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post 5 Nov 2008, 03:24 PM
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post 5 Nov 2008, 03:38 PM
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Risk - Rules Overview

Forty-two countries, six continents and a multitude of armies make Risk an exciting game. Setting up the game is a simple process. The number of players is calculated, they choose their armies and then retrieve a number of armies from their tray. (3 players = 35 armies each, 4 players = 30 armies, 5 players = 25 armies, and six players = 20 armies, 2 Player rules are slightly different)

The Setup: There are three types of miniatures in each tray. There are cannon, cavalry (horsemen) and there are infantry. The infantry count as one army, cavalry as 5, and artillery as 10. The initial number of armies should be stacked in front of the players. They then role one dice to determine who is first. Play proceeds clockwise. Now beginning with player one, each player puts an army on a country and armies continue to be distributed among the regions of the world until every country is occupied. (A minimum of one army must always occupy a country.) Then placement continues in the same manner until all armies have been placed. A popular variation is to simply deal out the Risk cards (minus the mission cards). The players then occupy the countries they are dealt and then set up their troops en mass shifting them around until all are satisfied with their dispositions. (The cards are then returned to the card pile.)

Receiving Armies: Play begins with Player 1 receiving a number of armies based on his territorial possession. He receives one army for every 3 countries he controls (but a minimum of 3 total), plus he receives a certain amount for each continent (Asia = 7, America = 5, Europe = 5, Africa = 3, South America = 2 and Australia = 2). Finally, he may also turn in cards (if he has the right combinations) for armies. He places these armies anywhere he wishes within his own territories.

Attacking: The player then may attack any country adjacent to his own (where he possesses more than one army). He then picks out the number of dice equal to his own attacking armies. (He can't count the army which must remain behind to occupy the territory.) The defender does the same up to two dice, but he may count the army occupying the territory for this purpose. Both players role dice simultaneously and then remove casualties based on the results. The player continues to attack until he determines it is no longer to his advantage to do so. The fact is, he is not required to attack at all.

Final Move: The player then moves any number of armies from one country to an adjacent country, when both those countries are in his possession. He is not required to move any armies. He then receives a card from the stack (minus the mission cards) if he was successful in conquering at least one country. Play then passes to the player to the left, and the next player goes through the same steps.

Winning the Game: When a player eliminates all the armies of another player he then receives his cards. If he has six or more cards, he must turn in a set of cards for armies, which he may place immediately for attack. If he has less, he may not turn in cards until the beginning of his next turn. A player wins by eliminating the armies of all other players and conquering the world.

Risk - History


The game of Risk was invented in the Early 1950's by a Frenchman by the name of Albert Lamorisse. Movie buffs will recognize his name. He was a famous director. Among other movies he directed "The Red Balloon" which won awards at Cannes and even in the United States. He died in 1970 in a helicopter accident while directing a movie in Iran.

Before Lamorisse became a famous director, he took a game, which was called "La Conquete du Monde" (Conquest of the World), to Miro a game manufacturer in France. They decided the game was marketable, however, the rules were slightly modified by Jean-Rene Vernes. La Conquete du Monde proved simple enough for novices to play, yet complex and realistic enough to enthrall even sophisticated wargame players.

Even as La Conquete du Monde gained a following in France, the Parker Brothers, the famous American game manufacturer, established a relationship with Miro, and through this relationship brought the game to America, modifying its look somewhat, changing a few rules (adding the cards to speed up the game) and then changing the name to Risk!

In the United States the game took off. It's layout was very much the same, but the playing pieces had a very different look. They were rectangular, wooden cubes. The pieces representing ten armies were also made of wood and were triangular.

For several years the game stayed substantially the same. But as it came into its own, it began to evolve variations. House rules were common and some of them found their way into the modern rule book.

But the game of Risk became more than merely a French and American game. In Italy it became a phenomenon under the name Risiko! Rights to the Italian version were purchased by Emilio Ceretti in the late 1970's. He modified a few rules, including bolstering the defense by giving it the option to use three dice instead of two.

Today the game is popular all over the world and has many versions including Risk 2210, a computer version, Risk II and Lord of the Rings Risk, all of which are widely available in toy stores or computer stores.

