Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Risk Strategies

Risk board game strategies: Australia
by Craig Reade (

Risk board game strategies: Australia – Defensive Might


One of the most basic and widely-used strategies in the game of Risk involves establishing the continent of Australia as a defensive base.

Since Australia only has one entry point (Indonesia, through Siam), it is an ideal continent to keep and hold, especially when focusing on a defensive game. Because of its simplicity and popularity, at least one player in every game will attempt it.

If this is your plan, be prepared for fierce competition and make sure you have the stomach to 'risk' the game to gain that foothold.

Risk board game strategies: Australia - Initial Army Placement

There are four territories in Australia – Indonesia, New Guinea, Western Australia and Eastern Australia. With the exception of Indonesia and Eastern Australia (which cannot reach each other), every Australian territory connects with every other one, making it an ideal defensive position.

Editor's note: the version of the game which Dan describes is the one where players can choose which territories they own, rather than the modern, random element when you deal out territory cards.

If you want to take Australia, you must lay claim to at least one of these territories – the more the better. You probably won’t be able to claim all four during initial placement (since no one will want to hand you Australia at the start of the game), but the more the better.

If you can secure New Guinea or Western Australia first, this is ideal as it gives you the most flexibility in the opening turn. After all of the Australian territories are taken, you should claim some Asian territories – Siam especially if you can get it.

After all of Asia is claimed, you can place randomly – Africa and Europe might help you a little bit, but at this point these territories are so remote that they really won’t help you too much early in the game.

After the territories are all claimed, you must place all your forces on a single territory in Australia. Select the one that gives you the most flexibility of attack and the greatest leverage against any opponents who challenge you on the continent.

Be mindful of the units your opponent faces, watch for any players establishing a presence in Asia (as they may try to knock you out) and respond accordingly. Your first priority is having superiority in Australia, but if any potential opponents give up on the continent, you can move on to placing defensive units to keep people out of Australia (Siam is ideal for this – China, India, or Indonesia if you intend to move into Siam and weren’t able to claim it at the beginning of the game).

Risk board game strategies: Australia - Opening Turns

This is where you need to analyze the position of your opponents and determine your course of action. If you are alone or mostly unchallenged in Australia, the choice is simple – take it, and establish a defensive position in Siam. This is the ideal condition.

If there is one other player making a play for the continent, the choice is a little more difficult. By attacking them, you will severely deplete your forces, leaving you vulnerable for attack. On the other hand, in large army battles, the attacker has the advantage.

You can elect to forgo the attack and open the door for your opponent to move off the continent, but they may decide to take the odds for themselves. The best thing to do is to attack – it is an all-or-nothing proposition, but it is your best odds for success.

If you should eliminate the opponent, fortify as many armies possible into Indonesia or Siam, to defend your hard-earned continent. If there is a player with an established presence in Asia, you can almost guarantee that they will attempt to move in and take Australia for themselves.

When there are three or more players going for Australia, the resulting stand-off should seem like a game of chicken. No one will want to attack, because it would open them up to defeat from the third or fourth party. This is a tense situation, but the good news is that with so many players focused on one continent, that leaves the rest of the board open.

If you have an escape route, take it and let the remaining players jockey for position. By the time that conflict is settled, you should be well established on another part of the board.

Risk board game strategies: Australia - Asia and Beyond

After securing Australia, your ideal position is to have your entire force in Siam, with each Australian territory having the minimum of one army each. This is an ideal defensive position – every other continent has at least two entry points to defend, and most players should not be able to muster enough strength to penetrate into Australia in the beginning of the game.

Taking Australia is viewed as a defensive strategy, because while you have guaranteed yourself five reinforcements a turn, your next target for expansion is murky. Most players view Risk as a continent game, where ultimately you should take and hold one continent and work towards another.

With this strategy in mind, the prospect of expanding and taking Asia seems daunting. To really be successful in an Australia defensive position, you have to abandon the conventional continent model and instead focus on territory number.

