Risk (game)

Risk (game)

subject_name =
image_link =
image_caption = A typical game of "Risk" in play.
players = 2–6
ages = 10+
setup_time = 5–20 minutes
playing_time = 1–8 hours (player dependent)
complexity = medium
strategy = high
random_chance = Medium (dice, cards)
skills = Tactics, Strategy, and Negotiation

"Risk" is a commercial strategic board game, produced by Parker Brothers (now a division of Hasbro). It was invented by French movie director Albert Lamorisse, and originally released in 1957, as "La Conquête du Monde" (The Conquest of the World), in France.

"Risk" is a turn-based game for two to six players, and is played on a board depicting a stylized Napoleonic-era political map of the Earth, divided into forty-two territories, which are grouped into six continents. Players control armies, with which they attempt to capture territories from other players. The goal of the game is to control all the territories—or "conquer the world"—through the elimination of the other players. Using area movement, "Risk" ignores realistic limitations, such as the vast size of the world, and the logistics of long campaigns.

Equipment and its evolution in design

Each "Risk" game comes with six sets of armies, each of a different color. Individual sets of armies are denoted by three different tokens. Infantry tokens represent a single army unit, cavalry represent five army units, and artillery ten units. The three token types are purely a convenience measure for ease of representing a specific army size. If a player runs out of armies during the game, another color may be used to substitute, or any other symbolic token to help keep track of his or her armies. Standard equipment also comprises five dice: two for the defender and three for the attacker, both sets being color-coded as well.

Also included is a total of seventy-two "Risk" cards. Forty-two of these depict territories, in addition to a symbol of an infantry, cavalry, or artillery piece. One of these cards is awarded to a player at the end of his or her turn, if he or she successfully conquers at least one territory during that turn. No more than one card may be awarded per turn. If a player collects three cards with the same diagram or one of each, he or she may trade them in, at the beginning of his or her turn, for reinforcements. These cards can also be used for game set-up (see below for details). Also included are two wild cards that depict an infantry, cavalry, and artillery piece, as opposed to one of the three and a territory. Because these cards have all three symbols, they are mainly used to complete a "Risk" card set, in order to receive reinforcements. Twenty-eight Mission cards also come with the game, but are used only in "Secret Mission Risk".

In the first editions, the playing pieces were wooden cubes representing one army each and a few rounded triangular prisms representing ten armies each, but in later versions of the game these pieces were molded of plastic in order to reduce costs. In the 1980s, these were changed to pieces shaped like the Roman numerals for I, III, V, and X. The 1993 edition introduced infantry, cavalry, and artillery pieces, which were made of plastic. The 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition contained the same troop pieces, but made of metal rather than plastic. Additionally, the movement route between the territories of East Africa and Middle East was removed; this was later confirmed as a manufacturing error. Subsequent editions reverted to plastic pieces, and replaced the missing route.cite web |author=Dave Shapiro |title=Risk: The Evolution of a Game |month=December | year=2002 |work=The Games Journal |url=http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/Risk.shtml|accessdate=2007-05-12] While the European versions of "Risk" had included the variation "Secret Mission Risk" for some time, the U.S. version did not have this added until 1993.Risk timeline at [http://boardgames.about.com/od/risk/a/risk_history.htm boardgames.about.com] ; last accessed May 12, 2007.]

Standard setup

Setting up the "Risk" board for play is more involved than in many other games. Each player first counts out a number of his playing pieces or "armies" for initial deployment. The number of armies that begins the game depends on the number of players: 40 armies for 2 player: 35 armies each if three players; 30 armies each if four players; 25 armies each if five players; and 20 armies each if six players. Players then take turns claiming territories by placing an army on an unoccupied territory until all the territories are occupied. A roll of a die is used to determine which player selects the first territory. Placement of armies continues until all armies have been deployed, with players using their remaining armies to strengthen strategic territories. After all armies have been placed the actual game begins, with another roll of a die used to determine the playing order. An alternate and quicker method of setup is to randomly assign starting territories to each player by dealing out the entire deck of cards, minus the wild cards. Each player must place at least one army on each territory assigned to him. The rest may be distributed at will.

