Current Articles

How can you Stop a Rumour?

How can you Stop a Rumour?
Psychology, Diplomacy, Online Risk Games

Article Rating:::: 10 Ratings :::: Monday, September 22, 2008

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.


So you have decided to defend yourself and turn the tables. Rumours spread due to two important characteristics: anonymity and secrecy. Because the message is delivered in secrecy it stays longer in the network. The source of the rumour tends to be unknown. If you ask someone, "Where did you hear about this?", the usual answer is, "Well people say it", or "It's the word in the street" and similar.

So the first weapon you have against the rumour is to bring it out of secrecy. You need to find the source and reveal it. Once people know who is behind the source, they will evaluate the rumour differently. They may no longer look at it as a true or false statement; rather they will judge the statement along with the credibility of the source. If the person is already known for false statements you have practically killed the rumour there and then.

So find out who is the player behind the lies and reveal his or her identity to the masses. Be just as vocal. Let everyone know and tell them to tell everyone they know that the source of the rumour is X and he/she has an axe to grind. Don't try to deny the rumour or provide reasoning on why it is not true. That will be automatically taken care of if the reputation of the source is not strong to begin with.

However, it's not always this easy. It might be straight forward to see who is accusing you in the online forums. After all everything is recorded. In real life this can be more difficult. So this time you may have no other choice but attacking the rumour itself.

Let's examine how rumours spread in the first place. The two most important characteristics are likeability and believability. If the rumour sounds interesting, then people start to tell each other; "Did you know so and so did this?". The other aspect is how believable is it. If it can be believed, even if it is outrageous, then it is more likely to spread. Likeability and believability make the rumour viral. Obviously it is much less likely for a rumour to become popular if the statement was totally illogical or unbelievable. As the saying is,

“A partial truth is more dangerous than a total lie.”

So if you want to kill the rumour, you can take advantage of these two characteristics. You don’t need to justify yourself or deny the claim. Instead, you can counter-act it by telling a lie or a rumour which is even more outrageous than what is already out there, while incorporating the original idea. This is critical otherwise you have achieved anything other than spreading a new rumour. A more outrageous statement will dominate the weaker statement and can undermine the entire credibility of both statements, hence disarming the person who initiated the rumour in the first place.

Once heard, people no longer have a good reason to investigate further. The statements are so out of this world that they might as well not waste any time on them.

Of course, to make this even more effective you can spread a series of half-truths and outrageous statements to completely bury any other potential rumour out there on that topic. People will no longer trust what they hear and the problem will go away.

Of course this technique is not really that new. It has been employed in propaganda and PR for a long time and it is indeed a requisite in any modern conflict, warfare or competition. Risk game, with obvious analogies to any competitive environment is no exception.

Post Rating


Great Alan   By Great Alan @ Monday, September 22, 2008 8:10 AM
Rumour means the untrue event spreading among the people.I don't think it can have much destruction without an evidence,especially to these players who have the high reputations in the game.If any players don't do any things wrong,that's completely unnecessary to deal with it.

These people who believe the rumour are just a fool.I think every players are wise enough to classify what is truth and rumour.Thus,I think Ehsan Hosary exaggerate the problem of "rumour",which is almost unable to happen in multi-players game.

Please don't mind that I give a critics:This topic is not related with strategy,I really don't understand why Ehsan Hosary post such unnecessary topics.I recommend the next topics to be "Advancer's guide:Strategy of disguise".Hope that you can consider this topic.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Monday, September 22, 2008 12:30 PM
Thanks Alan for your comments.

Probably, rumours are more applicable to Risk board games played in your kitchen than online multiplayer. Nevertheless the same phenomenon happens is forums as well. Have a look and you will see lots of accusations and reputation-busting comments!

Remember, what you learn here is not only for Risk, it is also for real life. As you will know, a lot of Risk strategies can be applied to real life and vice versa and rumours is one of them. If you learn something new in the process it doesn't really matter how loosely it may apply to Risk. Hope this clarifies.

Any by the way, thanks for your suggestion for an article. Let me think about it...

Sling   By Sling @ Wednesday, September 24, 2008 3:08 AM
Ehsan, another interesting article. Alan, I think the term rumor can apply to a statement that has some merit or perceived evidence. The more one wins the more people are out to bring him down and look for ways to exploit his mistakes. I was in such a position where my alliances were beginning to go against me. I held onto one, lost the game but then I was no longer the target. The backstabber from that game was public enemy and I won many future games exploiting his bad rep.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Wednesday, September 24, 2008 5:44 AM
Thanks Rob, Glad that you manage to exploit another backstabber ;-)

Great Alan   By Great Alan @ Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:48 PM
Instead of exploiting ineffective propaganda,I fully rely on my power!Power is everything.Occupy the strong position and organize the strong alliance are my basic strategy.Therefore,I don't really trust any psychological strategy work in Risk.

