Current Articles

Reverse Intimidation

Reverse Intimidation
Psychology, Diplomacy, Strategy

Article Rating:::: 23 Ratings :::: Sunday, April 26, 2009

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?

“When opponents are unwilling to fight with you, it is because they think it is contrary to their interests, or because you have misled them into thinking so.”

Sun Tzu

In any Risk game, you will inevitably come across a stronger player. These players might be ruthless, aggressive and uncompromising. They might be the kind you that you can’t make any deals with or negotiate over anything useful. If you go ahead for a direct fight all the way to the end, you are likely to lose. Remember, they are stronger and aggressive, so they are very good at going for the kill. That’s their skill. This will not help you and other players will be more than happy to see that the stronger player has picked up on you instead of them. As a result, you should avoid a direct fight.

A better approach is to use what is known as reverse intimidation. This classic strategy has been used for hundreds of years by the greatest masters of the art in history and you can certainly use it in Risk (and in real life) as well. Instead of directly attacking or avoiding the conflict altogether, you use a deterrence strategy. Consider the following three principles:

  • If people see you as weak, you are more likely to be attacked
  • If they can’t be sure about the consequences of an attack, they will have second doubts
  • If you make irrational and unpredictable moves, it makes it more difficult to predict where you are going next

Reverse intimation takes advantage of these principles. To use this strategy, you need to disguise your weakness and distract them. You want to deliver a message that every time they bother you, they should expect a massive retaliation that will hurt them. The only way they can stop you attacking them in this irritating and highly unpredictable fashion is to leave you alone. Your objective is to make them believe that you are not someone to mess with. By leaving you alone, you get a chance to reinforce and become stronger over time while staying out of conflicts.

To accomplish reverse intimidation you can use the following methods:

  • Appear irrational and unpredictable. If you look like someone who has nothing to lose, you will appear extremely dangerous. Indicate that if anyone attacks you, you will take them down with you. This is not to act emotionally, just to show that you are slightly mad and hence unpredictable! In Risk, this classic strategy is followed by Turtles who can suicide on others and are indeed considered quite lethal.
  • Play on your opponents’ paranoia. Making direct threats with words is not as effective as actions. Take advantage of their paranoia by appearing as someone who is planning against them. Don’t just attack them, instead indirectly show signs that you are building up your forces against them. For example, build up large armies next to your opponent’s borders as if you are hell bent to retaliate if you are attacked.
  • Surprise your opponent with a bold move. Make random bold moves. By showing that you are willing to attack and sacrifice your position, you mean what you say. In short, you show that you are someone who should not be underestimated. They may also consider your move as part of a grander plan and will be hard at work trying to figure out the rest of your campaign. Indeed, they may even start noticing your strengths and ingenuity that they did not notice before and starts focusing on other weaker player. Meanwhile, you achieved all of this because of a simple random move!
  • Establish a frightening reputation. Remember, Risk is not a one off game. A great Risk player is one who can win many games, even against the same people. Build up a reputation so that others will respect you, sometimes even have a little fear. You want them to feel that there is no reason for them to get in your way as it would prove costly for them. To build this reputation, you may need to get rough sometimes, but you also have to show you deal-making and kinder side. In short, you want to appear assertive.
  • Reverse the threat. If your enemies think you are weak and can be pushed around, reverse the threat by hitting what they value. Make yourself a threat to them. For example, attack their continent and show that their expansion strategy may come to a halt because of you. Then back off and let them carry on. It is likely that they will learn the lesson and leave you alone. In essence, send a short message that you are capable of a lot worst.

Remember, what matters in war is not how many armies you have, but how your enemies see you. The less conflicts you have, the less armies you will lose and the stronger you remain in comparison with others.

The essence of this strategy is that when someone threatens you or attacks you, you make it clear that that they will suffer in return. They might be stronger and more resourceful than you are, but you make them pay for each victory.

To remember this strategy, use the following analogy every time you are playing the game; become a wasp. Most people leave a wasp alone. It’s simply not worth the hassle and risk to go for a kill because if a wasp gets angry, it may come back for revenge and the result can be quite painful!

Post Rating


Great Alan   By Great Alan @ Tuesday, April 28, 2009 1:29 PM
Good article again(though quite long),Ehsan Hosary.Indeed,I can simpily summarize what you said in one sentence,"Which player dare to attack me,I resist him with all my available power."

My view is same as yours,there is not much for me to analyze here.But instead of a "wasp",I love to be a "hunter",always seek any chance to grip every terrtories and conquer every players as I can,even my power is weak!

I guess you ever heard one quote,"Use war to support war."Once you expand,you will gain more and more resource for expanding and conquering,just like the rolling snowball.This is my favourite strategy.

Post Comment

Only registered users may post comments.
Rate = 4 out of 5 :::: 23 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...

If you refuse to accept anything but the very best, you will often get it.

W. Somerset Maugham