Player turn


At the start of each player's turn, the player adds reinforcements to his or her territories. A player receives additional armies based on the number of territories he or she controls, the value of the continents he or she controls, and the value of any "Risk" card sets he or she turns in. The player receives one army for every three territories under his or her control (ignoring any remainder), with a minimum of three armies per turn. The number of reinforcements for holding a continent varies. For holding Asia, the player receives seven extra armies; for North America and Europe, five; for Africa, three are given; and for the continents of Australia and South America, two reinforcements are placed on the board.

In addition to reinforcements from holding territories, players also gain reinforcements by turning in "Risk" card sets. During the attacking phase of his or her turn, if a player conquers at least one territory, he or she may claim a "Risk" card, which is a card showing one of the forty-two territories, and a picture of an infantryman, a cavalryman, or a cannon. There are also two wild cards, which have a picture of all three "Risk" units, but no territory diagram; these may be used as either infantry, cavalry, or cannon, in order to finish a set of cards. A set of "Risk" cards is three cards showing the same unit (eg. all three cards have cavalry pictures), or three cards showing one of each type of "Risk" unit. The number of reinforcements awarded for a turned in set increases as sets of cards are turned in. Also, turning in a card with a pictured territory owned by the player awards two additional armies to be placed in that territory.


After deploying reinforcements, the player may attack to gain territory and get a "Risk" card. Attacks can only occur between two adjacent territories, one owned by the attacking player, and the other owned by a different player. The outcomes of battles are decided by rolling dice. Each roll of the dice is considered an individual attack, and the attacking player may attack any number of territories any number of times (including switching back and forth between targets). If an attacking player occupies a defender's last territory, thus eliminating them from the game, the attacker is rewarded with all of the defender's "Risk" cards.

If an attack successfully kills the last defending army, the attacking player is required to move armies from the attacking territory to occupy the defeated territory. The minimum number of armies is equal to the number of dice rolled, and there is no limit to the total number that may be moved, so long as at least one army remains in the attacking territory. Thus, if the attacker has three armies in a territory, he or she may roll only two dice, because only two armies are free to occupy the attacked territory. The defending player can roll a die for each army stationed on a territory, up to two. Thus, a territory defended by a single army is weaker than one defended by more.

In a conventional attack in which both the attacker and defender have several armies, the attacking player may roll one, two, or three dice. The defending player rolls either one or two. The attacker's highest die is compared against the defender's highest die, and if both players rolled at least two dice the attacker's second-highest die is compared against the defender's second-highest die. If one player rolled more dice than the other, the unpaired lowest dice are disregarded. For each comparison, the defender loses an army if the attacker's die is greater than the defender's, but the attacker loses an army if the defender's die is greater than or equal to the attacker's. This gives the defending player the advantage in "one-on-one" fights, but the attacker's ability to use multiple dice often offsets this advantage, as indicated in the dice probability chart below. Actually capturing a territory depends on the number of attacking and defending armies and the associated probabilities have been studied using Markov Chains.Osborne, Jason A. "Markov Chains for the RISK Board Game Revisited" "Mathematics Magazine", Vol. 76, No. 2, pp. 129-135, April 2003] Blatt, Sharon, "RISKy business: An in-depth look at the game RISK" "Undergraduate Math Journal", Vol. 3, No. 2, 2002, http://www.rose-hulman.edu/mathjournal/archives/2002/vol3-n2/paper3/v3n2-3pd.pdf] Tan, Baris, "Markov chains and the RISK board game" "Mathematics Magazine", Vol. 70, pp 349-357, December 1997]


When a player has finished attacking, he or she has the option to move any number of armies from one of their territories into an adjacent territory that they occupy. The player must still leave at least one army in each territory. If the player captured at least one territory during the turn, the player may draw a single "Risk" card from the deck. A player may not hold more than five cards at any one time, therefore, after drawing their fifth "Risk" card, he or she will be required to turn in a "Risk" set (three matching cards) upon his or her next turn. Play then proceeds clockwise to the next player.

