Total Diplomacy Risk game strategies
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When to Nail?

Nailing is defined as placing a large force in a player’s continent to disrupt his plan in getting that continent. The best analogy for this is as if you have a military base in someone’s land. You may benefit from this, though at the same time, your opponent may become aggressive towards you. There is a trade-off when you want to nail someone.
  • When is it good? Nailing is generally used to slow a player. You want to rub him off his continental bonus and are willing to allocate certain number of armies for this purpose. Sometimes, especially if you have a smaller continent, it will be beneficial to nail your neighbour’s bigger continent, so that he won’t become too strong too soon. If you have long term plans for that continent, your nailed armies will ultimately be useful as you can spend them while conquering the continent. Hence, nailing can be a wise tactical move.
  • When is it bad?A nailed player may easily interpret your army placement as an aggressive move towards him. It will be in his best interest to remove your armies form his continent. It makes him hostile to you for no reason. This is not desirable since you have made an enemy for yourself without achieving much. The short term benefit may be to your advantage, though long term benefit is debatable.
The best move, if you can time it well, is to nail a neighbour so that he becomes weak and the subject of attack by others. Since he becomes weak, he cannot retaliate against you. He will be struggling to get his continent. A weak neighbour is extremely useful as it lets you expand easily.

Notice that nailing can be a useful tactic in Risk games where rules are modified or the goal of the game is not global conquest. If you know someone needs to get a particular continent to win, nailing that continent is a logical move.

In an especial case, suppose you find yourself in South America and are confronted with two experienced players in North America and Africa. If they prove to be hard to deal with, you may find yourself squeezed between them. They practically tell you that they will invade you as they please. How would you resolve this situation?

Nailing can be a useful tactic in this case. Early in the game, you can nail one of your neighbours to prevent him from getting his respective continent. He will not expand as fast as others (including you) since he does not receive continual bonus. This way you have broken the symmetry and hopefully won’t be squeezed too much.


How to Recover if all Failed?


One day Voltaire, the famous French philosopher, was walking in London and suddenly found himself surrounded by an angry crowd who was shouting at him, “Hang him. Hang the Frenchman.” Voltaire calmly and cunningly addressed the mob, “Men of England! You wish to kill me because I am a Frenchman. Am I not punished enough in not being born an Englishman?” The crowd cheered his thoughtful words, and escorted him back to his home. This amusing story from The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes captures an extremely important concept that no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, there can always be a smart way out. All you have to do is to believe that such a way exists and explore any imaginable option.

For example, in Risk, if for any reason you find yourself in a weak position, you can switch to a strategy which is known as the Turtle Strategy. Suppose suddenly you find yourself under attack turn after turn. You are left with only a few countries and not many armies. The best strategy you can follow now is to make sure that the next player does not wipe you out of the game. Never lose hope, however small you think your chances are. You can always win the game and conquer the whole world even if you have only one country.

The solution is to use passive resistance. Find a location on the planet that you think is close, reachable and is completely out of the way of other players. Yakutsk and Japan are good examples, since players usually have no incentive to attack them. Thus, move to this isolated country and attempt to bring all of your remaining armies there. This is now your new home. Do not worry about losing your one-army countries in the process. You are not in a situation to care about such issues!

Once you have successfully immigrated, aim to concentrate a reasonable amount of armies in this newly-found country so that no one can get rid of you without seriously weakening himself against other players. At this point in time, killing you won’t have any direct benefit for other players. You don’t even have a continent to lose. Removing you would only cost them. Hence, you are exploiting the selfishness of players by preventing them from being the first to attack you.

There is however an exception. If you have a high number of cards, such as 4 or 5, you will automatically be considered as a great target especially towards the later stages of the game. If you have cards, cash them in and put them on the map. You will simultaneously decrease their incentive to get the bounty, and make it more costly to attack you. As a minimum, if you can, hide your cards so other players cannot easily see how many you have.

Performing this manoeuvre is an art and needs an active diplomacy during the process. If you got this far, you only need to build up for a few more turns while others carry on fighting with each other. All you need to do is to be ignored. Eventually, if you are ignored enough, you can return as a powerful nation ready to compete with others.

Make sure that you will always get your all important card in your turn, so that you will not fall behind. Since they use their armies and you don’t, you will eventually become as powerful as they are.

Beware that Turtling (The act of using the Turtle Strategy) is considered controversial. If everyone employs this strategy, the game basically comes to a halt as no one will be fighting anyone else. This is undesirable for everyone. This topic is thoroughly examined in the Book.


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“Do not confront force with force; instead use your opponent's strength and turn it against him.”

A fundamental philosophy in the ancient sport of Judo

“In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack: the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of manoeuvres.”

Sun Tzu