15 Strategy Tips for How to Win at RISK

Introduction

This is a step-by-step guide for how to win at RISK. This board game is a game of strategy that can accommodate 6 players.  It covers everything from set-up to the final risk.

Set-up can take a little time, but after set-up is complete the game becomes very interactive.  Each player will take a turn.  During their play they will add infantry pieces to the board, choose to attack another player, and collect a card if they complete a successful attack.

Power of Observation

An important, and often overlooked, part of the game occurs in between your turn.  It is during this time that the power of observation needs to be implemented.

Pay attention to what other players are doing.  Are they looking to take over a small continent?  Do they want to move their armies to a new location?  Where are they placing their new infantry pieces and where are they moving their reinforcements?

It may not be clear what your opponents are doing in the first couple of rounds.  However, by the third round you should have a very good idea of what their strategies are.

The Set-up

The set-up is initiated with a random card deal to all players.  Be sure to exclude the wild cards before this deal.  Then all players place one infantry on every territory that they are assigned. 

Although the initial set-up is random the next part of the set-up is not.  During this time all players take turns adding they’re remaining troops to the board in increments of three.

DO NOT MAKE YOURSELF A TARGET

During the random draw you may receive three or more territories in Africa.  The temptation is to immediately make plans to try and take over one of these continents early in the game. 

The truth is, if you do this all other players will be attacking you and before you know it all of your troops will be decimates and your game will be over.

DO HAVE A PLAN B

When a deal like this this happens add a few troops to these locations but be sure to add more troops to other locations as well.  These troops will be your life line in case the inevitable attacks come. 

This approach allows you to display weakness in this location and may even allow you to hold some of this territory a couple of rounds later when you may be able to take full control of the continent.

Regardless of the random deal ALWAYS have a Plan B, and possibly a Plan C too.  The game is constantly changing so NEVER fall in love with just one strategy, or you will surely lose. 

Sometimes you have to lose the battle if you want to win the war

More Army Placing Tips

Maintain troops on weak territories in numbers of 1 and 3

A territory with one troop allows other players to quickly take their territory and gain a card.  This allows them to complete their objective quickly with minimal damage to you. 

Territories in which you have three troops are also weak, but it will force your opponent to make at least two rolls of the dice to defeat you.  If they roll poorly your opponent could lose more of their troops than they would want to.  Your best offense is a good defense.

This strategy of 1 and 3 army placement works better than 2 armies on all of these locations.  You will be in a better position to hold on the 3’s while also weakening your attacker.

Strategically place your large armies

When possible do not build a large army on a territory that has multiple points of attack.  Doing so can make your large army vulnerable from multiple opponents. 

A large army scares other players.  The thought of building a large army is that you will intimidate other player from attacking you.  But the opposite may be true too.  Savvy RISK players know that attacking large armies is good for their long–term game.

So, if you are going to build a large army early in the game, then do it on territories with few boarders to defend.  Or build it near such a place so that you can take the neighboring territory over and troop transfer there.

Obtain Cards

Getting cards is so valuable to establishing game longevity.  These cards provide exponentially more troops later in the game.   This is ultimately where the game will be won or loss.

Early in the game the card sets will allow for survival; later the card sets will allow you to establish and fortify some territory strongholds and ensure your survival to the end.

The first few rounds it is recommended to attack territories with only 1, 2, or 3 infantry in order to get a card and then stop your turn.  Hopefully your opponents won’t know the strategy of placing 3 troops for defense.

As the rounds progress, you can use your turns to get cards while also weakening your opponents by attacking one of their larger armies on a territory that you need.  It is great when the dice are your friends and you can do this with little damage to you, but this is not always the case.

On the other hand sometime the dice are not your friend and pursuing such a strategy would only be a suicide mission.  Quickly count your losses and live to fight another day, even if you don’t get a card.  There are plenty of games that I have played, and won, having turns in which I didn’t collect a card – see Straight Outta Australia.

Taking Continents

Avoid the Large Continents

At all cost, avoid every temptation, to try and dominate the game by taking Asia, Europe, or North America.  In all the game that I played, I have never seen this strategy work. 

The benefit of gaining extra armies is so enticing that this strategy may seem possible.  But your “carrot” of extra armies is your opponents “stick” which makes them all attack you.  They know that if you even have just one successful round with this hold you may be impossible to beat. 

If you are playing this game with a bunch of amateurs perhaps this strategy will work, but do you really want to win this way?  And why are you playing with amateurs?

In a nut shell these continents are just too large with too many points of attack that make this a very poor strategy.

Start Small

If Australia or South America is available to then these are the continents to pursue first. 

Why?  Quite simply the infantry advantages are much smaller than the larger continents.  Psychologically your other opponents may not feel that this small advantage to you is worth the risk that they would have to take to prevent you from obtaining it. 

Secondly, the points of attack to these continents are one and two respectively.  Therefore, if you are playing in a six player game this strategy can only be neutralized by only a few opponents.  Many times one player won’t want to weaken themselves for the benefit of others.

Unlike the large continent strategy, I have seen this small continent strategy work many times.  My only caution is that when using this strategy is: DO NOT go all or nothing, unless you absolutely have to.