Two Player Risk

The rules for this 2-player game were developed by Michael Levin of Philadelphia, Pa., and were included within the Official Rules published in 1975. [Official Rules pamphlet distributed with Risk board game (cir. 1975)]

This 2-player version is played according to the traditional rules of Risk. Each player takes 40 armies and alternately places one army on an unoccupied territory until each has occupied 14 territories. The remaining armies are alternately distributed on the occupied territories. The remaining 14 territories will be occupied by a force called the Allied Army. These armies are composed of playing pieces different in color from those used by the two players. Two Allied Armies will be placed on each unoccupied territory for a total of 28 armies.

Each of the two players accumulate armies in the traditional manner. When a player begins his turn and determines the number of armies he is entitled to, the Allied Army is entitled to one half of that number. Fractions do not count, so, if a player obtains a total of nine armies, the Allied Army is entitled to four. Each of the two players place their armies on the board according to the traditional rules. After a player has accumulated his armies, placed them on the board and completed his attacks (but prior to his free move) the opposing player places the number of Allied Armies (determined above) in Allied occupied territories.

Each of the two players attack according to the traditional rules. A player may attack the other player or the Allied Army. When a player attacks the Allied Army, the other player rolls the dice for the Army. Immediately after the Allied Armies are placed, the player who placed them may act as the Allied Army and attack the other player's armies. He need not use the armies immediately, but may allow them to accumulate in a territory. However, if they are not used, the other player may use them to his advantage when he gets the use of the Allied forces. When a player is commanding Allied forces he may not attack his own territories. Allied forces do not pick up RISK cards and they accumulate armies only in the manner described above.

The first player may take his free move only after the second player has decided to stop attacking with the Allied Army. The Allied Army is not entitled to a free move.

The game ends when one player loses all his territories. If the Allied Army loses all its territories it may no longer obtain additional armies and game play is continued according to the traditional rules.

Summary of Procedure for Two Player Risk
*Players place their armies. The Allied Army is placed on the remaining territories.
*Player One obtains his armies, places them and attacks. Player Two, acting as the Allied Army, places the accumulated Allied forces and may attack Player One with Allied Armies only. Player One then has a free move.
*Player Two accumulates his armies, places them on the board and attacks. Player One then accumulates the Allied Armies, places them in Allied occupied territories and may attack territories occupied by Player Two. Player Two takes his free move.


Basic strategy

The official rulebook gives three basic strategic tips for the classic rules. First, players should control entire continents to get the bonus reinforcement armies. Second, players should watch their borders for buildups of armies that could imply an upcoming attack. Third, players should build up armies on their own borders for better defense.

Common strategies

Besides basic strategies listed in the official rulebook, there are several more strategies one can apply, many of which revolve around the tactics of fortification. For instance, players often attempt to gain control of what the game manual calls Australia (Australasia) early in the game, since Australia is the only continent that can be successfully defended by heavily fortifying one country (either Siam or Indonesia).Risk strategies at [http://www.hasbro.com/risk/default.cfm?page=strategy hasbro.com] ; last accessed March 12, 2007.] Generally, continents with fewer borders are easier to defend as they possess fewer points that can be attacked by other players. A much riskier and more ambitious strategy involves attempting to hold North America, which provides a sizable five army bonus, but requires three different entry point territories to be defended.

Usually, it is best to hold territories within a compact area, in order to facilitate both defense and attack. Spreading one's territories across the globe is risky, since it usually leads to fighting on many fronts and the rapid depletion of one's forces.

