Better Risk rules for two players?
March 28, 2010 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Looking for Risk rules that avoid the pesky "we-both-know-who-will-win-but-the-game-still-doesn't-end-for-another-hour" phase.

My girlfriend and I both love playing board games, especially strategy games like Risk and The Settlers of Catan. But when it comes to Risk, there's a fine line between the ever-so-elusive 'balanced game' and the far more common three-to-four torturous hours of one player (usually her, to be fair) utterly dominating the other, which was fun for a little while but then the game just turns boring since noone has any illusion about who will ultimately win the game. I don't actually mind losing to her, as long as the game stays fun past the first 30 minutes.

So here's our question: how do you guys play it? What changes do you make to the rules to ensure an exciting game from start to finish? And we're looking for more creative solutions than simply surrendering once defeat seems likely.
posted by JensR to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The PC version has 60% or 80% domination rules, where if you control X% of the globe, the game is over.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:34 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could also try some of the mission or capital variants, where it doesn't matter how many countries you control. As long as you complete your (secret) objective before the other person, you win.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:35 AM on March 28, 2010

How about the mission rules? If you control certain territories or continents, for example, you win. But no player knows the others' missions, so there's more of an element of surprise, and you're not playing to a complete and boring defeat.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:37 AM on March 28, 2010

Lord of the Rings Risk ends when the ring reaches Mount Doom, and has a point-based system for who wins.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:03 AM on March 28, 2010

Does it have to be Risk? You could try a different game like Small World that is similar but works a lot better with 2 players.
posted by jozxyqk at 9:19 AM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

To be quite honest, I don't think you should play risk with two people. It naturally falls into this problem. If you need to, I'll third the secret mission rules, but even then I've personally found the same situation to occur.

I'd look around for some good two-player games (search goes to what hopefully is boardgamegeek's list of two-player games).
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:22 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

three-to-four torturous hours of one player (usually her, to be fair) utterly dominating the other

I usually use that time to access where I went wrong and plot my revenge.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:34 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Risk 2210 has a built-in time limit - there are 5 rounds and then the game ends with the winner being whoever has the most territory at that point. If you want a shorter game you can agree to only play 3 or 4 rounds. There are also various changes to the standard Risk game, such as random territories being impassable each game, extra ocean territories, and special characters that strengthen you attack and defence in certain situations. Plus you get to invade the moon, which is always fun.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:49 AM on March 28, 2010

I play with mission rules and don't face this problem - granted, I've never played with just one other person. For more fun I bet you could make the rules really absurd. ("You win if you control *x random territory* only to have the other player take it from you through war. No giving it away or leaving." "You win if your territories form a smiley face.")
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:22 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you like risk but want more, try small world!!! see link above.

Even if you dont like risk try small world.
posted by outsider at 12:22 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing "Try Small World"
posted by jjb at 2:47 PM on March 28, 2010

Check out Conquer Club, where you can play Risk online for free. They have lots of variations on the rules that you can try out.

For fastest play, I would go with escalating cards (i.e. the value of a card set keeps going up) and unlimited fortifications (instead of just one per turn). Once somebody gets a decisive advantage under those rules, it's generally over very quickly; games should last 6-10 rounds on average. If that's too fast, maybe use flat-rate cards instead.

Also, if you're not doing this already, assign your initial territories randomly, and give 1/3 of the territories to "neutral" (whose armies just sit there, not attacking, unless you clear them out). That way it's like a different map each time.
posted by equalpants at 3:19 PM on March 28, 2010

We have made plenty of extra rules for Risk, one of which is sleeper cell terrorists. When you redeem cards, you get to put 2 men on each territory even if you don't own it. You battle out the territories you don't own before beginning your turn. Gives you a bit of chance, especially if the person only leaves one army on those spots.
posted by dripdripdrop at 4:36 PM on March 28, 2010

Best answer: How about the Nuclear rule? A person can declare WWIII if they own 75%+ of the countries or if they own 25% or fewer (the desperate dictator). In each case you just want to get it over with, but still with an element of excitement.

You count up all the countries each has and you roll once for each, totaling them all up. Winner has the most points. Heavy odds on the 75%+ but that's how it should be, right?

The 75%+ person might want to play the odds and just end it.

The 25%- person might not want to suffer through a Risk geek wanting to play it to the end.
posted by thorny at 5:38 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the brilliant answers! I should maybe have clarified that we have been playing Mission Risk with neutral armies for a while, but even with those rules it tends to skew to one side pretty quickly, and be all too dependent on luck.

But with all the answers we definitely have some things to try out. Small World sounds great, the nuclear rule will definitely be a part of our games from now on, as will 'escalating cards'.
And Lemurrhea's list of other 2-player games will come in handy as well, I'm sure.

Thanks guys!!!!!!!!
posted by JensR at 10:47 PM on March 30, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, and my girlfriend and I both LOVED the "You win if your territories form a smiley face." rule by Solon and Thanks. That's DEFINITELY going in our ruleset. Muahahaha!!!!
posted by JensR at 10:49 PM on March 30, 2010

How about the Nuclear rule? A person can declare WWIII if they own 75%+ of the countries or if they own 25% or fewer (the desperate dictator).

In Risk 2210, you can purchase various cards (they are selected randomly) in different categories (Land, Sea, Space, Nuclear, and Diplomatic) that you can use to bolster defences, give you bonus points at the end, randomly damage territories, etc. The most powerful but costly to use are the Nuclear cards. One of them is called Armageddon, and let's ALL players in the game instantly use any Nuclear cards they have for zero cost. Either a calculated risk if you've stockpiled Nuclear cards yourself, or a last ditch gamble if you've got nothing else left to lose and are hoping to screw over the current leader.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:24 AM on March 31, 2010

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