India and China become your staging ground. While it is a good idea to keep a large force in Siam no matter what, the bulk of your reinforcements should go towards establishing a strong presence in India and China. Defensively this is to your advantage, because there is now a second layer of defense that any opponent who wishes to challenge you for Australia must go through.

From here, do what you can to take Asian territories – don’t focus on defending them, just go for numbers. Make sure you leave enough armies behind to keep your strong presence in China and India, but feel free to leave only one army in each of the other Asian territories you take. You may lose some, but it is unlikely that you will lose them all before your next turn.

Build off the territories you do keep – perhaps re-inforce them if you so choose, but continue to amass troops and slowly peck away at the Asian territories.

There are three more territories that will be ultimately critical for you – Kamchatka, Middle East and Ukraine. The next phase of your expansion will require you to take at least one of these territories as a new staging ground.

Kamchatka is needed if your next target is North America, Middle East for Africa, and Ukraine for Europe. You need to take and hold all three if you want to have any shot at defending Asia.

If you are making a play for Asia, Kamchatka should be the first territory you should take with any respectable force. Establishing a strong defensive position in Kamchatka will establish a "wall" to put your back against as you push west through Asia.

As your position in Asia gets stronger, your opponents will work to prevent you from taking it. However, any player approaching you from Africa or Europe also has to worry about weakening their forces along those fronts too much, so it is unlikely they will throw everything they have against you. By securing Kamchatka first, you have blocked a player in North America, who is in a much stronger position to attack you with more force.

Risk board game strategies: Australia - Conclusion

Once you have taken and secured Siam and established a strong presence in India and China, there is little advance strategizing you can do – so much depends on the strength and position of your opponents, any diplomatic relationships you have established and your own strength.

What course you take at this point should be dependent on the game conditions, not your initial strategy. Australia favors the defensive player, but not one who is afraid to make any offensive moves.

If you stay where you are, you will last a long time, but eventually an opponent will become strong enough to break through your defensive shell and defeat you. Expand too quickly, and the defensive advantage is gone.

Playing an Australia campaign requires patience, as well as a slow and steady expansion. It brings to mind a turtle – not only does your "turtle shell" defense keep you safe, but your slow progress will ensure that you have enough offensive might to claim victory in the game.

think that when playing for Australia, you should not take immediate territory there. Instead, only put one there and the rest in Asia; The majority of your troops will wait until someone claims Australia. When someone claims it (like in 3 turns), you strike.

The reason behind this is that the player taking Australia will have put the majority of their troops there and weakened himself everywhere else, reducing his income of troops; your troops in Asia will have some on each square and therefore get more troop income (no one will want to attack your troops because they know it is impossible to hold Asia this early in the game, this is how you have more troop income than the Australia player)

Then, when the time is right, pile up near Australia and strike. If you have cards, turn them in and wreck havoc.

This strategy works even better when you go before them because you will be turning cards in before them, you will have more troop income, and the you will have meat shields all across Asia to protect Australia.

... is an unbeatable RISK strategy for games in which a.) 4 to 6 players are playing, and b.) with rising "book" values, which I call "The Melbourne Method".

1.) Take Australia RIGHT AWAY, shift-move all possible armies to SIAM. Likely, you'll receive 1 card.

2.) Attack NO ONE. Accept your additional 2 armies each time it's your turn, placing your total of 5 armies ONLY on SIAM. Don't worry that you're not accumulating cards. Card sets or "books" aren't worth much yet.

3.) As your opponents trade "books" of cards for initially SMALL numbers of additional armies, begin to pay close attention to discern which of your opponents has ALL the following criteria:

a,) has ALL of his or her remaining forces fairly PROXIMATE to your own.

b.) has been "WHITTLED DOWN" somewhat by other opponents' attacks.

c.) has 4 or 5 CARDS he or she will soon be required to turn in.

