Risk:  Rules

Published at Central Connector

Risk is a fascinating game of strategy in which a player can conquer the world. Once you are familiar with the rules, it is not a difficult game to play, but there are a number of unusual features which are unfamiliar to most game players. Thus, before you begin to play we suggest you read through each section of this booklet: (a) The Rules of Risk, (b) Strategy Questions and Answers and (c) Two Player Risk.

The Rules of Risk

The Object of Risk is to occupy every territory on the board, eliminating all other players, thus conquering the world. A complete game with two players usually takes 2-4 hours.


Army pieces

Six sets of pieces, one set for each player, consist of a large number of three pointed shaped pieces (each representing one army) plus several star or asterisk shaped pieces (equivalent to ten armies each).

Playing Board

The playing board is a map of six continents, each subdivided into several territories. The total number of territories is 42; each continent is a unique base color and contains from 4 to 12 territories. The map is designed to facilitate play rather than to be geographically accurate.

Risk Cards

The deck has 44 cards (plus a trademark card that is not used in the game). Of these, 42 have a single territory on them in addition to a figure of either a foot soldier, a horseman or a cannon. The remaining two cards are "wild cards" having all three figures but no territory. The deck is shuffled and placed face down in preparation for the game.


There are six dice, three white and three colored.

Summary of play

Risk is patterned after military campaign strategies. First, players in turn occupy all territories.

Then players take turns initiating battles. Each battle can have three parts: (1) deploying armies; (2) attacking the opposition; (3) fortifying the territories held.

The detailed instructions following explain the rules of the game.

Details of play

Each player counts out a number of his armies for initial deployment, according to the number of players in the game.

If there are: Each player counts out:
3 players 35 armies 
4 players 30 armies 
5 players 25 armies 
6 players 20 armies 

Players roll the dice to determine who goes first. That player places one of his armies on any of the 42 territories, claiming it as his own. The second player (clockwise) place one of his armies on any remaining unoccupied territory. Each player takes his turn until all 42 territories are occupied. Players then continue in turn placing their armies, one at a time, on territories the already occupy. (See question #1 .)

After all armies have been placed, the board is ready for the campaigns. From this point on, each territory must be occupied by at least one army for the rest of the game.

Now the players in turn initiate battles. As already mentioned, the battles include up to three stages: (1) deploying armies; (2) attacking the opposition; (3) fortifying territories. During any turn a player may decide to omit either (2) or (3) or both. The following section explains in detail each of the stages.

Deploying Armies

At the beginning of each turn a player is entitled to additional armies. The number of armies a player may deploy at the start of a turn is the sum of the armies earned for each of the following: (1) the number of territories the player occupies; (2) the number of complete continents a player occupies; (3) the number of matched Risk card sets he can exchange for armies.

The Number of Armies Earned Due to Territories a Player Occupies

The player counts his territories, divides the number by 3, discarding any remaining fraction. The answer is the number of armies credited to him for occupied territories.

14 territories=4 armies
Examples: 17 territories=5 armies 
11 territorie=3 armies

On each turn a player is entitled to a minimum of 3 armies even if he occupies fewer than 9 territories.

The Number of Armies Earned Due to Complete Continents a Player Occupies

If a player occupies one or more continents, he earns additional armies as indicated in the legend at the lower left of the board; for example, if he occupies all the territories in Asia (12 territories), he earns 7 additional armies.

The Number of Armies Earned Due to a Player's Matched Risk Card Sets

As explained further in the following sections on attack, a player earns a maximum of one Risk card for every turn in which he successfully occupies a new territory.

To exchange the Risk cards for armies, a player needs one of three combinations: (1) three of the same design (horseman, cannon, foot soldier); (2) one of each design; (3) any two cards plus a wild card.

Also, if any of the three cards in the match depicts a territory the player occupies, he earns another two armies, which must be placed immediately on that particular territory.

If a player is lucky the first three Risk cards he earns may permit him a match as explained above. He may also gain a match after picking four cards.

By the time a player has five cards, however, he can always complete a match. (Try it!)

As soon as a player accumulates FIVE cards he must exchange his three-card match for armies at the beginning of his next turn.

In a typical military campaign, the risks and rewards increase over time; thus the Risk cards will earn increasing numbers of armies as follows:

After that, each additional set exchanged for armies is worth 5 additional armies; the seventh set, for example, gains a player 20 armies; the eighth, 25 armies.

"First" and "second" set, etc., refer to sets turned in by anyone during a game. The player turning in the third set in the game would get 8 armies even if it were his first set.

The armies can be placed in any territory or territories a player already occupies. Usually armies should be deployed on a player's front lines to mass for attack or prepare for defense.

Attacking the opposition

A player may attack any opponent's territory adjacent with his own, from his own territory, so long as he has a minimum of two armies on it, regardless of the number of armies his opponent has.

