This page may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

How To Play Risk

Starting a new board game can feel intimidating, specifically when it’s one that appears complicated when you look at it.

But don’t worry, we’ll make it easy for you.

This article will cover what Risk is and how to play Risk.

It’ll also address frequently asked questions to ensure you’re well-equipped to play your first game.

The Premise of Risk

The Risk board game takes place on a world map or other specific geographical locations.

It’s a tactical game where players are meant to take over territories with the goal of occupying every single one on the map: there can only be one winner.

risk game play

Covering the Basics

A good starting point to understanding how to play Risk is to first comprehend the basics of the game before attempting to get into the actual gameplay.

We’ve divided explanations into different categories below.

Understanding Your Board

First things first: make sure that you have all the game’s usual content.

If anything is missing or different, then it’s either you have a different version of Risk, or you may have to ask for a refund.

Your Risk box should include the following:

  • Your game board,
  • A game guide,
  • Different cards, including 12 secret mission cards (which may or may not be included depending on the edition of your Risk), two wild cards, and 42 standard risk cards.
  • Five standard six-sided dice, with two being blue defender dice and three being red attacking dice.
  • A specific number of armies: forty infantry units, 12 cavalry units, and eight artillery units for each of the six colors.

If you’ve got all of this, then it’s time to set up the game board.

This means opening it up on a table, allocating the appropriate number of units to each player, and starting to place units (we’ll explore this process in detail).

How Units Work

On our journey of explaining how to play Risk, we’ve already covered that there are six different colors and three different kinds of units (infantry, cavalry, and artillery).

But we still need to explain what they represent and how they will be allocated to game players.

Infantry units in Risk represent just one army, whereas cavalry represents five armies, and artillery represents ten armies.

How many armies do Risk players get?

Well, players get a different number of armies depending on how many there are:

  • Each player is to be allocated 40 troops when playing when there are only two players.
  • When playing with three players, each player must be issued 35 troops.
  • When playing with four players, each person must be allocated 30 troops.
  • When there are five players, they must be given 25 troops each.
  • And finally, when playing with an entire group of six players, each person should be given 20 troops.

How the Cards Work

risk board game

To understand how to play Risk, you must get a grasp of how the cards work.

In a standard risk game, you receive a risk card every time you successfully capture a territory.

Risk cards can be traded at the start of a player’s turn for extra troops.

Players must have three cards with matching pictures to trade them in.

If any of the three cards you trade in has a picture of a territory you currently occupy, then you’ll get two extra armies, although they must be placed onto the particular territory.

The two wild cards depict infantry, cavalry, and artillery pieces, meaning you can match them with any other two cards to make a set and subsequently be cashed in for troops.

Should you have them included in your edition of Risk, the secret mission cards give each player a different mission to complete to achieve world domination.

Players are not to reveal what their mission is to anyone else.

How the Dice Work

When attacking, players can use up to three dice in a roll, and defenders can only use two but have the advantage that they win draws.

Dice determine the success or failure of an attack/defense.

How Territories Work

The board is filled with different territories players can take over.

A player holds a territory if they have at least one troop.

At the start of each turn, a player who controls every territory in their continent is given bonus armies (based on the continent they hold).

This means securing a continent early on puts players at a significant advantage.

But how many territories do players get?

Risk players are allocated territories equally at the start of the game, using one of the two starting methods we’ll talk about soon.


A player is eliminated once all their occupied territories have been conquered.

Players have to have at least one territory to continue playing.

Losing all their territories will either result in a victory for the remaining player.

Or, if more than one player remains, then they continue until one of them takes over all the territories of the other or fulfills their secret mission task.

The person who takes out another player gets all the unused risk cards that the player had.

Starting a New Game

Now that we’ve covered the essential components and concepts of Risk on our journey of how to play Risk, let’s get to the actual gameplay.

One way of starting is that each player rolls to determine who goes first.

The person who rolls the highest selects the territories they’d like to hold and places a single troop into them.

The player to the left of them does the same. Players do this until all the territories have been taken.

If a player is short a territory, then they should palace an additional troop on one of their existing territories.

After this is done, going again around, starting from the player with the highest dice throw, everyone places their remaining troops into their desired territories.

Alternatively, players can start the game with a bit of randomness. 

