Recommend
26 
 Thumb up
 Hide
19 Posts

Risk» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Critical Review of Risk rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Nathan Sharpe
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I would like to thank George Van Voorn (oetan) for his earlier post on the same topic.

A Mirage of Strategy: Examining the Board Game Risk

The board game Risk(i) is one of the most widespread games in the United States, yet the author feels that this game is second rate after having played many other games. This paper seeks to determine what this popular game is and is not, and will find other games to compare Risk's different aspects to. This paper only discusses the original game of Risk, not Mission Risk or Castle Risk, which the author considers separate games and which are not as popular. This paper finds that Risk is too long for the diversity of actions it offers it players, and that downtime and player elimination have negative impacts on the game. Further, Risk is not a game of negotiation and its few elements of strategy are overpowered by an excess of luck. Risk's popularity is not attributable to its design and will hopefully wane so that more interesting games can be enjoyed by Americans.

Risk was revolutionary at the time of its creation. It it one of the first modern games that allows its players to choose where they want to move during their turn. Consider Monopoly(ii), where one's movement is determined by die rolls. Then remember Sorry(iii), Life(iv), Clue(v), Trivial Pursuit(vi) and countless other older games that also take the decision of where to move, or how far or often, arbitrarily out of one's hands. Allowing one to move where one wanted to go was a breakthrough mechanic back in the late 50s. Also, Risk lets one feel powerful for a few turns. Amassing an enormous army in a single province, smashing into a weak line of defense, conquering a continent, and then being wiped off the board the next turn is exhilarating the first few times around. Risk is also simple to learn. Many learn how to play it in elementary school. This allows Risk to serve as a stepping stone for when its players grow older and began to demand more than it can offer.

Risk should be praised for its historical significance and for its shallow learning curve. However, Risk also has several weaknesses. Risk is a long game, and this makes three of its attributes a problem: Risk is very simple and does not offer its players many options, it has player elimination, and it has a great deal of downtime.

The first weakness in Risk is the scarce number of actions it offers its players. For four or more hours, all players do is place armies, move them, and roll dice. There are two aspects of the game, things that give the game a fun theme, that are meant to make this redundancy bearable. First, movement encompasses crossing entire continents; second, this movement is done with large armies that smash into, kill, and die to other armies. These elements are too few to make the game worthwhile for the time required to play it. In comparison, Junta is a game of comparable length that does a better job keeping players interested. In the first round of Junta(vii) (30 minutes), players elect a President for Life, the President appoints the other players to various cabinet positions (General of the First Army, Admiral, Minister of Internal Security), the President divides up the foreign aid money his nation receives that turn, a round of assassinations ensues, and, if the players are not happy with the President's actions, they can start a coup. Junta is clearly the more interesting of the two uses of four hours' time.

Another problem in Risk's design, a feature in some other games, is player elimination. In four-hour long Risk, it is quite possible to be eliminated within the first thirty minutes. That player must then sit around and watch other people play for at least two hours. Elimination is a fun mechanic, but is usually only in games that do not last long. Two examples of such games are Lunch Money(viii), where players beat each other to death for lunch money, and Bang(ix), where players are cowboys who shoot each other. Lunch Money lasts 30 minutes; Bang lasts 45. In these games, the number of times you can play make up for the fact that some players may hardly be able to act in a single game where they are killed on the first turn. Because players will be eliminated from the game, the game itself is short so that they can jump in and play again. Risk both eliminates players and is a long game. Instead of being a fun game, Risk serves as a test of patience to those who play it and lose early.

The third problem with Risk's long play-time is the small proportion of that time with which any single player is actually involved in the game. The time spent in idleness in a game is known as downtime. In Risk, players only place pieces and move during their turn, and only roll dice when they attack someone or when someone else attacks them during that person's turn. Because involving a player in the game is dependent on another player targeting him or her, it is common for players to remain inactive in-between their turns. This becomes a problem in a game when turns can last twenty or thirty minutes and when there are more than two players, which is often the case in Risk. Generally, it is good to be involved in the social event one is participating in. If a player is camping out in Australia, he or she could conceivably not roll a die for hours on end. This problem can either be fixed by involving the players when it isn't their turn, or by making turns short to begin with. Back to the political half of Junta, players get to use cards and heckle each other in two rounds of voting to elect a president, can argue about who should get which cabinet position, can then vote on the budget, can kill people in the assassination phase, and can then lead their forces in a coup. A game of Junta involves every player in every phase of the game. In the coup phase of Junta, a mini wargame in which players resolve coup attempts, players aren't involved in each other's turns, but when they move they only move one stack of units a round. Only moving a single stack takes much less time than moving every army a player controls; this is allowed in Risk. Making the turns shorter as in the coup phase of Junta alleviates the pain of a large proportion of downtime. Risk has no safeguards against downtime, its turns last very long and do not involve every player.