Geography also plays a large role in strategy. For example, Australia offers better defense, while South America offers better offense. Australia can be easily defended, since it has the fewest borders, yet its only neighboring continent is Asia, which is the most difficult to maintain. By contrast, South America is more difficult to defend, since it has two borders and the same value of bonus reinforcements as Australia, yet its neighboring continents are North America and Africa, which are both easier to obtain and defend, compared to Asia.

"Risk" cards also play an important role in strategy. Generally, it is thought advisable to hold one's "Risk" cards until one can cash them in for maximum reinforcements. This is especially true earlier on in gameplay, as extra armies make a greater difference in the beginning of the game. Eliminating a weak player who holds a large number of "Risk" cards is also a good strategy, as players who eliminate their opponents get possession of their opponents' "Risk" cards. Additionally, if a player has five or more "Risk" cards after taking the cards of another player, he or she must immediately turn the "Risk" cards in for reinforcements until the player has less than five cards and then may continue attacking.

Another common tactic is to simply control the most territories. This is especially effective when the game is deadlocked - or no player is able to attain a continent. Because more territories translates to more reinforcements, having the most land will prove an advantage.(For example, Player A has 22 territories, whereas Player B has obtained South America but only has 11 territories. Player B's income is five armies per turn, yet Player A receives seven armies per turn despite not holding a continent)

It is also common to control "choke points" in order to simultaneously defend a country and prevent another country from being captured. For example, if a player controls North America, he may choose to control Iceland as well in order to force players to conquer Iceland before attacking North America. Moreover, since the player is controlling Iceland, other players are unable to control Europe. Another example is controlling North Africa to defend South America, or Siam to defend Australia, or Kamchatka to defend the western side of North America.

A good strategy would be to attempt to control North and South America together. This eliminates the southern entry into North America as well as the northern entry into South America. The attacking points now become Greenland, Brazil, and Alaska. The player should then attempt to conquer Iceland, North Africa, and Kamchatka and then control them with heavily fortified armies to prevent or slow an attack on the Americas.


No official alliances or truces exist in the game, although players often form unofficial treaties or "gentlemen's agreements" to safeguard themselves from attacks while they concentrate their forces elsewhere, or to eliminate a player who has grown too strong. There are no rules protecting these agreements, and therefore these agreements are often broken. For example, one party will suddenly turn on the other by conquering a single territory on a continent controlled by her or his erstwhile ally, thus weakening the latter's chances of world domination, but increasing the chances of a bloody revenge against them.

Dice probabilities

The attacker can use up to three dice, and the defender can only use up to two dice. Since the highest dice are compared, it is advantageous to use more dice than the other player. The table below demonstrates the probabilities of the outcomes given different combinations of dice:

Card set probabilities

This is the probability of having a risk set if a player has 1-5 cards. This is calculated ignoring the wildcards and assuming large number of cards. So If we take both of them into account it will further increase the probability of having a Risk-Set.Wild Cards not only replace "any card" but if somebody has a wild-Card he can make a sure set with any two other cards.

Differences of rules

Over the years, Parker Brothers and Hasbro have published many different editions of rules for the game. In the most recent rulebook, three variations are given. Since playing "Risk" with two players is not always as engaging as games with more players, "World Domination Risk for 2 Players" recommends occupying some territories with neutral armies, to come close to the strategic value and fun of an actual three-way game. "Capital Risk" is recommended for a shorter world domination game in which each player has their "capital" in one of their initial territories, and the player to capture all capitals wins. [Risk II]

The "Secret Mission Risk" variant, which has been the standard game in European editions for some decades, gives each player four specific missions short of complete world domination. Missions include various tasks such as conquering two specific continents, e.g. Asia and South America, eliminating one specific other player, e.g. all the blue troops, conquering any twenty-four territories, or conquering any 18 territories, but maintaining at least 2 troops in each. Players do not reveal their missions to each other until the end of the game, which is after the first player to fulfil the condition of their missions displays his Secret Mission Cards and wins the game.

