I was recently interviewed by Financial Times Deutschland for an article they were writing for the Christmas holidays. The holidays are great opportunity for family members to get together and play games. There are many choices of classic board games such as monopoly, scrabble and so on, though between us I am sure we can all agree that there is nothing better than Risk!
So naturally, I talked about Risk and gave various strategies on how to play the game in particular with family members. As you know some family members can be more competitive than others (you know who you are!), and playing with them may require a different strategy than playing with less competitive players.
The end result was a well written article, Triumph zum Fest or Triumph for celebration. It is in German, so our German readers may like to read the original. For others, here is a translation (thanks to Sara and Farhang for providing this).
I guess veteran Risk players may object to opening moves, but at least new players will have a head start. There are already many interesting ongoing debates elsewhere on this site and in the forums on openning moves, so this should fit into that nicely.
Efficient Conquer: Risk
If you consider Monopoly as the mother of all economical games, then the Risk is the archetype of strategic games. As an old fox, it’s natural for you to have a huge and strong desire to win. When you realize that your brother has already succeeded in his world domination, you can become very angry that you may even hit the table with rage! Calm down: it’s over now.
“The main thing is that you don’t hurt yourself” said Ehsan Honary. The Briton is some kind of Clausewitz of the Risk game. He has written a book called “Total Diplomacy: The Art of Winning Risk” (340 pages, 16$) and above all he advises for self-control. “You can never be too big and have everything at once. Over-expansion can make you vulnerable and you may quickly become one of the weakest players in the game”, he said.
The second important point - like in chess - is the opening moves. There are two main strategies: defensive players start from Australia, a remote continent which is easy to secure. On the other hand, offensive players can start from Europe which is at the center of the Risk map. The continent has access to almost all other continents which gives the player a great advantage for expansion and makes it possible to conquer the whole Earth.
“This is particularly important when negotiating with opponents”, said Honary. He believes that diplomacy takes a lion’s share of a successful Risk game. Why should you attack when someone else can do it for you? For this, you have to be psychologically clever and know what the opponents want. “This is particularly true when playing against family members,” said Honary
“It is fairly easy to negotiate with your mother, but it can be very difficult to negotiate with your competitive brother because he can be ambitious with a strong desire to win”.
Another question is, however, if one should make a deal with an opponent, for example, to make a non-aggression pact not to attack Central America. Game theory gives you the answer. Honary said, “If you regularly play against your opponents, you should not break your deals with them. This way, you can earn a reputation." On the other hand if you are sure that you will never sit together at a table again, then an aggressive raid is almost compulsory. Even against your own mother!