[Do you like board games? The next couple of From the Archive Friday articles propose some alternative rules for some old favourites. This week we’re learning a version of Risk that better reflects the real world, and next time, we’ll revisit cooperative Settlers of Catan…]
Our 8-year old son loves playing RISK almost as much as his mum and dad. We’d often play on a Sunday afternoon for a bit of relief from the daily pressures of life and work with the urban poor. However, I often found myself being stressed out by the end of the game, either because I’d rolled hopeless numbers all afternoon and had my armies decimated, or because my opponent was almost in tears because of his armies’ losses. It got me to thinking that games like RISK and SETTLERS would be much better as cooperative efforts rather than competitive ones. So we designated some alternative rules for RISK that make it cooperative. It also has the added bonus of more accurately reflecting the real world! Here’s how it works
A. Initial Placements
• The ‘ghost player’ (not a real player) represents the Rich World and begins by controlling all of North America, Australia and Europe. You play for it according to the rules below.
• You – the real players represent the developing world and begin only in South America, Asia and Africa. Shuffle those cards and divide them equally among you.
• Initial numbers of armies are as per normal RISK rules i.e. 30 for each real player if there are 4 of you, 35 if there are 3 of you etc. The rich world gets your total number of armies. Eg, if there are 4 real players then the rich ‘ghost player’ gets 4×30=120.
• The rich world places 1 army on each of its territories and divides the remainder equally over its borders i.e. Central America, Alaska, Southern Europe, Western Europe, Ukraine and Indonesia i.e. approximately 15 on each border. (Reflecting the reality of creating fortresses in US, Europe and Australia with tougher immigration rules.)
• You real players all place your armies where you want on your countries, but only to a maximum of 10 on any 1 country (reflecting the reality that the rich world doesn’t allowing any developing world country to become too strong.)
B. Getting & Placing Bonus Armies
Bonuses are as per the normal rules of RISK, including cashing in cards, but if 1 player controls Africa and gets the bonus of 3, the Rich World also gets an equivalent 3 to place in Western Europe (to reflect the reality of debt repayments cancelling any value of aid). Also, whoever controls an oil country (Middle East and Venezuela) gets 2 bonus countries on that territory. But remember you developing world players can’t place armies to take the total in any 1 country beyond 10. The rich world places logically to attack according to the rules below or if all its borders are secure, then it strengthens all its borders equally.
The rich world attacks according to the following priorities. However it will only proceed to the next step if it succeeds in the former and if it has more armies than the country it is intending to attack (to reflect the unwillingness to take any risk).
1. The weakest developing world army (to get its risk card). If several are equally weak, decide by logic or if equally sensible, by allocating numbers and rolling a dice.
2. Regaining any of its territory that has been lost in the previous round by the marauding developing world hordes.
3. Taking the Middle East. (To reflect the reality of the Rich World wanting to control the oil)
4. Taking Venezuela. (To reflect the same reality above)
5. Taking the weakest country out to stop anyone else controlling a continent.
6. Attacking any country that has had the audacity to attack it in the previous round. (Reflecting Afghanistan/Iraq/Nth Korea)
The developing world players need to work together to defeat the rich world. They can make agreements to not defend shared borders etc. Hint: While they can’t place armies to go beyond 10, they can redeploy to get beyond 10. You could also decide to trade risk cards to get better cash-ins sooner, to improve your chances of overthrowing the superpowers.
All the best in your quest on behalf of the developing world! Let me know any suggested rule changes to make it even better.
[written by Tony and Christine (names changed for security reasons) who live amongst the urban poor with their two sons in a large Indian megacity]