Territories connected by dashed lines are considered adjacent territories, and battles can occur between them. For example, a player occupying North America can attack not only his immediate neighbors but also Brazil, Western Europe or Southern Europe. Alaska and Kamchatka are considered adjacent; Greenland can be attacked from Iceland, Quebec, Ontario or Northwest Territory, and so forth.

In a battle, the attacker announces (1) the territory being attacked and (2) his adjacent territory from which the attack originates. The victor of the battle is determined by the roll of the dice, detailed in the following paragraphs.

The attacker can roll up to three dice but must always have at least one more army in the attacking territory that the number of dice he rolls.

The defender also rolls, to defend his territory. He can roll up to two dice, provided he has at least two armies on the territory; if he has only one army, he can roll only one die.

Before each throw, each player, beginning with the attacker, must announce the number of dice he is using. The dice are then all rolled simultaneously.

To determine whether an attack is successful, players compare the highest dice each has thrown. If the attacker's die is higher, the defender loses one of his armies. In the case of a tie, the defender always wins.

If both attacker and defender have thrown at least two dice, the above procedure is repeated for the second ranking dice. (See examples 2 & 3.)

If either player has thrown only one die, only one of that player's armies can be lost. Under no circumstances can a player lose more armies on a given turn than the number of dice he has thrown.

The following examples illustrate battle results:

Risk dice throws

The attacker has complete flexibility within his turn to attack whatever adjacent territories he wishes with the number of dice he chooses, subject to the limitations already outlined. He may attack one or more times from one territory, shift to another area, and return again to attack, so long as he has sufficient armies. He may continue to attack even after he loses an army on any roll of the dice.

A territory is considered captured when the defender's last army has been eliminated.

When a territory is captured, the attacker must occupy it immediately by moving some of his armies from his attacking territory into the captured territory. He must move at least as many armies as the number of dice he has just rolled. He must leave at least one army behind since no territory can be unoccupied at any time.

When a player eliminates an opponent, taking his last piece off the board, the former opponent's Risk cards become the property of the attacker. If the total number of cards held by the attacker now equals six or more, he must turn in matched sets, claiming additional armies, placing them in his territories on the board, until he has four or fewer Rick cards remaining. This must be done immediately.

If he can make two or three sets, he may turn them in, receiving the regular increase in the number of armies for each set.

When a player has finished attacking he can take the top Risk card from the pile, provided he has conquered one or more new territories. He can then use this card as part of a match in one of his subsequent turns. If he has not captured a territory, even though he has attacked, he does not take a Risk card.

Fortifying Territories

Just before completing his turn, the player may want to fortify his defensive position to avoid imminent capture on the opponent's turn. After he has finished attacking, the player may fortify his frontlines by moving one or more of his armies from one and only one territory which he occupies to any one adjacent territory which he also occupies. He may not divide these armies by putting some into one territory, some into another, and must always leave at least one army in his old territory.

To signal the end of his turn, the player gives the dice to the next player in rotation.

Winning the Game

The player who occupies every territory on the board by having eliminated his last opponent wins the game.
  Strategy Questions and Answers

Q. In the beginning of the game, when I first occupy territories, what strategy should I use?

A. It is clearly to your advantage to occupy a complete continent since this automatically gives you additional armies at the beginning of each of your turns. However, unless your opponents are foolish they will certainly prevent this just as you would prevent their occupying a complete continent and gaining an early advantage.
A more realistic strategy is to occupy several adjacent territories in one or two continents. Then, after all 42 territories have been covered, you can place your additional armies in your border territories to defend your holdings and attack opponents.
Of course you should also place armies in the continents your opponents are trying to occupy to prevent their acquiring a complete continent.

Q. At the beginning of each of my turns, I receive additional armies; where should I place them?

A. Usually you will be attacking and therefore some or all of the armies should be placed on the territory or territories from which you plan to attack.
The remainder of your territories should also be defended from future attacks and armies could be placed on border territories for this purpose, particularly if you do not plan to attack during your present turn.
An alternate defensive strategy is to place armies right behind your border territories as a second line of defense.

Q. If I do not have five Risk cards at the beginning of my turn, but do have a match with the three or four I hold, should I always play them?

A. No. There are several reasons you might choose to play the cards at a later time:
1. By waiting for additional matched sets to be turned in before yours, your set will be worth more armies, as the number of armies received increases each time another set is played.
2. You may be totally on the defensive and thus not need the additional armies. Saving them for later strategic moves is clearly an advantage.
3. When you turn in a card depicting one of your own territories, you gain an additional 2 armies to be placed on that territory. Thus if you are planning to capture a territory for which you have the card, it is to your advantage to wait until that territory is yours before turning in the card.

Q. What is the advantage of not attacking during my turn?

A. A series of attacks usually eliminates armies from both sides, so not attacking is often necessary when you have to build up your defenses.
If you avoid attacking but place armies in defensive positions only, you may create considerably stronger attacking forces for your next turn. Of course you yourself may be attacked in the meantime and lose some of the advantage.
Also, if your opponents, in attacking each other, are eliminating each other's armies, you usually gain the advantage by waiting before attacking either one, since their defenses will be depleted.