Risk - Tactics

To win consistently at Risk requires development of several skills. Of course, luck is a factor, but a player must know how to respond to certain threats, how to attack, how to defend. There are nuances in the rules that a player can use to his or her advantage that have nothing to do with having a lucky horseshoe nearby (though it can't hurt).

Dice Rolling: This is a basic skill. The fact is that the odds between 3 attack dice and 2 defenders is pretty close to even. As a defender, a player should nearly always use the maximum number of dice possible. This gives the defender the greatest likelyhood of punishing the attacker. The attacker also should maximize the number of dice he rolls. However, he must take into account the rule that stipulates that should he be victorious, he must move at least the number of armies as the dice he rolls into the conquered country. This means that the attack should be full force until the enemy is wittled down to two or fewer armies. Then as long as he intends on advancing at least three armies, he should use three dice. However, if he chooses to use less, he should remember that fewer dice lessens his chance of victory.

Line of March: The dice rules and the fact that armies can be easily cut off from the battle-front make selecting a line of march when attacking a vital tactic. A player should keep his armies grouped at the front as much as possible. When attacking, a player should group his offensive force on one country. Then he should trace the rout of countries he intends to attack through so that he is not required to leave more armies than necessary behind him. For example, if he has 30 armies in the Middle East and he intends to conquer Africa, he should first enter through East Africa, then attack the countries in the following sequence: Madagascar, South Africa, Congo, North Africa, Egypt. If you follow the trail of this attack you can see that when the attacker conquers Egypt from North Africa, he can leave 1/3 of his remaining armies in North Africa, he may then use his final-move to transfer an additional third of his armies back to Middle East. This would secure all the borders of Africa and the countries not exposed to the front are left with only one army each. Of course, this is a general example. If there was a significant threat in Brazil, the attacking player might leave greater forces in North Africa or even attack Brazil.

Army Placement and Card Armies: A player may choose to refrain from turning in cards until he has 5 cards. Unless there is a favorable opportunity or extreme need, it is usually wise to wait as long as possible as this will maximize the number of armies received. Of course, the placement of these armies should be done with strategic considerations in mind, yet on a tactical level, a player should refrain from spreading his armies out evenly over his entire empire. Spreading out his force leaves a player vulnerable to attack everywhere and does not allow him to muster much offensive force when the need arises. Generally, it is best to oppose force with force and it is often better to attack first as waiting only allows the enemy to build up more troops and attack when he has the advantage. This is a fundamental concept in Risk, massing ones forces as much as possible.

Final Moves: The move at the end of the player's turn can be handy in bringing troops to the front that get cut off after a major victory. However, good planning in choosing lines of attack should make this a rare occurance. Rather a final move is more powerful when used as in the example above in the secton on lines of march. It can be used to balance out forces on a defensive boundary after a strong attack or it may also be used to prepare a future attack. For example troops might be transfered from two important border areas such as Greenland to Alaska if an invasion of Asia were planned from North America in two turns. (However, this should only be undertaken if Greenland is relatively secure.)

Taking a Country: A player should always try to take a country even if he is building up his strength for later opperations because this is the only route to getting card armies. The number of card armies builds up quickly; a player does not want to be left out; for after one or two turn-ins the number of armies is so vast as to easily sway the outcome of the game. Even a player who seems on the verge of destruction can come roaring back with one turn-in of cards that nets him 40 or 50 armies.

Risk - Strategy

An aspect of Risk that has made it so popular over the years is its realism. It mimics actual geopolitical maneuverings in the diplomatic world. The strategies in Risk rely on fundamental ideas around human relations and the national use of force.

Balance of Power: The prime strategic consideration in Risk is the idea that if a player at any point holds more than half the armies in the world or the potential to get them, he can swiftly overcome all his opponents. For this reason it behooves weaker players to ban together to keep down, if not necessarily destroy, this power. Thus a player who manages to conquer both North and South America generally will be able to sweep the board of his opponents if he is not attacked immediately by all the other players with all the power at their disposal. He should concentrate on one enemy at a time, if possible. For every enemy eliminated is at least three less armies he must confront every turn.