Besides its problems with game length, Risk suffers from a lack of depth. A game has depth when players make a number of meaningful choices throughout the game. A good choice might increase one's resources, eliminate a rival from the game, or gain an advantage in a conflict. A bad choice might lose resources in the game or otherwise set up failure in a conflict. There are two areas Risk often receives credit for in providing depth: being a game of negotiation in how one deals with the other players, and of strategy in how one moves his or her pieces. Both of these claims are misguided. Risk lacks meaningful negotiation, and its preponderance of luck, its consistency in geography and unit capabilities, and its poorly chosen objective keeps what strategic element it has weak as well.

Negotiations with other players in Risk are superficial. One might be able to convince new players what to do, but an experienced player, aware of the game's rules and objective, will generally act in his or her best interests most of the time. For example, if one player is holing up in Australia, and another is sitting in Asia fighting a third player who is attacking from Europe and Africa, the latter two players should eventually make peace for awhile so that the second player can attack Australia. Otherwise the first player in Australia will build an incredible army that will overwhelm the other two weakened players. If the two players fail to realize this and do not attack Australia it would not be a diplomatic triumph for the first player, it is just incompetence on the part of the others. In cases where it is not obvious what course of action should be taken decisions could just as easily be made randomly. In a second example, the three remaining players fight over Asia. Negotiation will inevitably fall apart if the players are equal: no two players can split an area up any more efficiently than another pair, no area is worth more to one player than another, and all players share the same objective and the single means to accomplishing it. In a game where the goals and capabilities of all the players are the same, there is nothing to base a diplomatic decision off of. If anything, negotiation in Risk amounts to appearing meek in order to avoid the wrath of a losing player who might pit his forces against a single opponent in order to ensure that player's demise. The concept of Risk being a game of negotiation is a false one.

Negotiation as a worthwhile use of time is an element of the game Diplomacy(x), another very long game where players attempt to conquer the map. In Diplomacy, the best course of action is rarely evident, but each decision brings certain advantages and disadvantages with it beyond the variance in other players' outside-the-game wrath. Players' decisions are affected by the capacity of their armies to move across the map, by the importance of some areas over others, by the players bordering them, by their in-game relationships with other players, and by the other players' in-game relationships with their opponents. All of these variances create different situations for each player, allowing observant players the opportunity to build relationships with others for mutual benefit. Two weak players should still team up against a third stronger one as in Risk, but when three numerically equal powers meet in Diplomacy differences in the players' positions will generate different goals for each player that can then be negotiated for. An example arises in the first turn of Diplomacy, between England, France, and Germany. All players will be expanding their empires in the first two turns, but who gets Belgium is always an interesting conflict. From Britain's perspective, it has a right to Belgium in order to stay numerically equal with the other powers who will each get at least two supply centers. However, Britain may want to stay away from the lowlands for awhile, using the time Germany and France waste fighting over them to take Scandinavia from Russia. Britain hardly needs numerical equality anyway, as a strong island-nation sea power it can hold its own in the first few turns. Britain could instead move towards France and help Germany into Belgium with the promise that Germany will later split France's territory evenly with Britain. These three different courses of action each have different consequences. If Britain takes Belgium, then it might be involved in a three-way war over the area that leaves the whole region weak to a strong power that emerges elsewhere on the board. If Britain attacks Scandinavia, then Russia will be angered and Britain leaves itself open to a Franco-German alliance against its underside. Russia's normal thirst for Scandinavia might not be present if it is attacked from the South by Austria or Turkey though. Invading France may allow Russia to grow too strong in the North if Russia is not distracted in the South. This could also be a setup for an attack from Germany, since Britain's forces would be tied up fighting France. To decide which of these options is the safest, Britain must negotiate with the other players. Thus, the path that Britain takes is meaningfully determined by negotiation, as its actions have consequences to the viability of future courses of action for Britain and for the remaining countries as well.