Q. Since I can attack several times in any turn, when should I stop the attacks?

A. The key disadvantage to attacking is that you usually lose armies as you gain territories; and even if you are lucky enough to not lose any armies in your battles, in a sense you become weaker with each territory you win since your armies are now dispersed over a larger number of territories. This gives the opponent more territories to attack with a greater chance of success.
It is a clear advantage to capture at least one territory per turn. This gives you a Risk card, usable in the future to gain additional armies.
In general, the attack should stop when in your opinion your front line armies are still strong enough to repel attacks. Remember that your opponent will often mass his new armies on the border of your weakest territory.

Q. During a battle, I usually have the option of throwing several dice instead of just one. What are the advantages and the disadvantages?

A. You know that a greater number of dice gives a greater chance of winning. Throwing fewer dice, however, will limit your losses since the number of armies you can lose is never greater than the number of dice you throw. For example, if you are attacking from a territory with only three armies, and do not want to lose more than one army, you would choose one die instead of the two you are entitled to use. This limits your loss but unfortunately lessens your chance of winning.
On defense, the same logic holds. The attacker is the first to declare the number of dice he will use; thus the defender can consider whether to use one die, limiting his loss to one army, or to use two dice, gaining a better chance of winning.

Q. When I take over an opponent's territory, how many armies should I move from my attacking territory into the newly acquired territory?

A. Usually you would move all but the one army you must leave behind; typically this gives you the strongest front lines.
There are situations, however, when you will have a large number of armies left in the attacking territory and choose to move only part of your armies into the new territory, saving the remainder to move into a defensively weaker adjacent border territory.

Q. At the end of my turn I can move armies into an adjacent territory. What strategy should I use?

A. Armies that are far from your front lines are not particularly useful for attack or defense. You should therefore try to move them towards your border territories, where they can enter into battles.

Q. How will I recognize a situation in which I can take a risk and try to eliminate every other player on the board?

A. This is the element that gives Risk its name. If you decide to take over the world in one turn, and fail, you will usually be so scattered that it would be easy for the next player to eliminate you.
If, however, you see a weak player holding few territories but owning several Risk cards you might easily eliminate him and receive all his Risk cards. Then if your Risk cards and his total six or more, you can immediately put more armies on the board anywhere you wish by turning in your matched sets. This renews your strength to continue attacking.
Usually, if you eliminate a player in this fashion, you have a chance to win in a single turn.

Two Player Risk

Preparation This version is played according to the traditional rules of RISK.

Each player takes 40 armies and alternately places 1 army on an unoccupied territory until each has occupied 14 territories. The remaining armies are alternately distributed on the occupied territories. The remaining 14 territories will be occupied by a force called the Allied Army. These armies are composed of playing pieces different in color from those used by the two players. Two Allied Armies will be placed on each unoccupied territory for a total of 28 armies.

The Play

Accumulation of Armies

The Players: Each player accumulates armies in the traditional manner.

The Allied Army: When a player begins his turn and determines the number of armies he is entitled to, the Allied Army is entitled to one half of that number. Fractions do not count, so, if a player obtains a total of 9 armies, the Allied Army is entitled to 4.

Placing of Armies

The Players: Each player places his armies on the board according to the traditional rules.

The Allied Army: After a player has accumulated his armies, placed them on the board and completed his attacks (but prior to his free move) the opposing player places the number of Allied Armies (determined above) in Allied occupied territories.

The Attack

The Players: Each player attacks according to the traditional rules. He may attack the other player or the Allied Army. When a player attacks the Allied Army, the other player rolls the dice for the Army.

The Allied Army: Immediately after the Allied Armies are placed, the player who placed them may act as the Allied Army and attack the other player's armies. He need not use them at this time, but may allow them to accumulate in:a territory. However, if they are not used, the other player may use them to his advantage when he gets the use of the Allied forces. When a player is commanding Allied forces he may not attack his own territories. Allied forces do not pick up RISK cards and they accumulate armies only in the manner described above.

The Free Move
The Players: After the second player has decided to stop attacking with the Allied Army, the first player takes his free move. The Allied Army is not entitled to a free move.

End of Game: The game ends when one player loses all his territories. Once the Allied Army loses all its territories it may no longer obtain additional armies and the game is played according to the traditional rules.

Summary of Procedure

1. Players place their armies. The Allied Army is placed on the remaining territories.

2. Player 1 obtains his armies, places them and attacks. Player 2, acting as the Allied Army, places the accumulated Allied forces and may attack player 1 with Allied Armies only. Player 1 then has a free move.

3. Player 2 accumulates his armies, places them on the board and attacks. Player 1 then accumulates the Allied Armies, places them in Allied occupied territories and may attack territories occupied by player 2. Player 2 takes his free move.

The rules for this 2 player game were developed by Michael I. Levin of Philadelphia, Pa. We will be glad to answer inquiries concerning these rules. Address: Parker Brothers, Salem, Massachusetts 01970

Home page Home

This site is created and maintained by: Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson