Risk (game)

From Academic Kids

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A typical game of Risk in play. Many game elements such as the board, dice, units and cards are visible

Risk is a commercial turn-based strategy board game produced by Parker Brothers, a division of Hasbro. It shares many characteristics with wargames, yet relative to other war games, Risk is simple and abstract. It makes little attempt to accurately simulate military strategy, but does, however, convey a vivid sense of how large the world is, of how expensive the logistics of long campaigns can be, and of how good or bad luck can turn the tide at crucial moments of a close-fought military campaign. It also conveys the psychology which leads nations to invest so heavily in armies to protect against their rivals.


Overview and most common rules

The  which equals two cavalrymen or ten units.
The cannon which equals two cavalrymen or ten units.
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The cavalryman which equals five units.
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The infantryman, the basic unit of Risk.

Risk is a turn-based game for two to six players. It is played on a board depicting a stylized political map of the world, divided into forty-two territories, which are grouped into six continents. To start, each player rolls one die. The player who rolls the highest number plays first and the sequence goes clockwise. Each player in turn places an army on a territory to claim it until all territories have been claimed; following this, the players position among their territories the armies remaining from their starting number of armies (varying depending on the number of people playing; for six, each gets 20; for five, 25; four, 30; etc.).

The game is played by allocating armies to the territories that you control, and then attacking neighboring territories in order to conquer them. The outcome of battles is decided by rolling dice.

Each player receives reinforcement armies at the beginning of their turn — the number of reinforcements depends on the number of territories controlled; the number of armies received is that of the total of territories divided by three, discarding the remainder; at least three per turn is guaranteed. Also, bonuses are given at the beginning of one's turn for controlling all territories in a continent or continents (see table below) and for turning in sets of cards (see next paragraph). A large part of the strategic skill of the game lies in deciding how to deploy these reinforcements.

At the end of each player's turn, if he conquered at least one territory, he receives a card. These cards each show a territory and either an infantryman, cavalryman, or cannon; there are also two wild cards, each of which shows all three soldier images. At the beginning of a player's turn, he is given the opportunity to hand in sets; a set is a group of three cards which either all have the same image or have one of each image. The player then receives a certain number of additional reinforcements. Usually, there is a progression; the 1999 Risk rulebook suggests for the first, 4 armies; the second, 6; 3rd, 8; 10; 12; 15; and continuing on by fives. This is highly variable between sets of house rules, some having other progressions, resetting to the beginning after a certain number, or even whether cards are used at all. Also variable is the bonus given, if any, for owning any of the territories shown on the cards; the '99 rulebook suggests having a bonus of two for having one or more of them, those two only capable of being positioned among the territory/territories shown on the cards and owned. Also, note that when a player is holding five cards, he is certain to have a set; varying sets of rules stipulate that a player must turn in a set at the beginning of his turn if he has five cards. If a player is allowed to have more than five cards, some sets of rules permit him to hand in only one set per turn of his.

While it is possible to win by controlling all forty-two territories on the board (in so doing eliminating all other players), this results in a very long game, with a drawn out and predictable end game. Some versions of the rules specify a lower winning target (typically twenty-four territories), or allocate a random, secret, "mission" to each player at the beginning of the game. Possible missions include gaining control of all territories in two or three specified continents, or eliminating another specified player; the first player to achieve their mission wins the game. With missions, a typical boardgame of Risk lasts two to four hours, but in the competition Internet versions there are time differences for many different combinations of the rules.

Since playing Risk with fewer than three players isn't always as engaging as games with more players, some versions of the rules recommend having some territories occupied by "neutral" armies to give the same strategic value and fun factor as an actual three-way game.

Rules and differences

Risk was designed by Albert Lamorisse (a French filmmaker) and released in France in 1957. From the pre-1959 version, Parker Brothers and Hasbro have included many different rules for the game. There are many computer and Internet versions which have different rules, and hundreds of Risk clubs which also have their own "house rules" or competition-adjusted rules. It is very difficult to line up all different rules and combinations, and about every rule or goal is different or not used from place to place.

Strategy for standard rules

Continent # of Extra Armies
North America
South America

The strategy of Risk is to have the most number of armies in the place where they will do the most good. One of the easiest ways to gain armies is to hold continents. If you hold an entire continent for an entire turn, you receive a number of extra armies, which is dependent upon the continent (see the table to the right).

