Managing "Risk"
October 2, 2018 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I've got a group of friends that is almost entirely composed of former coworkers, all a bit younger than me who, at our previous job, were part of a big clot of young players at that company of that legendary strategy boardgame, Risk. I was not in that clot and, in fact, I've never played the game. I want to remedy this.

I'm looking for a way to learn the game of Risk, preferably against bots, initially. In particular I want to learn at my own pace without leaving actual humans in the lurch if I'm not able to dedicate a lot of time to playing, or if I'm not getting the fun at all. If I get into it, I'll be able to dedicate time to it (cut back on TV, whatever-- that's my gaming pattern), but early on, I just want to dip my toes in.

I'm generally a PC gamer, strategy is one of my favored genres (although turn-based, as boardgames inevitably are, is not my favorite). So I figure there's a solid, but not dynamite, chance that I will enjoy playing Risk, and can hang out with my friends for this activity, and laugh genuinely, not falsely as a I do now, at their Kamchatka references.

Bonus question: what's significant, or insignificant, about the Kamchatka Peninsula in the game? Or is it just fun to say?
posted by Sunburnt to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some friends and I used to play RISK (might have been RISK Factions actually) on one of their Xboxes and I see the same thing is available on STEAM. Unfortunately, from the reviews it seems there's no online multiplayer and that the AI is hot garbage, which might make learning it solo. The game is probably best learned against other people but I'm not seeing a good option for that, especially not one that will let you go at your own pace.

I don't personally know anything about Kamchatka but our group had a few designated plots we fought and joked over. It might be worth considering just asking to hop into a game with that group, it can be fun to jump right into a board game not knowing everything.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:05 AM on October 2, 2018

Best answer: I've played Domination for Android, and it is a reasonable facsimile, with reasonable AI and a customizable but generally true-to-Risk rule set. Looks like it's available for some other platforms as well.
posted by papayaninja at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2018

Best answer:
posted by martinrebas at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2018

Best answer: There is a website that has a Risk Clone game on it; you play against other people, but everyone's playing online, and you have 24 hours to log on and make your move when it's your turn. The free version limits you to the simpler games without any bells and whistles, and that seems like that's exactly what you're looking for anyway. You can have two games going at one time.

(If that link doesn't work let me know, I tried to type the URL from memory while at work)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2018

Best answer:
Bonus question: what's significant, or insignificant, about the Kamchatka Peninsula in the game?
In Risk, armies can be moved, and attacks can be launched, only between adjoining territories. Generally there is no way to move or attack across water. However, there are several places on the board where there are dotted lines which count as making the two territories connected by the lines adjacent. One such line connects Kamchatka and Alaska.

Additionally, players are awarded bonus army recruitment for any complete continent they control, with the number of bonus armies dependent on the relative size and historical power of the continent. North America is a very desirable continent because it is (a) worth a relatively large number of armies, and (b) comparatively easy to defend because access to it can be effectively blocked by fortifying the territories of Alaska, Greenland, and Central America. In this context the Alaska-Kamchatka link is strategically important and the game dynamics tend to cause a historically inaccurate (but sensible within the game) buildup of armies on one or both sides of that link.

As an aside: Risk is actually a pretty terrible strategy board game. Any game can be a good excuse to spend time with friends but if you find yourself not enjoying Risk all that much, don't write off board games in general. By all means give it a shot in order to have fun with your friends but if it doesn't appeal to you, consider that the particular game in question might be part of that and don't conclude that you just don't enjoy gaming.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:31 AM on October 2, 2018 [13 favorites]

Kamchatka is the northeastern-most part of Russia.

Risk gives bonus armies for anyone who keeping control of an entire continent. North America and Asia provide the largest number of bonus armies, and the Alaska-Kamchatka border is the only direct route from North America to Asia.

(On preview, wow, that one's much better.)
posted by box at 10:33 AM on October 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

One thing I would caution is to make sure they are taking about the original version of Risk. There are newer versions of Risk out there (such as Risk Legacy) which they may be playing instead. The game itself is pretty simple to understand, so it might be sufficient for you to watch a how-to-play video or read the rules.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:33 AM on October 2, 2018

I've enjoyed multiple versions of Lux Deluxe, which allows you to not only play their copy of the original Risk board, but lots of variants as well. The AI is really good, so you can keep yourself constantly challenged.
posted by hanov3r at 10:35 AM on October 2, 2018

there is also the eponymous disgustingly cheap plastic-bottled vodka (and gin!?)
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:42 AM on October 2, 2018

Seconding Lux. It's imho the best not-Risk version of Risk, although I play the Lux Touch version.
posted by General Malaise at 11:08 AM on October 2, 2018

Why would anyone play Risk online?? As Nerd of the North said, it's a terrible strategy game.

For my group, at least, it is a way to let your inner asshole out. Treaties are made, sometimes though long detailed negotiation and other times with a hopefully covert meeting of the eyes.

Treaties are frequently broken accompanied by much swearing and long loud arguments about whether the move made was within bounds of the treaty or not.

This is all guys. Our women refuse to play this game. If you don't have megalomaniacal tendencies, you will not enjoy this game
posted by Hash at 12:30 PM on October 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

There's been a lot of improvements in the last 30 years since risk have come out in very simple, fun, exciting board games. Here's a few recommendations!

Do you like Star Trek? Then you should try Star Trek Ascendancy! STA is awesome because there's no board, you build up the battlemap as you play in a cool unique way.