4.) Once you've identified an opponent possessed of ALL these things, you will now BEGIN attacking from SIAM, with a force numbering approximately 50 armies and make a BEE-LINE for the aforementioned opponent meeting the criteria listed above, and continue your attack until that opponent is defeated, at which point he must relinquish his cards to you, and you will now turn in at least one 3-card "book" for additional armies, and continue your attack on the one among the REMAINING opponents who possesses the greatest number of the same 3 criteria discussed above, and when you've defeated his last army, you're entitled to turn in HIS remaining cards for MORE ARMIES, and then you'll select a new victim and ATTACK UNTIL VICTORY!!!

This is indisputably the best RISK strategy to win a 4 to 6 player game with "rising book values" rule invoked.

Regards, The General.

Risk board game strategies: South America
by Craig Reade (

Risk board game strategies: South America

Overview South America is more than the poor-man’s substitute for Australia. It is identical to Australia in every way, except that it has two entry points, instead of one.

Many players make the mistake of assuming that a similar defensive strategy can be employed successfully, and opt to begin their game in that continent if Australia is too competitive. This is a mistake. Australia caters to the defensive player, but South America very much favors the offensive player.

In order to be successful starting the game in South America, you cannot establish yourself defensively and then move forward, or you will be trapped. You must play more aggressively and the map is structured in a way that is is beneficial for you to do so.

Risk board game strategies: South America - Initial Army Placement

Obviously you want to claim some territories in South America from the start. If you can only get one, you should do your best to take Argentina, or Peru if that fails. Yes – that puts you in a position where you have to fight if someone challenges you for the continent, but your opponent will know that.

Since South America is offensive in nature, you can’t win the game if you lose the bulk of your starting forces in a pyrrhic war over South American supremacy. Giving them Brazil or Venezuela to start with allows them an easy escape route, one they are likely to take.

After South America, you only have two expansion choices once the game starts – Africa and North America. It is impossible to say which is the more viable target until the game begins, but North America is the preferable point to expand into, so claim any territories there that you can.

You will have to quickly take and fortify Central America if you want to be successful, so it is a good idea to claim that as well.

Naturally you want to place the bulk of your initial armies on one territory inside South America. If your dominance is assured, you can work on securing your northern border by placing troops in Central America (should you own it).

Risk board game strategies: South America - Opening Turns

The first couple turns are critical. You need to take South America and have your positions in Brazil and Central America fortified as quickly as possible.

This is where the big difference between Australia and South America comes into play. No player has any reason to claim and strongly fortify Siam early in the game except a player in Australia. However, to the dismay of the player attempting a South American campaign, things are a little more crowded.

It is very likely that at least one player will be attempting footholds in either Africa or North America, and as such it is inevitable that another player will attempt to establish a strong border in North Africa or Central America. If this happens, your campaign will end before it began.

Locked at five armies for reinforcements every turn, you will be forced to divide those troops between Brazil and Venezuela, only to be unable to make an intelligent attack. Failing to take territories, it is only a matter of time before one of your neighbors hand in a set and overwhelms your forces.

So, speed and intelligent positioning are critical. Offense is the name of the game. North, or East? No doubt you now have the point – offense, offense. But where do you expand, North America, or Africa?

A lot depends on the game conditions and, like any reliable strategy, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.

Of the two, North America is a better option. Africa has fewer territories that are easier to access, but Africa is in the middle of everything and is going to be a direct target of anyone who is stuck in Europe or Asia looking for a good place to establish a stronghold.

North America, on the other hand, is ideal because it is more isolated, and if you should somehow manage to take it, between the two continents there are only three entry points. Being able to defend 13 territories on two continents at only three points is an easy way of securing a good number of reinforcements – you couldn’t ask for a better stronghold.

That is the reason so much emphasis was placed on Central America during Initial Placement. Preventing any players from taking and holding Central America gives you the perfect staging point to attack the rest of the continent and secures the only path into South America from the north.

Risk board game strategies: South America - Conclusion As always, the game changes more and more as the game progresses. The three most important things to keep in mind when employing a South American campaign are:

1- Offense
2- Keep your back door well defended
3- Do not get trapped in South America
Ideally, you want to gain control of your second continent before the player in Australia begins to make real offensive pushes.

Once you have reached this point, it is a matter of addressing the current situation on the board and discovering what direction you should take to achieve the endgame.