Looking over my board game collection, I never realized how much I enjoy military strategy games. From Axis and Allies to Catan to Rising Sun, they all have their own set of strategies to win in a war setting.
Risk is a natural addition. A classic war strategy game involves adding more troops the more territories you gain until you conquer the whole world.
Maybe the draw of these games is the versatility in how to win. Or maybe it’s the fantasy element of pretending to control a large army in various different times and places?
My main complaint with Risk is that if you start to lose ground, quite literally, it can be hard to recover. Every territory gives you a troop bonus so every foothold is important.
Risk also has many other variations so look forward to those articles soon.
1. Try to Claim at Least One Territory Each Turn
Every time that you conquer a territory, no matter how many territories you conquered, you get to draw one card. The cards are used to trade in for troops. The more chances you have to draw cards the better you will build up your army. Aim to take territories that are less guarded for best results.
2. Keeping Territories
In most cases, if a player really wants to take another territory, they should focus their efforts on attacking until they’ve either won the territory or lost most of their troops in a certain area. Although it seems like a bad idea to lose so many troops in a territory, it actually has two potential benefits.
- It weakens the opponent’s forces while giving you the leg up.
- If they try to take your territory, you’ll be on the defensive this time. There is favor towards being the defender.
You should also consider how many backup troops you have, and how important it is for you to keep the territory that you are currently in. So weigh the pros and cons of this advice with each individual territory.
3. Cashing in for Troops
Every card you draw has a star amount at the bottom. When you cash in those cards, the more stars you have the higher amount of troops you can cash in for. It may be tempting to use two stars to get two troops, but if you’re able to hang on until you have five stars, you can get twice as many troops— ten.
Or you can wait even longer when you have ten stars, then you’d have a whopping thirty troops at your disposal!
Although most players don’t make it that long due to various factors in the game, it’s best to hold onto your cards as long as possible. Just imagine these cards like an Ace up your sleeve at the end of the battle.
4. Timing is Everything
However, you don’t want to take too long to turn in the cards because then you might not get the forces you need to defend the places you’re trying to get. Sometimes it’s better to wait a turn or two before attacking a certain territory. For example if there are two other players on a territory you want to attack, maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll fight each other first. And then you can swoop in to crush their weakened forces.
The best advice is to make sure that every risk you take is going to benefit the greater good of the game you’re trying to play. When you make your final gambit, be sure that everything is in place or else you may end up losing everything you’ve already gained.
5. Weaken Your Opponents
You can attack as many times as you want to on your turn and you can attack the same player multiple times if you want. Focus on gaining new territories by whittling down the same opponent, but at the same time don’t lose any of your current territories.
Keep your troops and territories close together with a direct line of connection so you have the freedom to maneuver your troops around at the end of the return. Doing this gives you the security that you will be able to fortify any borders that were weakened during any kind of attack. Move too quickly and you run the risk of making yourself an easy target.
6. Plan, Observe and React
Don’t obsess too much on the opening turns. Watching your opponents for a couple of rounds is more important. Then you will have a better idea of what their goals might be and you’ll be ready to counter what they decide to do.
Pay attention to where they’re putting their troops and always know when to cut your losses or keep fighting. Don’t stay stagnant in one territory too long. Stay long enough to make sure that you have territories protected before moving on.
Only attack when it’s worth it. Don’t overextend yourself or play aggressively whenever you’re doing well. It’s better to wait a turn rather than risk all of that you’ve built crashing down.
7. Embrace Unique Techniques
Just like we talked about in our Stratego strategy, the more unpredictable you can be, the better chances you have of winning; especially in a well-known game.
When people know certain strategies or techniques, they are more likely to look at what their opponents are doing and think about how to counter those specific strategies.
If you can bring something new to the table, then you will be able to win because they’ll be too busy trying to figure out what you’re doing because it’s not a tried and true method.
8. Placing Troops
According to the rules in Classic risk, it says to start the game everyone places troops from the pile into whatever territory that you want. There are forty-two territories on the board.
