Risk is in the running for Best Card, Board & Mahjong Game of 2007 at the upcoming Zeeby Awards. We chatted with Jim Stern, VP of Product Development at iWin, about what makes Risk special and why it deserves to get your vote.

Can you give us insights or fun facts about the development of this game?

Because of Risk’s longstanding popularity in the board game community, we felt it was important to give it extra testing and decided to run an internal, single elimination Risk Tournament – the winner got to go home with a brand new Wii console. Needless to say, we had over 50 people enter the tournament. Schedules were set up and the smack talk started infiltrating the water cooler area almost instantaneously.

In order to minimize any unfair advantage from those people working directly on the game, each tournament was set up to run with two human players and one computer AI. Despite fears of setting up a fixed tournament, every single person involved in the game development lost in the first round (and yes, as executive producer, I lost in a mere 4 turns to someone who had never even played the game before), thus proving that the game really could transcend to all levels of play and identifying AI that needed a bit of, er, fixing before declaring the title Gold Master.

The final game was set with four players competing head-to-head in the main entryway of the company. Inside bets were placed and the jeering began. With alliances being made and redrawn throughout the game, the crown finally went to Sam, the man with patience of steel from the IT Department.

What makes Risk special, and why should people vote for it?

Risk has been around for ages and has been a longtime favorite of strategy board game players. Diehard fans would challenge up to 5 friends simultaneously, often requiring the game to be set up in a safe place where the dog or cleaning services (if played in the office, ahem) would not disrupt the progress already made. In addition, to really get the full value, you needed at least 2 other people of comparable skill to make the game fun.

While praying on nubes can help you win, it’s not as rewarding as beating a true aficionado. To tackle these problems, we put in a few hooks that would allow players to set the pace they were comfortable playing – claim each territory one at a time or let the computer do it for you instantaneously; continue to attack (or defend) without rolling the dice each time; or get immediate results for an entire battle played instantly (especially helpful with fortified territories of 100 units or more).

Plus, we provided multiple levels of AI that would allow you to either play against the computer (at your leisure), with friends (for bragging rights), or a combination of both to allow for some outside forces that are outside of your control. These changes have truly made this game the licensor’s favorite of all Risk games that have been published to date.

Besides your own games of course, what other games impressed you in 2007?

I happen to be a huge fan of Rock Band. My son and I loved playing Guitar Hero, but immediately got hooked on Rock Band where the entire family can play at once, claiming their own rights to their favorite instrument. Balancing it to individual levels of expertise and including great songs was pure genius.

If you win a Zeeby, how do you plan to celebrate (aside for going to Disneyworld, of course)?

Why, have a Zeeby likeness etched onto a cake for all to celebrate, of course. We have a local favorite watering hole for celebrations like these – 21st Amendment. A round of drinks with stories of the tournament are sure to kick off the excitement along with reminiscing of who should really have taken home the Wii.

Any final words for your fans?

We hope you enjoy the game – we had a lot of fun putting it together and hope you see the endless fun that was intended with this classic board game.

Voting for the Zeebys runs from now until July 5. Click here to vote for you favorite casual games of 2007.