Shuffle all the Risk cards, excluding the wild cards, and deal them out equally to the players.

Although, you should roll a die to see who gets the first deal.

Once everyone has received their cards, they should go ahead and place a troop on each of them and subsequently place their remaining troops in their desired strategic positions.


In this next section, we’ll highlight precisely how a player’s turn goes from start to finish.

risk game play

Starting Phase

Again, players should roll a die to determine who starts.

After this has been determined, players are to proceed one turn at a time, with others only able to perform any action when they have to defend.

A player’s turn starts with them getting troops based solely on the number of territories they control and whether they have total control of a continent.

To work this all out: divide the number of territories you have by three, and round down (you’re not allowed to round up) the number.

You can’t get less than three, so if your calculations work out less than three, you’re to receive three.

In addition, you should then add your bonus troops for any continents you may control; this includes:

  • Two troops for Australia,
  • Two troops for South America,
  • Three troops for Africa,
  • Five troops for Europe,
  • Five troops for North America,
  • And seven troops for Asia.

At this point, players should also trade in their set (or sets) of risk cards for extra troops.

After receiving all these troops, players should add them to one territory or many, depending on their particular strategy. 

Attacking Phase

While you’re not obligated to attack, most of the time, not doing so would not be a good decision.

Attacking requires at least two armies in one territory, and you’ll have to leave at least one army behind.

You attack using the red attack dice, but you can only do so with up to three units and three dice at once.

Once you’re ready to attack an adjacent territory, you and the defender roll your dice, and you then take your highest rolls and compare them.

The person with the highest number in the two comparisons wins.

But as we’ve already mentioned, the defender always wins a tie.

Technically, you can attack as much as you want until you run out of armies.

Fortification Phase

You can only begin this phase after you’ve decided to stop attacking. 

Now, you’ll get a single move that you can use to take any troops from a territory (of course, you must always leave one) to another connected territory.

If the territory you’d like to move your troops to is separated by enemy territories, you can’t move your troops to it.

Connected territories must have clear paths between them.

Ending Your Turn: Draw a Card

At the end of your turn, you must draw a card if you successfully conquered a territory (and only ever one card, no matter how well you did during your round).

Every time someone turns in a set of cards, the number of troops the next person to turn in a set can claim increases:

  • For the first set, someone can claim four troops,
  • The second is worth six troops,
  • The third is worth eight troops,
  • Then the fourth is worth a whopping ten troops,
  • The fifth is worth twelve troops,
  • And this pattern continues with the sixth offering of fifteen troops, going up in increments of five from this point on for every subsequent claim.

Game Variations

Keep in mind that Risk has many variations.

For example, there are risk editions for various games and popular series, including:

  • Lord of the Rings,
  • Star Wars,
  • Halo Wars,
  • Metal Gear Solid,
  • Plants vs. Zombies,
  • And Starcraft.

These variations will have different boards, pieces, and even, possibly, different rules.


Is Risk a challenging game to learn?

Risk is a relatively easy game to learn, although mastering war strategies may take some time.

Players typically pick up on the rules fairly quickly and can play the game on a basic level from the get-go.

What is the easiest way to play Risk?

While there are a lot of strategies to play Risk effectively, one way to ensure that you get ahead, in the beginning, is to avoid being attacked.

This means setting yourself up in such a way as to keep away from conflict.

How do you attack in Risk?

Attacking involves a few steps: first, you must announce the territory you plan to take and where you’re attacking from.

Then you must roll dice against the attacked territory’s defender.

The results of the dice rolls determine which army wins.

A defender will always win a tie.

How long does it take to play Risk?

While Risk only takes five to 15 minutes to set up, playing time takes much longer.

A game can take anywhere between one and eight hours, so be ready to get into it for the long haul.

Is Risk fun with only two players?

You can play Risk with only two players; however, you’ll have to add a neutral player on the board, acting as a buffer between you and you and the other player.

Whenever one of you attacks a neutral territory, the other player must act on behalf of them and roll as the defender.

Neutral armies, however, will never attack and won’t get reinforcements.

Can Risk be played alone?

While, officially, you can’t play Risk alone, you can do so by modifying the game slightly.

You’d have to add other players (and play as them).

This can get quite boring, which is why it’s much better to play Risk with other people.

Discover more from Game Room Legends

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top