out his laptop and we “saved” the game– writing down who had what units where, who had controlled what, etc. etc. For the week or so until we were able to resume it, we were on the edges of our seats with anticipation. Setting up again was simple and fast, and we had a ball with “our” world.
Risk Legacy, which I mentioned yesterday, is taking a lot of criticism for its most obvious degree of distinction from other Risk variants: you destroy parts of the game set as you play matches. The game board gets marked up with stickers, cards can be altered in value, even the rules can and will change as time goes on. Where most folks focus on the fact that the game is “ruined” after that time, though, it occurs to me that after the fifteen game “setup” phase is done, you have a world all of your own to play in. Maybe it’s balanced. Maybe one player has a dramatic advantage over the others. Maybe in your game South America is a smoldering nuclear wasteland because Australia just thought it looked funny. Who knows.
Gaming– and I’m including video gaming in this, too– is starting to take note that people like to customize stuff, to really make it their own. You saw a little bit of this with Mass Effect, and how a choice made in the first game– Virmire, to say the least– can be carried over to trigger radical changes in the third. Funny how there’s a lot of resistance to this grand concept of having an ongoing narrative and personalized resequencing of events, when one would expect the response to be along the lines of “I liked the idea back when it was called ‘Dungeons and Dragons’”.