The great board game of Risk is a classic. Many of us grew up playing as kids, and we’re still enjoying it as adults. In fact, it’s a popular board game request at a slew of new bars catering to the board game crowd, like this one in Boston.
If you enjoy playing Risk, it’s even more fun when you can dominate a game and conquer your opponents. That’s why we wrote this guide about the best Risk board game strategies to employ.
With these tips in your strategic arsenal you’ll be well equipped next time you and your friends gather around the Risk board.
Risk Board Game Strategy for World Domination
1. Take an Easy-to-Hold Continent
The most popular candidate for this particular Risk board strategy is Australia. This means everybody tends to try to gun for that continent early, which could defeat the entire purpose!
When I say take an easy-to-hold continent, that definition will change based on where the other players are placing their troops.
In theory Australia is the easiest, with only one lane of entry. It won’t be the easiest if two other players are already clearly building up armies on it during the troop placement phase.
It’s also easy to get trapped in Australia if you aren’t careful, and then the early benefit won’t do you much good at all!
Knowing when to cut your losses and go for the territory you can take is crucial. Don’t get ringed in by the feeling you’re already invested because you started putting soldiers there at first.
A lesser known Risk board game strategy is to take is South America as an early continent.
It tends to fly under the radar at first if you commit early to trying to take it, and an early build up of troops there during the placement phase can quickly dissuade competition.
It’s not quite as isolated as Australia, but South America only has 2 lanes of entry making it plenty easy to defend.
The other reason I like South America is you can quickly expand from there into either Africa or North America, depending on which area looks easier to take.
If you are able to do this quickly you can often seize a significant early advantage!
You might also like: 8 Fun Strategy and Warfare Board Games Like Risk
2. Be Flexible, Adapt Your Risk Game Strategy to the Situation
This idea has already been touched on a little in the previous tip. You need to adapt your plans to what the opposing players are doing.
It sounds obvious, but I’ve seen so many people get swept up committing all their troops to Australia (it’s always Australia) and shooting their game in the foot before it even starts.
If somebody else is pouring a lot of attention into the same area as you during the troop placement phase, consider whether it’s worth it to fight on or just cut your losses.
Maybe you planned to move into North America from South America but suddenly the tide turned for one player, who now has a solid grip on the continent.
Rather than stick to your plan and try to dislodge an entrenched opponent, perhaps turn your attention to easier prey if it’s out there.
3. Don’t Get Complacent!
This is a big trap newer Risk players fall into. They execute the Risk game strategy of taking a continent like Australia quickly and effectively, but they don’t follow through with their advantage.
Taking one territory at a time to gain cards will only get you so far, especially if you only have one continent bonus – and especially if that one continent bonus is only giving you 2 extra soldiers.
That bonus doesn’t stay good for long.
You have to press the advantage when you have it. Take as many territories as you can manage without over-extending yourself.
Speaking of which…
4. Know When Attacking is Worth It
Just as many new players I see get overly defensive or conservative in their play, I’ve seen many get far too aggressive when they are doing well.
Taking a large swath of territory is useless if you can’t defend it!
Try to take areas that are easy to defend. The less possible lanes of attack into your lands, the more soldiers you can commit to defending each one.
Keep an eye out for when you might be over-extending yourself. Don’t march deep into enemy lands and leave your continent exposed to attack; the enemy will take advantage of your weakness, and you will regret it!
This also extends to mounting attacks that just aren’t in your favor.
It’s pretty much never going to be a good Risk strategy to try to attack a territory unless you comfortably outnumber the defenders.
Otherwise, you are likely to lose too many soldiers in the attack to hold onto your new acquisition!
There may be times you have no choice but to mount such attacks, but it should always be an intentional choice.
5. Protect Your Borders
The territories you control that touch territories controlled by other players in Risk are your border territories.
In an ideal world, you want to keep as few of these as possible – be mindful of that mounting an invasion will often widen your borders.
More border territories will stretch your defensive armies much thinner!
You will need the military might to back up your new claims.
Keep an eye on how well your neighbors are doing. Be sure to move more troops to your borders with more powerful players to ward off the possibility of invasion.
6. Form Alliances
At some point, it is likely one player will pull ahead of the pack. The only way to survive at this point as one of the weaker players is to forge an alliance.
Forging alliances with other players is a tried and true Risk board game strategy, and honestly is where most of the fun of the game comes from. Watching the alliances shift over the course of a game is always a wild ride.
Try to form alliances with players who are about equal in power to you.
If you can align with a player you share a border with, you may be able to relax some of that border’s defense.
This will free up troops you can use elsewhere against more pressing opponents.
Be careful, though!
There can only be one winner in Risk, so every alliance is by nature a temporary one born from necessity or convenience.
Your ally could become an enemy at any time.
Don’t go out of your way to hamper them, but be careful of letting them get too powerful due to your joint efforts!
7. Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself
When you are doing well in Risk, the worst thing that case scenario is that everyone knows it.
When somebody is clearly winning, players have a tendency to build alliances against them to bring them down to their level. It stands to reason that a good Risk strategy involves flying under the radar to avoid that result!
You have to strike a careful balance of expanding aggressively, but not so aggressively that everybody at the table is looking at you sideways.
If you get too strong too early, expect a coalition to rise up and topple you.
It’s hard to shake that early image later in the game, too! I’ve noticed people tend to remember when somebody was once a powerful player earlier in the game.
Even when you’ve been brought low, they keep their eye on you from then on.
That’s no good for you at all.
8. Take Big (Educated) Risks
It’s right there in the title of the game! Sometimes you have to put everything on the line for a big pay out in a game of Risk.
How about an example?
Let’s say you’ve been building up your army in South America, but you’re ringed in by players holding both Africa and North America. Not a good situation to be in! You’re sure to be left behind if you can’t start taking territories and getting cards.
In this situation, when the moment is right, it might be a good idea to pull all your forces from one border for an all-out attack on the other depending on which neighbor is weaker.
This will sacrifice your hold on South America, but you may gain a larger continent and free yourself from your isolated position.
9. Think Outside the Box!
The problem with a tried and true strategy is that as soon as it becomes well-known, it becomes useless.
When your opponents know what you’re doing it’s easy to counter it.
Try to come up with unique approaches to keep your opponents off guard.
As an example: I read an interesting strategy where, rather than battle it out for the small starting continents of Africa, Australia, or South America you instead drop all your soldiers in Asia.
Nobody tries to take Asia in the early game because it’s too hard to hold, and you’ll be using that to your advantage. You aren’t trying to take Asia either.
Instead, let the others fight their battles for the smaller continents. Conquer easy-to-take territories in Asia to gain your card each turn, and wait.
After the initial fighting starts to die down, it’s time to strike!
Look for the opponent who has the weakest position. Perhaps one player took Australia, but they really had to fight for it so they’re looking conquerable. Sweep in before they have a chance to rebuild!
Just like that, now you have a continent, and you didn’t have to fight bitterly for it.
Risk strategies like this can really catch players off guard, especially if they’re used to the early game playing out much the same way every time!