How to Defend Small Continent Strategy

What do you do if your opponent has taken a small continent and you cannot make an attack to prevent them from holding this position?

Because this is An Ultimate Guide to Winning Risk you need to be able to defeat others who may unwittingly took control of a small continent.

If it isn’t clear to everyone that is playing the game that this player is a strong threat to win, then make it clear to everyone.  In my experience, talking and game play psychology, is part of the game.  So do not be afraid to use it, but also do not be offended if others use it too.

After you have identified this huge target make sure you ally with other players because you will need their support.  The goal is to isolate these targets to their chosen continent and destroy all of their other armies.  This strategy will limit the places they can locate their reinforcements, limit their abilities to get cards, and force them to fight their way out.

Suicide Missions

Earlier I explained how embarking on a suicide mission is poor game play in order to obtain a card.  However, in the scenario above, a suicide mission with one of your armies is not a bad idea. 

This mission can galvanize other players to follow your lead.  Even if they get the card and you don’t it’s still worth it in this case.  You must remember that longevity is the key to winning RISK and there are ebbs and flows during this process.

Turning In Cards

Turning in cards is as much of an art form as it is game play.  This part of the game requires an equal amount of patience and strategy.

A player can turn in cards when they have a set of three same cards or a set of cards in which all cards are different.  But a player doesn’t need to turn in a set until they have six cards.  Therefore you could hold a card set for a couple of turns without having to turn it in.  

If you are the first player to turn cards in then you will receive the least amount of reinforcements available.  The longer you can delay this process the more reinforcements you could get, but this gets riskier as other players become stronger around you.

Something is better than nothing.

If you wait too long, you’ll quickly be destroyed because the cards in your hands are an asset the other players will want.

Ultimately, failing to turn in a set is the mistake that you do not want to make.  It is like getting voted off the island with an immunity idol in your pocket.

Attacking and Defending

The attacker can attack with as many as three dice as long as they have four or more infantry on the attacking territory.  The defender can defend with as many as two dice as long they have at least two infantry on their defending territory.

The attacker and the defenders can choose to use fewer dice if they choose to do so, but this does not provide either the attacker or the defender with any distinct advantage.  Using fewer dice only serves to prolong the game.

One Major Exception:  There is an appropriate time to use fewer attacking dice.  Large attacks that require maximizing the use off all infantry is this exception.  When you need to attack a territory that would land-lock your three infantry, then you will want to reduce your attack to only one die when the defenders army is reduced down to only one troop. 

This will allow you to complete the attack on that territory and only require you to move one of your troops into that land, thereby keeping your larger army intact to move throughout the rest of the board.

Abandoning Allies

Working with allies is an important part of RISK, and most players will need such allies throughout the game in order to win.

However, it is important to never be willing to give too much.  If your potential ally is requesting that in return for their assistance you will NEVER attack them.  Of course you cannot provide this promise – at least not if you want to win.

It is much more reasonable to make deals that are within the limits of the current play.  In other words, a reasonable deal would be that in exchange for your assistance I will not attack you during this round.

RISK allies are often needed, provide depth to the game which makes it more fun, and are ALWAYS TEMPORARY.

Smaller Risks

Many times throughout the game you will find that you may need to take a number of small risks in order to keep your game strong and relevant.

Pay Attention to Everything

During the course of game play it is easy to only direct your focus to the RISK board.  Knowing the number of cards your opponent has is equally important to take note of though.  These observations can give you a clue as to a potentially upcoming big move that you need to defend against.

For example if you have half of your armies in Australia, or centrally located anywhere, near an opponent who is prepared to turn in cards it may be a good idea to attack first. 

This is a small risk, but it is necessary to separate yourself from potentially devastating moves.

Wild Card Opponents

The other things to be wary of are the players that make unpredictable moves.  Some players just have a tough time understanding RISK strategy. 

It is recommended that you develop a strategy to keep your larger armies away from such players during the early part of the game.  These players rarely win, but they could also torpedo your game along the way.

Big Risk

As the game concludes someone needs to make a winning move.  If you make your move too soon you will most likely run out of troops and leave yourself as a sitting duck for an opportunistic opponent.

If you wait too long then someone else will beat you to the punch.  The winning risk move is a delicate balance of timing and calculating your opponent’s strength.

Once you make up your mind it is best to go for the win and not second guess this choice.  The dice will certainly play a variable that you cannot control, but more often than not if your calculations are correct the dice will not cost you the game.

Sometimes you may have to STOP!

If the dice do turn against you and you clearly cannot complete the Big Move because you do not have enough troops, then STOP, and keep your large army in place. 

This large army will give you a chance to fight another day by increasing your defensive odds.  This large army can defend with two dice giving you the best chance to fight back.

Attacking Territories in the Appropriate Order

When you do start your last Big RISK, be careful to move your army in a strategic path.  If you fail to attack your opponents systematically then you may inadvertently land-lock your troops.  This mistake can cost you the game.

Use this Ultimate Guide to Winning RISK to dominate your next game night.

One thought on “15 Strategy Tips for How to Win at RISK

  1. Pingback: 19 Tips, Tricks, and Strategies to Win at Risk (the Game) – Gamesver

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