Not every players have clear mind and calm temper,depending on their decision to success is just the silly thought.My thought to every rivals is:I won't trust any opponents can make even the wise actions at least all the time,I won't trust my opponents so easily,especially to these players I'm unknown.Thus,to these poor-performance player,I will prevent them suicide me as I can.To these skillful player,I have to watch them carefully.

With this power-type strategic instruction,I have been winning the games in Landgrab Risk one by one.Well,if you don't believe,just go to check the information about "Tokugawa Ieyasu" there.

My successful key is:Try to becoming strong as I can,seizing every chance to expand.It's better to let the other players fight each other and then I take advantage of the situation("Divide and Conquer").

Balance of power?If you're so strong,throw it to the side.

The Wyvern   By The Wyvern @ Sunday, September 28, 2008 2:39 PM
Now what if they carryout the rumor so far and fast that they ban you before you can defend yourself?

In my case: Me and my friend who joined together and played against each other; I won all of the matches that we both played, so someone appearantly took notice an concluded that we were multis (i had no idea what this meant until the banning) and banned us before either noticed.

Lawrence   By Lawrence @ Tuesday, September 30, 2008 11:03 AM
Ehsan, this is more praise for your wonderful book Total Diplomacy. I refer to it all the time.

Regarding rumours... they can be very hard to defend against...especially if you do not catch them early... I think the best solution is to find the source of the rumour... do that by beating the bushes thru pretending that you heard the same rumour about the person who relayed the rumour about you.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Tuesday, September 30, 2008 1:09 PM
Thanks Lawrence for your comments. Glad to be any help. :-)

Good idea for eliminating rumours. Sometimes however the messenger is not the problem (so shooting the messenger is not an option) and as you stated you need to go all the way to the source. That might take some effort.

Alternatively, if the scale is large, we can adopt WWII style noise injection to confuse everyone about everything.

To expand on this topic, Vernor Vinge explored a fantastic futuristic concept in his book, Rainbows End, about Friends of Privacy Group who would spread information on all aspects of a topic on the net so you can no longer know what is true or what is false. It's good for privacy and can do wonders to kills rumours and dilute them, but it can also back fire if you want to find the truth. The world is already going this way.

Post Comment

Only registered users may post comments.
Rate = 2.8 out of 5 :::: 10 Ratings.
About the Author

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.

My Book: Risk Game Strategy

Total Diplomacy: The Art of Winning Risk

Available from Amazon as paperback and Kindle

Available in Apple Books

Learn More About the Book

RSS Feed


Latest Forum Posts
RE: Diplomacy In Online Risk
by Ehsan Honary
Hi Jamie. Well, I think not relying on diplomacy won't do you any good. The situation you describe i...
RE: World Domination: Ways to win Risk
by JamieRogers
I agree, Alan. If you are playing with the dealt cards setup, then you should generally go for which...
Diplomacy In Online Risk
by JamieRogers
As most members of my family or my friends dislike playing risk or only play occasionally, I play mo...
How can I win this match?
by Pyrux
Hi, I'm an italian guy named Lorenzo.  Today, me and my housemates started a Risiko (Ris...
RE: World Domination: Ways to win Risk
by Great Alan
British & French : Once the German enter Belgium, we shall crush them! Erich von Manstein : Sorry, ...
RE: North America Strategy Help
by Great Alan
You have 2 options, Shirokiba: 1. Transfer your strategic objective to other places. 2. Force yo...
North America Strategy Help
by Shirokiba
So, I just started playing Risk and I try going for North America, it typically works out rather wel...
RE: Tell me if this strategey is good or bad
by The General
Nailing is an excellent stratgy because it prevents your neighbor from receiving his bonus which mak...
RE: 3 player game: Me vs Husband and Wife team
by Ehsan Honary
Kumo, this is a rather interesting scenario and let me just say it is tricky. In general a 3 player ...
3 player game: Me vs Husband and Wife team
by kumo
So, every time I play against my buddy and his wife, it always turns out to be essentially me agains...

It takes great talent and skill to conceal one’s talent and skill.

La Rochefoucauld