The weaker players, then, should form informal alliances. "Divide and Conquer" should be the strong player's motto, while the weaker players should be thinking, "United we stand, divided we fall." Of course, the weaker players only ban together until the great power is humbled and a new great power rises up from their ranks. This means that each player must constantly balance his relations with the other players. There are no restrictions in the rules about advising other players and such diplomacy should be an integral part of the game. In fact, getting another player to act in your interest should be a primary objective of every player.

Power Bases: A consolidated continent can be thought of as a power base. Possession of even a small continent can almost double the number of armies per turn. It is then important to protect this base and expand from there. Many players like to gain possession of Australia early in the game. Even though it is small, it is easily defended because it has only one entrance. Its disadvantage is that it is far away from other possible conquests. Asia is seldom completely conquered and held early in the game. It is simply too vast with too many points to defend. Since possession of an entire continent augments a players power, it is important to prevent other players from doing so whenever efficiently possible. This does not mean you should spread your armies in an effort to block every opponent's conquests. However, weakly defended continents that can be easily broken up, generally should be attacked at their weakest point to prevent the opponent from collecting armies from its possession the next turn.

In attacking a power base a player should consider his objectives. Is he trying to break the continent? or does he want to take the entire continent? The definition of the objective will largely be dependent upon the number of armies available for attack. To completely conquer a continent and consolidate it in one turn it is generally necessary to have at least twice the number of troops as the enemy has in the entire continent (plus a few to occupy the conquered hinterlands). A continent may be conquered with equal or even fewer forces, but this usually does not succeed or if it is successful leaves the continent open to reconquest or the machinations of a third player. With fewer forces, a continent may be broken - with a roughly equal force to the local armies at the point of attack. If possible, superior numbers should be used because these can be moved onto the conquered country and inhibit reconquest by the enemy.

Army Placement: Strategic placement of armies is vital. The rules often remind players to move armies to the front. This is good advice, but it is best to know where the front is. It is not necessarily where the enemy's power is built up. In fact, it is often wise to avoid great masses of armies. For example, an enemy built up in Europe has 4 border countries to defend. He might build up heavily in the Ukraine, Iceland and Western Europe, but often Southern Europe will be left weaker. In an attack from Asia it would be best to concentrate forces in Middle East and launch into this weak spot. Even though you might also hold Ural and Afghanistan if you do not hold the rest of Asia it would be best not to place any armies in them even though they directly oppose your immediate object of breaking up Europe. In placing armies the idea of "concentration of force" is paramount. You will be tempted to spread armies all over the place, and sometimes this will be necessary, but generally it is best to concentrate power on one objective at a time.

Offense/Defense: Balancing offense and defense is not always easy. It is a maxim in military circles that a good offense is the best defense. But in Risk, as in the real world this is not always the case. When the battle rages between two players one should put every ounce of power in the offense, but when several players are involved, the political element changes this dynamic. Under these conditions it is best to attack when expansion can be consolidated even in the face of opposition. Meanwhile a player should attempt to leave enough force covering his power base (not necessarily directly on the borders of a continent - for example South America can be defended from North Africa and Central America) to deter an attacker who must also be worried about what the several other players will do to him should he become too weak because he spent too many armies attacking you.

Armies can simultaneously perform both an offensive and defensive roll. For example a player controlling North America might attack from Alaska to Kamchatka and place all of his armies in Kamchatka. The border has been expanded and the bulk of armies still protect the power base of North America. There would be little sense in leaving more than one army behind in Alaska except for "political" reasons. (For example the object of the attack into Asia may simply have been to get a card and the number of other troops rampaging about the continent make certain that Kamchatka will be attacked even with a large number of troops situated there, while the same players might think twice about crossing the Berring Strait if North America plays no immediate part in their grand strategy.)

All these strategies assume perfect conditions and the availability of many armies. In the game of Risk, until the balance of power becomes terribly skewed, there never seems to be enough armies to accomplish your objective. Thus, you often have to rely on luck. Napoleon famously said that he would rather have a lucky general than a good one. Then if you must take risks, take calculated risks. Consider what might be gained by a particular attack or for that matter not attacking at all for a turn. Don't squander your forces in hopeless adventures. Bide your time, collect your cards and attack when the conditions are right. Remember, "suicide missions" are a sign of an undisciplined player. You never know what will happen in the next round of play. Luck, card armies and the actions of other players could suddenly catapult you into a powerful position.

