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.