The two-player game differs in that the players use "Risk" cards to determine where armies are placed. Similarly, in Lamorisse's original version, all players claimed territories based on the "Risk" cards they were dealt. For example, if a player were to receive the Peru card, then that player would occupy Peru.

The official rulebook suggests variations to the gameplay mechanics for "Risk" experts," any or all of which can be used depending on player preference. These suggestions include:
*Reducing the rate at which "Risk" card sets increase in value so that they only go up by 1 each time
*Allowing for faster redeployment of armies at the end of a turn
*Disallowing more than twelve armies per territory, which can cause a loss of armies due to having nowhere to put them
*Granting an attack advantage when attacking from or to a territory for which the attacker holds a "Risk" card
*Simulating a "commander" in a battle by changing an attacking die to a 6 once per turn

In addition to these official variations, many computer and Internet versions have different rules, and gaming clubs often use house rules or competition-adjusted rules.


The following is a rough representation of the "Risk" game board, with a table of the corresponding continent and territory names. The territory and continent links refer to the general use of those terms, outside of the context of the "Risk" board game.

;The territories of "Risk" [ [http://www.gamingcorner.nl/risk-territories.htm Risk territories] . "The Gaming Corner". Accessed 2006-05-12.] North America (5)
# Alaska
# Alberta*
# Central America
# Eastern United States
# Greenland
# Northwest Territory
# Ontario*
# Quebec*
# Western United StatesSouth America (2)
# Argentina
# Brazil
# Peru
# VenezuelaEurope (5)
# Great Britain
# Iceland
# Northern Europe
# Scandinavia
# Southern Europe
# Ukraine
# Western EuropeAfrica (3)
# Congo
# East Africa
# Egypt
# Madagascar
# North Africa
# South AfricaAsia (7)
# Afghanistan
# China
# India
# Irkutsk
# Japan
# Kamchatka
# Middle East
# Mongolia
# Siam
# Siberia
# Ural
# YakutskAustralia (2)
# Eastern Australia
# Indonesia
# New Guinea
# Western Australia

Note: The numbers in parentheses represent the number of additional armies granted during the reinforcement stage of a player's turn who controls all of the territories in that continent.

*On some versions sold in Canada, "Alberta", "Ontario" and "Quebec" are known as "Western Canada", "Central Canada" and "Eastern Canada" respectively.

Official versions

In addition to the original version of 1959, and a "40th Anniversary Edition" with metal pieces, a number of official variants of "Risk" have been released over the years. In recent years, Hasbro has predominantly based its "Risk" variants on popular films. The most recent example in this trend is the "Transformers" version, released in June 2007. In chronological order, the variations of "Risk" that have been released are:
* "Castle Risk" (1986) – A version focusing only on Europe in which each player's goal is to protect their castle from attack. "Castle Risk" was the first version of "Risk" released after 27 years of production to depart from standard play. Although it was unsuccessful, it introduced many concepts integrated into later versions of "Risk".
* "" (1999) – Adds generals, fortresses, and naval units.
** "" (2000) – Adds a sixth player to "Risk: Édition Napoléon".
* "" (2001) – An award winning futuristic version, produced by Avalon Hill, another division of Hasbro. The game features moon territories, ocean territories and commander units and offers a number of official and unofficial expansions.
* "" (2002) – 2–4 player version based on northern Middle-earth.
** "" (2003) – Extension to "Risk: the Lord of the Rings", also includes a 2-player "Siege of Minas Tirith" mini-game.
* "" (2003) – Combines the first two Lord of the Rings versions, but does not include the "Siege of Minas Tirith" mini-game.
* "Risk Godstorm" (2004) – A version based on the mythological pantheons of various ancient civilizations; produced by Avalon Hill.
* "" (2005) – Set in the Star Wars universe during the Clone Wars. The player can fight on the side of the Separatists or the Republic, using either the classic Risk rules or the Clone Wars variations where altruism pays off.
* "" (2006) – Set during the Galactic Civil War, players play as the Galactic Empire, the Rebel Alliance, or the Hutts. This version is unique in that each of the factions has a different set of goals and victory conditions.
* "" (2006) – Based on "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", players can play as either the forces of Aslan or as the forces of the White Witch.
* "" (2007) - Based on the Transformers film, players can either play on the side of the Autobots or the Decepticons on a Cybertron stylized map.
* "" (2008) - Limited edition released in early 2008. Print run was limited to a 1000 copies. Most of the copies were given to people in the boardgame industry to test out new rules for up coming editions.

