RISK: Star Wars Edition – Is it great?

RISK: Star Wars Edition (Hasbro, $29.99) came out in late 2015 and board gamers all over the world rolled their eyes. Another RISK game with a theme pasted on to capitalize on the Star wars franchise. Ho-hum.

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With such low expectations, the first surprise was that the game is nothing like Risk at all. More than that, it didn’t suck!

These two things created a knee-jerk reaction among some shocked board game reviewers who immediately began proclaiming the game as excellent and the second coming of The Queen’s Gambit, a rare, out of print game that is coveted by collectors. Reviews poured in, rating the game 8\10 or higher and making some Best of 2015 lists. It seems the game was a hit or at least was popular.

Risk: Star Wars Edition is a 2 player game (or 4 players in 2 teams) played on a board in the shape of Darth Vader’s tie fighter and divided into 3 separate games that link together and are played simultaneously with a Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi theme. One player plays the Rebels, attempting to destroy the Death Star and the other plays as the Empire, attempting to thwart the Rebel’s plans.

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One of the three games simulates the fight between Luke and Darth Vader, with an opportunity for Luke to redeem his father after defeating him. This provides extra card draws to the winner.

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Another game simulates the shield assault on Endor to take down the shield surrounding the Death Star so rebel forces can attack it. This is key for the Rebel side to win and the Empire player must put Stormtroopers in their path to slow down their progress on the path to the shield generator.

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The game on the central part of the board is the main part of the game, the Attack on the Death Star, which has multiple rebel forces and the Millennium Falcon attempting to survive the onslaught of tie fighters, the Death Star and Executor attacks, until the shields are down and the Death Star can be attacked and destroyed by rolling 6 on 1d6.  This the most Risk-like part of the game, with  dice rolls determining outcomes.

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All of that sounds extraordinary and epic and I love Return of Jedi so much!!! Still, it’s been a few months since the game came out and *I think* I can now say the following without pissing anyone off too much:

1. It is true, the game is nothing like classic RISK, nor does it suck. That doesn’t mean the game is great but merely that it is not a rehash of the same old game of Risk with new pieces.

3. After one play of the game, players can see that the battle between Luke and Darth Vader is irrelevant to the game’s victory conditions since they will expend 3-5+ plays to win this part, in which case, they get 3-5 additional plays after doing so. It’s a wash and can be ignored, though some players might chose to play it. It doesn’t affect the outcome.

4. The other two parts of the game – “The Shield Assault” and “The Attack on the Death Star” are left entirely to dice rolls to determine the outcome and the game is heavily weighted in favor of the rebels winning, regardless.   There is some strategy in how you balance your moves across the Endor board and the central, Death Star board, as both are critical.  Generally, the Rebel player can focus most efforts on Endor until the shield generator is down, as it only takes one successful hit (roll a 6 on 1d6) to destroy the Death Star and win, once the shield is down.  The Empire player has to block up the route to the shield generator with stormtroopers, but this only slows down the inevitable. On the central board, the Empire wants to destroy as many of the rebel ships as possible and leaving even one Rebel ship is enough to destroy the Death Star and get a Rebel victory.

5. None of this is terrible but it hardly makes a great game. I think people were so shocked it wasn’t plain old Risk with Star Wars pieces, they mistook that relief for something more.

I know there are avid Star Wars fans out there that love the franchise and rightly so.  Sans the theme, Risk: Star Wars Edition is mediocre and there isn’t a lot to think about. It certainly can be enjoyed in the same vein that people enjoy a game of Monty Python Fluxx – because of the theme, but it’s not a lot more than that. I don’t begrudge anyone that pleasure and Risk: Star Wars Edition scratches an itch that other games may not be able to reach, but don’t mistake that for greatness. As of this writing, it holds a rank of 1279 on BGG, and I think that is a fine place for it.

Me, I’ll keep it in my collection for a while. I also have a copy of Monty Python Fluxx. I’ll keep that too. Neither are challenging strategically but can be fun to play once in a while when we’re in the mood for a light game about blowing up the Death Star or facing the Knights Who Say Ni.

(photos courtesy of Hasbro, 2015)

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