What is Risk?
What was your favorite game as a child? Perhaps it was Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Mouse Trap, Operation, Stratego, Monopoly, or Life. My favorite game, in which I still play today, is Risk. Risk is a 6 person strategy game where you play for world domination. Many of us may have played it and remember it taking hours to complete one game while not fully understanding the rules. Here is a refresher for those that may have forgotten how to play and a quick guide for those who have never played. Each player starts out with several countries on the globe. If you control a continent you will gain extra pieces or “Armies” to help win the war for each turn you play. Each time you eliminate an enemy from a country; you will hold that country and receive a card. These cards display one of three pictures and a country below (Cannon, Horse, and a Soldier). Once you have a “set” or in other words 3 of a kind or one of each you are able to turn in for reinforcement armies at the beginning of your turn. You must turn in when you have 5 cards. You are playing to eliminate every player from the game which can take some time. So today we are going to look at where you can play a fast moving Risk game for free as well as some strategies you will need to utilize to ensure first place.
Play Risk Free
Now that we have a clear understanding of what Risk is and how it is played we are going to look at where you can play it and some strategies that will ensure you a victory. One of my favorite websites for online games is Pogo. It is great if you want to play Risk or any other game that takes Java software. These games can be played with random opponents, with a friend, against a computer or just you. But, we will be focusing on Risk. Once you arrive at Pogo you can search for it in a variety of ways. Once you arrive in the “Risk” section of the site. You will be able to choose a game room to join. You will see the “Room Name” (which is generally something outlandish) and a number to the right of it. In most of the Pogo games, 90, is a full room. You want to try to get into a room that has the most people. Typically, one room will have 90 and another will be 85+ with the rest having around 30 and below. This is important because it will dictate how quickly you should find a game. What I do is refresh my page until someone leaves (with 90 people someone is bound to leave or get disconnected from the internet). Click on the room and wait thirty seconds for the room to load. If you have slow internet or haven’t used Java much it may display a white page, if this occurs just wait until the page loads.
Once you are in the room you will see little tables with Lego like people (Humans) and sometimes robots (Computers). You will see several buttons and colors as well as a chat below. Dark-Green indicates that a game has not been created at that table. Grey indicates that the table is closed or private. Unless you have the password to join the game, you will be unable to play. Yellow means that a game is in session. You will have two options here, “Play” and “Watch”. Do so accordingly; keep in mind that some games may be further a long then others. Generally, those that join others games ruin the flow of play. This is because when a human player leaves, a computer replaces them. Often times, the humans will focus on other human players and not so much the computer as they play poorly. It is frowned upon because you may be able to “Steal a win” that you didn’t deserve. These players are known as “Bot Jumpers” and “Tolls” or “Trolling”. A light-green table will indicate a new game has been made. Sometimes a yellow may be mistaken as a light-green so you will want to watch the chat for new rooms. The host will say what settings he is using and the table to join. (Example: Table 48, 468, 2 More)
The settings for the game vary and it will change how the game is played dramatically. The two main settings or “types” of Risk is the traditional 468 (Progressive) and 888. You may be asking if those numbers are a typo, but, they are not. The numbers indicates the amount of units you will receive on a turn in. If you hold the country indicated on the card, you may or may not get 2 extra units placed in that country. 4-6-8 indicates that you will receive 4 units on the first set on cards, 6 on the next, 8 after that, then 10-15-20-25 exc. whereas 8-8-8 gives you 8 units with every turn in. We will first look at 468 strategies before we go into 888 as they differ immensely.
Now that we know the main difference between the variations of Risk we need to look at how these variations affect gameplay. In progressive you will rely heavily on cards. In the beginning of the game it pays to go last because when a player holds 5 cards they have to turn in. The first person to collect 5 and turns in only receives 4 units giving a greater amount of units to the next player to turn in. Since these cards dictate how many units you will get per turn it will behoove you to eliminate a player who has collected a good amount of cards because you will then collect their cards. If you achieve more than 5 you will receive a turn in mid turn. Sometimes collecting cards isn’t by choice as you have to collect 3 of one type (Soldier, Horse, and a Cannon) or one of every type. There is a wild card, but, we will look at that later. Cards are as good as gold in traditional Risk; it can give the weakest player power, all though most often is a curse (this is because of the likelihood someone will eliminate you for your riches). This is where we come to our first strategy; when you are weak don’t attack a country to receive a card. Why you ask, well since a card is seen as a beneficial resource to an opponent you may not want to collect one (in other words collect your “Base” amount which will more than likely be 3 in this scenario and don’t attack). This puts eyes off of you as no one wants to attack an opponent that will cause a loss of men with no gain. This allows you to sit back, build stronger, and watch the other players eliminate one another giving you an opportunity to move in. This can be implemented in 888 too, but, is not as effective. You may also want to delay a turn in if you were the first to go to collect on the last set.
