War, conquest, and strategy games often suffer from a characteristic that puts off many gamers: the runaway leader. This is basically similar to the concept "the rich get richer." As you expand and conquer, you get more money, men, and resources with which you further expand and conquer, thus receiving even more money, men, and resources, etc. Conversely, if you fall behind, you receive less which makes it very difficult to stop, and/or catch-up to, the leader. Risk is the ultimate, poster child for this often negative side-effect. The more territories you own, the more armies you receive, thus the greater ability you have to steamroll opponents. Meanwhile, falling behind early can translate into a death sentence as you receive too few armies to both conquer new lands (gain more troops) and adequately defend your empire (keep what little you already have). Now, obviously, there are ways to deal with the runaway leader, else Risk would not have survived in popularity for 55 years.
I suppose one could argue that the runaway leader concept thematically portrays the real life cycles of historical civilizations and empires. Empires garnered numbers and resources through their conquests of lands - indeed that, and its resultant power, was generally their motivation to expand in the first place. And as they grew, they gained more strength for further expansion. That was one of the benefits of large empires. However, what war games rarely thematically abstract are the problems with large growth: waste, corruption, regional discontent and revolts, cumbersome administration, and over-extension of resources.
Adult gamers can lose interest in a game when it becomes obvious that they have very little chance of winning because the leader is so far ahead. Children can downright lose heart and become completely demotivated to continue playing. So, what to do? The most obvious solution is the alliance. Those currently not in the lead will ally against the clear leader. It is certainly an effective strategy and often leads to another fun aspect of war gaming - diplomacy and all of its inherent psychological and brinkmanship glory. However, not all gamers like the concept of alliances, in principle, instead seeing it as a cheap "gang up on the leader" gambit, whereby sheer numbers overtakes sophisticated savvy. Another means of combating the runaway leader is to "turtle," a tactic whereby you take all your meager resources and pile them up in one place to create such a formidable fortress that the leader cannot complete the victory, but yet you are not able to win yourself. This just delays the end, sometimes inevitably, and isn't any fun.
|The always under-rated|