13 Variations for How to Play RISK Board Game Quickly


RISK is an extremely competitive game and a lot of fun when all of players are evenly matched.  One of the downfalls to RISK is that it’s playing time is long compared to alternative strategy games.  RISK requires the players to take some time to be methodical with some of their decisions.  In addition to this the game systematically eliminates players until only two remain.  When this happens the game turns most of its players into observers.  If it doesn’t come to a quick end too many people are sitting around waiting – no fun at all.

How to Play a Quick Game of RISK

How can RISK be played quickly?  Playing RISK quickly is by adopting rules that make claiming victory easier than world domination, or by modifying rules that allow the game to more quickly escalate to its ultimate conclusion.  These changes will require players to make minor strategy changes in order to achieve victory, and they will also allow you to play more RISK games throughout the course of your game night.  Mixing the original game play with modified game play requires everyone to constantly change their strategy.  This usually ensures that no single player can dominate RISK and will keep all players engaged every game night.

Mission RISK

Mission RISK is an option that actually comes with the game.  In this variation players are randomly dealt a Mission Card.  The RISK game commences with all of the normal RISK rules except global domination is not the overall game objective.  All players are secretly trying to accomplish their individually assigned mission before the other players complete their mission.  The winner is the first player to complete their mission and prove it by revealing their mission card.

Mission RISK plays extremely quick compared to global domination.  Some games can end less than 30 minutes.  Old fashioned RISK games come with 28 mission RISK cards in 4 different categories (Captain, Major, Colonel, and General).  All players dealt 4 mission cards – one from each category.  The goal is to be the first player to complete all 4 missions.  Once a player has completed three missions they must reveal their final mission card.  In order to win you need to complete this final “non-secretive” mission.

Capital RISK

Capital RISK is another variation that comes with the game too.  After the game is set-up each player takes turns removing the card from the deck that is associated with the location that they want to be their Capital.  NOTE: The players Capital City needs to be owned by the player at the beginning of the game.  Once all players have their Capital chosen then all players reveal these cards at the same time.  These cards are NOT placed back in the deck, they remain in front of the player that owns that Capital.  The winner is the player that captures all of the Capitals at the end of their turn.  To play even quicker the winner can be determined as the player who captures a majority of the Capitals at the end of their turn.

Mass Casualty RISK

In this version of RISK players are subject to mass casualty with a single roll.  Here’s how it works.  Sixes almost always win and ones almost always loose, and now when they are roiled they claim a double for both attackers and defenders.

For example if an attacker rolls a 6 and the defender defends with a 5 then the attacker can remove 2 armies for this win.  If the attacker rolls a 1 and the defender defends with a 2 then the attacker loses 2 armies.  The 6’s and the 1’s can help or hurt the defender too.  In ties where the defender and the attacker both roll 6’s, or both roll 1’s the advantage still goes to the defender and the attacker still loses 2 armies.  In the case where one player rolls a 6 and the other player rolls a 1 the losses are not doubled – only a maximum of 2 armies can be lost per dice conflict.

To take Mass Casualty RISK up one more notch implement the triple bombs.  Here’s how the triple bombs work.  Only the attacker can benefit, or be hurt from this bomb.  If the attacker rolls three 6’s then they immediately win that territory with their remainder armies and their opponent is completely wiped out.  However, on the other hand if they roll three 1’s then they immediately lose all of their armies from the territory that they are attacking from.  And their opponent gains one new army that they place on the open territory which they now possess.

Half RISK

This is a race to control half of the RISK board.  There are 42 territories on a RISK board.  Instead of global domination the goal is to be the first player to take control of 21 territories at the end of their turn.  If you want to require the winner to control these territories at the beginning of their turn the game will not play quickly.  It would be nearly impossible for any single player to maintain control of 21 territories after being attacked by 2 – 5 other players.  If you do choose to make this the requirement I would recommend just playing Global Domination because both versions will most likely have a very similar playing time.

RISK and Rewards

One of the biggest mistakes most amateur RISK players make is to try and own a continent too soon.  Whenever you make this attempt you immediately become a target by all of the other players.  An early infantry advantage to a single player will spell certain doom for the rest of the other players.  So there is usually a group effort by the other players to bring this potential Goliath back to earth.

However, often times the player that succeeds in breaking the control of the continent puts their game in serious jeopardy for the benefit of others.  Rewarding players who makes this courageous attack is a way to keep the playing field equal.

The rewards that can be offered include more infantry or an additional card.  The extra card has long term benefits as the game progresses and card sets become more valuable.  Being able to gain a card advantage early in the game continues to keep this player in an advantageous location in the card set rotations.

The extra army reward is that the conquering player gets 2 additional armies to place on the board immediately after breaking control of a continent.  Determining where these armies will be placed should be clarified at the beginning of the game.  The options include requiring that these armies get placed on the successfully conquered territory, or a territory immediately adjacent to locations, or allowing the player to place them anywhere they choose to.

The effect of this variation prevents players from trying to take an early advantage in the game.  It forces players to slow play their strategy.  If they fail to do so they not only make themselves targets, but weaker opponents can use these miscalculation to strengthen their position.

Alliance RISK

Alliance RISK will end when two players control the RISK board.  Some players may find this version a little unfulfilling because they have to share the victory.  However, this version works well for a game night because it allows the game to come to a quick end without letting too much time pass while other players are waiting to start another game.  One of the best games I ever played essentially ended in this fashion and I found it to be quite satisfying – see Straight Outta Australia.

There are two options for how to play Alliance RISK.

