How To Play Risk

Risk was invented in 1957 in France and was bought by Parker Brothers two years later to become the cultural staple it is today. In a world dominated by Monopoly, this gave more strategy focused board game players an outlet. Millions of copies have been sold and for good reason. You can play with 2 – 5 people (8 with older games, but those were removed because it could make games take around 8 hours or so). Games are long, a 4 person game is going to be around 30 minutes – 2 hours. It really depends on the turns and rule nuances used. This is how to play Risk Board Game.

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WHAT IS IT?

Risk takes a map of the world (or other geographic regions in other versions) like you would see in history class and splits it up into various countries or groupings of countries you could inhabit with troops. The key is to hold as many countries as you can while also attacking and taking over all the other players’ countries. You get a certain amount of troops each turn to place and you get bonuses for holding continents or lots or territories. So the more power you have, the more dangerous of a force you are.

How to Play Risk - Board Overview

Areas are connected by a border or a dotted line, this is how you know you can attack from one territory to another. It becomes about protecting your weak points (like the entrance to a continent) and build up your force in a way that will let you strategically sweep through an opponent.

SETUP

RISK BOARD GAME CONTENTS

  • 1x Game board
  • 5x Standard 6-sided dice (3x red “attack” dice, 2x blue “defend” dice)
  • 5x Different color player armies with 40 Infantry (worth 10 troops), 12 Cavalry (worth 5 troops), and 8 Artillery (worth 1 troop) each
  • 42x Risk cards (contain a territory and one of the three army symbols)
  • 2x Risk “Wild card” (has no territory, just all three army symbols)
  • 12x Risk Secret Mission Cards (this is for a special type of game and can be removed for the base game of Risk)
  • 1x Cardboard box to hold risk cards
  • 5x Cardboard box to hold each player army
  • 1x Game guide

GAME BOARD AND ARMIES

The first step to unfold the game board and put it in the center of everyone. Step 2 is to give everyone their starting troops which are based on how many people are playing the game (see below). And that’s it, now get ready to start picking territories.

  • 2 players, there are different special instructions.
  • 3 players, each player gets 35 Infantry.
  • 4 players, each player gets 30 Infantry.
  • 5 players, each player gets 25 Infantry.

*Choosing different mixes of the canon figure, person on horse and infantry doesn’t matter. These are just markers. You will start to get territories toward the end where you will have 50, 60 or more troops on it, that is where the cannons worth 10 come into play.

How to Play Risk - 3 Armies

TERRITORY SELECTION – OPTION 1 – “The Pick”

Each player rolls one dice to determine who goes first. Whoever rolls highest picks any of the available territories on the board. One troop from the starting amount is put on that territory to claim it. Then the player to the left makes their selection and so on. This goes around the circle of players, one by one, until all territories are taken. There will be a few players who might get one more territory than someone else, that does happen, it just means the players that got screwed have another troop to put in an existing territory after selection is done.

After all the territories are taken you continue around the circle to place your remaining troops. Moving around the circle, everyone takes turns placing one of their remaining troops into one of the territories that player controls.

TERRITORY SELECTION – OPTION 2 – “The Random”

Instead of choosing yourself, you can add a different level of dimensionality and let the risk cards decide. In this scenario, shuffle the 42 included Risk cards that have territories on the top of them (don’t use the 2x wilds that have three army symbols and no territory). You then shuffle these and deal them out to players. Roll a dice to see who gets the first deal since the number of territories might not be the same depending on how many players you have. These are each players territories. Everyone should take a moment to put one of their troops on each of their territories.

After you get your territories marked, you go around the circle placing one troop on a territory you control until all troops are gone. Just like you do if you went with option one “the pick”.

How to Play Risk - Territory Cards

GAMEPLAY

Now that armies are placed, it is time to actually start gameplay. Every player rolls a single dice again to determines who goes first for gameplay. Turns are taken one at a time, the only thing you could do when it is not your turn to defend. There are three phases to every turn (1) New Troop Deployment (2) Attack (3) Fortify.

PHASE 1 – New Troop Deployment

At the start of every turn, you get new troops based on how many territories you control (base) and any continents you control (bonus). For the base, you take the total number of territories you control, no matter where they are, and divide that number by 3. Round down to a number and that is what you get with the minimum always being 3. So if you have 14 territories (14 / 3 = 4.6667) you get 4 base troops for that turn but if you had 15 (15 / 3 = 5) you would get 5 troops.

Then you add your bonus points. These come from controlling one or more continents. You control a continent by having at least one troop in every territory of a particular content. Some are easier than others, like Australia is only four and has one way in so it is worth 2, while Asia has twelve territories and five ways in so if you can get that you get 7. See Below.

