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The jackass-of-all-trades
Risk Strategy Scenario: North America 
9th-May-2010 09:23 am
ATHF Clockwork
Many people are intimidated by Parker Brother's board game, Risk. It's not a difficult game if you possess the aptitude of determining odds and, as the game is appropriately named, take a Risk! Once you get the hang of the game, subsequent games become easier and easier. When engaged in a solitary game playing against bots, their behavior will become more and more predictable.

There's a reason for this: Strategy! The bots are obviously artificial intelligence and don't learn as the game progresses. Instead, they're programmed with the basic skills of attempting to beat the odds. Human behavior, on the other hand, is unpredictable so, if played right, your moves and strategy will outsmart the bots.

The following screenshots and text provide one scenario to successfully winning a game of Risk. As a disclaimer, every game will be different and this is one of umpteen gazillion ways the game may be played. The deployment, order of elimination, attacks, reinforcements, territory cards, and other factors will alter in every game. It's up to the player to adapt to these situations. This following game provides strategy against four bots if you were to use North America as a launching point for attacks.

In the beginning of risk, you will be presented with a global map. Notice each continent is divided into territories. Next to each continent is a circular icon, which will illuminate to a player's color if all territories on that continent is successfully secured. Territories that are more difficult to secure will award additional units. Here's the breakdown:

Australia = 2 Units
South America = 2 Units
Africa = 3 Units
Europe = 5 Units
North America = 5 Units
Asia = 7 Units

One has to consider the borders they will need to defend in order to maintain the extra unit allotment. The continents with more difficult borders to protect provide more extra units than the easily-defended continents. Here is the number of borders one must successfully protect to keep those extra units:

Australia = 1 Border
South America = 2 Borders
Africa = 3 Borders
North America = 3 Borders
Europe = 4 Borders
Asia = 5 units

That ranking is almost the same as the number of extra units. However, there is one difference -- a swap between North America and Europe. Ooh! An advantage for North America! Due to this, it is best to secure that continent. It takes less borders to secure in order to gain the maximum amount of additional units. During the deployment phase of the game, the human player should focus on that continent. Since deployment order is determined by the roll of a die, it is to your advantage to be the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd player. If you're 4th or 5th, you're virtually screwed. The bots will most likely choose Australia and South America to colonize first, since they require the least amount of territories to gain additional units. However, there will be complications for those bots, which will be addressed later.

For this game, I am the blue player. The rest are bots. In the deployment phase, ignore South America and Australia. Those continents (along with Africa) tend to become heavily-enforced war zones for the bots to fight out. Try to focus on North America by first securing the three vulnerable areas (Alaska, Greenland, and Central America). Once this is complete, deploy troops to the other areas. Sometimes you can successfully secure the entire continent without any interference with the bots. However, on most occasions, at least one enemy will claim a territory.

In preparation of this, let the bot take Alberta. This will be most useful during the fortification phase. During the fortification phase, you must place additional troops on your claimed territories. Reinforce your borders (Alaska, Greenland, and Central America). However, pay attention to that one enemy that is occupying your desired continent. If you place too many troops next to that enemy, there will be an arms race and the bot will attempt to fortify his foothold with additional troops. Let that bot fall into a false sense of security.

Notice how Australia is a hotbed of troop activity? The purple bot wants to secure the continent so it could gain additional units. However, the yellow bot wishes to foil that plan by placing a large amount of troops in Indonesia. This will typically happen with South America, Australia and Africa. In this game, it didn't transpire on Africa, but one bot will usually try to take Madagascar or South Africa. [After playing the online version over 100 times, like I initially indicated, the bots become predictable.]

Notice how the screenshot shows that there are eight troops on the Eastern United States. This was done on purpose, since the red bot does don't feel "threatened" by the massing of troops. The bots only pay attention to the amount of troops adjacent to the territory. With six on Alaska, the bot dedicated limited resources to North America because a majority of the troops were focused in Europe. Clearly the red bot wishes to gain the five units for securing that continent.

In this game, the roll of the die determined that I was the third player to attack. Keep in mind, the purpose of the game is to secure territories. As the yellow bot was first to go, he wanted to secure South America, which would allow him two additional units on his next turn.

