What do you get when you mix a guy who loves making up his own games (me), with a guy who loves mythology and research (me again), with a bunch of his friends who also love board games? You get Mythological Risk.
The story goes like this: some friends and I played a game of RISK over the holidays, and after our arduous battle I thought to myself, “What would make this game more fun?” So I started looking online for game variants, and although I did eventually find Risk Variants and their zombie variation to the game, I wanted more. Since the majority of the playing field is surrounding by unusable territory i.e. the oceans, I decided to add mythological creatures to the mix. Mythological SEA creatures to be exact. Because of the layout of the board, I had the potential of adding seven creatures to the gameplay (see the map below for how I divided the board).
Then I started my research to decide who/what I would include.
For any nerd like me, the research is always the most enjoyable part. I wanted to make sure the creatures would have some ties to the area that they would be located at on the map, otherwise I would have had a bunch of Greek and Nordic creatures and nothing else. Luckily for me, I have a bookshelf that resembles Giles’ from Buffy, so I hit the books to research. I also checked out sites like Encyclopedia Mythica for more info and clarification. Once all was said and done, these were the creatures I decided on:
1. Megalodon – Ancient Greek for “big tooth”, this extinct species of shark lived during the Cenozoic Era, reached a max of 60 feet, and more likely than not, had a HUGE impact on the marine life of its time. For comparisons sake, it would look like a super gigantic Great White. The closest thing we have seen to Megalodon in our lifetime: Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus.
2. Kraken – Said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Sweden, the Kraken has been referenced to since the 18th Century and are most often depicted as resembling a giant octopus. In 1830 Alfred Tennyson published The Kraken, describing a massive creature that dwelled at the bottom of the sea. However, for most of us reared on TBS, our version of the Kraken is the one we saw in Clash of the Titans.
3. Cthulhu – One of H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, the Water Being Cthulhu was introduced in the short story The Call of Cthulhu, published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928 establishing the character as a malevolent entity hibernating within an underwater city in the South Pacific called R’lyeh. According to Cthulhu Mythos scholar Robert M. Price, Lovecraft was inspired by Alfred Tennyson’s work. TSR included an entire chapter on the Cthulhu mythos in the first printing of Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook Deities & Demigods (1980). However, they were unaware that Arkham House – copyright holder on almost all Lovecraft literature – had already licensed the Cthulhu property to the game company Chaosium. Although Chaosium stipulated that TSR could continue to use the material if each future edition featured a published credit to Chaosium, TSR refused and the material was removed from all subsequent editions.
4. Titan Oceanus – Believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the divine personification of the World Ocean, the Titan Oceanus was a son of Uranus and Gaea. In most variations of the war between the Titans and the Olympians, Oceanus did not take the side of his fellow Titans against the Olympians, but instead withdrew from the conflict. He appears in the video game God of War III as the Titan of Water and Lightning.
5. The Sirens – In Greek mythology, they were dangerous and beautiful creatures, portrayed as femme fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Mermaids are often associated with, and become the visual representation of, the Sirens. In Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? the Sirens are reimagined as a team of beguiling washerwomen, played by Christy Taylor, Musetta Vander, and Mia Tate.
6. Leviathan – Sea serpents feature prominently in the mythology of the Ancient Near East, but in Modern Hebrew, the word literally means “whale”. Jewish sources describe Leviathan as a dragon while the Leviathan of the Middle Ages was used as an image of Satan. In popular culture, it has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature. OTher mentions of the Leviathan include: (a) Paradise Lost where Milton uses the term Leviathan to describe the size and power of Satan, the ruler of many kingdoms, (b) the Hellraiser series by Clive Barker where the deity that rules Hell is named Leviathan, (c) the television series Supernatural where the Leviathans are an ancient race of monsters that were freed from Purgatory when the angel Castiel absorbed its entire population, and (d) both the manga and anime versions of Fullmetal Alchemist where Leviathan is the demon representation of Envy, one of the seven deadly sins.
7.Gojira/Godzilla – Inspired by the fictional Rhedosaurus created by animator Ray Harryhausen for the film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla is a Kaiju (which literally translates to “strange creature” – however it translates to English as “monster”) first appearing in Ishirō Honda’s 1954 film Godzilla. Gojira (ゴジラ?) is a portmanteau of the Japanese words: gorira (gorilla), and kujira (whale), which is fitting because in one planning stage, Godzilla was described as “a cross between a gorilla and a whale”, alluding to his size, power and aquatic origin. Godzilla’s exact origins vary, but it is generally depicted as an enormous, violent, prehistoric sea monster awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation. Godzilla is easily one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese popular culture worldwide.
So how do you gain control of one of these awesome creatures? Basically, their cards are mixed in the deck with other RISK cards and when you conquer a territory, you earn the right to draw, no different than a normal game. However, unlike before where you just drew countries to earn more armies, now you may draw a monster to patrol the waters. We’ve only played once with these new rules, and there was some tweaking that had to be done afterwards, but the addition of this variation sped our game up and also forced us to think much differently while playing.
After all was said and done, most of us were overrun by zombies anyways.
Email me if you want to see the rules we came up with to incorporate the creatures so you can play Mythological Risk yourself. We are playing again tonight with our new rules and hopefully the creatures come into play more. Nothing can be more fun than saying “Cthulhu will now attack the Eastern United States” and then knocking out 36 armies with one roll of the dice.
I know. Nerds.