Computer implementations and video games

Several computer and video game versions of "Risk" have been released, starting with the Commodore 64 edition in 1988Commodore 64 edition information at [http://www.islandnet.com/~kpolsson/c64hist/c641988.htm Chronology of the Commodore 64 Computer] ; last accessed May 12, 2007.] and the Macintosh (Mac) edition in 1989. Since then, various other editions have been released for PC, Amiga, Sega Genesis, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and Game Boy Advance. In 1996 Hasbro Interactive released a PC version of Risk that included a new variation on the game called "Ultimate Risk", which did not use dice but rather implemented the use of forts, generals, and complex battle strategies. "Risk II" for PC and Mac was released as a 2000 video game. On September 30th 2008 a Risk clone was released on the app store for iPhone and iPod touch called Lux Touch. In addition, there are many unofficial "Risk" clones, many of which can be played online.

The single player Total War PC game series is largely inspired by Risk.

Popular culture

"Risk"'s seminal influence on strategy conquest board games is reflected by its numerous references in popular culture. While individual references are too numerous to list, the board game "Risk" has appeared in various songs, movies, and television series; perhaps most notably in episodes of the sitcoms "Seinfeld", "Malcolm in the Middle", and "Lost". The character of Arnold Rimmer from the TV series "Red Dwarf" is also an avid "Risk" enthusiast; he maintains a "Risk Campaign Diary" and enjoys recounting games turn-by-turn to his crewmates. The band R.E.M. mention a series of popular games, including Risk, in their song "Man on the Moon". The comedian Eddie Izzard comments that Adolf Hitler would never have made his attack on the Eastern Front if he had played Risk as a child. In the animated series Undergrads, the four main characters play Risk throughout an entire episode (which itself is entitled 'Risk'). In a The Suite Life of Zack & Cody episode, Zack and some of his friends start a game called Total World Conquest, a spin off of "Risk".

The April 2008 edition of Wired Magazine re-created an entirely [http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/16-04/found new board] that presented the globe in the future, when politics and environmental changes affected technology, land-mass, boundaries and country names.


External links


* [http://www.hasbro.com/risk/ Hasbro's official Risk page]
** [http://www.hasbro.com/risk/default.cfm?page=browse&product_id=16115 Hasbro's "Risk: Star Wars: Clone Wars" page]
*Hasbro's Risk rules
** [http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Risk1959.PDF 1959 edition of the Risk rules]
** [http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Risk1963.PDF 1963 edition of the Risk rules]
** [http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Risk1975.PDF 1975 edition of the Risk rules]
** [http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Risk1980.PDF 1980 edition of the Risk rules]
** [http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Risk-CastleRisk(1990).PDF 1990 edition of the Risk rules along with Castle Risk rules]
** [http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/risk.pdf 1993 edition of the Risk rules]
** [http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Risk1999.PDF 1999 edition of the Risk rules]
** [http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/RiskCollector's40thAnniversaryEdition.PDF 1999 Risk 40th Anniversary Collector's edition of the Risk rules]
* [http://blog.markturansky.com/archives/62 Printable Charts of Odds and Probabilities] licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike
* [http://www.strategygamenetwork.com Online Game of Risk]


* [http://www.kent.ac.uk/IMS/personal/odl/riskfaq.htm Risk FAQ] A long-standing and comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions about Risk with answers.
* [http://risk.wikia.com] An unoffical wiki.


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