How to Play Risk: Step by Step

Reviewed by
Last updatedLast updated: October 31, 2023
Rec Room Pick is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

When it comes to classic strategy games, they don’t get more iconic than Risk. This game has been a consistent favorite ever since it was introduced all the way back in 1957 Trusted Source Risk (game) - Wikipedia Risk is a strategy board game of diplomacy, conflict and conquest for two to six players. . In this game of conquering armies and defensive prowess, you and your friends get to compete to see who is the ultimate strategist that deserves world domination.

With a plot as intricate as that, it should come as no surprise that this is a relatively complicated game. There are lots of different ways to win, so you need to make sure that you know how to play Risk before you enter the fray. You need to know what moves to make and when to make them, as well as a clear understanding of how to build your empire. But don’t worry! Our guide will have you storming across the continents towards world domination in no time at all.

What is the game about?

Before you can really dig into the rules and different strategies that you will need to win this game, you first need to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. That way, you will have a better idea of just what you need to do to ultimately emerge victorious against your friends and family.

Main objective

This game is the ultimate test to see who can come out on top. If you are looking for a cooperative experience, you will need to look elsewhere. The main objective of this game is, to put it as simply as possible, to take over the world. Each player is given a home territory and a set number of soldiers that make up their army. From this point, they need to utilize luck and skill to try to expand their empire until they have defeated all of the other players and take over the entire map. Once this feat is accomplished, they are the winner.

Number of players

How to Play Risk: Step by StepThis game needs to be played with a minimum of 2 players. It can expand, however, all the way up to 6 different players. Of course, this changes the setup and layout of the game considerably, though, no matter how many players are present during a game, it is equally challenging.

Recommended age

Since this game requires a lot of thinking and strategy, it is best suited for ages 10+.

Session lasts for

Depending on how well each player plans out their moves, this game can take a good long time. You should expect to devote at least 1 hour to each game. Games can go much longer, however, easily reaching up to 8 hours for a single game.

Game components

How to Play Risk: Step by StepThere are lots of different pieces and components that are utilized during a game of Risk. These include the game board, risk cards, and the armies.

Game board

The game board for Risk is separated into 6 continents, which include Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and Africa. Each continent is further divided into 4 or 12 different territories. There are 42 different territories for the entire game board. The board also lists the different amounts of armies you will receive when you trade in different sets of cards throughout the game.

Risk cards

There are three different types of cards that are used during a game. There are 12 different secret mission cards that are not used in a standard game. As such, they can usually be removed from the deck. There are 42 standard cards that list a territory and are also marked with Infantry, Cavalry, or Artillery. The final type of card is marked with all three pictures but is not assigned to any territories.


There are 6 color-coded sets of armies. Each army is separated into three different categories. They come in Infantry, which is worth 1, Cavalry, which is worth 5 Infantry, and Artillery, which are worth 10 Infantry or 2 Cavalry. At the beginning of the game, players will only utilize Infantry pieces. As the game progresses and a player’s army grows, they can trade in their Infantry for a Cavalry or Artillery piece.

The setup

Depending on how many people are playing during a round of Risk, you will need to set the game up differently. There are two different setups to follow, which include one for 2 players and one for 3 or more players.

2 players

The very first thing in either type of game of Risk is to select your army. Once you and your opponent have chosen their color, you need to select a third neutral army. At the start of the game, the two players and the neutral third party take 40 different infantry pieces to place on the map. Before this can be done, however, you need to remove the secret mission cards and 2 of the wild cards from the card deck.

Next, the remaining cards need to be shuffled completely and placed, face down, into 3 different and equal piles. You and your opponent need to then select a pile of cards. The third pile is the neutral pile. Each player should look through their cards and place one Infantry army into each of the 14 territories. The neutral army needs to be set up in a similar fashion.

After all of the territories have been claimed, you can then place your remaining armies wherever you wish. Your opponent and the neutral party should be placed in a similar manner. After this is accomplished, you can replace the two wild cards to the deck and shuffle the cards again. The game is now ready to be played.

3 or more players

With more players in a game, you need to alter the way that you set it up as well. For instance, the number of armies each player receives changes based on how many people are playing. With three players, everyone gets 35 Infantry. For each additional player, you take away 5 Infantry members from each player.

Once everyone has their armies at the ready, you need to decide who gets to place their armies first. Each player gets a turn to roll one die. The player with the highest roll gets to place an Infantry piece first. The other players follow suit in a clockwise motion until all of the territories are filled with at least one Infantry piece. Once this is completed, each player can place their remaining armies in any way that they see fit.

After everyone has exhausted their armies, you need to get the cards ready. The cards should be shuffled thoroughly and placed next to the board face down. This is where it should remain for the rest of the game.


Now that you have everything set up, it is time to get started playing. There are lots of different procedures to keep in mind when you are playing.

Who goes first?

In a 2-player game, you need to take turns rolling a die and see who gets the highest roll. That is the person that gets to go first. For a game that has more than 2 players, whoever got to place their armies first gets to go first during the game.

Taking a turn

When it is your turn in Risk, there are three different things that you need to do/can do on each turn. These involve growing your armies, attacking (if you choose), and fortifying your positions.

Getting armies

How to Play Risk: Step by StepAt the start of each and every turn, you will get new armies. The number of armies that you receive is based on how many territories you control, the value of the continents that you control, the value of the Risk cards your trade-in, and the specific picture on a traded-in card.

