I’m at chez Brennan for Christmas, and we’re playing Risk again. Which means I’m trying to improve Risk again.
Risk is really, truly awful:
- The last twenty or so rounds are everybody’s dwindling forces struggling against the one juggernaut that emerged in maybe round 10. It’s no fun sitting there losing for an hour.
- The essentially random initial placement means nobody can even think about strategy until they’ve carved out a slice of territory after a few turns, by which point they’ve spent so long scrapping they’ve got no army left.
- The ever-escalating value of trading in cards causes huge swing towards the end of the game, but doesn’t actually end up making any difference because of the massive territorial advantage the winner has, so it just drags the game on for another few dreadful rounds.
But! There’s a core of a good game in there. The territorial reinforcements and dice rolling mechanic are fundamentally okay! So I’d been thinking about what you could minimally change about the non-core aspects of the game.
Separately, I’ve been playing Risk Legacy with a few friends. The game is basically still Risk, but in each game you make changes to the board, to your faction, to cards, that permanently change the game. And it turns out Hasbro had also put some thought into the design of the base game. The core is the same, but there are a few changes to setup, reinforcement, and victory conditions that go a long way to addressing the problems I outlined above, especially the late-game slog.
So I thought I’d borrow a few of them for regular Risk.
And it worked! The game we played was far shorter and more tactical. Mum won, with a sneak attack on my Icelandic headquarters that nobody saw coming.
Modified Risk rules
Follow the original Risk world domination rules, plus the variant Fortifying your position. You’ll need some extra tokens to represent Headquarters and Victory Points; we used buttons.
- Everybody rolls a die; highest number places first.
- Clockwise from the first player, place a Headquarters and 8 troops in any unoccupied territory that is not adjacent to another player’s HQ.
- You may move any number of troops into an unoccupied territory adjacent to one you control. This does not earn you a Risk card at the end of the turn.
Scoring & Winning
- First player to reach 4 Victory Points (VP) wins. The game ends as soon as they gain their 4th VP.
- Each HQ you control (including your own) is worth 1 VP
- At the start of your turn you may trade in any 4 Risk cards for 1 VP
- If you take the last Risk card you get 1 VP
- If you remove a player’s last troop from the board, they’re knocked out. You get all their Risk cards.
- If you’re knocked out, you might be able to rejoin at the start of your next turn. If there is an unoccupied territory, place 4 troops (but no HQ) in it and continue playing. If there’s nowhere you can start you’re eliminated.
- During your reinforcement phase you can trade in any number of Risk cards for troops. Ignore the territory and unit on the card. You gain extra troops depending on the number of cards you trade in. Territory cards are worth 1 point, wildcards are worth 2:
- 2 points → 2 troops
- 3 points → 4 troops
- 4 points → 7 troops
- 5 points → 10 troops
- 6 points → 13 troops
- 7 points → 17 troops
- 8 points → 21 troops
- 9 points → 25 troops
- 10 points → 30 troops