You Know You Want to Play These Risk-Style Games of 'Urban Domination'

Havoc Boards apply the classic competition for world conquest to ten different cities.

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World domination is all well and good, but sometimes taking over a city is more than enough for one night. That's the feeling that Luke Costanza and Mackenzie Stutzman had a few years back while playing the board game Risk in Boston. So they sketched out a rough map of the metro area, split neighborhoods into six distinct regions, and laminated the pages. Then they invited over a few more friends to test it out — and discovered it was a rousing success.

"That's when it kind of clicked that we could maybe make these for other cities," says Costanza. "It's just tons of fun to be able to play this classic game in a place that you know."

That initial urge to conquer the Bay has since expanded into Havoc Boards: a series of 15 Risk-style games that Costanza and Stutzman are funding through a Kickstarter campaign. Instead of limiting the action to the global stage, Havoc Boards offer a variety of territories for conquest. To date they've created boards for ten cities —Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles among them — as well as two countries, a continent, a college campus, and even the solar system.

"We knew that it was a lot of fun to take over Boston when we played it," says Costanza, "so it was reasonable to think other people in other cities would feel the same way."

Costanza and Stutzman prepare each city board by evaluating urban planning maps, dividing a metro area into six regions for ideal game play, then transferring the design into Adobe Illustrator. Most cities have natural partitions, but Costanza and Stutzman often have to get a little creative with their boundaries. Finding six regions in New York City, for instance, meant adding New Jersey to the five boroughs.

"It's a fine line between making sure the maps play great and making sure they're as realistic as possible," says Costanza.

Havoc Boards achieved an initial Kickstarter goal of $20,000 with a month remaining on the donation countdown. (Their waggish campaign video, produced by Costanza's brother Matt, gives a clever nod to the classic Seinfeld scene in which Kramer and Newman have their Risk board smashed on the subway.) At this funding level Costanza and Stutzman will release full batches of three boards — New York, the United States, and the United Kingdom — and every additional stretch goal of $4,000 will mean one more release.

Even if all the city boards aren't funded for full production, people interested in specific maps have several options. For $10, donors can receive any map they'd like in the form of a coaster, and for $100 they can get any of the 15 games as a laser-engraved wooden board. Fork over $500, and you can even have Costanza and Stutzman create a whole new map of your choosing.

"We're blown away by the positive reaction we've gotten," Costanza says. "We love the idea, but you never know how other people are going to respond."

Costanza and Stutzman take every chance they get to point out that their work is not affiliated with the original Risk, created by Hasbro. In fact, Havoc Boards require a person to own Risk, since they don't come with their own soldier pieces. So far Hasbro has left the Durham-based business partners alone, but Costanza and Stutzman do receive lots of requests from people who'd like to see maps of certain college campuses or individual American states.

The one campus they've made so far is the University of Rochester, where their passion for Risk began as undergraduates. Costanza says it wasn't so much winning and losing that drove their play as the psychological game-within-the-game that occurred — convincing someone to attack someone else, for instance, only to betray that person a moment later. Hence the official Havoc Boards slogan: "a great way to ruin friendships."

"We get a real large kick out of forming an alliance with someone and then completely backstabbing them and watching ruin cover their face," says Costanza.

Images courtesy of Bungles Board Games LLC.

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