Unfortunately, once a player eliminates another and receives his cards he may be able to have continuous momentum as his army is being replenished by the deceased. In 468, holding a country really doesn’t matter as much in the beginning because the main source of men comes from cards. Usually, an opponent will be eliminated within the first ten minutes. This usually happens as there is always an “odd man out”. Most often you will see two people fighting for Australia and the constant battle between North and South America. First we will look at how to increase your chances to win in a fight over Australia. First, you don’t want to weaken yourself enough to the point where you are easily eliminated. You will want a standing army with 2+ units to avoid a loss. Do not attack unnecessary opponents in neutrality. In other words if there are two people fighting for Australia and there is a middleman not utilizing his forces don’t attack him. Every unit is detrimental to ensuring victory as bad luck can ruin your success. You will want to cut off your opponents’ ability to “Fortify” his units in Australia. Most likely your opponent will start out with 4 or 5 units outside on the country. You need to impede him from accessing those units by attacking his supply chain or leaving a large amount of units in Southeast Asia to prevent access.
Now, he will only have 3 reinforcements each turn (assuming he doesn’t hold another continent). Both of your standing armies in Australia will be 4-12 before someone makes a move. It is said that the defender has the advantage, but, don’t listen to it unless the defense has more of a significant amount of units. In other words attack his units once you’re able to. He will try to use his outside resources for revenge so you will need to be on your toes. At this point it will be a matter of luck. Australia only receives a payout of 2 extra units to your base amount. But, often it is neglected and wins the game as the other opponents eliminate one another. This is not as true for 468, but, more so for 888. Nevertheless, it is easy to protect and allows you to play gorilla type warfare on the surrounding countries.
Risk Strategies Continued
Next we will look at South America. South America can be a great position to obtain at the start of the game. Late game though, it isn’t great. One of its quality aspects is that it too is easy to defend and easy to claim. It will give you 2 units extra per turn; yet, it is trapped in-between two continents that are usually held. If you do not have a standing army in Asia, you are sure to be forced to attack a larger opponent (North America & Africa). One strategy to use it to hold a standing army in Asia while you hold South America, the problem with this strategy is that you are an easy target for Australia who will most likely eliminate your units in Asia to build tension between players in the game. This is why you need to take swift action once you obtain South America. Since it is easy to obtain, the other opponents will not have a hold on their own continents. Be careful who you wage war on as it can affect you greatly. Generally, North America is impossible to hold so what most players will do in 468 is mass their units in one area to increase their momentum (killing power). This will give you leeway to keep North America at bay. But, if possible eliminate your opponent in Africa as it will be a beneficial position to you as you will be collecting 3 extra units. This will give you 5 units extra per turn which is just as much as Europe and North America.
We will now look at Africa which in my opinion is the best country to hold. It offers easy access to the surrounding globe and is fairly easy to defend. The problem with it is that you may feel like “World Police”. Constantly waging war against your opponents will surely frustrate them, this may cause them to “Suicide” on you (Throwing the game for the sake of revenge; usually giving the win to Europe). The best strategy for Africa is to simply stay on guard, making sure your opponents stay weaker or as equally strong as you. If someone gets out of line you strike them. Keep in mind that in 468, you may want to “Bulk” your units. You don’t necessarily have to keep your units on every boarder. You can place a mass of units in the center that have access to your attacker if they should enter your continent. This will ensure you have the right resources to kill an opponent. Keep in mind that this will keep them landlocked. Watch the game and see if someone is getting ready to attack another player. You will want to have the ability to weaken them or block them from attacking the weak link so you can claim the cards yourself.
Europe is a fairly easy concept in that you too need to act as a world police. The game is usually dictated by the actions of Europe as it is in the center of everything and is generally the strongest. When playing as Europe you will want to ensure that your opponents do not get as strong as you. If possible you will want to instigate fights between opponents. This can be done by amassing units on around their boarder so they need to attack their weaker opponent for a card. Be wary as they may attack you out of spite. But, if everyone is playing to win most likely they will not want to sacrifice a majority of their units for revenge. Whenever I play Europe, I usually leave Africa alone and focus on Australia as it is the snake in the grass. You will need to keep an eye on North America if they have it obtained too.