Risk's first fault movement-wise is its draconian objective of eliminating every other player. This can only be accomplished by destroying every single opposing piece on the board. The coarseness of this objective in Risk eliminates the potential for subtlety, for being able to win the game without making it obvious to the other players. The only way for a player to be harmed in Risk is to lose pieces. Liberté(xi), a game about the French Revolution from 1789 to 1799, has multiple ways to win. Players can either win by amassing the most victory points at the end of the fourth turn, can stage a royalist counter-revolution, or can emerge victorious after a radical landslide victory during one of the elections. These different objectives are accomplished in different ways. To stage a counter-revolution, a player must control a certain number of provinces with a royalist faction. For a landslide election victory, a player must win a very large number of regions during the national election held at the end of any turn. To win with victory points, a player must consistently invest his or her resources to finish strongly in the elections and to have his or her generals emerge victorious in the battle box. These different paths to victory allow for a player to still be competitive after a clear defeat in one area of the game, he or she can just switch over to another area. These different paths also create tension in the game that in turn builds excitement. A player not only has to win, but has to spend resources preventing others from winning as well. A player trying to win with victory points might still have to place pieces on a province that isn't very important to his or her cause just to prevent a counter-revolution. Having placed his or her pieces, one will still have to worry about the resources available to his or her opponents. With three ways of winning, the threat an opponent's hand of cards presents is tripled. Risk has no such tension; all players can see all of the pieces on the board and might know hours ahead of time who the victor will most likely be. The use of territory cards, which can grant bonus armies, is a weak addition that does not alleviate this problem. Players can tell when using cards would be necessary: a player should use them at a point before their use becomes moot and a winning player doesn't need to use them at all. If a needy player with three cards failed to use them then he or she obviously did not have a matching set. Further, the effect of a set of territory cards is often negligible. They can immediately be negated by a bad run of dice, or else the new armies will bog down in enemy territory along with their normal comrades. In Liberté, a good hand of cards can end the game, and a player through a recycling mechanic can create this good hand. In Risk, the influx of armies through cards merely adds more numbers to the monotony.

Risk's second mistake in its strategic movement is consistency. All armies are worth the same amount, and all the spaces on the board are equally unimportant. In Risk, if a player controlling an army in Alaska loses that army, it can't invade Asia from that direction until it replaces it. Sounds strategic, but the player that destroyed that army also lost a comparable number of pieces, and a replacement army can be positioned on a nearby area as quickly as his next turn. Compare this with Axis and Allies(xii), where a Pearl Harbor attack hardly causes the loss of Japanese units, and secondly, knocks the US out of the Pacific until it can build a navy and move it to the Far East. This requires time and money. Because his or her units countered the American units stationed at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese player didn't also lose half of his or her fleet. Also, because of geography, the Japanese player gains an advantage greater than the sheer benefit of removing some US pieces, it can control the Pacific for the first few turns. Risk doesn't vary the value of units. Risk varies the value of land in two ways, by allowing players to choose their territories and their strengths at the beginning of the game and by granting players who control whole continents bonus armies. Both are inadequate in presenting players with a variety of interesting choices every turn. The first mechanic, choosing starting holdings, only affects the first few rounds of play as players consolidate some strong points and leave other patches of territory open for conquest. If two equal armies meet in this initial scramble, an outcome undesirable for both sides, then one will be eliminated and one will be weakened doing the eliminating, which player being which determined by the luck of the dice. Such a buildup is a game of chicken, with a potentially large payoff if the opponent gives up, but mutually debilitating consequences if both continue. Also, did the other players benefit from the warring twos' mishap? Yes, but it was not any of their doing and could have just as easily happened to them, hardly a circumstance worthy of relishing. Initial placement is short lived and its outcome greatly affected by luck. Risk's granting of bonus armies to holders of continents does create an incentive for one player to attack another, preventing a bonus while hopefully not losing an equal amount, but this mechanic alone is too little too late. Too little in that the additional armies aren't numerous enough to overpower the luck factor, and too late in that a player able to hold down enough continents to really make a difference is probably on a track to win anyway. In Risk, players have nothing to consider but the strength of the other players and what continents they control in the placement and movement of their pieces. This is too simple for a game this long that is supposed to be one of strategy.

Thirdly, the luck element in Risk is a strong obstacle for any attempt at creating a field for strategic thought. It does so because it creates a large potential for upset victories. The most advantageous odds a player can aspire to are roughly two in three chances of winning(xiii). With such a high chance of an outnumbered defender winning an encounter defensive winning streaks are not uncommon and an army easily has the potential to inflict a greater amount of damage than it is worth. By punishing the attacker in this manner, by allowing him or her to falter so often where he or she chooses to be strong and where their opponent chooses to be weak, Risk renders the decisions that a player makes meaningless. A game of Settlers of Catan(xiv), where players roll dice to see which resources they are able to harvest, can also be decided by luck, but there are two key differences. First, short term bad luck in Settlers affects a player's long term prospects much less than in Risk. A player might be able to increase ones productive capacity in Settlers faster than others because of a lucky streak, but the dice will probably even out over time and allow the other players to catch up. In Risk, the army built up over several rounds of play can be destroyed in a single battle and leave its former owner too weak to win for the rest of the game. If a player is reduced to only receiving three armies a turn, his or her military buildup can easily be periodically swept aside by his or her larger opponents. Second, luck can only determine the winner of a game of Settlers at the very end of the game. When both players need a single resource to win, it is up to the dice to see which one of them gets it first, but consistent skillful play is required by both parties in order to reach this point. A bad choice will render a player's efforts sterile much more readily than a few bad rolls. Again, a player's chances of winning in Risk can be eliminated by luck at the beginning. If a player's choices are not an important factor, than the movement of pieces around a board and the rolling of dice amount more to a pointless activity than to a game.