After the yellow bot secured South America, the purple bot maintained its stronghold on Australia. Meanwhile, I successfully attacked the red bot in Alberta from adjacent Alaska, which will allow me to have five additional units on my next turn. Don't be greedy when you're attacking! Notice in this screenshot that I only have one troop on Alaska, but purple has four on the adjacent Kamchatka territory. This leaves me vulnerable. If the purple bot attacks me before my next turn and secures Alaska, I will not get those additional five units. How am I going to secure my borders?

This is where the troops I amassed in the Eastern United States comes into play. I moved all of those troops to Alaska. On purple's turn, he will only have five additional troops to reinforce (the game's default of three plus the bonus two units for securing Australia). I'm still vulnerable in Central America. However, the yellow bot in Brazil looks like it will be attacked from Africa. Always anticipate these moves! When a bot places a lot of troops in an area, it may be for offense or defense. That's where the risk comes in. Would yellow want to attack North America, break my control, and risk getting attacked by the green bot? Or would yellow want to reinforce Brazil? Risk is a strategy game for a reason. You must anticipate these moves. After several games, it will become easier to predict the bots' moves.

In this screenshot, I predicted the right call. Since the object of the game is to maintain an advantage, the green bot figured it would be best to break the yellow bot's stronghold of South America. Otherwise, on the next turn, yellow would have had two additional units. If green could break that advantage, then yellow would be vulnerable. See the yellow troops in Asia and Europe? They're cut off from South America. South America cannot be helped by those. So, there is no way to bring those reinforcements over. This is exactly why you should never randomly place troops on the map during the initial deployment phase in the beginning of the game. If your troops are cut off, there are more vulnerable borders and you lose the advantage of shifting troops to where they are most needed.

Now, look at Egypt. See how the green bot has a lot of troops there? It could be for defense or it could be for attack. Most likely green would attack southern Europe. The red bot almost has control of all of Europe, so green wants to eliminate that.

Notice the results now? The green bot did win Southern Europe. However, it suffered heavy losses (as did red). Both armies were weakened. On my turn, I poured all my troops into Central America. Since I still held North America, I was successfully rewarded five additional units. I want to attack South America so I could break the yellow bot's hold on that continent. I have a high chance of success with 12 units versus yellow's five.

Again, don't be greedy! I could have gone for more territories, but it'd leave me vulnerable to attack. Brazil still has four troops occupied by the yellow bot. I might be able to defeat them, but could still be attacked from Africa by the green bot. Instead, I rested my troops in Venezula.

Now, it's time to reinforce my borders. Remember my troops in Alberta? It'd be to my advantage to move them to Venezula for my next turn. Those troops are useless to me in Alberta, since Alaska is secure against the purple bot. It would be best for me to move them to a weaker border. Why not Greenland? Well, Europe is still disputed and nobody secures the entire continent. Besides, I feel "safe" with three units there, compared to the red bot's single troop.

Doing the math, and knowing that the yellow bot doesn't have any secured continents, the yellow bot could only put three troops on the map on its next turn. If yellow bot poured those troops in South America, the highest amount of troops it could have would be seven (4 + 3 = 7), which pales in comparison with my nine in Venezula. Bots generally do not attack territories if they are outnumbered. If they do, it only transpired when another player is going to be eliminated. The bot is willing to take that risk if it can acquire territory and fully neutralize an opponent.

You can see that the yellow bot didn't attack me. Instead, the yellow bot focused on Asia and Africa where it had a better chance to secure a territory. Also, the purple bot declined to attack, since it had no direct advantage on the map. On my next turn, I poured more troops into Venezula. Since the yellow bot moved into Africa, it would be in my best interest to secure all of South America. The best method is to go from Venezuela to Peru, then Argentina, and finally Brazil. Keep in mind: DON'T BE GREEDY! Once I reached Brazil, I rested. Why? Now I have both North America and South America in my control. That would give me seven units on my next turn. With North and South America in my favor, I would only have to protect Greenland, Alaska, and Brazil. Had I moved to North Africa, I could be attacked from five different territories. In this scenario, this is exactly why I stopped at Brazil.