There are a few things to consider when placing your troops. It might be tempting to lay down as many of your forces in a continent you hope to control, but this can cause it’s own set of issues. You don’t want the other players to do the same thing and gain a valuable continent.
But at the same time, we don’t want to spread our forces so thin that they are sitting ducks to the opposition. A better plan is to make sure that you put a few units in territories that are connected.
You may not necessarily gain full control of any particular area but it will prevent other people from getting the continent bonus too early. You may get lucky and claim one of the smaller continents like Australia or South America but it’s not likely.
9. Have a Backup Plan
The best way to counter your opponents is to make sure that you put a few troops in all of the other continents if only just to keep anybody from having full control of any one place. Since every continent has a different setup it might be prudent to think about where is the best place to focus your troop efforts.
Have a backup plan in case your first plan fails. Be ready to move troops around as needed. Keeping all of your lines well guarded is the best defense against any player.
10. Finding your Priorities
Weigh the pros and cons of getting into an altercation with another player. It’s a juggling act balancing what’s priority.
Is it worth it to head north to a territory that’s not as defended and possibly gain a new territory?
Or is it more worth it to attack someone who’s got a larger force next to you that’s threatening to attack you on the next turn?
Ideally, you want to attack territories that you think you can win, but also attack people who are building their armies up too much.
You want to keep their army small so that they’re losing at least a few pieces each turn. It’s a way to keep everybody at a stalemate so that not one player gets more powerful than the other players.
11. When in Doubt
When rolling dice, prioritize attacking over gaining troops. Prioritize keeping the territories that you already have over the new ones that you might gain (except remember to always capture one territory each turn if possible).
If you’re at risk of losing territory you already have, it’s better to fall back and defend what you already have. As usual, be patient and consider every possible option before committing to a plan or strategy.
12. Keep Your Enemies Closer
Protect your borders at all costs. Consider forming alliances. All alliances are temporary, but they may help you in your time of need. Just make sure that they don’t get too much more powerful than you because of your peace treaty.
The main benefit of an alliance is if you share a border with someone, it frees you up to focus on taking out other players or finding other territories while having a mutual agreement not to attack that person.
However, there can only be one winner, so don’t get comfortable with this arrangement.
Choosing a Continent in Risk
North America has nine territories with a troop bonus of five. Overall, North America is not a terrible place to start at the beginning of the game. It’s ideal for games with fewer players.
It’s only got three attacking points if you happen to take Alaska, Central America, and Greenland. Of course, if you aren’t so lucky and the other players take Northwest Territory, Ontario, or Eastern Canada, then you’re going to have six points to defend.
Since North America only has a few places to defend, if you place your troops just right you could get it early on. It’s then very easy to expand into South America for further troop support. Once that continent is claimed, I’d head to Europe or Africa next.
Europe has seven territories, a troop bonus of five. It has four points to defend if you are able to take control of Iceland, Great Britain, Western Europe, Southern Europe, and Russia.
However, there may be a lot of fighting within Iceland, Great Britain, Northern Europe, and Scandinavia, if any of your opponents place pieces in those places.
Europe could be fairly easy to defend. It has fewer territories than North America and gives you the exact same amount of troops as defending a larger continent. If you line up your pieces just right, it could very well be worth the effort. It’s also an easy place to branch out from the center and claim other continents.
Africa has six territories with a troop bonus of three. It has approximately three points to defend or five points to defend if anybody tries to get East Africa, South Africa, or Madagascar.
Africa is an overlooked continent. In the early game, a three troop bonus is not too bad. Plus defending three points is not too terribly hard.
As long as you keep control of North Africa, Egypt, and East Africa, it will be easy enough to push out any other players. And any players who may have put a piece or two on any of the other African territories will be trapped. Meanwhile, you can easily maintain control of the northern border of Africa.
Once you’ve secured Africa, you would be able to take on Europe or South America and then bleed out whichever way you wanted to go.