Though not a game of strategy or negotiation, and even though it takes too long and includes player elimination and a large proportion of downtime, Risk is still easy to learn and can be a fun game for some. These advantages, unlike many other claims made about the game, are real, but they are not unique and the latter is in fact manifested weakly. Many games are easy to learn, Settlers of Catan, Carcassone(xv), Bohnanza(xvi), too many to count, and as one plays more games the learning curve becomes less of a factor as one becomes familiar with the mechanics games use. For an easy example, Mouse Trap(xvii) and Monopoly both use the roll-a-die-and-move-a-token-around-the-board mechanic, so if one knew how to play one game and fell upon the other, one would know how it worked. Fun-wise, many similar games exist that avoid many of Risk's mistakes, making them more fun and rewarding games to play. In games like Quest for the Dragonlords(xviii), Conquest of the Empire(xix), Attack!(xx), and Viktory II(xxi), players also attempt to conquer a very large portion of the world. Unlike Risk though, these games feature different types of units that cost different amounts and fight over areas of varying worth to the different players. The element of luck is also controlled so that it isn't the deciding factor at every contested part of the game. These factors allow for plans to be formed and to be put into action. Thus they are games that actually involve strategy. It is interesting that after nearly fifty years, Risk remains as widespread as it is. Its popularity should eventually wane as newer, better, board games are discovered and played in its stead.

Endotes:
i Albert, Lamorisse, & Levin, Michael I (1959). Risk. Parker Brothers.
ii Darrow, Charles (1935). Monopoly. Parker Brothers.
iii Sorry (1935). Parker Brothers.
iv Bradley, Milton, & Klamer Reuben (1860). The Game of Life. Milton Bradley.
v Pratt, Anthony E (1946). Clue. Parker Brothers.
vi Abbot, Scott & Haney, Chris (1981). Trivial Pursuit. Horn Abbot Ltd.
vii Goldber, Eric, & Grossman, Ben, & Tsao Vincent (1978). Junta. Creative Wargames Workshop.
viii Nephew, John, & Wiedman, Charlie (1996). Lunch Money. Atlas Games.
ix Sciarra, Emiliano (2002). Bang!. Mayfair Games.
x Calhamer, Allan B (1959). Diplomacy. Avalon Hill.
xi Wallace, Martin (2001). Liberté. Warfrog Games.
xii Harris, Lawrence H (1981). Axis and Allies. Milton Bradley.
xiii Lemke, Kennedy (1999, March). Risk Board Game Dice Odds. Retrieved January 10, 2007, from plainsboro.com Web site: http://www.plainsboro.com/~lemke/risk/
xiv Teuber, Klaus (1995). Settlers of Catan. Mayfair Games.
xv Wrede, Klaus-Jürgen (2000). Carcassonne. Rio Grande Games
xvi Rosenberg, Uwe (1997). Bohnanza. Rio Grande Games
xvii Glass, Marvin, & Kramer, Harvey (1963). Mouse Trap. Milton Bradley.
xviii Johannessen, Robert (2002). Quest for the Dragonlords. Dragonlords Inc.
xix Harris, Lawrence H (1984). Conquest of the Empire. Milton Bradley.
xx Drover, Glenn (2003). Attack!. Eagle Games
xxi Morrison, Peter (2002). Viktory II. Morrison Games.
19 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Davis
Australia
Canberra
flag msg tools
Avatar
Quote:

Fun-wise, many similar games exist that avoid many of Risk's mistakes, making them more fun and rewarding games to play. In games like Quest for the Dragonlords(xviii), Conquest of the Empire(xix), Attack!(xx), and Viktory II(xxi), players also attempt to conquer a very large portion of the world. Unlike Risk though, these games feature different types of units that cost different amounts and fight over areas of varying worth to the different players. The element of luck is also controlled so that it isn't the deciding factor at every contested part of the game. These factors allow for plans to be formed and to be put into action. Thus they are games that actually involve strategy. It is interesting that after nearly fifty years, Risk remains as widespread as it is. Its popularity should eventually wane as newer, better, board games are discovered and played in its stead.


well for what and when risk was made it did exactly what it set out to do. it is a simple wargame if you want to play more complex games there are plenty around. but trying teaching these games to non gamers, youll be there for days even weeks for some games. Risk is the perfect beginners games while still having lots of tactics.

Your arguement about luck does not have much ground. a smart player can control the luck in his favour. its all about probability. Generally the person with more units will win, and usually this is the case in life too. but random factors always play a role, how else would a country with one unit beat a 12 man army, without luck it couldnt happen.

There are better games, but you should see what risk is, a classic boardgame. without it alot of the games we know and love today might not exist.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hunga Dunga
Canada
Oakville
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
Risk is the wrong game for them, and they don't know it. I want to fight this ignorance and allow my friends to have more fun with board games.


