Making alliances is usually perceived as one of the most important acts in diplomacy. This section expands on the concept of alliances in Risk and provides you with a number of examples.
Why should a player need to make a treaty? Since, you cannot fight with everyone simultaneously, you need to engage with others one at a time. No matter how powerful you are, you need to resist the temptation to attack many players at once. You need to be able to influence the flow of the game with something other than direct force.
Niccolo Machiavelli states in his famous book, The Prince, that it is always wiser to choose a side, rather than to be neutral. Machiavelli provides the following reasons to support his argument:
- If your allies win, you benefit whether or not you have more power than they have.
- If you are more powerful, your allies are under your command; if your allies are stronger, they will always feel a certain obligation to you for your help.
- If your side loses, you still have an ally in the loser.
Machiavelli also notes, that it is wise for a prince not to ally with a stronger force unless compelled to do so.
Alliances can be broadly divided into two types:
- Total Alliance. This alliance is established when two players consider each other as friends. They agree not attack each other. If one of them is attacked by an enemy, his ally will automatically come to his rescue. An enemy of one is also an enemy of the other. Since, only one person can win in Risk, alliances are usually terminated when only the two allies are left in the game.
- Treaty. This type is used when a specific issue is negotiated by a number of players. Treaties usually have a deadline or can be set to expire when only the two participants are left in the game. For example, two players can make a treaty between two countries or over a border. They should state that they will adhere by the terms of the treaty.
In Risk, treaties are much more common. A total alliance can be considered as a hostile act by other players. For example, suppose you approach another player by saying “Let’s have a deal. We shall never fight each other”. This suggests an alliance for the rest of the game with no specific limits (i.e. no terms and conditions). There are two reasons why making a total alliance can be a problem:
- By making a total alliance, other players will be certainly tempted to follow suit. Overall you may not achieve an advantage.
- A total alliance makes your game extremely inflexible, since towards the end of the game you may find yourself continuously squeezed by your allied partner. You may simply lose the game as a result of lack of options. The alliance will be under pressure which increases the incentive of each party to break the deal.
As opposed to a total alliance, any player with a treaty or a border alliance has a great advantage over those who do not have one. A treaty releases your precious armies from one of your fronts. Not only you don’t have to worry about that front any more (within reason), you can now strengthen your other front by the amount of army you just saved. This can easily lead to more decisive battles and pave the way for more successful campaigns. Sun Tzu wisely states that:
“If you do not compete for alliances anywhere, do not foster authority anywhere, but just extend your personal influence, threatening opponents, this makes town and country vulnerable. No alliances lead to isolation.”
Always try to keep up with the strongest player and don’t let him move ahead of every body else. Of course this doesn't mean to fight with him yourself. A good way of doing this is not by fighting him directly, but by motivating other players to do the job for you. In fact there is a general rule in diplomacy: if someone else can do it for you, then don’t do it yourself.