A common strategy is to secure Australia or South America early in the game and sit back and build up armies, letting the other players kill each other off. Then, when the others are at the weakest, strike. If more than one player attempts to follow this strategy it can lead to an internecine bloodbath.

Another rule of thumb is to never try to take Asia early in the game; it is the largest continent and the least defensible, and trying to hold it would leave the player open on too many fronts.

A good rule is to always take at least one territory per turn, even if you expect to lose it the next. By taking a territory, you gain a Risk card. Combinations of 3 Risk cards can be played in future turns in exchange for more armies (this being a "reward" of sorts for aggression). A sudden influx of armies at the beginning of a turn can change everything. Just remember: every turn a player successfully gains another territory, he or she also gains one-third of a new set. For example, if the next set of cards will grant a player 30 armies, then the card earned is essentially worth 10 armies.

After winning a battle, it's tempting to leave a single, occupying army in a territory and push all others into the newly defeated territory. This leads a strong front line with no reserves. If an opponent breaks the leading edge of your advance, he or she can often run deep into your rear area as they only have to defeat a single army in each territory. Leaving two or three armies in each territory will slow your advance, but it minimizes the damage if an opponent breaks through.

Sadly, once a player has become dominant in a particular session, the endgame becomes more or less inevitable. Risk is a game of numbers, and, consequently, the game can "tip" very hard in a player's favor once he or she controls enough territories and continents to build up a steady stream of reinforcements each turn. When this happens, there's very little that can be done strategically to stop them.

Because cards in the standard rules quickly build to high value, some players, in games of 5 or 6 people, manage to play a very effective game by mostly ignoring continents, focusing instead on wiping other players out and seizing their cards. If two or three weaker players with 3 or 4 cards each can be defeated in the space of a few turns, without hopelessly weakening the attacker in the process, he can often win the game, even against strong entrenched remaining opponents.

Politics and alliances

Whenever there are more than two players remaining in the game, alliances will be an important, perhaps the most important part of Risk strategy. There are no rules restricting the formation or break-up of alliances. A good Risk player will use diplomacy to arrange alliances to take down stronger opponents and will similarly attempt to use diplomacy to avoid alliances being made against him/herself.

The importance of this should not be underestimated. This "meta-game" is perhaps the single most important factor determining the outcome of Risk games amongst players who have already grasped basic Risk tactics and strategy.

Many good examples of powerful strategies can be found in the external links section.

Alternate versions

External links


  • Hasbro's official Risk page (http://www.risk.com/games/pl/page.viewproduct/product_id.9491/dn/default.cfm)
  • Hasbro's Risk: The Lord of the Rings Game page (http://www.risk.com/pl/page.viewproduct/product_id.13162/dn/games/default.cfm)
  • How to Win at Risk! (http://www.indepthinfo.com/risk/index.shtml)
  • TEG game (http://teg.sourceforge.net)
  • KsirK game (http://kde-apps.org/content/show.php?content=21450), an open-source (GPL) computer-clone of Risk under KDE/Linux
  • Risk FAQ (http://www.kent.ac.uk/IMS/personal/odl/riskfaq.htm) - An explanation of the rules of risk, in all their alternate versions. Also includes new ways of playing, and some strategy tips.
  • Lux, a Risk game (http://sillysoft.net) that include online play and multiple maps. Available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.
  • Risk II Download (http://www.download-free-games.com/risk_game_download/risk2.htm) game information, screenshots, user comments, reviews, and trial download
  • TurboRisk (http://www.marioferrari.org/freeware.html): an accurate, freeware version of the game for Windows computers
  • jRisk (http://jrisk.sourceforge.net/) a multiplatform, network-playable Risk game
  • Risk 2000 (http://www.geocities.com/virtropolis/risk2000.html): An interesting Risk variant that challenges players to compete for natural resources, build weapons, oversee trades and deals, and race to develop various technologies
  • DominateGame (http://www.dominategame.com): An on-line multiplayer version of the game
  • Risk Probability Calculator (http://db.cs.helsinki.fi/t/ipuustin/webrisk/webrisk.jsp) calculates battle probabilities for both normal Risk and the Lord of the Rings variantde:Risiko (Spiel)

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