Do you like exploring and all sides being equal, with a steady build up? Try Space Empires 4X! It's really low cost and an EXCELLENT game.

Do you like the politicing and negotiating between people to create alliances? Try Twilight Emperium 4th Edition! This is highly revered as one of the best risk-style games out there.

Do you like beautiful imagery, and multiple ways you can win, along with a Legacy Campaign that changes each time you play? Then try Scythe, with the Rise of Fenris expansion! (Be warned, it's not much actual combat)

Eclipse also always comes up in these discussions. My understanding is that it's excellent and you can build your own ships. I haven't played.

I would recommend you play any of these before base risk again. I guarantee at least one person in the group has at least one of them. In Risk, there is always a high risk that one player will "kingmake" by attacking you when it's not in their best interest, thus crippling both of your chances. Or, two player can do that even when you are winning, making the victory less skillbased than you might like. I mean, all of these games have that to some extent but none are as bad for that as Risk.

Last, if you must play Risk, at least play Risk Legacy!

Good luck!
posted by bbqturtle at 12:48 PM on October 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just want to add to what others are saying: I don't know quite what it is but there is something about Risk that brings out the absolute worst in people, consistently moreso than any other board game I've ever played. Lots of games have alliance-building and the potential for betrayal and backstabbing, but I have seen Risk generate grudges that persist for literally years.

Your group of friends might be better than this though. YMMV.

If you want another piece of in-game in-jokery you can say something about turtling on Australia and how frustrating that can be for the other players.
posted by glonous keming at 1:23 PM on October 2, 2018

Best answer: To add on to Nerd of the North's (pretty eponysterical, if I may say so) comment about Kamchatka:

Once you've secured the frontiers of your continent, the logical next step is to push out against the territories that border the continent, in order to create a buffer and make your defense easier. Thus, if you control Australia, your next move is to conquer Siam, the only territory that borders any Australian territory. If you have South America, you take aim at Central America and North Africa (the only two entry points).

Kamchatka is probably more strategically important than Venezuela or Iceland (the other two territories that border North America) because the continent of Asia is so valuable. If you control Asia, you get seven armies at the start of your turn, which is two more than any other continent and therefore a huge prize. But of the twelve territories that comprise Asia, seven are accessible only from other Asian territories, meaning there are only five ways in. Kamchatka is generally seen as the easiest and most secure entry point. (Siam is another easy one, but it's really hard to defend Australia if your opponent has a large Asian army, so that's not pursued as much.) If your goal is to prevent your opponent from securing Asia and gaining its seven armies (which is a sound goal), Kamchatka is the way to do it.

Kamchatka jokes are common because of the incongruity of the territory and its real-world importance. Real-life Kamchatka is not particularly valuable, geopolitically. (There's a Russian navy base there, but whatever.) It's exceedingly difficult to imagine either Russia moving troops to Kamchatka, or the US moving troops to Alaska, with the intention of fighting a battle to conquer either territory. Yet it happens in almost every game of Risk.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:27 PM on October 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Risk is actually a pretty terrible strategy board game

This is really uncharitable. RISK is a very early iteration on what has become a very rich type of board game. And I agree that there are lots of newer titles worth spending time on.

If friends are committed to the old version and you want a 'better' or at least faster experience, try this house rule:

Rally the troops!* If during your turn you take three contiguous territories (eg, Ural>Ukraine, Middle East), then you add 3 reinforcements to the last territory of the three.

Note, you don't have to take these all with the 'same' original army. You could attack Siberia>Ural (1), Ural>Ukraine (2) and then Egypt>Middle East (3) and still get the bonus.

This does a few things. First, it's a source of armies for players in weaker positions. Second, it makes holding territory in 'no man's land' more tenable and a longer term source of value. And most of all, it encourages attacking and promotes a more open style and a faster resolution to the game.

*In our group you have to make a bugle sound and take a drink when you do this to get your armies.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 1:30 PM on October 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To actually answer the question: I had a lot of fun in high school in the early aughts playing a Windows version of Risk called TURBORISK, and it looks like it's still available.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:30 PM on October 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

(I remember TurboRisk, you could get the AIs to fight each other & watch the maps change colours;)
posted by ovvl at 4:24 PM on October 2, 2018

Best answer: I used to play a ton of Risk at Conquer Club. It's pretty easy to use and they do have bots to play against. They also have a lot of options for common variants of the rules, and a bunch of different maps with other topologies, both of which really help you get a feel for the strategy.
posted by equalpants at 9:16 PM on October 2, 2018

Mod note: Some covering-the-bases comments to that effect so far, let's let the "RISK is a good/bad game actually!" stuff rest at this point and focus on answering the text of the question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:18 PM on October 2, 2018

Also on the Kamchackta front when we were playing RISK a lot during high school (we were all nerds so not going to any parties anyways) we tended to attribute different personalities to the different territories according to the difficulty (apparent but random) of conquering the territory. For some reason in our universes random seed Kamchackta was always very good at defending. (We also for some reason called it Kataeushnik and told epics about the brave kataueshnickian warriors) People would try to attack it from any direction and it would require an overwhelming force of at least 3:1 to be able to conquer it. I once saw 4 armies in kataueshnik successfully defend against 20 armies in Alaska until Alaska was down to 2 and Kataeushnik was down to only 1.
posted by koolkat at 6:08 AM on October 3, 2018

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