If I was told that I could only play one board game for the rest of my life, it would be Risk. I absolutely love the deep strategy involved, and I love that everyone that i know absolutely swears by their own strategy. No two people that I know play the game the same way. it really mixes luck and strategy to win. I made sure that I bought classic Risk first when I started building my own board game collection.
Risk: Europe didn’t exactly catch my attention when it was first released. I assumed, wrongly, that it was exactly like classic Risk but set only in Europe. That wasn’t enough to make me choose to buy it. It wasn’t until I was offered the chance to write this article that I actually played this game. I’ve spent the past 6 months playing and learning this fantastic game. Risk: Europe strategy is very different from the classic Risk due to the many differences in game play.
If you’ve played Axis and Allies you may recognize a lot of the game play. If you haven’t played that game, you’ll recognize parts of a few different games. Parts of Risk obviously, but also elements of Catan are pretty prevalent. Having some of my favorite games mixed together makes for a very fun play!
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Why I Love Risk: Europe
This really is a great mix of American-style and European-style board games. American-style board games are what I call “brute force” games. These are games like Battleship or most card games. Games such as these don’t emphasize the need for resource collection. European-style games are what I call “economics” games. Resource collection is paramount in these games, and Catan is definitely the most widely-known game of this style.
There are enough different elements from multiple games that it can be hard to form a coherent Risk: Europe strategy. Go too deep in to Risk and you’ll miss a lot of the necessary economic elements. Go too deep in to economic strategy and you won’t get a lot of the “world domination” aspect of the game. It really is necessary to play the game multiple times in order to flesh out your strategy.
Or, and hear me out here, you can read an internet article. Find someone who has spent a lot of time playing the game and figuring out a lot of the strategy. If only there was someone who had spent way too many hours doing this. Oh wait, that’s me! Keep reading to find my strategy tips.
Tips for Building your Risk: Europe Strategy
I could write an entire article about the rules of this game, but that’s not the point here. I am going to assume that you know the rules so that we can get on to the strategy. Many people struggle with strategy when they first play this game, so having a strategy going in should help you win.
1. Expand to nearby cities early
In my opinion, expanding to nearby cities as early as possible is a more helpful strategy than sitting on your laurels and building up your resources in just one or two cities. Importantly, when you’re the first one to expand in to a city you get a coin bonus for being the first player in that city. Also, if you can build a wide tax base in multiple cities before you start to tax, you can collect more coins per tax. This will only serve to help you later as you continue in the game.
Related Article: Strategies for the original Risk board game
In my experience, this is usually a pretty easy strategy to implement. Most people that I play against tend to avoid conflict early in the game. Unlike classic Risk, conflict is not always part of a turn. Many players avoid this early as a way to build resources. You should have no trouble taking over nearby cities without worrying that your other opponents will attack your newly-won cities.
Imagine you put your castle in Paris. Look at how many cities are only one neutral territory away. Madrid, London, Dublin, Zurich, and even Berlin are exceptionally close. Depending on where your opponents start you could easily have a very broad coalition of cities before you ever really encounter your opponents on the battle field.
2. Diversify your army
This seems like common sense, and to most people it is. When someone first plays they build a diverse army. Then they see the advantages and disadvantages of each type of troop, and they build a large army of their favored type. I cannot tell you how many people end up building an exclusively-cavalry army. And in a way this makes sense. They score the most hits for the cost, so making an army out of them seems sensible.
There are some clear problems here though. One, they’re one of the last troop types to attack in a round so this can cause issues if a lot of your cavalry is destroyed before they can attack. Two, what happens when you finally get to an opponent’s castle? You need siege weapons to attack a castle. They also attack first in a round.
So you see, every turn gives a different scenario, and not every one of those scenarios lends itself to the same kind of troops being the best. Having a diverse army of multiple different types of troops can often mean the difference between winning and losing.
3. Use neutral ground to defend your cities
So you’ve taken a few cities near to each other and started building your army to defend those cities. What now? This is the phase that I call “aggressive defense”. Start building up neutral territories between you and your enemies. Many of those neutral territories offer no visible benefit. They don’t expand your tax base, there are no cities there – so what gives? Battles for territory don’t end until the end of a round. If you build up the levels of neutral territory between you and your opponents, that increases the number of rounds it takes for your opponent to attack your cities. Every neutral territory you take increases the buffer between you and them.