I think it's safe to say that everyone here on BGG recognizes the limitations of Risk. But no one here is going to stand in the way of a group of people having some rollicking fun with a handful of attack dice and a desire for world domination.

There is strategy in Risk, there is negotiation, and there is actually less downtime in Risk than in some games that are far more popular here on BGG.

If your objective is a polemic against Risk, I suggest a totally different approach (and a different style). Just talk about Risk. Use examples of play that are poignant or humorous, illustrating the points you want to make.

But there's a better strategy.

Clearly, this is not about your dislike of Risk, but about your desire to play more intereting games. So get a recommendation for a game that is a little more complex than Risk, but not too much so. Learn the game, then cajole your friends into trying it.

Take a positive approach!
9 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Liu
Taiwan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review, but I think it's too long & deep for your target audience.
Quote:
Just talk about Risk. Use examples of play that are poignant or humorous, illustrating the points you want to make.
well, just like what Nathan wrote at the top, I think comparing with other games is the only way not to sound biased, otherwise it would just be plain Risk-bashing.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gert Corthout
Belgium
Lille
Antwerpen
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
Great review, but I think it's too long & deep for your target audience.

I'd have to agree, my non-gamer friends would not be convinced by this review. It strikes me as terribly negative and has a sort of tone: "You poor ignorant fools are still playing this piece of trash but I can show you the light." While in essence this may be correct people don't like to hear that so directly.
Furthermore you go into too much depth with your examples, the one about diplomacy is pretty long and complex and I'm sure it would scare my risk-loving friends away from that game for ever. Remember: casual gamers think they don't like complexity, it needs to be ramped up gradually and then its fine.
As others have said it's better to focus on the good things of risk (or what your friends perceive as good things, like eg strategic) and then say that there are other games that do this even better (without adding too much complexity/detail). Remark on the side that they also don't suffer as much from the negatives like downtime.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Thrower
United Kingdom
Bath
Somerset
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Fletchard wrote:
This paper only discusses the original game of Risk, not Mission Risk or Castle Risk, which the author considers separate games and which are not as popular.


But I have to point out that the current "official" version of Risk now contains both mission rules and capital rules both of which shorten the game and add to it's strategic depth. So how much longer these versions are going to remain "not as popular" is an open question.

In Europe, we've had mission Risk for years and it's the version I was bought up on. I maintain that it is not a bad game and since I was unaware of the world domination variant played in the states I was surprised by how much venom the game attracted when I first discovered the 'geek. I think the missions make so much difference to the game that there's some mileage in the idea of splitting the game into separate entries. That said, while Mission Risk is not a bad game it has most certainly been superseded by better games: Nexus Ops is an obvious example.

Anyway that's my little rant out of the way. I question the value of focussing on world domination risk but with that proviso I think you've made a fine job. If your audience are college students then really they ought to have the capacity and read and follow what you've written. One quibble is that I don't think your claim of "shallow negotiation" entirely holds up. While you're right to contrast it with Diplomacy which offers much greater depth Risk does contain many moments where you really need to concentrate your forces on one border for attack, leaving other areas weak. Recognising which other players are likely to abide by a non aggression pact is a useful skill. There are also times when it pays to try and convince other players to take out someone in a strong position while you yourself do as little work as possible. I'd contend this is also a negotiation skill.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Patching
United Kingdom
Newport, Wales
flag msg tools
badge
If you notice this notice you wil notice that this notice was not worth noticing
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think RISK plays an important role in the board gaming hobby. It's one of the few board games that most people have heard of, much like Monopoly and Cluedo. Unlike those games, I reckon it's far more likely to lead someone on to discover more 'invlolved' games.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Massimiliano Santuari
Italy
Trento
flag msg tools
Avatar
mb
Great review.
Maybe a little too much against this game.
Well, of course risk shows all its years, and of course is a bit over-hyped by non-boardgamer (as well as hated from some boardgamers).
Lots of flaws in risk, but a review like this, in my opinion, could destroy lots of "good" games too.
What I dislike in risk is especially the downtime and the lenght (for such a non-deep game).
meeple
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Necessary Evil
United States
Glen Arm
Maryland
flag msg tools
Yes, I play the Bass.
badge
Sweet Holy Moses, Fruit F*cker Prime!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
IMHO everyone who is on this web site more than once a month needs to play risk more often. (Myself included) It is no where near as bad of a game as people here claim it is. Many of the example games in your review have as many or more warts than risk.

Risk is simple and straight forward. It is a plain vanilla conflict game. Far more accessable to non-gamers than any other conflict game I can think of. Sure I don't play it much these days, but If asked I would level my expectations around what the game provides, and happily toss some dice.

My suggestion is that instead of telling people that their game sucks, play with them and then encourage them to play something you like better.

