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Winning Moves Games
|Years active||since 1957|
|Setup time||5–15 minutes|
|Playing time||1–8 hours|
|Random chance||Medium (5 dice, cards)|
|Skill(s) required||Strategy, tactics, negotiation|
Risk is a strategy board game of diplomacy, conflict and conquest for two to six players. The standard version is played on a board depicting a political map of the earth, divided into forty-two territories, which are grouped into six continents. Turn rotates among players who control armies of playing pieces with which they attempt to capture territories from other players, with results determined by dice rolls. Players may form and dissolve alliances during the course of the game. The goal of the game is to occupy every territory on the board and in doing so, eliminate the other players. The game can be lengthy, requiring several hours to multiple days to finish. European versions are structured so that each player has a limited "secret mission" objective that shortens the game.
Risk was invented by a French filmmaker in 1957, and went on to become one of the most popular board games in history, inspiring other popular games like Axis & Allies and Settlers of Catan. The simple rules but complex interactions make it appealing to adults as well as children and families. It is still in production by Hasbro with numerous editions and variants with popular media themes and different rules including PC software versions, video games and mobile apps.
Risk was invented by French film director Albert Lamorisse and originally released in 1957 as La Conquête du Monde (The Conquest of the World) in France. It was later bought by Parker Brothers and released in 1959 with some modifications to the rules as Risk: The Continental Game, then as Risk: The Game of Global Domination.
Following introduction, the first new version of Risk in nearly 20 years was released in 1986. Called Castle Risk, it featured a map depicting 18th century European castles instead of a map of the world. It was a marketing flop. It would be 15 more years before the company tried again. In 1993, the rules for Secret Mission Risk, which had been the standard in Europe, were added to the United States edition. After a limited special edition release in 1999 in France called Risk: Édition Napoléon in commemoration of 200th anniversary of the Napoleonic era (1799-1815), a new edition called Risk: 2210 A.D. was published in 2001 by Hasbro's Avalon Hill division. The game was futuristic themed featuring moon territories, ocean territories and commander units and offered a number of official and unofficial expansions. Starting in 2002, Risk versions with popular media themes like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Transformers and various others were released in most years, sometimes as many as six editions per year (2013). A collector's edition of classic Risk in a bookshelf format wooden box was issued in 2005 as part of the Parker Brothers Vintage Game series, distributed exclusively through Target Stores. In 2008, Winning Moves, a Hasbro licensee, introduced 1959 Risk, a reproduction of the original Parker Brothers version with original artwork, wooden playing pieces and rules. Many themed versions are still being published, along with new themed versions every year or two.
In the first editions, the playing pieces were wooden cubes (one set each of black, blue, green, pink, red and yellow) representing one troop each and a few rounded triangular prisms representing ten troops each, but in later versions of the game these pieces were molded of plastic to reduce costs. In the 1980s, these were changed to pieces shaped into the Roman numerals I, III, V, and X. The 1993 edition introduced plastic infantry tokens (representing a single unit), cavalry (representing five units), and artillery (representing ten units). The 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition contained the same troop pieces but made of metal rather than plastic. In the 2005 "bookcase" edition, playing pieces are once again wooden cubes.
Equipment and design
Equipment includes a large table top board depicting a political map of the earth, divided into forty-two territories, which are grouped into six continents by color. In addition to shared boundaries between territories which define routes of attack/defense, numerous special trans-oceanic or trans-sea routes are also marked; for example, the route between North Africa and Brazil. The oceans and seas are not part of the playing field.
Each Risk game comes with a number of sets (either 5 or 6) of different colored tokens denoting troops. A few different or larger tokens represent multiple (usually 5 or 10) troops. These token types are purely a convention for ease of representing a specific army size. If a player runs out of army pieces during the game, pieces of another color or other symbolic tokens (coins, pieces from other games, etc) may be substituted to help keep track of armies.
Also included is a deck of Risk cards, comprising forty-two territory cards, two wild cards, and twelve or twenty-eight mission cards. The territory cards correspond to the 42 territories on the playing board. Each of the territory cards also depicts a symbol of an infantry, cavalry, or artillery piece. One of these cards is awarded to a player at the end of each turn if the player has successfully conquered at least one territory during that turn. No more than one card may be awarded per turn. If a player collects either three cards with the same symbol, or one of each, or two different and a wild card, they may be traded in for reinforcements at the beginning of a player's turn. These cards can also be used for game set-up (see below for details). The two wild cards depict infantry, cavalry and artillery pieces. Because these cards have all three symbols, they can match with any two other cards to form a set. The mission cards each specifying some secret mission (something less than 'conquer the world') are used in the Secret Mission Risk rule variant.
