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How to win at Risk!

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 beginning 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 annihilation. 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 arbitrarily 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 difficult 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 opportunist. 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 jealous of the large haul in armies and surely attack at the first opportunity. 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 difficult 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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