Risk - Variations


There are many variations in Risk. Families create their own house rules to conform with personalities and time available. Variations can emphasize certain qualities and rectify certain imbalances in play.

Random Set Up: Perhaps the most popular variation involves the initial setup. Instead of choosing countries, the players are dealt out the country cards (minus the mission cards). They are required to put one army in each, then they must distribute their armies to the remaining countries. This has the effect of speeding setup. It creates a situation where for the first two or three turns players have to work hard to consolidate their empires, having to conquer broad tracts where they might otherwise have not. It can also create a situation where one player is dealt an entire continent (a great advantage) while the remaining players must do the best they can with fragmented territories.

No Cards: The earliest rules of risk made no use of cards. Thus, there are no card armies. This makes strategy and diplomacy even more important. But it also doubles and even tripples the length of the game because there is a tendency for players to continually form alliances to face the player with the greatest force. Thus, with the balance of power constantly being enforced by the players it is more difficult for a single player to overwhelm the rest.

Card Army Progression: There are actually several popular modification to the card rules. One slows down the increase in the number of armies awarded to players turning in cards. For example each player turn-in might increase at its own rate. Another modification allows for no progression at all. Players receive a number of armies based on the content of his turned-in cards (4 for a set of all infantry, 6 for all cavaly, 8 for all artillery, and 10 for all different). These rules have a similar effect to having no cards at all. Only it does equalize the forces somewhat as card armies lessen (if only slightly) the significance of holding continents.

Dice Roll Modifications: The Italians moved the balance of power toward defense when they allowed the defense an additional die. Another rule modification that favors the defense has the offense roll first and the defense then rolling choosing the number of dice he wishes to roll (minimum one). For example, if the offense rolls two sixes and a five, the defense might choose to roll only one dice to minimize the possibility of loss. On the other hand should the offense roll three ones the defense would choose to roll two dice for automatic kills. While these rules do favor defense, and do slow down the game slightly, they do not appreciably affect tactics or strategy.

Reserves: In this modification players may set aside some of their armies in a reserve pool. Simply turn over the lid of each box of miniatures so that it lies where everyone can see it. When a player receives armies at the begining of his turn he may place one or more armies in his reserve. At the beginning of any subsequent turn he can access as many of these as he wishes - to be placed with any other armies he receives that turn. A modification of this variation even allows the player to place reserves in a country that is attacked. (However, in this case only one army could be placed in reserve per turn).

Official Rule Book Variations: There are several variations in the rule book provided with the game. They include limiting the number of armies allowed in a single territory, the use of commanders to modify dice rolls and giving an advantage for attacking from a territory that the player possesses the card for. Most of these do not appreciably affect strategy or the overall outcome of games.

Risk - Conclusions

Risk can be an immensely enjoyable pastime. Children and adults can spend hours in the glorious splendor of their imaginary empires. But to be a good emperor and to truly enjoy the game, players must put into practice sound military and diplomatic principles.

The key to winning is fairly simple and goes along the lines of a famous ungrammatical and pithy quote from the Civil War General, Nathan Bedford Forrest, "Get there firstest with the mostest" (with emphasis on mostest). The main idea is to overwhelm your enemy with power, but the means of doing this are as varied as the players who love the game. It can be done with diplomacy or it can be done with brute force.

Up to this point I have avoided discussing specific geographical regions except in examples. However, the planet Earth is a big factor in the game and in line with the idea of power bases and choosing a scheme for choosing countries in the begining of the game it is well to consider each continent.

Australia: Quick to conquer, easy to defend it is likely to be one of the continents competed for early in the game. It is a fairly secure base to meddle in the affairs of other players. Yet, to compete for it in a five or six player game with two or three other players could result in quick defeat and anhilation. A few dice rolls could make the difference as to who wins and who loses as at this stage in the game the number of armies competing will be relatively equal. This does not mean that you should not stake a claim on Australia. In fact, it might be a good location to place your first country pick. This way when armies are being distributed you might find that you can place enough armies here to virtually guarantee its conquest.

