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What can You Learn from the Mongol Invasion? (Part 2 of 2)

What can You Learn from the Mongol Invasion? (Part 2 of 2)
Diplomacy, Strategy, Real-world example, Series

Article Rating:::: 22 Ratings :::: Sunday, November 1, 2009

In the first part, you were introduced to the historic invasion of Khwarezm by the Mongols. The question was how they managed to pull this off so successfully. In this part, the Mongol’s invasion is analysed and later you will see how you can use their strategy in Risk against other players to maximise your chances of winning the game.



On the outset, Genghis Khan had the fastest army on the planet. His genius was to take full advantage of his fast moving armies against well-established disciplined armies many times their armies. These armies were also backed by resources of an empire which made the task even more profound. Genghis Khan used the ancient Chinese Strategy of “Slow Slow Quick Quick” as his grand strategy. Let’s see how this worked in practice.

Step 1: Slow

The Mongols prepared for their attack meticulously. They studied the land and the mentality of their Shah. The Mongols wanted an excuse before starting their campaign. The Shah was proud. They realised that by placing themselves as equal to the Shah, they could make him feel outraged and emotional. An emotional person can easily make mistakes. He may then do something to give the Mongols an excuse for an attack. Indeed, Mongol’s idea of sending a convoy to buy expensive gifts worked well for them.

The Mongols also learned of the existence of a guide who knew a series of oasis in the desert to the north. They planned to capture the guide and used him to guide Genghis Khan’s army through the desert. This was their winning move and they kept it secret all the way to the end to maximise its effect.

Step 2: Slow

The Mongols sent a weak army as a representation of their forces and deliberately lost the first battle. The Shah’s son was deceived by this move thinking that the Mongol’s could not stand a chance against Shah’s superior army.

Step 3: Quick

The Mongols switched to full scale attack on the river and in the south. They used fear as their primary tool to maximise the effect of their invasion, resulting in significant devastation of many culturally advanced cities. This firmly attracted the attention of the Shah and he had to respond by sending his forces to these locations, something that the Mongols had planned all along which prepared them for their next move.

Step 4: Quick

With a two pronged attack, first a south force was used as a magnate to attract the remaining reserves of the Shah to free up the north. The Shah fell for this and sent his forces. The ace move of the campaign was the passage of Genghis Khan’s army through the desert and appearing unexpectedly on the gates of Bokhara. The Shah’s armies were scattered defending various locations. He was in the process of regrouping them and by no means wanted to be confronted with a large invasion force next to his door. Many historians believe that this appearance was the greatest military surprise in history. From there it was all downhill for the Shah.

In military campaigns such as the Mongol invasion, speed was everything. Coupled with a sound strategy and constant adaptation to suit immediate needs, the Mongols proved an invincible force going on to build the largest land empire earth has ever seen.

Apply the Same Technique to Risk

Can you use the Chinese strategy of “Slow Slow Quick Quick” in Risk? Indeed you can. There are many ways you can interpret and apply this strategy. The following is a starting point.

Step 1: Slow

Find a corner of the world and start building. Stay away from conflicts in the early part of the game. Minimise attacking and getting attacked to quickly build up your armies. Your aim is to become the player who has the highest number of territories and the second highest number of armies. You should not aim to become the post powerful player since that will only attract attacks from others. In escalating games where cards cashing value is increased throughout the game, make sure that you collect your card every turn.

Step 2: Slow

A few turns into the game, players start to claim continents. If you are lucky enough to get a small continent, claim it and protect it. If your continent is large, aim to claim it but without spending too many armies on it. Continents are only useful for a certain part of the game. Towards the end, cards become more valuable and you no longer need to worry about continents. If the cost of getting a continent is too much, far more than the bonus you get, you might as well change your strategy and go without a continent. In this case, aim to reduce the power of your competitors instead, while accumulating armies yourself. This requires short attacks on strategic positions since you don’t want to lose your own armies in the process. By keeping an eye on others, you make sure that you don’t end up with players who have too many forces on the map and are eager to attack someone. Play diplomacy and appear peaceful. Get others to join you against another powerful player. You don’t have to do it on your own. As the strategy suggests you don’t want to appear aggressive at this point. If someone attacked you, respond proportionally and pretend that you accept such attacks as part of the game.

Step 3: Quick

By now, you have solidified your position and perhaps claimed a continent. Alternatively you might have stockpiled your armies ready to unleash them into the world. This is the moment you have been waiting for. The choice of who to attack is absolutely critical. You have primarily two choices:

  • Attack a player who has a resource.
    • If there is a small continent next to you, attack and attempt to conquer the continent in such a way that you will be able to stand any counter attacks. The continent will act as a resource for you which if you can hold on to for a few turns might pay for the cost of that attack. If you don’t think the continent will pay back your armies soon enough, there is no point to conquer it.
    • Identify weak players who have cards. In escalating games, the value of cards is increased as you progress in the game. Weak players with cards are quite lucrative since you can eliminate one, cash their cards, and use that to fund your next campaign. If you time this well, you may get a chain effect eliminating one player after another until you win.
  • Attack a strong player. Players who have a lot of armies on the map are always eager to use them. You certainly don’t want to be on the receiving end. A player who has many armies has the initiative because he can use them in any way he wants. Take this freedom away from other player by attacking the concentration of their armies on their borders. By reducing their level of armies available, you reduce the chance of a campaign against you or your allies. Naturally, the best move is to diplomatically get others to reduce their concentration of armies.

In any case, you should take the opportunity to show others that you are a power player and you should not be messed with. Show that you could be capable of a mad attack on anyone just for the sake of it. Make an example of what happens if someone betrays you. Your aim in this step is to show that you are so strong that you should be left on your own until the very end.

Step 4: Quick

This is the final blow. Having scared others in not attacking you and having accumulated lots of armies, you are now in a position to play through the end game. Risk end games require lots of manoeuvres and you should aim to eliminate players who are troublesome. Continents are probably no longer as important as they used to be and you can abandon them for other parts of the map. Always aim to minimise your borders with others so you can maximise the number of armies in each territory. Cash your cards at a time when you can use them to eliminate another player and get their cards. Don’t play defensively at the end. This will only give the initiative to the other player. Instead, use your armies to make first moves expecting others to react to you and not the other way around.

What do you think of “Slow Slow Quick Quick” strategy? What other ways you can use it? How effective do you think it is? Can you pull off the same trick as the Mongols in your games?

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shendo   By shendo @ Sunday, July 24, 2011 7:27 AM
Well Done. These series you've posted are really helpful

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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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