Option 1: Two Winners

In this scenario the winners are the last two players standing.  No alliances are assigned and players can make and break alliances throughout the game as they see fit.  This scenario works best for 5 player games.  As the game progresses it will become easy for the strongest two players to ally against the rest of the board to pursue the win, but it still remains 2 versus 3 for most of the game.

Option 2: Assigned Alliances

Alliance RISK can also be played with partners.  These partners should be assigned from a blind draw after all of the territories have been claimed and the armies placed.  The partners MUST work together to take over the World.  This is to prevent one partner from asking their compatriot to sacrifice themselves for their own personal advantage.  If one player is eliminated then their partner is also eliminated and their armies remain on the board as “Dummy Armies” which can be attacked by the remaining players.

Other Rule Modifications

Implementing the different versions of RISK will allow you to enjoy the game with a quicker resolution.  Because these games come conclude more quickly you will be able to play games during your game nights.  If the RISK games still do not end fast enough then consider implementing some of these additional rule modifications too.

Limit Armies per Territory

Limiting armies per territory is a unique variation.  This prevents players from collecting large number of reinforcements if they fail to have enough territories to place them on.  Using this variation encourages players to play a thinner game because as the game progresses territory has greater value than reinforcements.  If you fail to own territories than you cannot collect all of the armies you earned.  Other players are also encouraged to keep opponents territories small in order to minimize their overall threat. 

Limiting the number of armies per territory makes it very likely that you will land-lock some of your infantry.  So combing this variation with the Extensive Troop Transfer Rule makes a lot of sense.

Extensive Troop Transfer Rule

Normally players are permitted to perform a troop transfer at the end of their turn.  The troop transfer allows you to move as many troops as you like from one (and only one) territory to another ADJACENT territory.

The Extensive Troop Transfer works the same way but the troop transfer does not need to be an adjacent territory.  It can be from one territory to another territory as long as you own all of the territories in between too.  This Extensive Troop Transfer Rule pairs well with Limited Armies Variation because it makes land-locked armies more useful.

Commanders Rule

The Commanders Rule gives the attacker an advantage on every attack of a new territory.  The attacker can turn one of their dice into a 6 per attack.  This rule essentially takes one lost army from the attacker and turns it into one lost army of the defender.  It’s important to understand that this rule does not apply to every roll of the dice, just one change per territorial attack.  The Commander Rule combines nicely with the Escalating Battles for Cards variation.

Variations to Card Sets

Mandatory Turn In

The original rules allow players to defer turning card sets in if they choose to do so.  Players are not required to turn in card sets until they have acquired 6 cards.  This variation requires players to turn in a set as soon as they own a set.  This means that the manner in which players receive cards is now a variable that may influence the game. 

Keeping these cards secret is the biggest downside to this method because a player my unintentionally fail to turn in a set.  I would recommend that the cards be placed face up on the table so everyone can see the sets as they materialize.  This way all players can make sure sets are properly turned in.

Usually if a player owns one of the territories associated with their card set then they can place an additional 2 reinforcements on that territory.  By playing with revealed cards opponents could purposefully attack those occupied territories in order to prevent the extra armies from being collected.  To neutralize this this I recommend automatically awarding 2 extra infantry for all sets and eliminate the owned territory rule.

Escalating Battles for Cards

In order to collect a card you need to conquer at least one territory on your turn.  Then after you collected a set you can turn it in for more reinforcements.  Once you have collected 6 cards you must turn in a set whether you want to or not.  These rules all remain the same.

However, after you have turned in your first card set the requirement to collect card is escalated.  You are now required to conquer two territories on your turn in order to collect a card.  Then after you turn in your second card set you will need to conquer three territories in order to collect a card.

This variation will lead to players to wait until the last minute to turn in a card set because the cards will become incrementally harder to collect.  I would recommend combining this variation with the Commanders Rule because it gives the attackers an advantage on every battle which will help in these escalating battles.

Reinforcement Modifications

Even Steven

This method of turning in cards awards players a set number of infantry reinforcements based on the type of card set turned in.  If the set is comprised of a cannon, a horse, and a soldier then you are awarded 10 reinforcements.  If the set is comprised of three cannons then 8 reinforcements are awarded.  Three horses earn 6 reinforcements, and three soldiers earn 4 reinforcements.  

Double Infantry

This method doubles the reinforcements that are awarded on the board.  The normal reinforcements for turning in card sets progresses as 4-6-8-10-12…  The number of reinforcements for Doubles would be 8-12-16-20-24…  Many times players try to defer turning in card sets in order to strategically collect more reinforcements.  Usually strong players can do this is done to establish an even more dominant position.  Double Infantry makes the first card sets more valuable.  Early card sets can weaken strong players and make playing field equal.  Additionally the higher number of reinforcements promotes bigger risks earlier in the game.  One or two players could conceivably be eliminated before they even get a chance to turn in their first card set.

Conclusion

The RISK board game was published by Hasbro in 1957, more than 60 years ago.  Today there are more than 40 different RISK variations.  Some of these variations include: Game of Thrones; Star Wars; Captain America: Civil War; Europe; Star Trek; Dr. Who; HALO Wars; and Transformers.  

Today’s newer games are all produces with different expansion and extension sets to keep the basic game fresh.  My hope is that you will find some RISK variations that you can implement at your next game night to make RISK new again.

One thought on “13 Variations for How to Play RISK Board Game Quickly

  1. Greg. Thanks for all the great ideas. Here’s one twist we added recently for the mass casualty/triple bomb rule. This came up because my son and I often play with a set of neutral armies. It is the UN peacekeeping deployment effect. If you get triples of anything other than the triple bomb numbers (6’s or 1’s), all of the armies in the battle are replaced with the neutral color. Just a thought. Jude

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