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Apply Stock Markets Strategy to Risk

Apply Stock Markets Strategy to Risk
Psychology, Tactic, Strategy, Real-world example

Article Rating:::: 2 Ratings :::: Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things

he predicted yesterday didn't happen today"

Laurence Peter

Risk is one of the most successful strategic games with clear abstract rules. It is amazing how you can relate Risk strategies to other fields, even those such as economy and investing.

Here, you will find a number of strategies that are applicable to both worlds and make Risk an incredibly useful tool to experiment with. If you are good at one, you can apply your strategy to the other field and expect to get good results.

So, master Risk players, this is your chance to become rich!  Billionaires, it is your chance to conquer the whole world, literally!

  • It's about not losing.
    • Risk. To win in Risk you need one core strategy; try to lose the least amount of armies.
    • Investing. This is pretty much the same as an investment strategy; make sure you lose least amount of money. It's about not losing, it's not about gaining.
  • Minimize costs.
    • Risk. Risk is not a zero-sum game. Every time you make a move, there is a cost. Your loss doesn't equal someone else's gain because you may lose some armies due to dice. In effect you have a random cost.
    • Investing. Stock markets are the same. Every time you make a deal, you pay commission fees to your broker. The more you deal, the more are your cost. To win, you need to keep an eye on your mounting costs which means cheaper strategies such as index funds are preferable to more expensive active-managed funds.
  • Past performance is not indicative of future performance.
    • Risk. If a player has been friendly with you in a previous game, it doesn't mean you can  count on him now. He may have other plans or incentives to act differently. Even within a game, player's strategies seem to be variable and adaptable. An isolationist may suddenly turn into an expansionist and start a blitzkrieg. You should simply not count on player's history. 
    • Investing. This is an accepted rule in stock market investing and even though it is printed on just about every flyer coming out of the financial industry, investors still fall into the trap and try to guess the future by looking at the past.
  • It's not about luck.
    • Risk. In Risk, you can get lucky in the short turn, but you need to have a sound strategy to win the many games consistently.
    • Investing. Getting successful in picking lucky stocks in the short term may make you feel proud of yourself, but without a good long-term investment strategy you are likely to lose your investment as it is supported by countless number of research.
  • To be better than average, you need to be special.
    • Risk. If you know something about an opponent that your competitors don't, you have a great advantage that you can exploit. If you have played the end-game phase of Risk many more times than your opponents and have experienced losing, you may know what not to do when your winning chance comes again.
    • Investing. In order to beat the average investor, you need to either have access to more information or be more skilled. Skill comes with long-term experience having gone through loss making as well as money making strategies. Interestingly, this skill may still not be enough to beat the index-tracked funds over long term.
  • Play the highest probability game.
    • Risk. In Risk, you always want to put yourself out of harms way so that you have a higher chance of not getting attacked. Get other players to fight each other and increase the probability of their failure by putting them into a conflict. Exploit the dice probability as well. If you have a choice, always attack rather than defend, because the dice probability is slightly biased towards attacking than defending.
    • Investing. The total of investors is the market. The average investor will be the market before costs. The average investor after costs will under-perform the market with these costs. This means that index funds will perform better over the long run since they have less costs than average active fund. Follow the math and you will know what to do. Always play the probability game.
  • Have a portfolio of plans, not just one plan.
    • Risk. Often, what you plan ahead may not go according to plan. At any given time in the game, you should know what to do if your primary plan doesn't progress according to your expectations. Not having a number of alternatives before you embark on a strategy can prove to be a disaster since you may decide to react to other players' moves emotionally on the spot which experience shows it usually leads to failure.
    • Investing. It is well known that diversification is a critical strategy that a wise investor should use to balance her portfolio. Diversification reduces the risk of your investments while maintaining your potential growth. It helps you to recover quicker from unexpected loses and survive the emotional ride.
  • Make small moves, avoid large moves.
    • Risk. Invading a whole bunch of countries in one turn might sound like an exciting thing to do, but it will cost you lots of armies and exposes your over-expansion to counter-attacks. On the other hand, small moves let you change your plans midway and can be deceptive since other players will not know where you are going to invade next.
    • Investing. Buying risky stocks can be absolutely thrilling when they are going up, but utterly devastating when they go down. The emotional ride can affect you severely. When stocks go down, you may get really scared and sell them low exactly before the market starts to recover. The volatility may lead you to quit altogether or become extremely conservative when choosing your next set of investments which may lead to serious consequences. On the other hand, a portfolio that rises consistently year-on-year will give you confidence and you are more likely to stay on course as a result.
  • Don't let your loses hurt you more than your wins.
    • Risk. Players usually get quite scared when they are attacked several times in a row and may lose hope completely. What happens is that they suddenly start to believe that all is lost and they might as well have some fun while they are at it by attacking everyone, everywhere. Bad luck happens to everyone once in a while and all you have to do is to weather the storm. It will pass if you sit tight. If you have just been invaded badly, change strategies, go defensive, flee to some faraway land and start building up there again. Your luck may change and you could return as a world power.
    • Investing. Investors have consistently shown that they become too upset for their loses but not that happy when their investments rise. It is critical to control your emotions when hard times come or you will end up regretting your on-the-spot decisions later on. Having a good long-term strategy helps you to avoid getting worried too much when things don't go well.
  • Consider the consequences of a failure and aim to have a Plan B.
    • Risk. Find out the following given any situation in the game.
      • What is your worst case scenario?
      • What are the chances of it happening?
      • What would you do when a failure happens?
    • Investing. The same set of questions also apply to an investment strategy. You always need to know where you are, where you are going and at what cost.
  • Always think long term.
    • RiskA small victoriy in a battle may be pleasurable but that pleasure may bring your empire down in three turns. If you don't think about the consequences of your decisions, invasions and diplomacy in the long run then your fate is controlled by those players who do have a long-term vision. Long-term planning is absolutely critical for those who want to win consistently across multiple Risk games.
    • Investing. As it has been studied countless number of times, investors with long-term view of investing usually outperform the market or at least make as much as the market itself over a long period of time. Short term investing is much like gambling. You may get lucky and win, but you may not be able to do it consistently.  

Can you think of any other strategies? If you have just made lots of money in the stock market, can you tell us what your strategy was so at least we can win in our next Risk game! It's a good deal, don't you think.

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Sam   By Sam @ Sunday, December 23, 2007 5:19 PM
I disagree. Sometimes in my games someone with a lot of luck and very little strategy(hesays so himself) can win. And its not about not losing, it's about gaining more armies than losing them.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Monday, December 24, 2007 9:30 AM
Sam, actually it is about not losing armies. Gaining is also important but, over time if you stay away from costly battles and use diplomacy so that you dont have to spend your valuable armies, you stand to keep more of your amies and hence become more powerful. I know, you like to think that gaining armies (like going for continents) is the way to go (and I agree that it helps), but in practice it comes down to not losing armies if you want to be ultimate consistent winner.

This is also very true for investing as described above and interestingly this has been studied well in the investment industry.

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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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