Adapting the Risk Boardgame for Kids
April 11, 2016 2:01 AM   Subscribe

My eight year old is fascinated by my copy of the boardgame, Risk. The two of us have tried playing a couple of times using the standard rules but it isn't much fun. Has anyone come across some modified rules for kids, or have any suggestions for me?
posted by jjderooy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What parts of the game are you specifically finding "not fun"?
Would you consider an entirely different game? There are tons of games out in the world that are similar to Risk (including some variations on Risk itself) that both of you might find more fun or engaging.

And, all other things being equal, Risk also just doesn't work well with 2 players.
posted by jozxyqk at 2:31 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Risk is a pretty dull game overall. Risk 2210 (set in the future - you can invade the moon!) is a better version, and people enjoyed Risk Legacy (a version where the game is permanently altered every time you play) a lot too. Not sure if either are particularly good with just two players though.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:40 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Small Worlds is a Risk-esque game (set in a fantasy world) which is a lot more fun than Risk, and has a lot of expansions to improve the longetivity. There's a decent iPad version too.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:42 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Board Game Geek has a sub-forum for Risk variants. I haven't played Risk in a long time, so I have no knowledge of any of them.

Another suggestions is to make your own rules. Kids tend to love inventing new rules and games, but might need some encouragement when it comes to making sure they work well in practice--which is also known as play testing them.
posted by primal at 5:04 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I assume the problem is the sheer length of games. The only way I've ever gotten anybody to play with me for an extended basis is to play Mission Risk. Basically, you deal cards before the game, and each player's cards are his objectives for the game. The game ends when a player has conquered all his assigned territories. Since players don't know each orher's strategies, it's less defensive than regular Risk. And since the objective is easy to obtain than "the whole world", it's much faster. You can usually play a couple of games in one night. There are a lot of resources online, if you're interested. After you've done it for a while and you get the hang of it, you can start making your own missions (conquer three territories in one round, hold a continent for two rounds, etc.).

You can also play capital cities, where each player designates a capital, and if that territory falls to another player, the player is eliminated. This usually results in a more defensive game, which is less fun.

If Irkutsk isn't as fascinating to you as it is to me, there are other versions of the game that might be more entertaining. I know there was a Middle Earth Risk for the Lord of the Rings movies, and there are probably Star Wars tie-ins as well.

As others have said, Risk with two players isn't much fun. If you can't find a third player, consider each playing two separate hands (e.g. you play the red and blue armies, and your son plays green and yellow). This can lead to some interesting strategic decisions, since you know some of your opponents' strategy and can form alliances. At the very least, it makes it more difficult to maintain control of a continent, which is often what causes long, drawn out games of attrition.

Finally, if none of these work, try Pandemic. It's similar to Risk in that the board is a world map, but the object is to cooperate to prevent the spread of disease. My wife hates Risk, but she plays Pandemic all the time.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:06 AM on April 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

Somewhat tangential, but if your kid is fascinated by the map aspect of Risk, you might try the Ten Days in _____ games.
posted by Etrigan at 6:50 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Small World, which is quite good as a two-player game, unlike Risk. (What fun is Risk without alliances and back-stabbing, after all?)
posted by BrashTech at 7:03 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thinking about this a little further... part of the problem may be, simply, that the kid is eight years old. At that age, s/he probably hasn't developed the strategic sense to really enjoy Risk as it's supposed to be played - even simplified versions like Mission Risk or capital cities. I didn't start playing until high school, but when I played chess at eight years old, I understood how pieces moved and that's about it. I would be overly aggressive on the attack, to the neglect of defense, and as a result, I lost often, even to inferior players. I suspect that something similar might be happening here. In that case, try to remove the strategic focus from the game. Instead of conquering and holding countries, maybe try seeing who can visit the most countries. Or "can you get to territory x from territory y in n moves?". Just get the kid used to rolling the dice and moving around the board. Maybe also play with only one die per side, to avoid some of the strategic complication that comes from deciding how many dice to roll. Simplify it a bit, you know?
posted by kevinbelt at 7:31 AM on April 11, 2016

Thirding small world. A full game plays in 30-45 minutes, and it scales well down to 2 players.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:37 AM on April 11, 2016

Settlers of Catan has a lot of elements of Risk- resource gathering, planned expansions, having to react to your opponent, randomized perks in card form- that it might be worth looking into as well
posted by Jacen at 7:43 AM on April 11, 2016

If you are looking for board games in general for you and your child to play, here is a good list (in three parts) from a family that loves to play board games together. Part 1 - 6 (almost 7) year old son's favorites, Part 2 - dad's favorites, Part 3 - mom's favorites. These lists are from December 2014, so her son is about the same age as yours, now, and she is usually pretty helpful if you send her a question.
posted by jillithd at 7:58 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine got me Risk: Starcraft, which has the same basic rules but uses a scoring system you might consider adapting as it makes games substantially shorter and more interesting. There are various achievement tokens for things like holding certain points on the map, or taking a lot of ground on one turn. The achievements grant bonuses to the player when attained. First to three achievements wins. I've never had the patience to see a full game of Risk through, and I like this version!
posted by Monster_Zero at 8:18 AM on April 11, 2016