Standard equipment also includes five or six dice in two colors: three red dice for the attacker, and two or three white or blue dice for the defender. There is also a Golden Cavalry piece used to mark the progressive turn-in value of matched sets of territory cards.
The following is a typical layout of the Risk game board, with a table of the corresponding continent and territory names. Each territory on the typical Risk game board represents a real-life geographical or political region on Earth. As such, the territory borders are drawn to resemble the geography of those regions. This provides an interior space on which to place the army units, adds an element of realism to the game, and also adds complexity. Most of the territories represent a combination of countries or states; some that have names of single countries or states, like Argentina, don't represent the boundaries of the real-life entity. Two significant landmasses, Antarctica and New Zealand, are not represented.
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 of the board, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Great Britain, Ukraine, Congo, India, and Siam are known as Western Canada, Central Canada, Eastern Canada, Great Britain & Ireland, Eastern Europe/Russia, Central Africa, Hindustan, and Southeast Asia, respectively. Not all variations occur concurrently.
- In the 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition the movement route between the territories of East Africa and Middle East was removed; this was later confirmed to be a manufacturing error, an error repeated in Risk II. Subsequent editions restored the missing route.
- The territory of Afghanistan does not include the real life country of Afghanistan.
Setup consists of determining order of play, issuing armies to players, and allocating the territories on the board among players, who place one or more armies on each one they own.
At the beginning of his turn, a player receives reinforcement armies proportional to the number of territories held, bonus armies for holding whole continents, and additional armies for turning in matched sets of territory cards (cards are marked with a match symbol analogous to the suit of a playing card) obtained by conquering new territories. In a player's turn, he may attack, move his armies, or pass. A player may attack across a boundary of any of his territories where he faces an opposing army; some "boundaries" are marked by sea-lanes on the board. Attacks are decided by dice rolls, with the attacker or defender losing a specified number of armies per roll. Battles may go to completion, i.e. one player or the other loses all of his armies at that site, or stop at any point. If the defenders loses all his armies at that site, the attacker takes over his old territory by moving armies onto it, and draws a territory card. If the defender has no armies left on the board, he is eliminated from the game, and the attacker acquires any territory cards he owns. The player may launch additional attacks or stop at any time. At the end of his turn, a player may move armies from one of his territories to another adjacent territory.
The game ends when one player owns all the territories, i.e. he is the only player left.
There are special rules for two handed games: the territories are divided between the players and a neutral army during setup. In play, the neutral army only plays defense when attacked, never attacks or moves armies, and doesn't have a turn like an active player. If the neutral army is eliminated, the game continues under normal rules.
Some editions have rules variants regarding how armies or territories are allocated during setup or how armies may be moved at the end of a turn. There are also variations in the tokens representing armies that don't affect play. European editions assign each player a secret mission, and the game goes until one player completes his mission rather than conquers the world. Different editions have differing numbers of such missions. The Italian edition uses a different number of dice in battle. Themed variants have different map configurations and substantially different rules.
The rules of some editions describe a variant called Capital Risk, where each player has a "capital" in one of the initially occupied territories. The player to capture all capitals wins. Any armies and territories that belong to the losing nation are turned over to the victor. Capital Risk often leads to much shorter games. Other rules variants for "risk experts" are also listed.
Gaming clubs may also have "house rules" or competition-adjusted rules.
The official rulebook gives three basic strategy tips for the classic rules:
- Players should control entire continents to get the bonus reinforcement armies.
- Players should watch their borders for buildups of armies that could imply an upcoming attack.
- Players should build up armies on their own borders for better defense.
Holding continents is the most common way to increase reinforcements. Players often attempt to gain control of Australia early in the game, since Australia is the only continent that can be successfully defended by heavily fortifying one country (either Siam or Indonesia). Generally, continents with fewer borders are easier to defend as they possess fewer points that can be attacked by other players. South America has 2 access points, North America and Africa each have 3, Europe has 4, and Asia has 5.
