The Game of Risk. Photo by Phil Peck
I spent at least 16 hours this weekend playing Risk. I love board games, but this was a bit of overkill. I felt a bit woozy after hearing the dice for 7 hours straight. Colonel Mendoza tried to get up and basically fell over. Risk, however, is an engrossing game and it was a lot of fun. I love maps and as a child I’d often pitch little war games between the colors on the map. I remember that Canada was pink, I think Sri Lanka was green. I’d play each side and see who’d win. But I digress. In Risk you can actually set up and play across the map, with dice doing the fighting. It’s interesting cause there’s strategy and random luck, and you have to play the probabilities. If there’s one lesson I learned it’s that winning a war is not the same as securing a nation, but hopefully my generation has learned that by now. Another lesson is that it pays to be strong and conservative and use overwhelming force when you do strike.
1. Don’t Overextend Yourself
In Risk there can be a temptation to run rampant across the map, but then you spread yourself ‘like Marmite’ and get eaten up by someone else. In Risk you have to identify one continent and defend the few border states with great strength. Even if you have more numbers, a foray into another continent can end up dividing your troops and losing whatever you had. It is far better to entrench and let other people kill each other, only moving in when you have overwhelming force, then immediately securing the new border. It can be very easy to win battles, but holding on to land is hard and requires a fuckload of troops.
2. Protect Your Economy
In Risk you get extra troops for each continent you control. Effectively an economy. War is bloody expensive in terms of treasure and if you don’t protect that continent you’ll rapidly weaken. Before you go a conquering you have to secure your continent, with overwhelming force.
3. Choose Land Wisely
In Risk the continents each have different ‘economies’, the strongest being the hardest to occupy. Australia has only one border state, so it’s very easy to defend. South America only has two border states, so that’s also easy. Those, however, give you only two extra troops per round. IMHO, Africa is the best continent cause it’s not that hard to defend and it gives you three troops.
This time I had Europe, which gives 5 troops but is a pain in the ass to defend. It does, however, have good access to everything, but I spent half my time covering my ass. If I could have any continent I’d have Africa.
You’ll never have enough strength to ward of all wars, so you have to negotiate some cover (say Player A won’t mess with Southern Europe0 so you can focus on one attack at a time. However, there is also a natural Cold War state of things that you don’t necessarily need to make formal treaties for. Certainly nothing longer than 2 rounds. Also, if you can play two other players off each other they’ll eventually bleed themselves dry and you can walk in. The best scenario is to own a continent and accumulate troops until you can take and control another continent with overwhelming force. The best way to that is with someone else fighting.
4. Don’t Get Cocky
One thing I love in games (and TV) is when things change unexpectedly. In Risk you can look at the board and say one person is winning, but then they overextend themselves and get devoured in a matter of rounds.
And that is all I learned from Risk. Oh, there is also a lot of sexual innuendo involved like ‘I’d like to take you in China’, or ‘I want to touch you in the Ural Region‘.