What’s the Best Risk Game?
Hey everyone! Ryan Prince here from Prince Rachel Reviews! So a few weeks ago we posted our very first board game review for Godzilla: Tokyo Clash. The review did fairly well, which we are very grateful for! This is something we’ve wanted to start doing alongside movie reviews, so we appreciate the support! Moving forward we are going to be releasing more game reviews, but I thought I would start by talking about the game that kickstarted MY love for board games: Risk.
Now obviously there are a TON of versions of this classic game, and while I have played a great many of them, I haven’t played every version. A few that we haven’t played that are worth noting are Risk Legacy (2011), Castle Risk (1986), and many many more. But of dozens we have played, only one can call itself the greatest Risk game ever! (In my opinion that is…) Before we start however, let’s talk about the classic 1959 version of Risk!
Risk (1959) board game review
Risk is fairly simple. Each player controls an army and fights the armies of the other players (2-6 typically) for control of the world. The board, a map of the Earth, features typically six continents with several smaller countries in them. Players take turns adding troops (depending on how well they are doing), attacking other armies, and reinforcing their lines. Meanwhile you can collect territory cards through victories to play either in a time of desperate need of when you just want to crush your enemies.
The wargame employs elements such as dice rolling, army movements, territory control, and player elimination. Now I have played at least two classic versions of the game, both of which played the same. However while the game is an undisputed classic, it is not without some major flaws in my opinion. So let’s talk about Risk!
I do really like Risk. I am a big fan of wargames, and Risk is one simple enough for anyone to learn how to play, but hard enough to employ strategy and, dare I say, skill. This to me sets Risk apart from other classic games like Monopoly, which, while there is certainly skill to the game, feels more random at times. And it is true that both games essentially depend on dice, typically, a Risk game is not won or lost by dice alone. However one bad roll can begin the slow decline of a campaign.
That said, while the strategy element is key, like Monopoly, once you get behind in Risk, it is a PAIN to make a comeback. I would wager that a large chunk of the great Risk games in history have ended in surrender, not total defeat. Why? Because once you lose a fight, you don’t want to be hit over and over and over again. The game stops being fun when it is totally clear that one player is going to win the game.
Another element that I don’t love about Risk is the stacking of territory cards. While the rules have been updated in most versions of Risk since the originals, one of the games that I currently have contains the original territory card instructions. This rule allows each set of territory cards deployed to increase the units gained by them to, what I assume from my version, is an unlimited amount. Later versions of the game offer fixed sets of units depending on the cards you have. That is balanced gameplay. But when playing with the older rules, strategy goes out the window and the game becomes a contest of ‘who can survive the mass amounts of reinforcements the longest.’
Overall, I would give classic Risk a 6/10. I very much enjoy the gameplay, but the fact that I almost NEVER play the game to its conclusion is something that later games do address. On top of that, when I do play, I play with the fixed set rules for territory cards. If I were playing without that rule, I would give Risk a 5/10. Since “Classic Risk” eventually features these changes, I think a 6/10 is fair. Now, let’s rank some Risk games! Also while I would LOVE for this list to be exact, there are a few that could move up and down due to a variety of conditions while playing.
Risk Battlefield Rogue (2013)
Based on the Battlefield video game series, Risk Battlefield is a significantly smaller version of Risk, reducing the typically two-hour playtime to a mere 45 minutes at the shortest. While the game says this gameplay can range to 90 minutes, that is as inaccurate as it is broad in my experience playing this version. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible! The core dynamic of the game is to bring Risk to a small-scale, modern warfare type of game, where an army consists of maybe 16 men, not hordes of calvalry and infantry.
That said, while the ideas that go into the game are interesting, Battlefield Rogue might change too much of the core game dynamics, with very little resembling Risk by the end. Even the dice are different. The quality of the game is also not very good, as most of the tokens are simply little cardboard pieces with a tank of plane symbol on them. Come on, give us a tank! I want to give this Risk a break for feeling more like a poor adaptation of Risk Jr., but sadly, it isn’t. 4/10.
Risk: Captain America – Civil War Edition (2016)
This is the second of two Marvel risk games, and after the first playthrough of this, we decided not to look for the first. Civil War is yet another small scale Risk game that, in this case, might not change enough of the game. The core dynamics honestly won’t work as well to fit wither the story of Civil War or the small size of the board. The game features a jet in the middle that you can cross back and forth, but this makes conquest on one side typically VERY easy for the player with the better setup. Also as cool as the character standees are, they don’t work as well as the heroes you will find in later versions of this game… 4/10.
Risk: Office Politics (2019)
Office Politics was one in a string of satire games from Hasbro Gaming, and thus is hard to rank with the other games on this list. Like Battlefield, the player count is reduced from 2-6 to 2-4, with the two player variant being actually playable in these two games. The design of the game is also wonderful! The hilariously small office setting where players with do battle with managers, employees, and donuts instead of canons is perfect, and the way the board is divided up into departments like Sales and Marketing instead of the a typical board is really creative.
Sadly, Office Politics doesn’t play very well. The dice are large and awkward, much like Battlefield, and they lend a dynamic that doesn’t work as well as, well, regular d6s. The quality of also similar, with some plastic pieces for the teams, but cheap cardboard for everything else. Give us some tiny staplers and coffee cups! Speaking of which, the territory card system is overpowered, the playtime can be as short as 15 minutes, and like classic Risk, it is very difficult to recover from defeat. I want to give Office Politics credit for satire, but there is a reason this is the lowest rated Risk game on this list according to Board Game Geek. Another 4/10.
