Learn About the Strategy Game of Risk

If you like battles of wits and if you fantasize about global domination – the Risk tabletop game is a treat for you. When it comes to classic strategy games, there’s nothing more iconic than Risk. It has been a consistent fan favorite since it was introduced in 1969. In this game, you get to wield vast armies, plot world domination, show off your defensive prowess, and see who is the ultimate strategist who can conquer the world.

With an intricate plot, it should come as no surprise that Risk is a relatively complicated game. You need a blend of strategy, diplomacy, and calculated risk-taking. There are many ways to win, and you must know how to play it before you enter the fray.

In this article, we will explain the game of Risk and guide you on how to play it, so you can storm across the continents and plot world domination in no time!

Introduction to the Game of Risk

The game of Risk is a strategic board game that combines diplomacy, conflict, and conquest. It’s designed for two to six players and is played on a world map divided into 42 territories across six continents.

The ultimate goal is to occupy every territory on the board and eliminate the other players. Risk can be a lengthy game, taking several hours or even multiple days to finish. However, European versions offer a shorter game option by assigning each player a “secret mission” objective.

At the beginning of the game, players take turns claiming territories and placing their armies on them. The number of armies a player receives depends on the number of territories they control. Once all territories are claimed, the main gameplay begins.

On a player’s turn, they can choose to attack neighboring territories that are controlled by other players. Battles are resolved by rolling dice, and the outcome determines whether the attacker or defender loses armies. The element of chance through dice rolling adds excitement and uncertainty to the game.

Main Objective of the Game


The objective of Risk is straightforward: conquer the world and eliminate all your opponents. It’s a battle for supremacy—no teamwork here! Your main goal is to take over the world.

Each player starts with a home territory and a set number of soldiers. Using a mix of luck and skill, you expand your empire, defeat other players, and aim to control the entire map. Once you achieve this feat, you’re the winner. You’ll do this by strengthening your territories and launching dice-rolling attacks to capture neighboring regions.

Recommended Age

Generally, the game is suggested for players aged 10 and above since the game requires a lot of strategic thinking. However, it may vary depending on the specific edition, maturity, and attention span of the players.  

How Long Does it Take to Play?

The duration of a game of Risk can greatly vary depending on the players’ strategies and luck. The game can take at least one hour. However, be prepared for longer sessions, as games can stretch up to eight hours or more, especially with larger groups and unpredictable dice rolls. Sometimes, the game may last for more than a day. So, make sure to set aside ample time for an exciting Risk adventure!

Game Components

blue and red armies on a Risk board game

In Risk, there are lots of different pieces and components. These include the game board, armies, cards, dice, and instructions.

1. Game Board

The game board for Risk is divided into six continents: Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and Africa. Within each continent, there are 4 to 12 territories, totaling 42 territories across the entire board. Additionally, the board displays the number of armies you’ll receive when trading in sets of cards during the game.

2. Armies

The game comes with six complete sets of armies, and each army is separated into three different categories.

  • Infantry (worth 1)
  • Cavalry (worth 5 Infantry)
  • Artillery (worth 10 Infantry or 2 Cavalry).

At the start of the game, players will only use infantry pieces. As the game progresses and a player’s army grows, they can trade in their Infantry for a Cavalry or Artillery piece.

3. Cards

In Risk, there are different types of cards that play a role in the game:

1. Territory Cards: There are 42 Territory Cards in total. Each card features a territory name and a picture of the Infantry, Cavalry, or Artillery. These cards come into play during specific game actions.

2. Wild Cards: Two special “wild” cards exist in the deck. These cards display all three pictures (Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery), but they don’t represent any specific territory. They can be used strategically during gameplay.

3. Secret Mission Cards: Secret Mission Cards are used exclusively in the Secret Mission Risk variation. These 12 cards contain secret missions for players to accomplish. If you’re playing the standard version, you’ll need to remove these cards from the deck.


To set up the game, here’s what you need to do:

1. Choose a color. Depending on the number of players, each will have a different number of infantry pieces. If there are:

  • 2 players, each player gets 40 Infantry. Their gameplay becomes a bit different if there are only two players.
  • 3 players, each gets 35 Infantry.
  • 4 players, each gets 30 Infantry.
  • 5 players, each gets 25 Infantry.
  • 6 players, each gets 20 Infantry.

2. Roll a single die. The player who rolls the highest number gets to place one Infantry piece on any territory, claiming it as their own.

3. Starting from the first player and moving to the left, each player takes turns placing one army on an unoccupied territory until all 42 territories are claimed.

4. Once all territories are claimed, each player takes another turn to place one additional army on any territory they already occupy.

5. Repeat this process until all players have used up their armies. There’s no limit to the number of armies that can be placed on a single territory.

6. Shuffle the deck of Risk cards (you may remove the Mission cards if desired) and place them face down next to the board. This becomes the draw pile.

7. The player who placed the first army becomes the first to start the game.

Who Goes First?

In a 2-player game, take turns rolling a die to determine who goes first. The player with the highest roll gets the first turn.

In games with more than two players, the player who placed their armies first during setup gets to go first and take the initial turn in the game.


Now that everything is set up and who goes first has been decided, it’s time to start playing. When it’s your turn, there are three different things you need or can do, such as getting and placing armies, attacking, and fortifying positions.

1. Getting and placing armies


At the beginning of each player’s turn, they determine how many armies they can place on their territories. To calculate this, count the number of territories you have, divide by three, and round down. You can always place at least three armies, even if you have fewer territories.

