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Throughout history, various military strategists in different cultures have noticed an unusual phenomenon: in battle the side that was on the defensive won in the end. Why should this be the case? Does this apply to Risk as well? Based on history, is it truly better to defend rather than attack? How about the other famous aphorism that “Attack is the best defence”? Aren’t these contradictory?
To answer these questions we need to look at attack and defence in more detail and examine the human psychology that dictates certain behaviours that will eventually lead to one choice or the other.
Attack and defence are like two sides of a coin. They each have advantages and disadvantages. Like many questions examining two possible solutions, you may have to use one or the other in specific situations as the ultimate choice. However, the general question remains as to which method is the preferred default choice.
Imagine, one afternoon, by some magical coincidence you find yourself in a room where a number of ‘players’ are gathered around a world map, playing Risk. What’s unusual about this game is that the players are not ordinary people like me and you. They are in fact the heads of states of some of the most influential countries in the world and they have gathered together in the UN to ‘play it out’, over a Risk game.
(Rules: using escalating cards and connected fortifications)
You are an excited observer and can’t wait to see what happens next and how it will all play out especially since a new person is now in charge of one of the most powerful continents.
This is the last part of the 3-part series. As you saw earlier, many players suddenly made bold moves and expanded in different directions. The cards meant that the game was unstable and anything could happen. The above shows how the world looked like.
As you saw in Part 1 of this example scenario, Brown had a dilemma and needed a compromise. This is how the world looked like. Follow with this example to see what happened next.
Every now and then I come across Risk games that stand out in memory for a long time simply because of the way they unfolded and provided sheers entertainment. The following is the story of one of these games.
The game captures the essence of timely decision making. In Risk, players need to be robust and continuously recalculate their position in respect with others. Unfortunately not all do, and as you may imagine this will cost them the game. In effect, they fight their last war and get eliminated!
The following example will illustrates this beautifully. This is the first part of a 3-part series. You are encouraged to suggest solutions. A few days later, the next part will be published and you can all compare your potential solutions with what actually happened.
All of us have experienced Risk games that have gone smoothly. We also have experienced games that haven’t gone that smoothly at all despite our good initial positions or fortunes. What happened in these games that we ended up losing so badly, especially if we were still using the same strategy as in our other games? Is it just bad luck, or is something more sophisticated going on?
Risk is a game of politics. To win you need to be able to influence the opinion of others. Of course good players are good at this, so when you are playing against them, anything goes; manipulations, deception, vague remarks, fuzzy justifications, you name it, it’s all there. There is always more to see than just the map in front of you. If you only rely on the map and the armies placed on it, you are limiting yourself from all that you can use to make good strategic judgements. So, what more is there to see? The answer is motivation. It is other players’ desires, wants and needs. If you can work this out you will be much more prepared for what is to come. There is indeed an elegant phrase that captures the essence of this.
As a Risk player you have to deal with many issues in your ongoing strategy. Just about any time in the game, you want to have more and more armies so you can invade more players and get what you have been planing to conquer so that at some point you can win the game. If you are playing with escalating cards (when their value increases over time), you may progressively receive more armies as more cards are cashed. This is the army you have been waiting for. You start invading, capturing and expanding. The question is; when should you stop? In other words, how far should you go before undoing all the advantage you got with the sudden rise in your power.
To find the answer we need to look deeper into the problem and what you are actually trying to do.
Sometimes in the course of a Risk game you may come across a player that you need to make a deal with. After all, diplomacy is key and with that you need to engage with other players. Some players are inherently deal-makers and would be interested to listen to you. Others may not be willing at all thinking that deal-making is a waste of time. What can you do to convince them, so at least they give it a try?
Even when you negotiate with those who are receptive, you may end up in a dead end where you need to convince them about your idea. What if they are stubborn and unwilling to change? What can you do to move them from the position they have taken to accept yours.
It turns out that are indeed a number of techniques you can use to break a stubborn person's stance. They are as follows.
New players sometimes think that to win Risk they need to work out a winning strategy and follow it every time. The problem with this approach is that it ignores what other players are going to do. You can’t say I will do these series of manoeuvres and I will do them no matter what. To win Risk, you need to know how to respond to different situations and to know this you need to know your priorities. Sounds very simple, but you will be amazed how many players don’t follow this simple rule. If you ever play online Risk, you are bound to come across many who simply follow a fixed strategy, like ‘Get continents’, ‘Go for cards’, ‘Just keep growing’ and so on. These strategies are good but they are too fixed to get you to win the game. You may get by very well in the early stages of the game and then get kicked out not knowing what hit you.
Winning Risk isn't really that difficult. You just have to play it a few times, pick on some newbie player and, hopefully, one day it would be your day. You conquer the whole map and feel invincible. Well, at least for a while.
Back on that great satisfaction, you want to play again, sometimes with the same people. Of course this time you are marked, and you literally have no chance. Wining Risk once is one thing, winning it over and over again is a whole different issue. The ultimate challenge for a Risk player is to win consistently against the same set of people. Anyone achieving this monumental task should appropriately be called "The God of Risk".
For the rest of us mortals, we need to focus on our skills to get by. The question is what are the ultimate skills or habits of a highly successful Risk player who can win consistently.
I am a board game and Risk game enthusiast. I like thinking and talking about strategy in games which has led me to the creation of this website. Although Risk is a classic, I feel one can never get tired of playing this game. Read about what I think of the game and I am always eager to know what you think.
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Military conquest is a matter of coordination not of masses.