The Walking Dead Risk Survival Edition is a fantastic fusion between the classic Risk mechanics with the ever so popular The Walking Dead theme. Anyone who has played Risk before will be able to pick this version up very quickly, however, to all you Walking Dead newcomers: Don’t be put off.
Risk, ‘the game of strategic conquest’, is an area control game where players compete against each other to take over territories and dominate the world map. In Risk, each player controls a faction that is randomly assigned a certain number of starting territories depending on the player count. Each faction has a starting number of soldiers represented by miniature plastic figures. Players allocate these figures to their starting territories as part of the set-up phase.
Once set-up, players will take it in turn to recruit new units, deploy these units to one of their territories, attack neighbouring territories, acquire any bonuses gained and then consolidate their forces in anticipation of the next player(s) turn. Six-sided dice determine the victor in any battle, with the attackers able to roll up to three die, whilst the defenders roll a maximum of two.
The twist here is that defenders win any ties and there must always be at least one soldier left in every territory. This means that players need to attack with enough soldiers to ensure that not only can they defeat the opposition soldiers but that they have enough soldiers to leave behind as they conquer additional territories.
Conversely, players also need to bear in mind that once their turn is over, they need enough soldiers left over to defend their newly acquired territories and stave off the inevitable attack from other players.
The Walking Dead - Survival Edition
The game is played on a map, which contains 32 territories and fans of the universe will recognise familiar locations such as the Greene Family Barn or Woodburry. In classic Risk players normally balance a strategy of building large armies, steam rolling over their opponents and leaving enough forces behind to defend their territories in order to acquire the bonuses needed to reinforce their armies and repeat the process next turn.
This, however, is The Walking Dead Risk and there are some fundamental differences to the ‘classic’ Risk dynamic. This version combines the Risk battle mechanics with Variable Player Powers, an Event Deck and the ‘risk’ that your soldiers that die could turn and become Walkers!
Walking Dead Risk has two playable versions, Conquest and Survival. The Conquest version is for 2-5 players and is similar to the classic Risk style of total domination. The fifth player assumes the role of the Walkers as each player attempts to control all territories and eliminate all of the other players.
The Survival version is the bread and butter of this game and plays with 2–4 players where the Walker faction is a NPC group. Each player selects one of four groups from the universe to play as each with their own unique ability (Rick’s Group, Greene Family Group, Prisoner Group and the Governor’s Group).
In Survival mode the game progresses with the familiar Risk mechanics with two key exceptions, Walkers and The Event Deck.
Walkers are allocated into random territories during the start of the game and may seem like easy targets for players to attempt to control. The clincher here is that unlike when players attack each other, if a player loses any of their units when attacking walkers there is a 50/50 chance that they will come back as a Walker and be added to that territory.
This means that, although unlikely, it is possible that a player’s entire attacking force could die, turn and add to the Walkers within the territory that you so desperately need. If this was not bad enough there is also the constant danger of Walker Outbreaks where each round a number of territory cards are drawn randomly, and walkers attack any survivors in that territory or join the horde that is already there. This will be a new challenge for experienced Risk players because just one walker could potentially take over a controlled territory regardless of how many units they leave behind.
For those that think they could manage this without too much difficulty, I need to warn you that as the rounds progress, the number of territories and Walkers where these Outbreaks take place increases!
The Event Deck in this game brings a tried and tested mechanic to the classic Risk gameplay, where each turn a player draws a new card from the Event Deck. These cards trigger events that influence the game and often grant bonuses depending on certain conditions being met. The most important Event Card is the Overrun card, that once drawn, signals the last round of the game.
During set-up, this card is shuffled into the Event Deck in such a way that it will be triggered within four to seven rounds. This adds to the already tense nature of the game as players are contending with the threat of attack from other players, the risk of Walker Outbreaks and the knowledge that the game could end at any moment. Once the Overrun card is revealed each player will have one more turn after which there will be a final Walker Outbreak.
As soon as the Outbreak is resolved the player controlling the most territories, bonuses etc. will be considered to be the best positioned to survive the new world, and declared the winner of the game.
There are other additions to this version of Risk such as Grenades, Ammo Crates, Strategic Locations and Guard Towers but I will let you explore these differences when you come to play the game.
This version of Risk takes inspiration from the Graphic Novels with much of the art work taken directly from the original text. Anyone who is exclusively a fan of the TV show will not be disappointed as the iconic characters and locations are prevalent throughout. The artwork on the cards compliment the text perfectly and contribute to immersing players within the Walking Dead universe.
As with classic Risk there is limited opportunity for player interaction. There are moments in the game where you will negotiate with players, enter into peaceful agreements (that you may not intend to keep) and challenge why they are attacking you, when in your opinion everyone would be much better off if they attacked a different territory.
When a player is attacking / being attacked by Walkers you often find yourself routing for your friends, even though that’s probably because you plan to attack their next turn and are encouraging your opponents to literally thin the ‘herd’ on your behalf.
With unique player powers there is an added incentive to replaying this version of Risk. Each power is unique making the game experience different enough for each player, however, some of the powers are clearly better than others and I often find my win rate increases when playing as Rick’s Group over the others available.
The component quality is good. The board, cards and plastic minis are all of a solid industry standard that is acceptable for a game of this size, length and price. The board is clear to read and it is easy to determine the different zones which is something I find other Risk versions sometimes struggle to achieve. My favourite component is the miniature walkers, complete with missing limbs, that my Mother-in-Law was initially concerned were broken before realising that they had probably been bitten off previously!
Final Thoughts on The Walking Dead Risk
I first played classic Risk as a child and have since played multiple different versions that I have always enjoyed. I am a huge Walking Dead fan, both the Comics and the TV Show, so fully expected to like this game before I had even played it. In my opinion this is not the best version of Risk (Europe, Star Wars, Legacy), however, it works perfectly fine as an area control, dice rolling, Risk game.
I have only played this version with fans of The Walking Dead universe and the theme was constantly commented on throughout. In one version of the game a player controlled The Greene Family Barn and, quite ironically, they lost the territory to a Walker Outbreak. Throughout the game they made several unsuccessful attempts to take it back, only achieving to add to the growing number of Walkers in situ there. When playing with this same group of players this territory is always commented on and avoided as if it is cursed!
I have no trouble recommending this game to fans of The Walking Dead universe who are looking for a heavily themed, area control, dice battling game. If collectors of ‘Risk’ games wanted to add this to their collection this version is worth considering although there are better Risk games to be discovered.