Generally, it is thought advisable to hold Risk cards until they can be turned in for maximum reinforcements. This is especially true earlier on in gameplay, because 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, since players who eliminate their opponents get possession of their opponents' Risk cards. In this case, trading in Risk cards earlier may help acquire the necessary troops. If the conquering player has six:10 or more Risk cards after taking the cards of another player, the cards must be immediately turned in for reinforcements until the player has fewer than five cards and then may continue attacking.
"Turtling" is a defensive strategy where a player who feels vulnerable tries to become too expensive to be removed while remaining a threat to harass other players. The objective of this strategy is to avoid defeat. A player using this strategy might remain in the game all the way to later stages and then mount an attack on the weakest player and start a chain elimination to remove one player after another to win the game. The player who uses this strategy is called a Turtle. The term was popularised in Real-time Strategy games where a player creates a defensive perimeter or a "Turtle Shell" around the base of operations. Solutions to counteract this strategy using cooperation have been proposed.
The rules of Risk neither endorse nor prohibit alliances or truces. Thus players often form unofficial treaties for various reasons, such as safeguarding themselves from attacks on one border while they concentrate their forces elsewhere, or eliminating a player who has grown too strong. Because these agreements are not enforceable by the rules, these agreements are often broken. Alliance making/breaking can be one of the most important elements of the game, and it adds human interaction to a decidedly probabilistic game. Some players allow trading of Risk cards, but only during their turn. This optional rule makes alliances more powerful.
Attack and defence
Capturing a territory depends on the number of attacking and defending armies and the associated probabilities. In a battle to completion, a player who has more armies (even just one more) has a significant advantage, whether on attack or defence (the number of attacking armies does not include the minimum one army that must be left behind in the territory).
Defenders always win ties when dice are rolled. This gives the defending player the advantage in "one-on-one" fights, but the attacker's ability to use more dice offsets this advantage. It is always advantageous to roll the maximum number of dice, unless an attacker wishes to avoid moving men into a 'dead-end' territory, in which case they may choose to roll fewer than three. Thus when rolling three dice against two, three against one, or two against one, the attacker has a slight advantage, otherwise the defender has an advantage.
There are online tools available to compute the outcome of whole campaigns (i.e. the attacking of several territories in a row).
Risiko! is a variant of the game released in Italy, in which the defender is allowed to roll up to three dice to defend. This variation dramatically shifts the balance of power towards defence.
Awards and commendations
- Risk was inducted into Games magazine's Hall of Fame in 1984.
- Risk was inducted into Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Hall of Fame in 1995.
Official licensed Risk games
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. 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 has a castle, and the player's goal is to protect the 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.
- Risk: Édition Napoléon (1999) – Adds generals, fortresses, and naval units.
- Risk: Édition Napoléon: Extension Empire Ottoman (2000) – Adds a sixth player to Risk: Édition Napoléon.
- Risk: 2210 A.D. (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.
- Risk: the Lord of the Rings (2002) – 2–4 player version based on northern Middle-earth.
- Risk: the Lord of the Rings: Gondor & Mordor Expansion Set (2003) – Extension to Risk: the Lord of the Rings, also includes a 2-player Siege of Minas Tirith mini-game.
- Risk: the Lord of the Rings: Trilogy Edition (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.
- Risk: Star Wars: Clone Wars Edition (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.
- Risk Express (2006) – Designed by Reiner Knizia as part of Hasbro's Express line of games (although not as part of the US-released series). Roll different combinations of infantry, cavalry, artillery & generals to capture the territory cards.
- Risk: Star Wars Original Trilogy Edition (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.
- Risk Junior: Narnia (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.
- Risk: The Transformers Edition (2007) – Based on the Transformers film, players can either play on the side of the Autobots or the Decepticons on a Cybertron stylised map.
- Risk: Black OPS (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 board game industry to test out new rules for up coming editions.
- Risk: Balance of Power (2008) – Based on a European map.
- Risk 1959 (2008) – Winning Moves Games USA released a reproduction of the original game of Risk from 1959. It includes all the original graphics, wood pieces, and individual plastic storage boxes.