-M
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J Weintraub
United States
Commack
New York
flag msg tools
badge
Lock him up!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
In general I agree with many other comments here, that you're taking a didactic tone, which is exactly what will NOT convince friends to abandon a game that they happen to enjoy. Personally, I still like, and occassionally play, RISK, with old high school buddies who still have not progressed. I don't hold it against them, and I just have other friends who are 'real' gamers. Regardless, a few details about your essay with which I take issue are also worth noting:

1) Since most turns involve attacking someone, the amount of downtime in RISK is fairly small, IMO.

2) You say "Junta is clearly the more interesting of the two uses of four hours' time" because it offers more actions. Sheer quantity action choices is an insufficient metric for measuring interestingness. On that basis, chess or Go is the most interesting game hands down. Admittedly, they ARE interesting, even lifelong passions for some. For others, they're just boring. Seen another way, you might say they are the least interesting, since each really offers only ONE action choice. Move one piece.

3) You say "All armies are worth the same amount, and all the spaces on the board are equally unimportant" But this is untrue. Again, compare to chess. All spaces on the board are equally 'unimportant' at first. But as the game progresses, different spaces become more or less important based on piece placement. In RISK, If I own 3/4 of South America, that last country is VERY important.

Ultimately, though, you are telling, when you need to be showing what is appealign about other games. This is why you need to just get them to try a better game.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin
msg tools
badge
Avatar
I agree with the sentiment that this sounds a little preachy and condescending. The best way to convince your friends that there are better games than Risk is to get them to play those games. And if your friends are totally unwilling to try other games... well, then maybe you need to meet some different people to play games with. You can still hang out and do non-game stuff with your Risk friends: "Hey, I really like hanging out with you guys, and I totally want to keep doing so, but Risk just doesn't do it for me. Can we do [pizza|bowling|movies|dinner|hiking|etc.] instead?" Just make it clear that it's not about them personally, and that you want to make the effort to keep them in your social circle -- just in different ways.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Bryant
United States
Jamaica Plain
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You could always pick up and play Risk 2210 A.D.. It is the best version of RISK I have played and should be a very nice meeting in the middle for both casual gamers who are RISK fans (your friends) and for intermediate gamers who like things with more choice and desisions (you).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Warren Forrest
Canada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
I'm a bit disappointed with this review. Although superficially the review seems to be well-researched, organized, documented, and contain supporting arguments, in the end all I see is a lot of unsupported assertions.

Take the three main points:

1) "Risk's first fault movement-wise is its draconian objective of eliminating every other player."

2) "Risk's second mistake in its strategic movement is consistency. All armies are worth the same amount, and all the spaces on the board are equally unimportant."

3) "Thirdly, the luck element in Risk is a strong obstacle for any attempt at creating a field for strategic thought."


All three points are simply subjective assertions. For a review that goes to so much effort, it is a shame that its main points aren't in any way examined or questioned. They are just stated as facts.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hunga Dunga
Canada
Oakville
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The thing we have to remember here is that this article was written by a 1st year college student who unwittingly walks around with a piece of paper stuck to the back of his shirt saying "Kick Me: I don't want to play Risk", placed there by his college buddies and room mates who play the game regularly. So we can't expect it to be a very objective analysis.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Warren Forrest
Canada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Hungadunga wrote:
The thing we have to remember here is that this article was written by a 1st year college student who unwittingly walks around with a piece of paper stuck to the back of his shirt saying "Kick Me: I don't want to play Risk", placed there by his college buddies and room mates who play the game regularly. So we can't expect it to be a very objective analysis.


Ah, then I suppose that it makes sense. The paper is written in a very formal style, yet the underlying arguments themselves aren't sound. Which is a shame, because there's clearly a lot of potential showing in the author's attention to detail.

I'm suppose that also explains why my observations received a "thumbs down", because perhaps what was wanted was agreement and acceptance, not an analysis and evaluation of the actual ideas being expressed. The form is solid, which will always get you easy "A"s in high-school, but by the time you reach 3rd year university it's the substance of your analysis that matters.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Clint Walker
United States
Mattoon
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ehhh..

articles like this are what generally keep me at arms length from the the hardcore boardgame world.

Life's too short to sit around analyzing things like this.

Look, I've compared similar types of games in the past (its how we determine our favorites) but after a while reading this just make me think of apples and oranges. Risk doesn't have negotiating because it's RISK, not some other game.

I'll be honest, the game can drag on sometimes. But it doesn't have to. The fact that your options are limited on a turn is what makes it so accessible to most people. Not every one wants to sit down and spend hours being taught a new game that has a hundred options on a turn.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
bluskeye origamichessman
msg tools
Re: A Critical Review of Risk risk remake
Great review, Nathan, and true to an extent!(There is about 50% activity time, different countries have greatly varrying value,strategies do usually work as long as you leave room for luck, but allas only a few obvious strategies work and the best position from the start usually wins.)
Recently I puzzled over the game after a boring same strategy drag out & wondered why did they go to all the trouble of making 3 cool little icons (cannon horse & soldier) only to denote different values of the same thing? then it hit me.. Its so I can turn it into a way better game! & so my chess buddy, kid Dynamite (online handle) and I started knocking arround ideas and testing rules and came up with a remake based on the origional that we think cures its ills. Were copyrighting it so ill post on it as soon as i can somewhere on this site.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
E Honary
msg tools
I accidentally came across this article and I am amazed by its content. I am afraid I completely disagree with the tone of the article and I think is heavily biased. I have played Risk for tool long to ignore the remarks, as it looked well prepared but without logical research. I have compiled a series of responses to the main points it made and they are presented in this article.

