Playing the Board Game Risk

How To Play Risk - A Game to PlayRisk is a turn-based strategy game of world conquest. It requires from two to six players, though the game is better played by four to six players. It was the first board game to use war, empire and conquest as its theme.

In many ways, the board game Risk is the most abstract of all war-themed games. Risk is not really a war game, because it doesn't make an attempt to be a realistic simulation of war and military strategy.

Early Risk

Though first marketed by the American Parker Brothers company, Risk was created by a French movie director. Albert Lamorisse, who directed such films as The Red Balloon (1956), invented the game in the early 1950's.

The licensing rights were bought by Parker Brothers in 1958, and the game hit American shelves in 1959. The company made several changes to the rules of Risk, as well as the game board.

The Parker Brothers name remains on the Risk package, though that company is now a subsidiary of Hasbro.

After Hasbro bought Parker Brothers in the 1980s, it started to develop alternate versions of Risk. Examples of these include:

Starting the Game

Risk begins by assigning territories to each player. There is a deck of cards, with a card corresponding to each territory on the board. These cards are handed out in equal numbers to each player. The allotment of the territories is random in nature.

Next, the players are given the same number of army units to place on their territories. Players place these units in any number on any territory as desired, though one unit must be placed on each territory in a player's domain.

It is next determined randomly which player will go first. Order of play follows the standard clockwise format afterwards.

Play follows "turns", where each player takes each of his or her actions for that round. Then, it becomes the next player's turn to act. Turns have several phases, in the following order: reinforcement, attack and movement.

Reinforcement Phase

There are three ways to gain reinforcements in Risk. One is a standard action, taken every round by every player remaining in the game. The other two require conditions to be met.

One, each player receives one army unit for every three territories owned. This number is rounded down. Also, a player cannot receive less than three units, no matter how few territories are in that player's empire. These units are placed anywhere the player chooses.

Two, a player receives additional units if that player owns every territory on a particular continent at the beginning of that player's turn. Each continent yields a different number of armies, depending on how difficult it is to own that continent. This number ranges between two and seven additional armies.

Three, a player receives additional units by trading in territory cards. Every turn in which a player wins a battle, that player receives a territory card. These cards contain a picture of either an infantryman, a cavalryman or a cannon.

When a player collects three cards with the same picture, that player can trade those cards in for extra armies. Players cannot have more than five cards in hand at any one time.

Attack Phase

Player's can attack any adjacent territory during the attack phase. To attack, a player must have at least two military units. When attacking, a player rolls the "attack dice".

There are up to three attack dice. Players can roll one die for each number of army units that sit on the attacking territory, minus one. Therefore, if a player has three armies on a territory, then that play may roll two attack dice. If there are four or more armies on the territory, that player can roll all three attack dice.

Defending players also roll dice. There are up to two defense dice. If a player has only one defending unit, then the defender only rolls one die. If that player has two or more units on that territory, then the defender rolls two dice.

Combat Resolution

Ties go to the defender in Risk. Therefore, if the highest number rolled by both attacker and defender is 5, then the attacker loses and must take one army off the board.

In a case where the attacker rolls two or more dice and the defender rolls two dice, then two units will be destroyed each round. Victory is determined by ascending dice values, from the highest to the lowest number in a pecking order.

Therefore, if the attacker rolls a 5 and a 3, and the defender rolls a 3 and a 2, then the defender loses two armies. It is assumed the attacking 5 defeats the defending 3, while the attacking 3 defeats the defending 2.

If the attacker destroys all of an opponent's armies in a territory, then the attacker conquers the territory. That attacker must decide how many units to move into that territory, though the attacker must move at least one unit into that space.

The attacker can withdraw the attack after any round of combat. The defender cannot withdraw.

Attacks can continue as long as a player has units with which to attack. If a territory is conquered, the attacker may move a large army into that region. If this region is adjacent to other enemy territories, the attack can continue on any of these newly-adjacent territories. In this way, one player may make large gains in one turn.

Movement Phase

A player's turn ends after movement is resolved. A player can only move armies one space from any one territory in the movement phase.

At this time, if that player won a battle during the attack phase, then that player can draw a territory card from the deck.

Risk Strategy

It is important in Risk to secure entire continents. Therefore, players tend to set up defenses on the borders of a continent, usually at a choke point where it will be hard for the enemy to displace the player's armies.

If a player owns a continent, then that players often tries to secure all territories directly adjacent to one's continent. In this way, the player does not allow an opponent to secure an entire continent on one's doorstep, and therefore building up power nearby.

Australia is the easiest continent to hold, because there is only one path to that continent (Siam) in traditional Risk. Australia has the lowest army value, of course. Asia is the hardest continent to hold. Therefore, it has the largest army value if one can conquer it.

Winning at Risk

Total world conquest is the goal of many board games. Risk is one of them. This requires eliminating one's opponents and eventually conquering the world.

In practice, players often retire from the game when it is apparent that one player undoubtedly will win.

The next time you're looking for a game to play, give Risk a try.