"It is an ancient world, awash in ancient faiths and ancient fears...."
-- first words of the Risk Godstorm rulebook
Here is the Risk Godstorm map, a tour de force by cartographer Rob Lazzaretti. The color palette is similar to what you would find on a Grecian urn or a Babylonian tablet -- assuming you were lucky enough to find one with the paint still on it. There aren't many game elements on the board, just a few dotted lines to connect continents through water. Mostly, it's just like a map from ancient times.
We used real names of places from antiquity. The six "continents" of Godstorm are Germania, Hyrkania, Europa, Asia Minor, Africa, and -- how could we resist? -- Atlantis. Each continent contains between four and twelve highly contestable territories. Control all of a continent, and you'll get its continent bonus when you raise soldiers.
When we started out on the design of the game, we had to make a choice about what to keep from the original Risk. For a game about mythology, it's surprising to say there was only one sacred cow: how dice were used for combat. Another item loomed large over the landscape, however, and that was the size and connectivity of the continents. We could come up with a brand new scheme or go with the tried-and-true layout of Risk.
Now, you probably wouldn't recognize it by looking at that graphic, but the layout is roughly the same as what's in Classic Risk. All of the continents have moved but they're pretty much the same. Since we were going to change nearly everything else about the game, we decided to leave this one, crucial element roughly the same. That way, if you want to play classic Risk on a mythological board, you can.
There are two ways to set up your soldiers in Godstorm. There's the way introduced in Risk 2210 A.D., which involves picking territories in turn and setting up soldiers three at a time. There's also the Classic Risk way, which involves drawing territory cards and placing one soldier at a time. Both are allowed, because players of both games might prefer their method for starting the game.
The territory cards show the territory names and their placement on the map. In addition, in the upper left corner of each card is a symbol of one of the gods (either blade, skull, or sphere). You can use these in the Classic version of Risk to form sets that score extra points. For Classic, there are also two Wild cards that aren't used in Godstorm; these Wild cards have all three symbols.
The object of the game is simple: Control the most territory at the end of the Fifth Epoch of play. The continents are crucial to that scoring, because they provide bonus points and bonus soldiers.
The monstrous central continent is Europa, essentially the Asia of Classic Risk. Europa connects to a terrifying four continents, or all but Atlantis. It's very difficult to gain control of Europa, but when you do you'll be rewarded with seven additional soldiers with which to defend it. Europa's territories are: Dacia, Thracia, Dalmatia, Liguria, Roma, Apulia, Corsica, Sicilia, Graecia, Minoa, Ionia, and Anatolia. Graecia, the center of the Greek civilization, is here on Europa.
A giant mountain range separates Europa from its neighbor Germania, with which it shares a border at Liguria. (Mountains cannot be crossed by soldiers, so it's a little like having an ocean between territories on either side of a range.) Germania is the rough equivalent of North America in Classic Risk; a little smaller than Europa but just as connected to the rest of the world. The territories in Germania are: Hibernia, Caledonia, Anglia, Thule, Varangia, Galicia, Alemannia, Gaul, and Iberia. Two of the civilizations' capitals, Anglia (the Celts) and Thule (the Norse), are on Germania, meaning that Germania will be the center of great struggles in many a game.
Hyrkania is a small and easily conquered continent of only four territories: Rus, Scythia, Cimmeria, and Sarmathia. It's the equivalent of Australia in Classic, and like that continent, it's the epicenter of a great many power struggles. Entire strategies have been built around the holding of Hyrkania, as it can launch into the frontiers of Asia Minor, Germania, and Europa. Holding it only gets you a bonus of two soldiers but its location is what makes it a most tempting prize.
The "Europe" of Godstorm is actually Asia Minor. Connecting to three continents, Asia Minor contains six territories: Parthia, Sumer, Assyria, Phoenicia, Babylon, and Sheba. Babylon, insulated behind the crossroads territory of Phoenicia, is the center of the Babylonians. Control Asia Minor, and you'll get three soldiers a turn. This is made a lot easier by the mountain range that cuts off Cimmeria from Asia Minor, meaning that those who wish to attack through Hyrkania have to go the long way around.
Africa is, not surprisingly, the Africa of Classic Risk. It stands in the center of the board, connected to pretty much everything. Its seven territories are: Atlas, Carthage, Gaitulia, Cyrenaica, Nubia, Egypt, and Kush. Egypt is home to the Egyptians, of course. Controlling Africa is worth five soldiers a turn but it's tough. A single cataclysm can make Africa a lot less vulnerable to attacks from the west.
The Not-Yet-Lost Continent sits off the coast of what would be modern-day Portugal -- and who's to say it wasn't there? Like Hyrkania, Atlantis is a four-territory continent, containing these territories: Hesperide, Tritonis, Poseidonis, and Oricalcos. Unlike Hyrkania, its continent bonus is three soldiers, not two. Like South America in classic Risk, it connects only to two continents, Germania and Africa. Plus two of its territories only border other territories on Atlantis. That description should make any Risk player salivate.
What prevents you from stacking every piece you have on Atlantis? Pure, unadulterated fear. There is a card that can sink Atlantis into the briny deep. When this happens, everything on Atlantis dies. The water connections to Atlantis are severed when an ocean-colored marker shaped like Atlantis is placed over the sunken continent. Once Atlantis sinks, there's no way to get it back.
In my next column, I'll introduce you to the mortal residents of the world of Godstorm and a few of the things that kill them. Come back next time for that.
Catch up on any previews you missed!
- Into the Fire
- The World of the Ancients
- God-Fearing People
- Gods Among Men
- The Warlords
- Miracles On the Battlefield
- The Sky Kings
- Blessings From the Heavens
- The Reliquary Opens
- Pandora's Box
Mike Selinker has been playing, designing, developing, and just plain loving games of every variety for many, many years. He is a gamer in the very best sense of the word. Mike lives in Seattle.