[Declaration: I am the author of Total Diplomacy, a book that discusses Risk strategies www.totaldiplomacy.com]

Quote:
1. The first weakness in Risk is the scarce number of actions it offers its players. For four or more hours, all players do is place armies, move them, and roll dice.



If you play Risk properly, there is a wide range of actions you need to take. You need to use diplomacy and politics to stay out of harm. You need to have an overall strategy and make sure you follow it based on the developments in the game.

Quote:
2. Another problem in Risk's design, a feature in some other games, is player elimination. In four-hour long Risk, it is quite possible to be eliminated within the first thirty minutes.


The online versions of Risk solve this problem. If you lose you can simply join another game and try again. Even in the context of the board game this is not a fair comment. You can't have it both ways. The trill of winning comes together with not loosing and getting eliminated. You really won't feel as special if everyone was still playing to the end of the game.

If that's not enough, there are also shorter versions of risk, like Lux Delux, that increase the pace of the game by shortening the turn times.

Quote:
3. The third problem with Risk's long play-time is the small proportion of that time with which any single player is actually involved in the game.


This is probably far from the truth. The game is not about rolling dice and attacks. It's a strategy game. Anyone who has actually played the game knows that a lot of time between the turns is spent on thinking what to do next. Believe me, it's not always that clear. In a six player game, the board map can significantly change before your next turn comes. You need to be on your toes all the times to stay ahead of the competition. Besides, if it is not your turn, you might be involved in defending. No experienced player should sit idle while the other player goes on to attack as much as he likes. There can be a lot of diplomacy, politics, propaganda and the like. All of that is part of the game. A person who is playing the game who only expects actions on his behalf when it is his turn, is not really playing the game with its full potential.

Quote:
4. Risk has no safeguards against downtime, its turns last very long and do not involve every player.


Each turn can get all players involved. This can happen either through direct attack and defence, or more likely true diplomacy as explained above.

Quote:
5. Besides its problems with game length, Risk suffers from a lack of depth. A game has depth when players make a number of meaningful choices throughout the game. A good choice might increase one's resources, eliminate a rival from the game, or gain an advantage in a conflict. A bad choice might lose resources in the game or otherwise set up failure in a conflict. There are two areas Risk often receives credit for in providing depth: being a game of negotiation in how one deals with the other players, and of strategy in how one moves his or her pieces. Both of these claims are misguided. Risk lacks meaningful negotiation, and its preponderance of luck, its consistency in geography and unit capabilities, and its poorly chosen objective keeps what strategic element it has weak as well.


This whole argument is entirely flawed. The argument defines depth by having meaningful choices. This definition is subjective. There may be other elements that contribute in this regard such as how much one can learn from the experience and can it be related to real life. Even if we accept this definition, Risk can easily satisfy it. A player always needs to make important decisions for his survival. When it comes to decision making, you can't usually get deeper than issues to do with survival due to our evolutionary nature. The argument also claims that Risk is not a game about negotiation or strategy. Negotiation, diplomacy and propaganda are the cornerstones of the game.

Quote:
6. In cases where it is not obvious what course of action should be taken decisions could just as easily be made randomly.


Well, in purely logical terms, this is stating the obvious. In any game or any situation, if it is not obvious what you should do, then you may resort to a random decision. A random move can actually work to your advantage. This has been researched heavily in Artificial Intelligence when a robot can make a random move to free itself from a dead end when it no longer has a good situational awareness.

Quote:
7. Negotiation will inevitably fall apart if the players are equal: no two players can split an area up any more efficiently than another pair, no area is worth more to one player than another, and all players share the same objective and the single means to accomplishing it.

Areas have different worth. Each player's circumstances dictate his strength and weaknesses while it is different in each game and between all players. Sharing the same objective is a good thing, because it makes it clearer. But it is a mistake to think players have a single means to achieve the objective. Some like to develop their empire in isolation, while extrovert people may like to negotiate and use diplomacy to achieve the same goal.

Quote:
8. In a game where the goals and capabilities of all the players are the same, there is nothing to base a diplomatic decision off of.


Is it not true that goals of all nations on this planet are to prosper, get richer and stronger? Does that mean there is no base for diplomatic decisions? Hardly. In fact the opposite is true.