Your castle is in Paris. Your first moves should be to consolidate power in territories such as Normandy, Lorraine, Burgundy, Brittany, and Navarre. This gives you a lot of room to breathe. First, it means that it will be at least two turns before someone can attack Paris. Second, it means that someone has to show their hand in order to attack you – you’ll know there coming, and where they’re coming from. Third, it puts you that much closer to their cities to attack when you decide that you are ready. Lastly, it makes Tip #1 above that much easier. If you’re closer to neutral cities, it makes it much easier to expand.
4. It’s the economy, stupid
Let me apologize to the younger group reading this for the 1990s political joke I used to name this section. Google it if you don’t know.
You have two basic options for the economy in this game – tax, or spend. Taxing obviously brings in coins. Spending makes you spend that money to build up things like your army. But until you’re ready to start attacking opponents (as opposed to neutral ground), or unless you know you need to defend a specific territory against a specific threat, what’s the point of spending the money early in the game?
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Use early turns to tax your citizens. This will allow you to build your war chest. Then when you’re ready to go on the attack, you can spend on the army that you know you’ll need. Spend some if you need to if you have an aggressive opponent and need to defend yourself against early attacks.
Then, when you don’t need to build the army to attack or defend, go back to maximum taxation. Spending just for the sake of spending is a waste of your time and resources. Wait until you absolutely need to build up your troops before you spend the coins.
5. The Madrid-Paris-London trifecta
So I’ve told you to expand your area so that you can tax and build your income. There are also defensive military considerations for where to expand. So you may be asking yourself “what’s the best area to try to take?”
In looking at the map, if you can get the Madrid-Paris-London area, you’re well on your way to winning the game. Why is that?
First, those cities make up a very strong tax base to start with. This is one of the strongest lines of 3 cities for taxes, which each one giving three coins. There are individual cities that give more, such as Berlin with 4, but it’s hard to get that many cities that are that easy to get to that give such a good tax base.
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Second, look at them from a military perspective. Starting in Paris and making short jaunts to Madrid and London (only one neutral square between Paris and each of those cities) make them easy to take over quickly. And once you’ve taken over those cities, it’s very difficult to attack you from the rear. Especially if you continue to expand in to the territories to the west.
Compare that to Berlin, or even Rome. Those cities are more centrally located, which means you may be having to fight off attacks from many directions. Consolidating your power along one edge of the map helps you defend your rear flank. If you don’t have to defend your rear nearly as hard, it allows you to concentrate your armies in to an attacking position.
Risk: Europe Strategy Summary
When you read through these, most of them actually seem like common sense, right? The key is actually listening to your common sense. As I mentioned above, it’s easy to ignore your common sense in this game when trying to form a Risk: Europe strategy.
Start by picking your favored first city (more on that in a sec). Then aggressively expand. Go to as many cities as you can while avoiding an early confrontation with your opponents. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting at least one or two cities early.
After you’ve built your city base (with at least three cities, four if you can get away with it), start the taxing. You’ll want to build your war chest as much as possible before you have to start building the army that you want. Tax as much as you can without much spending in the first few rounds. This will help you build up your war chest and let you know what troops you’ll need and where you’ll need them.
Also use this time to start building a buffer by taking some neutral territory between you and your opponents. That puts you closer to them when you’re ready to attack, and it means that it will take many more turns before your opponents can get to your cities.
Once you have a solid territory, start building your army (to either defend your territory or to expand and attack). The key here is to build a diverse army with multiple different types of troops. This is the part where you might have to fight your gut a little bit, as I mentioned in Tip #2. But you’ll want to have a diversified army when you start to attack.
If you can get the Madrid-Paris-London set of cities, I’ve found that to be the most successful. But if you can’t get those specifically, try to solidify yourself on one edge of the map. This makes it impossible for your opponents to attack from your rear. This helps you concentrate your defenses and will help build a winning attack.
I hope that these tips help get you started and help get a few victories under your belt. Building off of these basic Risk: Europe strategies should mean a lot of victories in your future. Go forth and conquer!
Veronica is a Green Bay-based freelance writer and editor with extensive experience with board games. When not busy scribbling her thoughts, you might find her in her garden, hiking out in the woods, or exploring new food joints.
Veronica is a die-hard board game and chess hobbyist by night. She likes to try out new games and is always on the lookout to recruit new players for her game night (so beware!). When not playing board games or throwing darts, she is usually busy painting miniatures (or doing other nerdy stuff).
She is the CEO & Content Writer of Indoor Games Zone. She shares her expertise from years of playing chess, board games, and darts.