North America is a continent that no one ever wants, it is hard to defend and hard to obtain. The best way to overtake North America in my opinion is to do it methodically. If you rush to claim it, someone will take it away, never allowing you to get your foot in the door again. If you take one country per turn and build up your units you will have enough units to protect your boarders. You might want to use the strategy of leaving a country untaken so you are not receiving the turn in. This will put you off the radar of the other players allowing you to build up your forces to defend it. Keep in mind that if South America has been claimed and has nowhere else to go. They will most likely attack you, in other words you will need to give them some leeway until you can claim your continent. Keep in mind you may never claim it. But, that isn’t important in 468. If you play Risk often, you already know that Asia is nearly impossible to hold, especially in 468. This is why we are now taken to 888 strategies.
More Risk Strategies
Now, don’t get me wrong, many of these strategies we have covered thus far can be implemented in an 888 game. But, cards are not as important in an 888 game. Holding a continent will be paramount to your success. In 888, attacking your opponent for cards is not important if you lose a significant amount of units to do so. Unless you receive a turn in that can replenish your army upon the elimination. In other words having a continent is much more important. Strategy is the key in an 888 game and is less based on luck of a simplistic turn in. You will want to instigate fights as much as possible and keep your opponents weaker than you. Keep in mind that power is symmetrical in Risk.
A player constantly has power be it cards, countries or continents, or perhaps nothing at all. Play to win, but, winning is not always possible. In fact, a good player in Pogo who plays against human players wins about 20% of their games. So you will want to focus on winning the best position you can as it may not be first. Don’t suicide on your opponent as it is rarely beneficial to you. If the other players are smart they will kill the weak opponents. It is all too often that you can find a game where your opponents “Turtle”. In other words they build up their units on the boarders making it their own cold war. They wait 20 turns until the games turn timer runs out to make a move. It’s ironic to me because those 100 units against their opponents 80 units could have been done with 10 vs. 8 and saved you a half hour. You will not want to try to instigate a fight between the two because they are afraid of one another. They will attack you even if you are larger, the best thing you can do is wait until one of them makes a move on one another. It is a sickening strategy to sit idly, but, you have no choice. One thing you can do is host your own games and set a low turn timer which will cause the game to continue to progress.
If you have read this far then I am sure that you play Risk as learning strategies of a game you don't play can be quite boring. If you have managed to read this far then I assure you it is a great game and you can follow one of my links to play. Setting up a profile is easy and takes seconds. Once you have done this let the fun begin!
If you do play Risk, then I hope you were able to learn something. Remember, Risk is about minimizing your odds and taking the chance when it is best made available to you. If you have any strategies to offer please leave them in the comments as I too enjoy learning new ways to defeat my opponents.
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Jake on January 08, 2017:
I really liked this article! My strategy is to take up Alaska, Greenland, Brazil and the southern tip of SA, and just work towards the middle making sure you still have enough troops to defend your borders. I like to collect those 7 troops per turn for holding two continents for about 3 or 4 turns. After I have enough troops in Brazil and Greenland, I make a sweep across Africa and Europe in one turn and meet up right next to Asia. I wait 2 turns, or until I have enough troops, and sweep the Western end of Asia from Alaska, and attack everything else with the troops from Africa and Europe. This is a strategy that has about a 90% success rate. Ive used it against the most difficult cpu matches, and against challenging real opponents and often go undefeated. Try it out!
cool7 on March 21, 2013:
Very good strategies. Risk is one of my favorite board games.
Cole on February 18, 2013:
I usually conquer south America and then take over north America. I build my forces up and then take over Africa, Asia, and Europe. This defeats quite a few players and gives me more momentum where I take over Australia and win.
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on August 13, 2012:
Yes, it does require a vast amount of strategy. One of my favorite stratogy games is Command & Conquer. But, Risk is available to you no matter where you are and requires the same level of thinking. A lot of people dislike it because it takes awhile to play and they don't grasp the concepts. Pogo eliminates most confusion and makes Risk much more enjoyable to those not adept in strategy games.
TurtleDog on August 13, 2012:
Great post and some good 'political' strategies I had not thought of before. You've demonstrated that Risk is more of a head-game than people think. I used to love this game as a kid. I'll have to take your recommendation and check it out on Pogo. Thanks again! Interesting!