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"Life Is a Game But Risk Is Serious!"
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.
You won! You just keep winning. You must be a great player if not the best. It wasn't easy. Some players in your view were just plain bad. You had some arguments with some other players in the game, but you don't think of it much. You think it's just part of the game.
Sometime later, you go back to the online forum only to discover that there is a whole amount of conversation going on about you from certain players who did not approve of what you did or said in the game. In effect they are spreading rumours about you and your character and trying to destroy your reputation. As you know, winning Risk repeatedly is all about reputation and any damage to that will have all sorts of serious consequences for you when you are online next time to play. So you need to be able to control the rumours. The question is, how?
The situation is the same if you were not playing the game online. Rumours can spread behind your back and when you get back to your friends next weekend to play with them, you realise (quite late of course) that they have already plotted to remove you from the game, perhaps to teach you a lesson.
All of this means that you need to be able to control your reputation and spread of any rumour. Here, you will learn a number of techniques to achieve 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.
I have listed the challenges here along with the corresponding responses. Do you think these challenges are valid? Please share your thoughts. I am sure if you are a Risk fan, you will have many reasons to believe that Risk is a great game.Where do you think is the true strength of the game? Why has Risk lasted for more than 50 years and is still popular despite the huge rise in more sophisticated computer games? How long do you think Risk will last? Is Risk's popularity declining in the face of increasing entertainment choices?
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.
Risk fans continue to amaze me. They show so much love and dedication for the game and spend quite some time for their hobby. I guess Risk must have a special part in Risk fans psyche and that once you get it you will never let go of it.
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.
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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