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Learn to Control Your Opponent so You can Control the Game

Learn to Control Your Opponent so You can Control the Game
Psychology, Diplomacy, Strategy

Article Rating:::: 54 Ratings :::: Monday, December 31, 2012

Your aim in Risk is winning but it is important to know this is not an abstract idealistic view like winning when you are playing chess. In chess you can think of perfect moves against your opponent’s moves. So long as you are making an ideal move, it doesn’t matter who you are playing against; you are more likely to win. Risk, and similarly life, is different. You are playing against humans with minds; minds that can have weaknesses which you can exploit. Unlike chess, in Risk you are not searching for a perfect move; instead you are searching for a way to control your opponent’s mind. The sooner you can do that, and the more successful you are in doing it, the more likely that you win the game. This is exactly the same in everyday life when you deal with your colleagues, the team that works for you, the stakeholders that you report to and the market at large.

In this article, you will be introduced to a number of guidelines on how to influence the mind of your opponent when playing Risk so you can maximise your chances of winning the game.

Keep them Guessing

Your opponent is undoubtedly planning his next move. He has formulated a strategy and want’s to follow it to perfection. If his plans go well, then it is very likely that you end up in deep trouble. What should you do? It’s simple; you need to constantly derail your opponent from his plans.

Rather than waiting until your opponent catches you off guard with a surprise move, you need to take the initiative and keep him guessing. Make surprising moves. Keep him constantly guessing so he remains defensive. Attack an opponent’s continent, then quickly retreat and reinforce. Tease him with your random moves by making him think that you are borderline mad and almost suicidal on the map. No Risk player would ever want to engage with a player who sees the elimination of an opponent as a holy quest. Even if you are a weak player, your chaotic moves force stronger players to think harder and be more cautious. It forces them to play defensively and this can buy you valuable time and give you control of the game.

Remember, it’s all in the mind. You are playing against people who would respond emotionally to your moves. Use this to your advantage.

Constantly Change the Battlefield

With his careful planning, your opponent wants to play the game the way he imagines it. He wants you to be in certain areas of the map, he wants you to make certain moves at certain times if all goes according to his plan. You need to disrupt this by constantly thinking of ways to change the map and the sequence of events. If he is waiting for you to get your continent so he can attack you, then before getting your continent, attack his own continent. The surprise move will throw him off his plans. He now has to think about the new situation and come up with a new plan. Maybe he decides to attack your continent before recapturing his own thinking that this will force you to leave his continent alone. Again surprise him with your next move. Abandon your continent altogether and instead invade his. This move will again surprise him and disorient him. He is always one step behind you and constantly responding to your moves.

This fluidity in battle is the secret to success. It is the same technique used by many military geniuses in history such as Genghis Khan and Napoleon leading them to a series of successful campaigns. It is famous that Napoleon’s opponents always disliked his chaotic way of warfare, preferring their traditional formal wars. Of course, this only led to their downfall.

Make them Feel they are in Control

Some players in Risk can be aggressive. They want to dominate. Diplomacy doesn’t work with them. They don’t engage with anyone. They intimidate everyone. They use heavy propaganda to show that they are in control. Don’t worry about it. What matters is who actually controls the game behind the scenes. A direct approach can always backfire. An aggressive player doesn’t end up having many friends, but other players may give in out of fear. Make your opponent think that he is in control but behind the scenes make treaties with others, forge alliances and plan moves that would undermine the aggressive player. Use this opportunity to unite others against him. If he is disliked, the task will be easier for you.

Don’t concern yourself with taking credit; the only thing that matters in Risk is winning. Don’t worry if others think that you are one of the weak players in the game. Don’t worry if they think you are new. Use this as an advantage to strengthen your position quietly and out of the spotlight. You can celebrate once you win.

Make them Make Mistakes

You are playing against humans, not computers. Humans make mistakes; they become emotional, they don’t see the obvious, they can be distracted and they have egos.

Your opponents have played Risk in the past and have a pattern for a successful strategy. They want to execute this strategy to win. To win against them you need to consider two elements:

  • You need to go through battles in a way that prevent them from realising the strength of their strategy
  • You need to make them feel frustrated so they make mistakes

Remember, if their plans go ahead as they have planned, then you are probably doomed. Don’t give them time to think everything through and walk through their plans step by step. Set up traps, make random moves, entice them into a different part of the map and then frustrate them by doing something they don’t expect. Now, they can make mistakes. Be ready to exploit it; they can leave a weak border to their continent, they can expose a weak player for you so that you can eliminate them to cash their cards, they can lock their armies away from where they should be in the next turn and so on.

In short, to win Risk, constantly think of the other person as an imperfect decision maker who is susceptible in making mistakes when disrupted and who would get more and more anxious as his plans are ruined. 

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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.

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