- Risk: Reinvention (2009) – Also called Risk Factor or Risk Revised Edition. This is the commercial released version of Black Ops. It features capitals, cities, missions, and very thin pieces shaped like arrows. It is also available with different components (wooden map, wooden cube pieces, etc.) as Risk Onyx Edition.
- Risk: Halo Wars Collector's Edition (2009) – Includes UNSC, Covenant, and The Flood. It has 42 territories and 6 sectors.
- Risk: Factions (2010) – a licensed video game version of the game developed by Electronic Arts, and distributed on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Includes a "classic" mode which allows games played using standard original rules, and a "Factions" variation on the rules.
- Risk: Metal Gear Solid (2011)
- Risk: Legacy (2011/12) – A game that has permanent changes to the game board and cards each time you play.
- Risk: Halo Legendary (2012)
- Risk: Starcraft (2012) – Four play modes with three different races. Each race has two unique hero units.
- Risk: Star Wars Saga Edition (2013) UK Exclusive
- Risk: Mass Effect Galaxy at War Edition (2013)
- Risk: The Walking Dead Survival Edition (2013)
- Risk: Battlefield Rogue (2013)
- Risk: Plants Vs Zombies (2013)
- Risk: Doctor Who (2013)
- Risk: Game of Thrones (2015)
- Risk: Star Wars Edition Game Standard (2015) – Recreates the Battle of Endor from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Battles take place across three environments: inside the Emperor's Throne Room ; the space outside the Death Star ; and the forest moon of Endor, 
- Risk: Star Wars Edition Game Black Series (2015) – Same as Risk: Star Wars Edition Game Standard but includes different packaging, embossed playing cards, translucent dice, and miniatures for the Death Star, Super Star Destroyer, Millennium Falcon, and Imperial stormtroopers.
- Risk: Marvel Cinematic Universe (2015)
- Risk: Transformers Decepticon Invasion of Earth (2015) UK Exclusive
- Risk: Captain America Civil War (2016)
- Risk: Star Trek 50th Anniversary Edition (2016) by Franklin Mint
- Risk (2016)
Many variants exist that are based on the original concept of the game of Risk and that contain much of the functionality of the original, but are not licensed by Hasbro, such as, for example, the video games Global Domination and Lux. Known as Risk clones, such variants have names not containing the term "Risk" to avoid legal issues. Some of these clones are available commercially, of which many have been released through the iTunes App Store, especially for the iPad. Several other Risk clones are distributed freely over the Internet, such as Dice Wars. Games such as Nintendo Wars can be seen as a complex evolution which still holds some elements from Risk. NarcoGuerra is a newsgame based on the basic Risk rules, played out over a map of Mexico with the intent of educating people on the Mexican Drug War. An example of a board game inspired by Risk is the Argentine TEG.
In addition to Risk clones, third-party products have been created which slightly modify traditional gameplay. Among the most popular third-party editions are virtual dice-rolling simulators. These can act as virtual replacements to traditional dice or be used to automatically simulate the results of large battles between territories—significantly speeding up gameplay during battles between territories with many units.
Computer and video games
Several computer and video game versions of Risk have been released as Risk, starting with the Commodore 64 edition in 1988 and the Macintosh 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 which includes classic Risk as well as board and gameplay variations. In 2010, Pogo.com added a licensed version of Risk to its library of online games. An Xbox Live Arcade version of Risk called Risk: Factions was released on June 23, 2010. It includes classic Risk as well as a factions mode where players can play as Zombies, Robots, Cats, Soldiers, or Yetis.
As of August 6, 2014, Hasbro and Ubisoft have announced a new Risk game to be released in Fall 2014, on PS4 and Xbox One, as well as Xbox 360 and PS3. "Risk will feature an online league play, modern armies, and 3D battlefields. The 2010 rules are the standard set, but players can choose rule modifiers and configurable win variants." 
An official licensed iOS app, "RISK: The Official Game", developed for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad by Electronic Arts, was released on July 16, 2010. Although the iPad version (Risk HD) has to be bought separately from the iPhone version (Risk), local link up allows games to take place across versions. A maximum of 6 players can participate. If only one iOS device is available, the 'pass and play' mode allows several players to take part in a multi-player game.
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- Honary, E. (2007). Total Diplomacy: The Art of Winning RISK ISBN 978-1419661938. BookSurge Publishing, North Charleston, SC. Paperback, 340pgs.
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