On my next turn, I decided to strengthen Alaska and Greenland. I could leave South America alone for now, since it was well-fortified and the yellow bot was exceptionally weakened. The purple bot was looking like a growing threat with six troops in Kamchatka. Meanwhile, the red bot was fighting a losing battle and soon doomed for elimination. Both the green bot and my troops eliminated red the red bot. I now have a stronghold in Europe, and made my way into Asia. Purple's troops in northeast Asia do not compare to my 16 units in Kamchatka. Do I be greedy and eliminate them all? Or do I maintain reserve and slowly attack them? A slower attack would be better. In this case, I focused only on Japan. That way, I could divide my troops in half. I still hold an advantage.

Oh, what about those territory cards? If you successfully secure a territory, you win a territory card. [If you don't secure any territory on your turn, you don't get squat. Losers get no spoils of war!] Anyway, If you have three territory cards with the same matching symbol, you can turn them in for additional units. Also, you can turn them in if all three are different, such as the example in the image above. There is another symbol which contains all three (not pictured) and it is considered a "wild" card.

What determines the number of additional units you receive? Refer to the three cards pictured in the Indian Ocean between Africa and Australia. As players redeem territory cards for bonus units, the numbers on the cards increase. The first person to redeem territory cards will get four bonus units. The second person will get six bonus units. The third; eight. Fourth; 10. Fifth; 15. Sixth; 20. The number of units increases each time a player redeems three territory cards.

Likewise, pay attention to how many territory cards the opponent has. The maximum amount a player can hold in its hand is five. Be careful when these cards are redeemed. If you are at an advantage, don't use them early on in the game. Why? The next person to redeem three territory cards will get additional troops and that may leave you vulnerable to attack. Heed caution and use your best judgment when redeeming territory cards.

In this screen, you may note that I did redeem three of my cards. On his last turn, the green bot ambushed Greenland and broke my hold of North America. Because of that, I lost five additional units on my next turn. However, once I redeemed my cards, I was able to deploy bonus troops in North America and re-secure my territories. I successfully eliminated the purple bot in northeast Asia. Finally, I halted my troops in Mongolia and Siberia, since that allowed only two borders to protect in Asia. Had I moved to Ural, I'd have to content with three borders -- and the yellow bot's five troops in Russia. I much rather stop where I'm at next to the yellow bot's two units in Ural and China.

On my next turn, I deployed units to Siberia and Mongolia and spread myself through Asia. I stopped at Southeast Asia, since both yellow and purple were fighting in Australia. The purple bot is highly weakened with two territories left. However, the yellow bot is just as weak. Nevertheless, the yellow bot wants to eliminate purple because yellow could (a.) gain all of Australia and (b.) upon elimination, gain THREE territory cards. If the yellow bot does that, it could get 20 bonus troops assuming yellow has three matching territory cards.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. Now, on my turn again, I held three continents. This gave me 14 additional units -- two from South America, five from North America, and seven from Asia! Where should I attack? Strategy! The best move would be Australia. Notice there are more enemies in Africa and Europe. I don't have the resources to attack those continents and defend my own territories. My best move would be to pour all my troops into the Southeast Asia territory. Between the yellow and purple bot, there are only eight troops there. Also, if I attack Australia, I could effectively neutralize the purple bot who has three territory cards. Since I have two territory cards, if I gained purple's three, I'd be FORCED to redeem them. Remember, you can hold only five territory cards. If I succeed, I'd get 20 additional units.

With the purple eliminated and being forced to redeem territory cards, I placed a large number of troops in Brazil. Now it was my opportunity to make a move into Africa from South America. As this is strategy, moving through Africa would allow me to eliminate the yellow bot and cut off the green bot's troops. Even though the green bot has most of Europe under its control, it cannot call for reinforcements from Africa. The six troops in Africa are effectively isolated and contained.

The green bot was becoming weaker and weaker. I secured Africa. This gave me 19 extra units (5 + 2 + 7 + 2 + 3 = 19). Troops I placed in the Middle East moved into Europe. My troops in Greenland invaded Iceland and the northern countries. Now the green bot was surrounded on all sides. Time to eliminate the green bot in Southern Europe and win the game.
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