Controlling continents also grants additional armies. The number of armies received for each continent is specified on the board or next to each continent, depending on your edition. In the classic edition of Risk, here’s how many armies each continent gives:

  • Australia: 2
  • South America: 2
  • Africa: 3
  • Europe: 5
  • North America: 5
  • Asia: 7

Players have the option to trade sets of Risk cards for extra armies. If you have five or six cards at the start of your turn, you must trade at least one set, with the possibility of trading twice. If you have fewer cards, trading is optional.

To trade cards, you must either have three cards with the same Infantry, cavalry, or artillery icon, three cards with one of each icon, or two matching cards plus a wild card.

The number of armies received for traded sets depends on the number of sets traded by all players so far. The first set earns 4 armies, the second set earns 6 armies, and so on. After the sixth set, each subsequent set earns five more armies than the previous one.

If at least one card in a set shows a territory you occupy, you receive two bonus armies that must be placed on that region. However, you can’t receive more than two bonus armies for matching territories in a single set, even if multiple cards match your territories.

Note: During a single turn, you can’t receive more than 2 additional armies beyond those earned from trading matched sets of cards.

Tip: Regardless of the number of armies you receive at the start of your turn, it’s important to deploy them wisely. Consider using them to either prepare for an attack or fortify your territories against potential enemy attacks.

2. Attacking

After placing their armies, players have the option to attack. However, attacking is not mandatory –players can choose to keep their defenses strong and skip to fortifying their troops.

To attack, a player can choose to target an adjacent enemy territory that shares a border with their own territory or a territory connected by a dashed line (representing a naval attack). The player must have at least two infantry pieces in their territory to initiate an attack.

The attacking player declares the territory they are attacking and the territory they are attacking from. For instance, you may say, “I’m attacking Ontario from Alberta.” Both the attacker and defender decide how many dice they will roll.

The attacker can roll one, two, or three dice, but they must have one more army piece than the number of dice they roll. The defender can roll one or two dice, provided they have at least two infantry pieces in the defending territory.

After announcing the number of dice, both players roll simultaneously. The highest value on each die is compared. If the attacker rolls higher, the defender loses a piece. If the defender rolls higher or ties, the attacker removes an army. The defender wins ties.

This comparison is repeated for each die, from highest to lowest. If any defending pieces remain, the attacker can choose to continue attacking the same territory or a different one by repeating the above steps. There’s no limit to the number of territories a player can attack as long as they have enough armies.

If the defender loses all their pieces, the attacker captures the territory by moving a number of attacking troops equal to or greater than the number of dice rolled in the final battle. At least one piece must be left in the attacking territory.

If a player successfully captures a territory, they draw one Risk card, which can be traded for additional armies in future turns. Only one card is drawn per turn, regardless of the number of territories captured.

If a player eliminates another player’s last piece from the board, that player is removed from the game. The victorious player takes any Risk cards held by the eliminated player. If the victorious player has six or more cards, they must immediately trade sets and reduce their hand size to under five cards.

3. Fortifying

Regardless of your actions during your turn, you have the option to fortify your position before ending your turn. Fortifying is not dependent on winning battles or attempting attacks. It’s a “free move” that allows you to strengthen your position.

To fortify, you can move as many armies as you want from one of your territories to an adjacent territory. However, you can only perform this move once.

When fortifying, consider moving troops toward borders where they can support future attacks. Also, remember to leave at least one army behind in each territory.

How to Win the Game

To win in Risk, your objective is to eliminate all the other players by capturing all 42 territories on the board. This can be accomplished by engaging in battles and strategically conquering your opponents’ territories.

When a player loses their last piece on the board during a battle, they are eliminated from the game. This process continues until only one player remains standing.

How to Play Risk with Two Players

To enjoy a game of Risk with just two players, some adjustments to the regular rules are needed to ensure an engaging experience. Here’s how to play:

1. Setup:

Each player chooses a color and takes 40 infantry pieces of that color. Additionally, select a third color to represent the “neutral” player and set aside 40 infantry pieces in that color.

2. Starting Territories:

Remove the Secret Mission and wild cards from the deck. Shuffle the remaining cards and divide them into three equal piles. Each player chooses a pile, leaving the last pile for the neutral player.

3. Placing Armies:

Each player deploys one infantry piece into each of the 14 territories listed in their card pile. Place a neutral infantry piece in each territory assigned to the neutral player. Finally, each player adds two additional infantry pieces in their color to the board, either in the same territory or two different regions.

4. Neutral Player:

Each player places one additional infantry piece on behalf of the neutral player in a territory controlled by the neutral player. This allows players to strategically block their opponent.

5. Game Deck:

Once all the pieces are placed, add the wild cards back to the deck and reshuffle all the cards together to form the main deck beside the board.

6. Gameplay:

During battles with neutral territories, the defending roll is made by the other human player. The neutral player does not attack or receive additional pieces.

7. Winning the Game:

The objective is to eliminate your human opponent. Neutral territories do not contribute directly to achieving victory.

Secret Mission Rules

In the Secret Mission mode, players win the game by finishing the secret mission. This is a shorter way to play Risk. 

 At the start of the game, before the territory cards are distributed, each player receives a secret mission card in a face-down position. This card reveals a unique victory condition that the player must achieve to win the game. The secret mission can involve controlling a certain number of territories or specific continents or eliminating a particular player color. (If there are unused player colors, corresponding cards are removed from the secret mission deck before dealing.) Each card clearly states the conditions for winning.

Following the official rules, if a player successfully fulfills their secret mission during their turn, they immediately win the game. This means that once the victory condition is met, the player achieves victory right away, bringing the game to an end.