  • Asia: 7
  • North America: 5
  • Europe: 5
  • Africa: 3
  • South America: 2
  • Australia: 2

You combine your base and bonus troops and then add them to any territory you control in any combination. Put all in one or one if many different territories, or lots in one and a few in others. It is up to you.

PHASE 2 – Attack

Once your troops are out you move onto attack. You can attack as much or as little as you would like. You don’t have to attack at all, but that would put you at a disadvantage.

To attack a territory must have at least two troops in it because you need to leave at least one behind and advance with one, but you can attack with as many people as you want / have troops for. You get a red attack die for as many people as you are attacking with up to three dice. So if you attack with 1 you get 1 die, 2 you get 2 die, 3 you get 3 die, 4 for you get 3 die, 5 you get 3 die, etc. This is because you only attack with up to three at one time. It is the same with defending except it is only up to two instead of three.

Once you determine your attack each player rolls their dice at the same time for that battle, attacker with the red and defender with the blue. If it is the max three dice on two, each player takes their two highest rolls and compares them. The highest red goes against the highest blue, and the second highest red goes against the second highest blue. Whoever has the highest number in each comparison wins the fight, but a tie is won by the defender (this is what makes the 3 dice against two fair).

So in this scenario, two troops will be lost because there are two battles. If red rolled 5, 4, 4 and blue rolled 5, 3, there would be a loss of one troop on each side because the 5 vs 5 (blue wins tie) and 3 vs 4 (red wins for being higher). You remove the lost troops and go again as long as the attacking player wants.

How to Play Risk - Dice Roll

PHASE 3 – Fortify

After you have decided to stop attacking you move into the final fortification stage. Here you get ONE move. You can move any amount of troops (leaving at least one) from a territory to one other connected territory. To be connected, they don’t have to touch you just need a clear path through territories you control. So you can move very far away as long as the start and end territory is connected by a string of places you control.

[fortification move example]

When your turn is done, if you successfully took over at least one territory that turn, you get to draw a risk Bonus Card. When you get enough of these, they give you big one time troop bonuses and what will eventually win you the game. It is only ever one card, even if you took fifteen territories this turn, you just get one. It is just about “did you take a territory, yes or no”. These are so key, if you are not getting these every turn, you will lose.

RISK BONUS CARDS

You may have noticed numbers around the edge of the board. This has to do with the bonus sets of troops you can get. You get these by collecting risk cards at the end of your turn (the cards that have a territory and one of three army symbols). To get a bonus set of troops you need to turn in a set of three cards. A set is either 3 infantry, 3 cavalry, 3 cannons or one of each three. Every time someone turns in a set, you move to the next number and a set gets you more troops. There are two wild cards that can be anything.

First (4), Second (6), Third (8), Fourth (10), Fifth (12), Sixth (15), Seventh (20), Eighth (25), Ninth (30), Tenth (35), Eleventh (40), Etc. As you can see as you move out, those swings get huge. By around the 35 troop sets, people get enough to take everyone out. There is a HARDCORE option where sets only go up by 1 (so 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, getting 9 on the ninth set) and this will make games last for 6+ hours no problem, but it makes a purer game.

How to Play Risk - Bonus Slider

You turn in your set of three cards at the beginning of your turn and those troops get added to your overall troop placement for that turn. As a bonus, if one of the cards you turn in has a territory on it you control, that specific territory gets two troops added to it. You can have up to five of these cards before you have to turn in, which is a benefit if you are trying to get others to use first and get the total higher for when you turn in. If you have five at the beginning of your turn you are forced to use. If you ever have more than five, you immediately have to turn in three and claim troops. This comes into play when you take out another player.

TAKING OUT PLAYERS / WINNING

A player is out of the game when they control no more territories. The reaming players would just continue as is with the eliminated players no longer taking turns. When a player is eliminated, the person who takes them out gets all the unused risk cards they have in their hands. Leading to what could be a game-winning avalanche.

The games ends when one player has defeated all other players, claiming world domination. Risk games are long, games have also been known to end by someone flipping the game board or people being too exhausted. In that case, whoever controls the most territories wins.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE

There are many alternates in Risk. Different world boards, themes like Game of Thrones Risk, or a continuation “Legacy” version with missions that keeps going. There are also many different ways to play within the base risk. One thing is by using the “Secret Risk” cards that come with the game. These are basically objectives like “take over Peru” to win the game. Just another way to enjoy the Risk mechanic.

To attack from a territory they just need to share a border or have a dotted line connecting them. One that people tend to miss is the connection from Alaska to Kamchatka. Representing the Bering strait, it creates a connection from North America to Asia.

IN CLOSING

I hope now you can say you have mastered how to play Risk Board Game. It is the classic strategy game about World Domination for the ages. This revolutionary game has been a strategy staple for years and still holds up. Classic and simple.

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