Risk and Catan are terrible 2 player games. If you want a map game with fiddly pieces, Ticket to Ride is good for two and I think an 8-year-old can play it. We use the Europe map with the Big Cities cards from the expansion. The US map is also good, and I think easier than Europe. It also has an expansion set of cards.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2016

I will second Ticket to ride as a good alternative. I will also second that Risk 2210 and Risk Legacy are far and away the most -entertaining- versions to play. Not knowing if you are a 'board gamer' or just someone who has an old copy of Risk laying around I will suggest some good games to play with a child (though have little to do with Risk).

Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Island (short, cooperative, promotes critical thinking)
Mice and Mystics (very simple mechanics for a dungeon crawler, fun story, plenty of dice chucking, cooperative)
Pandemic/Pandemic Legacy (big world map like risk with lots of moving around the board, also cooperative with an easily scaled difficulty, also regarded as one of the best board games of all time)
posted by deadwater at 9:26 AM on April 11, 2016

My daughter of the same age became straight out obsessed with Risk:Godstorm, where pantheons battle, despite hating standard Risk. I highly recommend it.
posted by corb at 10:09 AM on April 11, 2016

I apologize for not including something useful after my drive-by joke above.

My kids had two main problems with Risk: they have trouble holding all the rules in mind, and they don't get Big Picture strategy. Some games can be simplified, but Risk isn't really one of them, in my experience.

Like, with my younger kids, we can play Settlers of Catan and leave out the Robber. (They hate having me the their stuff more than they like taking my stuff...though it's a near thing.) But there's not much you can do to Risk's rules to make them lose less often, or to help them understand why Australia is such a neat place to hold.

Have you tried the game Fluxx? A friend plays it with his two sons (and their friends) a lot because it gets absorb quickly, and the kids love that. Also, Munchkin is good with kids we know around that age (and a little older -- say like 8-13).
posted by wenestvedt at 10:14 AM on April 11, 2016

I'd worry about kids playing Risk--- not so much because THE KIDS might get emotional, but because the adults tend to get so emotional when they play. In my experience, that game brings out people's competitive streaks and it tends to cause some people to get their feelings hurt.
posted by amorey at 11:06 AM on April 11, 2016

Thanks for the thoughts everyone. I was looking for ideas for the two of us to use the Risk board and paraphernalia but having a quicker game, so thanks for those tips. But thanks also for the advice on other games that might work better for us.
posted by jjderooy at 7:33 PM on April 11, 2016

Hi! I "invented" a new game played with the Risk board and whatnot as a young teen, at the behest of my younger sister. She saw the picture of the cannon on the front and thought it would be an action-packed game of taking your opponent out! Turns out, the usual Risk is not so much that.

Here's how alternate version Risk goes: Every player gets a color of armies. You use the cards to determine your starting countries, and you must distribute all your little army pieces (the ones with 3 arms) on your territory. The big army pieces are your weapons. Your goal is to take over the whole board, as usual. On your turn, you may redistribute your small army pieces to encompass an empty country that is adjacent to one you occupy. Alternatively, you may choose to flick one of your big army pieces (the ones with six arms) at your opponents armies in a country that is adjacent to one you occupy. By "flick" I mean physically flick, with your thumb and forefinger. If you knock all of your opponents armies off their territory, you may redistribute your small armies to occupy that territory as well. If your opponent's small armies land in the water or in your territory, you keep them; if they land in your opponents territory, they can continue to use them in future turns. At the end of your turn, you may also move your big armies in to the next country from which you choose to stage an attack.

I think you get a "boat" card and must position some armies and your big army on the boat and attack from there if you want to cross an ocean to attack your opponents coastal territories.

Forewarning: this game is probably terrible, but it was a ton of fun to actually flick the big armies across the board and physically knock ones opponents off their space. And it was "designed" with 8 year olds in mind!

(Some day perhaps I can also tell you about the version of Clue I invented where your goal is to murder the other characters, rather than find out whodunnit.)
posted by matematichica at 8:05 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

There are several variants of the rules for how you handle turning in cards and moving your armies around in the reinforcement stage. IME the fastest way to play is:

-escalating cards: first set is worth 4 armies, then 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, then increments of 5 from there
-unlimited reinforcements: you can move as many armies around as you want, subject to the usual rule that you have to leave at least one army on each of your territories, and you can only move along connected paths of your own territories
-with two people, make a third of the territories neutral (3 armies each), and use the cards to randomly assign initial territories

This makes a much better 2-player game, and should only take 20-45 minutes.

I used to play a lot on Haven't been back in a while so I don't know if they're still good, but they have a lot of interesting rule variants to try out as well, and you can play up to 4 games at once for free.
posted by equalpants at 10:15 PM on April 11, 2016

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