South America: With only four countries, this continent is normally easy to capture. However, it tends to be difficult to hold as it is south of the powerhouse that is North America and west of the continent of Africa. Even so, it is somewhat out of the way, with two entrances. If it can be captured early with few losses it can be a staging area to invade the bigger continents. Once a player chooses to use South America as a base of operations it is absolutely imperative to prevent any other player from dominating North America because the logical place for North America to launch an invasion is South America. The 8 to 5 imbalance of armies per turn will likely prove to be decisive for the North American forces. Africa is not as much of a worry for South America. Any player conquering Africa will likely have too many other worries to arbitrarilly invade South America (but it is wise to keep this front covered with adequate troops).

Africa: This is a fun continent to conquer. Yet, it can be difficult to hold. North Africa forms part of a natural invasion route that runs from Middle East, through Southern Europe and North Africa and ends up in Brazil. This is a common attack route for Australian or Asian forces working to break up continents. Although there are three countries to defend (and the three armies per turn help to offset this need) these countries front on three different continents. For this reason, once conquered, Africa tends to go on the defensive building up across the northern tier of countries and expanding only slowly, first by conquering the Middle East, then Southern Europe, etcetera. Even so, Africa is subject to general threats. Because of its more defensive location Africa often builds up forces that allow it to launch great assaults when other players least expect it. Often the meddling Australians can be surprised by a march through the Middle East, India, Siam and into Indonesia.

North America: North America is quite a prize. Once secure it brings in 5 extra armies a turn and it has only three border countries. It is dificult to dislodge a player from North America once he has established himself. However, the border countries are all fairly distant from one another. Thus, if the continent gets broken, it is a couple turn ordeal final moving and raising armies to retake the continent. As was noted above, the most logical route of advancement is to South America where most opponents can be overwhelmed in a war of attrition. However, a player can also move into Europe or Asia quite easily. The chief danger early on to North America comes from the player in South America who is likely to work very hard to prevent anyone other than himself from controlling the area.

Europe: Europe is often relatively easy to take. Its central location makes it a march route for armies traversing the board. With so many armies passing through, players are loathe to leaving any but the barest garrisons behind. But a quick gathering of forces can conquer it. Permanently securing it can be another problem. There are 4 border countries and these can be attacked by 7 surrounding countries. The player conquering Europe is generally an oportunist. He has to be politically astute and constantly maintaining the balance of power around him until the moment is right. The extra five armies per turn generally get distributed around the borders. The southern and eastern countries are all mutual supporting and when sufficient force is built up an invasion can be launched to the south. No continent (other than Australia) is more than two conquered countries away.

Asia: An Asian strategy early on is almost always a mistake. The huge prize of 7 extra armies a turn is simply too great for other players to allow you to hold it, and holding it is a real problem. A player bottled up in Australia has only one outlet, and that is through Siam. Africa can generally easily take Middle East and hold it against concentrated attacks (as long as the African player is not getting too much pressure from elsewhere). Both Europe and America will be jelous of the large haul in armies and surely attack at the first oportunity. Asia often turns into a card harvesting ground. In other words it often has few armies occupying countries and it is an easy place to take a country when only a card is wanted, because this allows a player to be less threatening in the process.

When deciding on a strategy at the beginning of the game, settle on a continent to take. Your army placements should augment your goal. Keep your armies and your countries as grouped together as possible.

Diplomacy: Having said all the above, it is well to note that if your tactics and strategy are sound you will do well. Yet, in a game of highly experienced players, the decisive factor will likely be diplomacy. As this is a highly personal aspect of the game, it is dificult to give advice on how best to make use of it. Suffice it to say that you should always try to maintain the best relations with every player, even when that player is under the most vigorous assault by your armies. Remember, the enemy this turn, might be a vital ally on the next. In your dealings with other players be certain not to be duplicitous. Never, ever lie. You want them to trust you when you tell them something. Make them see that their own best interest lies in what you want them to do. If you lie, they likely will not trust you again, even in future games.

A Final Word: For a game with such simple rules, Risk can be an intricate, even beautiful game. It is fun, intense and requires skills that will also benefit the player in the real world. A novice may not be able to implement all the suggestions made on this site and may even find that they do not fit their own playing style. Thus, keeping the advice set down here in mind, the best way to learn the game is, like everything else, through experience. So play, play, play....


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