Quote:
9. The concept of Risk being a game of negotiation is a false one.
If you have ever played Risk, you will know the power of negotiations.

Unfortunately, some players are not at ease when they have to confront other players on a political level. They think the game is just about armies, luck and tactics. They may enjoy the game and they should play it as they like. However, this doesn't mean that you can’t use negotiations in Risk effectively.

Quote:
10. Risk's first fault movement-wise is its draconian objective of eliminating every other player .... The coarseness of this objective in Risk eliminates the potential for subtlety, for being able to win the game without making it obvious to the other players.


Eliminating can be trilling, but more important is the ability to learn how to survive and never lose hope. In any game, it is obvious that you want to win. You can’t hide that objective any way!

Quote:
11. Risk's second mistake in its strategic movement is consistency. All armies are worth the same amount, and all the spaces on the board are equally unimportant.


This is just a highly biased and negative view. All space on the board are not equally unimportant. There are certain choke points that provide more strategic value than others.

Quote:
12. If two equal armies meet in this initial scramble, an outcome undesirable for both sides, then one will be eliminated and one will be weakened doing the eliminating, which player being which determined by the luck of the dice. Such a buildup is a game of chicken, with a potentially large payoff if the opponent gives up, but mutually debilitating consequences if both continue.


Game of chicken is not about luck or dice. It is a strategy of survival. It is a psychological strategy. When these situations occur in the game, it actually makes the game more interesting. I provided a through review in Chapter 8 of Total Diplomacy in regard with Dynamics of the Game.

Quote:
13. In Risk, players have nothing to consider but the strength of the other players and what continents they control in the placement and movement of their pieces. This is too simple for a game this long that is supposed to be one of strategy.


This argument is flawed as well. A typical Chess game may take 2 hours to play if not more. It has much simpler rules than Risk. Does it mean it’s a bad game? Does it mean it is too simple a game to have a strategy? The situation is the same for Risk.

Quote:
14. Thirdly, the luck element in Risk is a strong obstacle for any attempt at creating a field for strategic thought.


Chance is fact of life. We deal with it everyday and it is generally a matter of choice. Some like to give a lot of value to luck and expect it to run their lives. Others, usually more successful, make their own luck. The presence of luck in any game makes it more realistic and life-like. If the implementation of luck in the game is as balanced as it is in real-life, a player can learn a lot from the game as well as getting entertained. You can’t blame luck if you consistently lose in Risk. It is the lack of a sound strategy that leads to elimination.

Quote:
15. Though not a game of strategy or negotiation, and even though it takes too long and includes player elimination and a large proportion of downtime, Risk is still easy to learn and can be a fun game for some ... It is interesting that after nearly fifty years, Risk remains as widespread as it is. Its popularity should eventually wane as newer, better, board games are discovered and played in its stead.


Risk is a game of strategy and negotiation if you know how to play it. Risk indeed remains widespread, because like all other famous game, it has passed the test of time and has remained timeless and engaging. There are many signs that it's popularity is actually rising due to a large number of variations and computer game implementations. Other board games can also be just as engaging or even better in other ways, but Risk will always have its own place.

Please refer to my book for more on strategies used in the game.
Ehsan Honary
www.totaldiplomacy.com
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ken B.
United States
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The thing about Risk is that it's obsolete. It's been obsoleted by most of the good "map of plastic guys" games...and more importantly, it's been obsoleted by it's descendants, such as Star Wars Risk and Risk: 2210.

I think the element of card-play as well as certain units being "special" or denoting some special ability is necessary--otherwise it's throw the bones, hope for the best, and react accordingly. I'm not averse to dice whatsoever, but in a good strategy game you should have some way of stacking the odds in your favor or at the very least manipulating them at strategic moments.

None of the new versions of Risk are that much more complex; it's merely adding some needed gameplay that the old grandaddy is sorely lacking.


We've all been there; stack of 10 troops slaughtered by 2 defenders. Ridiculous. I don't care what you say about historical battles, underdogs, any of that junk. It makes for a sucky gameplay experience.


I think that battle systems used in other light "pop" wargames such as Samurai Swords or more recently Twilight Imperium are best--at it's heart, Risk's "we can't kill each other on the same roll" limitation really hurts it, and hurts it deeply. When I say "same roll" I mean same roll of each die, on a one-for-one basis. In Risk, on a 1-to-1 roll, we cannot destroy each other. One will emerge unscathed.



I suppose Risk is fine for what it is, and it is THE ancestor to a lot of my favorite games...but it's obsolete now. There is no reason to play it if you are aware of better games. If there were any justice, a game like Nexus Ops would've already replaced Vanilla Risk on retail store shelves. Nexus Ops offers the same light wargame goodness with differentiated troops, the ability to inflict simultaneous casualties, mission cards, and cards to influence key battles, not to mention a very light economic/resource game very much like any fan of RTS games are familiar with. And...it plays in an hour and a half. See the point?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.