However, the drawback to Africa is that it’s towards the middle of the board. Similar to Europe, you might become a target early on versus a continent that’s more off to one side or in the corner isolated.
Weigh the pros and cons of working towards this continent in the early game but remember sooner or later you will need to claim it to win.
South America has four territories with a troop bonus of two. It is considered one of the better starting points in the game because four territories are easier to control and it only has two entry points to defend.
However, having a head start here could cause trouble early in the game. You may get a lot of resistance from any player who’s in North Africa looking to expand towards North America. Likewise, North America is going to be bearing down heavily on Venezuela.
So although it only has two points to defend, they are going to be two hot spots. If you want to keep South America, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time fortifying the borders as much as possible.
Attack early and often to make sure that you don’t get trapped in South America and never be able to expand. You also might have a lot of pushback when placing troops here in the beginning since most players aim to claim this continent or Australia first. If it seems like it’s going to be too many players vying for this location, consider another starting point and then move that way.
Australia has four territories with a troop bonus of two. It only has one entry point of attack through Southeast Asia. Similar to South America, it only has four territories to take control of.
However, it could be four points of attack if anyone else decides to take New Guinea, Indonesia, or one of the halves of Australia. If that happens, it could be an all-out war in a small area with no hope of retreat. Although Australia looks tempting as an easy place to fortify your base, you may be paddling up a creek if any player tries to counter your plans.
Another player in the Southeast Asia territory can bear down hard on Australia and you have no other place that your troops can go. Many players already know the strategy of building up a stronghold in Australia.
If this is your first pick, proceed with caution. It can pay off big if you can fortify your border early on, but it could also end in disaster if this is your only plan. Place pieces on Southeast Asia, India, and China to keep your foothold in Australia.
Also place pieces in various nearby territories such as Egypt, East Africa, Southern Europe, or Russia in case your Australian conquest goes south.
Asia has a total of 12 territories with a troop bonus of seven. Asia has six points to defend and eight if anyone decides to give you trouble in Kamchatka, Mongolia, or Japan.
For an early game strategy in Asia, it’s usually not recommended. There are so many entry points of attack and too many territories to try and maintain. However, a more experienced player could use this to their advantage since many players will be avoiding trying to take any territories in Asia.
You could focus a lot of your efforts on blocking the European border. Take control of Ural, Afghanistan, and the Middle East to keep any players in Europe or Africa off your back. With that border fortified, you can focus on taking out any players who are in Australia. Block any players who might be trying to attack you from Alaska.
If you’re able to do this successfully you have lots of options to expand into the rest of the Asian continent early on in the game.
However, like most of the continents, this could backfire if you don’t have enough troops or support your claims. You will need plenty of resistance along the borders and the troops to stand guard in the other territories that you want to obtain.
It can be worth the effort and the gambit for the right player, but not recommended for most players.
Which Continent in Risk is the Best Starting Point?
This depends on the number of players in the game. In games with fewer players it’s much more feasible to control North America, Europe or even Asia. In games with more players, you’re going to have a much easier time controlling the smaller continents, South America, Africa and Australia.
Keep in mind that any and all of these territories have their own set of risks and benefits. Keep tabs on what the other players are doing to make the best choices for any given match.
What is the Best Way to Win Risk?
The best way to win Risk is to have the best starting point. Take your time to look over every territory before placing your troops. Think about how each territory connects and how it can be attacked. As you watch your opponents, think about the best time to make your move.
When placing troops, think about the bigger picture. Is this a continent that I can take full control over or will there be too much pushback from other players? Not only should you think about attacking but also defending. It doesn’t matter how much you attack if you can’t protect what you’ve already won.
In some battles, it will be worth it to lose a large number of pieces to pave a victory for the next turn. And sometimes there is honor in retreating to fight for another day. The more you can plan ahead the better your chances are of winning the most territories. Don’t be afraid to try new plans of attack or form alliances.
Always have a backup plan, and if you’re still not sure of the play you’re going to make— sometimes it pays off to take a risk.
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.