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.
Having analysed and played Risk for years I have come to see certain patterns that successful players use almost universally. Interestingly there are also certain habits that successful people use in real life that makes them more effective, productive and focused. This topic has been explored since the beginning of time and there are many strategies and guidelines available to us.
One of my favourite sources is 7 habits of highly effective people which is truly a wonderful book to read for just about anyone.
Inspired by the book, I set out to discover a number of "habits” for the highly successful Risk Players. Here they are:
1. A Great Risk Player is Proactive
A Risk player must believe that he is in charge of his own moves. He should believe that whatever happens on the map is as a result of his own moves. If he is lost, is not because of bad dice, unfair attack by someone else, or some random cosmic event. He believes that he hasn’t made the right moves; otherwise he would have won the game. He looks at his game, analyses and learns from his mistakes. He does not let his past games affect his future games.
2. A Great Risk Player Has Well-Defined Goals
There is no way to win a Risk game, unless you know what you want. A great Risk player has a short term and a long term plan. He is always focused on his outcome. The outcome is not to beat a player, or just win this particular game. The outcome is to win consistently forever. As a result everything he does is aligned towards this goal.
Losing a battle doesn't disturb him. When negotiating, he focuses on long term, not short term. A great Risk player rarely backstabs because he knows that it’s all about his reputation. He has to work hard to build it, but it only takes one wrong move to ruin it all.
He constantly calculates, because he has a goal and he believes if he doesn't get there it is because he hasn't played well.
A great Risk player knows that sometimes the ultimate aim of the game is to have fun. He knows that he should keep the opponents happy or that there won’t be anyone left to play with, even if he feels he is the best Risk player of all time.
3. A Great Risk Player is Efficient
Pareto ratio tells us that we get 80% of the results from 20% of the effort. By focusing on only what matters most, a great Risk player increases the gap between himself and others until he is powerful enough to conquer everyone else.
He doesn't expand too much when it doesn't give him any advantage. He focuses on cards when continents no longer matter. He focuses on players, when cards are valuable. He knows when to eliminate other players to gain maximum benefit. He spots weak players much earlier than others. He knows how to use a chain to eliminate one player after another. While other players are in conflict, he is patiently building his forces. When others are engaged in battles, he thinks about the war.
A great Risk player knows that it's all about the mind. He uses diplomacy with everyone. He focuses on players that cause most of his problems; experienced, aggressive, uncooperative and stubborn players. He know how emotions can obscure his vision.
He focuses on long term strategic planning rather than reacting continuously to other players’ moves. He doesn't get carried away by revenge, meaningless adventures for fun or getting intimidated by other players’ random moves.
4. A Great Risk Player Thinks Win/Win
In Risk there can be only one winner. To win consistently, a Risk player must use a range of skills. In particular he should use diplomacy which means to have an ability to negotiate. To negotiate successfully, he needs to think Win/Win. No one wants to be exploited. Trust is the highest form of human motivation. If you want to win repeatedly you need to gain your opponents’ trust. If you think Win/Win, your opponents will be happy to negotiate with you and help you over and over again. If you think Win/Lose, you may win this game, but most probably will not win the next games.
5. A Great Risk Player Seeks to Understand Before He is Understood
Knowing what your opponent wants while negotiating is critical. A great Risk player puts himself in the position of his opponent. He understands his issues and concerns. He first diagnoses, then treats. He never suggests a solution because he thinks it’s a clever idea or that he has used it before and it worked. He listens first then attempts to come up with a solution that is beneficial to both (i.e. he thinks Win/Win).
6. A Great Risk Player is Creative
To win, you need to find novel solutions to common problems. After all, if everyone could come up with the idea, then there won’t be any challenge left. A great Risk player exploits the synergy in the game by engaging others. He uses diplomacy, treaties, agreements, negotiations and conversations effectively to interact with others and through the process creates a ripe environment for creativity. Using a large number of options at his disposal, he comes up with better solutions than others who like to be isolated and non-participatory.
7. A Great Risk Player Reviews His Approach Regularly
No matter how good you might be, you need to review the way you play. Risk is an evolutionary game, and a successful strategy does not necessarily survive the test of time. As other player get better, a consistent Risk winner needs to continuously update his strategies inline with his opponents. Winning every time comes at a cost. Sometimes he may need to lose to make sure that in the long run he will win more than all others. Self reflection is a key to success since without it, he will not know where he stands and how should he evolve.
To become “The God of Risk” is certainly not an easy task and it is more of an ideal than reality. However, for those of us who take Risk seriously (ehem, yes it's important), moving forward to acquire these habits is an ideal we can look forward to. Hopefully the analogy used in Risk will help us to remember them well and use them in real time too, as these habit are indeed a recipe for success.