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"Life Is a Game But Risk Is Serious!"
In Part 1 you saw the initial distribution of armies and despite a good start discovered that you had a competitor who was even in a better position than you. Let’s examine this state and evaluate the move.
Risk is all about balance. If you become too weak you will be attacked and eliminated. If you become too strong, you will be ganged up on until you become a weak player and we know what happens to weak players.
However, balancing the game is an art. It requires full understanding of the rules, the map, the psychology of other players to some extent and of course impeccable timing. Players who get this right and go on to win, usually feel that they won not because of one crucial clever move or a sound strategy. Instead, they feel more like indirectly guiding a set of people towards the path of their choice without others realising what is happening to them. It is this feeling that makes Risk so enjoyable and so rewarding, not to mention so addictive.
In this series of articles, we are going to examine a complete game and look at the critical moments and various options you have in these situations. Each part of the series raises a number of questions asking you to suggest what happens next. Please provide your inputs and discuss it with the fans. A few days later the next part will be published and you can see the progress of the game and provide your comments.
Suppose you are playing Risk on a non-Earth map. The bigger the continent, the more bonus you get and cards are set as escalating (the cashing sequence is 4,6,8,10,...). The map shown above is your random starting point playing as Red.
What is your strategy? What would you do?
As you saw in Part 1, the initial start in Risk is quite critical and if you don’t get it right you can fail spectacularly. Opening moves in Risk are much like Chess. They set the pace of the game, define the strategic positions which would come to define the rest of the game. It is always possible to get away with a single mistake, but a series of mistakes is lethal. If you realise you have already made a mistake, beware that you can’t afford to risk anymore and need to play conservatively thinking about all possible consequences before you make your decision. Let’s analyse the game further to see what happened and what went wrong.
On the outset, Genghis Khan had the fastest army on the planet. His genius was to take full advantage of his fast moving armies against well-established disciplined armies many times their armies. These armies were also backed by resources of an empire which made the task even more profound. Genghis Khan used the ancient Chinese Strategy of “Slow Slow Quick Quick” as his grand strategy. Let’s see how this worked in practice.
Sometimes choosing between options is not easy, especially when you have to deal with probabilities. You may think each option has its own pros and cons. The situation gets even more complicated when you realise someone else has these options and are wondering which one they are going to choose. In Risk, decision making plays a significant role and it is ideal to have a deeper look at this topic.
To start this investigation, let’s do an experiment. To get good results, please follow these instructions carefully.
Below, you can see two links. Each of these links leads you to a simple question. Please answer the first question, then come back to this page and then answer the second question.
Note: Please answer both questions one after the other, so we can get consistent results.
Risk Decision Making Question 1
Risk Decision Making Question 2
Once you have voted, you can read the next part of article in Part 2.
Risk can be surprising and in the course of a game, you may always have a heart sinking feeling of imminent danger and fall. In fact, this is what makes Risk so exciting. Anyone can win which means even experienced players must be on guard all the time otherwise can easily lose.
The opening stages of a game are quite critical. If you start badly or make mistakes, you are very likely to get kicked out and the game and lose. You must pay constant attention to your opponents as well as your own position in comparison with others. The best way to learn opening moves is by example. Let’s consider the game shown above.
This game is played on a non-Earth map. The card sequence is escalating which means that the rate goes up by 2 every time someone cashes a set. We are going to analyse this game in an abstract way, so don’t worry too much about the details. Assume that similar to the Earth map, the bigger the continent or the higher the number of its borders, the more bonuses you get.
Assume you are Red and the map above was the starting position.
What would you do?
History has many lessons to teach us and when it comes to strategy and you can get a lot of insight from it. In 1218, Khwarezm was a prosperous empire covering modern day Iran and Afghanistan. Shah Mohammad II ruled from his wealthy capital of Samarkand. At this time, the Mongols on his East approached him to make a deal on reopening the Silk Road. This would bring even more wealth, to the empire so Shah agreed to it.
Later, Mongols sent an envoy to buy expensive gifts for their court from the empire. Shah suspected the convoy as spies and killed them all. Genghis Khan, leader of Mongols responded by sending their ambassador to the Shah requesting an apology. Shah did not consider the Mongols as an equal power, so he was outraged by a request to apologise. He had the ambassador killed as a symbolic move to show that he was in charge of a superior empire. Naturally, this meant war.
The classic definition of grand strategy is “purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to secure a community”. In other words, it is your ultimate plan to win. In Risk, this can boil down to the following:
“What is it you want to do and how do you want to do it?”
The ultimate goal in a classic Risk game is always very clear; conquer the whole world. This makes it relatively easy at first look, but is it that simple? Remember, in real life if you ever come to conquer the whole known world, you may not be too bothered about what happens the next time the world in conquered. You will not live to see it because these events happen so rarely (if at all) and last for a long time when they do that the question may not matter. However, your ultimate goal in Risk is not just to win one game, but to win repeatedly. This is your ultimate goal which you must consider when you are formulating your grand strategy.
Grand strategy has been discussed extensively in history by the likes of Clausewitz and followed meticulously in major recent events such as World War II and the Cold War.
Grand strategy has the following main five principles. You must implement as many as you can in your grand strategy to be successful and get best results.
When playing Risk, you can generally adopt three kinds of strategies; passive, aggressive or assertive. Each of these has its own style of play and has certain consequences. It is well known that in order to successfully communicate with others, you need to be assertive and this also applies to Risk as well. However, what does it mean to be assertive? How can you optimise your strategy to take advantage of the benefits of assertiveness?
In this article you will be introduced to the APA model (Assertive, Passive & Aggressive) and explore various issues and parameters that you must be aware of when you are dealing with other Risk players.
Risk is all about attacking and that’s what you do most of the time in this game. However, as you know, direct attacks are costly and over time come to erode your armies. Some players are naturally more aggressive than others and usually pick on the weak and vulnerable intending to eliminate them. What should you do if you find yourself in a position where you are threatened by a stronger player? Should you keep a low profile and hope for the best? Should you go for a direct attack and hope you get lucky? What is the best strategy to contain a stronger player and extend your life in the game?
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About Dr. Ehsan Honary
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players