The number of armies that you receive is first and foremost based on how many territories you occupy. You need to divide this number by three to find out how many new armies you receive. If the number is not even, then you round it down. So if you have 10 territories, you would get 3 armies. No matter what, you should always receive 3 armies each turn.

You can also get armies if you control an entire continent. For this to apply, you need to control every territory on the continent. The number of armies you can claim for controlling a continent is laid out on the bottom left-hand corner of the game board.

To get armies with your cards, you need to trade in any sets that you might accumulate. For each additional set you trade-in, you will get a different number of armies. For your first set, you gain 4, and each additional set adds another two armies to your empire.


On any given turn, you can choose to initiate an attack against an adjacent territory, which means that it is connected to it by a dashed line. You need to have at least two armies on the territory you are attacking from. You can continue attacking as many times as you like on your turn and can attack more than one territory on one turn.

Before you attack, however, you need to announce which territory you are going after. You then need to decide how many dice you are going to roll. You can roll from 1-3 red dice on any attack. You need to have at least one more army in your territory than the number of dice you use to attack. The defender can use either 1 or 2 white dice. The defender needs at least 2 armies on their territory to use 2 dice.

After the dice have been rolled, you need to compare the highest die that each player rolled. If the attackers are higher, the defender loses one army and vice versa. If more than one die was rolled, then you compared the next highest die for each player and repeat the process.

Once you have defeated an enemy, you can move into their territory. You need to move at least as many armies into the territory as the dice that you rolled on the last turn. Remember, you need to keep at least one army in each territory.


On any given turn, you are also allowed to move armies from one territory to another, adjacent territory. You should always make sure to keep your border territories as full of armies as possible. No matter what, you always need to keep at least one army in each territory.


How to Play Risk: Step by StepAs you can imagine, a game called Risk requires players to employ many different strategies to find success. Some of the most popular options are listed below.

Take small continents first

While this is certainly a strategy that you cannot always use based on where you are stationed geographically, it is a good idea to try and take over the smaller continents first. They do not have as many territories, which makes conquering them a bit easier. This is especially true if you are playing with an inexperienced opponent. These players will usually go for larger prizes and stretch themselves too thin.

If you are able to take over an entire continent, even the smaller ones, you will gain extra armies with each turn. Remember, the number of territories that you own is important, but controlling a continent is even better. These give you additional armies that you can then use to extend your empire to other continents and, eventually, the rest of the world.

Attack conservatively

When you do decide to attack, you should only do so from a position of strength. It is much better to take time to build up your armies before you go on a major offensive. That way, you will be able to, hopefully, overwhelm your opponent and easily defeat them to take over their territory.

While you are attacking, you have the option to use different numbers of dice. While it might be tempting to use as many dice as possible, you need to be careful. If you use more dice, there are more chances to have your armies defeated, which could give an advantage to your opponent. It is best to use only one or two dice for most attacks unless you are a far superior force. In that case, you can probably take the added risk and use all three dice that are at your disposal.

Play defense

This conservative style of playing should also extend to how you defend your forces as well. While you can use 2 dice to defend yourself from attack, this opens you up to losing more of your forces. It does also give you the chance to defeat more of your opponents’ armies as well, but that might not be worth the chance.

If you have a smaller force defending a territory, you should always choose to only utilize one die at a time. That way, you can only lose one of your armies at a time, rather than multiple units that you cannot spare. On the other hand, if you have a larger force, you might want to take the chance to use your defense as a good offense. The most important thing is to approach each battle differently and adjust your tactics to fit the circumstance, rather than continuously playing each situation in the same manner.

Other Risk editions

How to Play Risk: Step by StepWhile you are most likely looking to learn how to play Classic Risk, that shouldn’t be the only game in this series that you try out. After all, this game has been around for a good long time, and, as such, there are lots of different versions out there to check out.

One of the more popular iterations of this game is Risk Europe. This game is played, as you might have guessed, exclusively within the European borders. Each player gets to choose to take the role of a medieval king in control of one of 7 different kingdoms. In this game, players get to expand territories, tax subjects, build castles, and, of course, wage war on their opponents.

There are also several novelty versions of the game, which include different popular franchises. Some of the more well-known options in this regard are Star Wars and Star Trek Trusted Source Risk (game) - Wikipedia Many of the official versions of Risk listed above have their own rules which may differ slightly or even significantly from the original game of Risk. . Some of the newer options are for a game of Risk based on the ever-popular Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings franchises as well. Some other versions have an RPG-style element that has players gaining and losing abilities as they are play.

Final thoughts

Risk has long been a mainstay in the world of strategic and engaging board games. Ever since it broke on the scene in the 1950s, Risk has been enjoyed by millions of players around the world. While there are many different versions of the game, playing the classic version of Risk is something near and dear to many gamers’ hearts.

Of course, that is not to say it is an uncomplicated game. There is quite a bit that you need to understand before you can really claim that you know how to play Risk. Attacking, defending, fortifying, and, eventually, conquering the world takes a lot of work after all. With a bit of practice, however, we are sure that you will have no problem etching your name into the annals of world history, especially if you follow our advice!


Risk (game) - Wikipedia
Risk is a strategy board game of diplomacy, conflict and conquest for two to six players.
Risk (game) - Wikipedia
Many of the official versions of Risk listed above have their own rules which may differ slightly or even significantly from the original game of Risk.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.