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How to Maintain the Balance of Power (Part 1 of 4)

How to Maintain the Balance of Power (Part 1 of 4)
Strategy, Online Risk Games, Series

Article Rating:::: 9 Ratings :::: Sunday, November 15, 2009

Risk is all about balance. If you become too weak you will be attacked and eliminated. If you become too strong, you will be ganged up on until you become a weak player and we know what happens to weak players.

However, balancing the game is an art. It requires full understanding of the rules, the map, the psychology of other players to some extent and of course impeccable timing. Players who get this right and go on to win, usually feel that they won not because of one crucial clever move or a sound strategy. Instead, they feel more like indirectly guiding a set of people towards the path of their choice without others realising what is happening to them. It is this feeling that makes Risk so enjoyable and so rewarding, not to mention so addictive.

In this series of articles, we are going to examine a complete game and look at the critical moments and various options you have in these situations. Each part of the series raises a number of questions asking you to suggest what happens next. Please provide your inputs and discuss it with the fans. A few days later the next part will be published and you can see the progress of the game and provide your comments.

Suppose you are playing Risk on a non-Earth map. The bigger the continent, the more bonus you get and cards are set as escalating (the cashing sequence is 4,6,8,10,...). The map shown above is your random starting point playing as Red.

What is your strategy? What would you do?

Move 1.

Ideally you want to go for a small continent with large reward. In addition, fighting territories with 1 army is always cheaper than those with 3. You decide to follow in the wake of others and move upwards to the small blue continent.

Note: Black dropped out of the game and his forces (silver) now act as neutral forces. You need to attack them to conquer them but they can’t attack others.

Risk Game Balance

Move 2.

Meanwhile other players select their respective continents. The most successful player seems to be Yellow. Blue and Brown are fighting a corrosive war over a little continent. Good for you! Let them carry on.

Risk Game Balance

Move 3.

Purple seems to be undecided and still needs to grow. While other players are wondering what to do or are fighting each other for continents, Red and Yellow have secured their continents. In fact, Yellow seems to be very successful as he now has two continents secured.

Risk Game Balance

Now, let’s look at this map in more detail. Here is the card distribution:











Next cashing cards will get you 4.

Although you are in a great position where you have only two borders, a continent and lots of cards, you have a strong competitor; Yellow. In addition, other players have cards as well and can become a threat quite quickly. The game is not very stable at this point.

What should you do next?


UPDATE: The following shows the continent bonuses.

Risk Bonuses


How to Maintain the Balance of Power - Part 1

How to Maintain the Balance of Power - Part 2

How to Maintain the Balance of Power - Part 3

How to Maintain the Balance of Power - Part 4

Post Rating


Great Alan   By Great Alan @ Monday, November 16, 2009 12:40 PM
Hosary,why consume much time to post articles here?You clear that no one would watch them here.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Monday, November 16, 2009 8:26 PM
Alan, not sure what you mean by your comment!! Isn't Risk that interesting to you any more? You used to be passionate about it.

Great Alan   By Great Alan @ Tuesday, November 17, 2009 1:16 PM
You're not answering my question,Ehsan Hosary.I love playing Risk,and I also appeciate your detail analyze of strategy.I'm just astonished that why can't you wake up from your dream.My words is showing goodwill for you.Listen to me!When no one watch your articles,even the most brilliant articles're merely valueless.So why not halt your writing and do other meaningful things?

Moreover,still that advice:Wake up from your fantastic dream.Real and theory are totally different.I find that you already make a "pre-assumption" over some situations,which surely produce the "prejudice" inevitably.

If risk is all about "balance",then there is no need for a victor.The true "great player" would not foolishly trust "balance of power" can secure their safety fully.At appearance,balance looks like good,stable and safe in illusion.But miserably,you miss the other side,Ehsan Hosary!Balance of power is not the "stable balance",and also hinder the expansion of power meanwhile.Whenever some ambition players emerge,balance would not remain long....Who can break that balance,then who can win.Risk is just like business,the game of utilize the resource.

"Balance of power" is setting for constraining the others,not yourself.The key of victory is not at "keeping balance",but how do you exploit and more advanced...."manipulating",which only a wise man can do that.Just like you said,"Divide and conquer".When you keep your rivals busy on squabble themselves,they can't spare enough power whenever you become too strong for them."political talent" is also a kind of "power",and most valuable in all kinds of power.

Playing Risk game can't depend on the "textbook-liked theories",not a single theory can cope with all situations in the game.Of course,I guess you never understand me.I just want to let you....Ehsan Hosary the "Great",the host of Total Diplomacy to know.You seems like deem yourself so high.Watching the words you use:"will","all","full",looks like only your theory is the "Bible" here.

Now it's time to change yourself,Ehsan Hosary.Criticize is merely for your good though the human is inclined on refusing these words.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Tuesday, November 17, 2009 9:45 PM
Alan, really appreciate your inputs as always.

May I just say, everyone should always follow their passion, enjoy life, hobbies or whatever they fancy. I can see that you enjoy Risk probably as much as me, which is why you spend so much time commenting about it on this site, but that’s great because you are following what you enjoy. Life is too short to miss out on all the fun.

I do understand your view though…

And of course, you are free to express your view as is everyone else. There is no right or wrong answer in Risk, just what to do to maximise your chances of winning. It’s simply a point of view.

But thanks again anyway for your comment.

Pierre   By Pierre @ Tuesday, November 17, 2009 10:42 PM
Well I assume that the continent bonus is 3 maybe 4 so that means you will have either 11 or 12 reinforcements with your trade.

Blue is likely (if he has a set) to trade and take over the south-west continent and he is well protected by the neutrals (just like you) but it will be hard for him to expand elsewhere.

Yellow is obviously the strongest at this point but because of this, Id assume people are worried about him more than you and more than everyone else.

Brown is probably dead meat if he doesnt have a trade, but his 3 men in the top left worry me a bit, specifically because most of his other territories will be occupied this turn and hell have no choice but to put men there and try to carve out a northern base.

Purple is also in deep trouble, but less so than brown since he has a few more men and should be able to live for a while with a few countries in the southern continent.

I guess red has a few options, either put most of the reinforcements in the north and attack yellow's northern island to take away the continent bonus, or go just play defensively take one territory and get a card.

The obvious move seems to be attack yellow anyways, since he will get a huge amount of reinforcements. So 8-10 men in your north continent and 1-2 each on ur places in the central continent to keep a presence elsewhere. Attacking the North Island means that probably 7-8 of your men will survive while your defence in the center will also have 7-8 men and will be difficult for yellow to break.

If you dont want to attack yellow, then maybe put 4 to have 10 to defend against him, 4 men in either of the western territories of your continent and 3 in the southern territory that you own. Then use those 6 in the south to take both of browns territories in the center. Purple will probably take his territory in the south leaving him with a single one. Hopefully he does not have a set and you can eliminate him next turn. Though this strategy is fraught with too much risk.

I think attacking yellow is the way to go though, just taking the one island in the north though. Sooner or later, Yellow will have to fight someone in the South too so he cant just focus on you. Plus if you play this turn defensively, then you will let yellow become stronger and look stronger yourself, alerting other players.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Wednesday, November 18, 2009 2:27 PM
Thanks Pierre for your analysis. It's very good indeed. I have also updated the article with continent bonuses in case you want to use this data in your calculations.

I can't tell you how right or wrong you are though, need to wait for the next parts of the series and see for yourself how the story unfolds. I leave it to others to comment on your inputs though.

Pierre   By Pierre @ Wednesday, November 18, 2009 3:20 PM
5 bonus armies for your small continent seems kind of high, but I guess that means you can add 1-2 extra to your force in the center continent to help protect against yellow and others trying to hit you from the other direction.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Wednesday, November 18, 2009 9:01 PM
The map is not mine of course, so it is what it is, but it is well designed. Usually a bonus is a combination of the number of territories and the number of borders. In this case, although the continent is small, it has 4 borders which apart from the largest continent at the centre, is higher than all other continent. I guess that is compensated by giving it one more extra army that you would expect a continent of this size to receive.

Dan12   By Dan12 @ Thursday, November 26, 2009 7:18 AM
At this point I think red has three possible moves: Attack no one and simply accumulate, attack yellow, attack others in the central continent to expand.

Accumulating armies is good if you are not quickly becoming too powerful. If red doesn't attack and simply puts bonus armies in, becomes too strong and hence the target by everybody else. Also he loses the chance to stop others growing.

Attacking yellow only makes him an enemy. He is quite strong, in fact the strongest player. The last thing you want is to make an enemy from him, specially when you don't need to expand to his area.

So I think red should expand in the central area and slowly gain control of it. While doing this, he can wait for other opportunities as well.

Anyway, just some ideas.

just4fun112   By just4fun112 @ Friday, November 27, 2009 5:38 PM
I like your idea Dan12. If I were Red, I would cash in my cards and slowly accumulate, then I would capture the red continent, move on to the brown central continent, then finish off the red continent, move on to blue, and finally purple and green.

Just some ideas.

If that didn't work, I would just slowly move to the central area and just as slowly secure it and settle down. Then I would charge the enemy. Mwahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!!!!

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Saturday, November 28, 2009 9:11 AM
Interesting ideas Dan12.

just4fun112, are you suggesting an attack on the red continent to the top-left corner of the map. I hope you are aware that it contains remaining armies of a dropped out player (silver) who now acts as neutral. Fighting these armies can be costly with no obvious gain. Thought I should clarify this in case it wasn't explained well in the article.

Thatguy   By Thatguy @ Tuesday, December 15, 2009 11:47 PM
I love reading about risk games for some reason. If I was red, I would get rid of the blue and the brown countries in the top of the red continent, then grow untill I was at a point that I could take it over without taking guys away from the yellow border. Then I would wait for brown and blue to lower themselfs to a level where I could take over thier continent easily. Hopefully yellow hasn't attacked me yet. If not, I would kill the other players for thier cards, cash them in on that turn, and try to mess up his continents before he could collect anything else from them.

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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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