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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.
While playing Risk, quite often you may find yourself negotiating with other players. Negotiation is a skill that can prove extremely useful when you want to avoid direct conflicts and save your armies and resources for better use later in the game. However, negotiations can be tough. Some people ignore them altogether. Others actively argue that there is no need to negotiate or make deals with other players because these deals can be broken. These player find negotiation difficult and as such either avoid it or to try to justify their negativity philosophically. Remember, negotiation is just another tool. You are not forced to use, nor do you have to avoid it exclusively. Just be good at it and when the right circumstances arise, use the tool to get ahead of others.
Most people learn how to negotiate in the field without much systematic training. There are many established guidelines to follow for better results, though many still fall to the trap of old ineffective approaches. Consider the following example negotiation…
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?
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.
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.