Risk: Transformers – Cybertron Battle Edition (2007)
Now a great many of these Risk games I paid full price for. If I had paid full price for Transformers Risk, I might feature this lower on my list. Alas, I think I paid like $3 for it. And guess what? It’s sadly not very good. That said, it’s not terrible! Here’s what works: The leader system with the Autobots and Decepticons is a blast, changing their skills to meet your strategy. The pieces are great, the bonus card system works as well as it does in games further down this list, and the map- oh the map is awesome! There are two or three territories that spin, move, and slide- even creating a new territory or two!
So what doesn’t work? Well as cool as the map it, gosh it’s a tough battle. You will read later on the pros of a more confined map, but this one simply doesn’t work. With a good army, you can get anywhere on the map in what feels like three or four good attacks. This means that once one player has a very good turn, the game is pretty much over. In my experiences with this game, there has NEVER been a comeback victory. Overall though, it’s fun to have, and whenever we use pieces from other games on a classic board, the Autobots are usually picked. For that, I’d give Cybertron Battle a 5/10.
Risk 2210 A.D. (2001)
Risk 2210 A.D. is one of the more popular versions of Risk, even warranting mini expansions! Why so low on my list? Well like Transformers, there is one core element of this game that kills it for me. That said, it’s a decent enough game. The overwhelming size of the armies encourage all-out conquest, and the expanded territories and inclusion of leaders and tactics cards mean there is no time to let your guard down or take a turn to reinforce. Want to fight on the moon? Go fight on the moon!
That said, 2210 A.D. makes the odd call to change the reinforcement system in the vein of Axis and Allies (1981). Instead of counting territories at the beginning of your turn, you rank at the end of your turn. This means a successful turn will pay off next turn. But let’s say that you are winning and you have VERY good turn. You’ve just killed the chance of a comeback for anyone else. I don’t really get this change. Sadly, we tried playing this by traditional rules, and it doesn’t work with the advanced gameplay either. I guess you just have to be on the winning side of that dynamic. 5/10.
Risk: Rick and Morty (2018)
Gosh I REALLY wanted to love this version! And it’s not bad! But it’s not that good. The teams are really fun! Heck I get to be Snowball and his army of dogs with mech suits. LIKE, WHAT? FREAING YES. The leader system pulls from Call of Duty Zombies alot, but it works very well to make each team just different enough to involve strategy. The inclusion of Rick’s ship and the Microverse you fight in is also super fun!
The board is a bit lazy, simply featuring the same Earth layout but changing it for planets from Rick and Morty (2013-). What was their solution? Portals. Four portals that are all connected and go on random locations. Uh, what? Bye defense, hello chaos! I get that this element probably makes for gameplay that feels like Rick and Morty, but it makes for very messy gameplay that NEVER ENDS. The playtime says its only an hour, but we played for a few hours before finally calling it quits. Don’t get me wrong, I like long gameplay! There’s one coming up that had a nice long campaign before we finally had a victor! But unless you really love back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, this one isn’t the best of Risks. 6/10.
Risk: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (2014)
Classic Risk, but Doctor Who. Solid. What works? Well the Tardis flying around causing problems is fun. The gameplay makes sense because, well, it’s classic Risk. And the added time limit ensures that a surrender is actually acceptable! Plus you get to play with tiny Daleks! And- only Daleks. Wait what? No Cybermen? No Sontarans? No Ice Warriors of Silence of Weeping Angels? Nope! You can choose between five colors of Daleks. Cause that makes a whole lot of sense. What they should have done was do half Daleks and half Cybermen like, well, plenty of other Risk games! 6/10.
Risk: StarCraft Collector’s Edition (2012)
StarCraft is a middle-of-the-road Risk game for me. While I LOVE the design of the map and teams, the game is, well it’s a Risk game. And that is not a bad thing! It adapts elements from another upcoming Risk game to bring in objectives, which make the gameplay more focused and, honestly, a little less personal when you are getting destroyed by your fiancé’s brother. Oh yeah, it was a wonderfully long, but futile game for me. One that I enjoyed alot! I would like this even more if it came out before said other game it borrows from… 7/10. It’s good!
Risk Europe (2015)
Risk Europe is interesting, as it changes the core dynamics of the game perhaps the most. Gone are regions to control, territory cards, or unit dirpersement that means leaving men behind when you wouldn’t normally. What you have instead of an all-out war over Europe with castles, coins, siege weapons, and a ton of wonderful pieces for four different teams. As a Risk game, I feel the dice rolling could be closer to classic Risk. That said, it is a pretty fun game if you don’t mind so many changes to the core game. 7/10.
Risk: Call of Duty Zombies (2018)
Okay when we first played this is was up their as one of our favorite Risk games! The different variations of gameplay means differnet tactics, playtime, and difficulty each time you play. And let me tell you, this game is NOT EASY when you are playing against zombies. We had several very long, very fun games of CoD Zombies that made it well worth it! Why isn’t this higher? Well there’s one zombie game that did it just a little better for me. Overall though, this is getting to the point where I’d really recommend these. Want a fun Risk that plays against you while you are trying to play against your friends? Give this one a shot! 7/10.
Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition (2003)
There is one reason and one reason alone this isn’t higher on my list: It’s the second best Lord of the Rings Risk. That said, it’s awesome! The pieces and overall design is great! The option for team gameplay works really well, as do the turn timer (the Fellowship trying to destroy the Ring) and the inclusion of event cards. The long board makes for spread out, but intense warfare, and the new elements like fighting with the Fellowship or the weighted start towards the evil players don’t stray too far from traditional gameplay. 7/10.
Risk: Star Wars Edition (2015)
There are three Star Wars risks, and they are all very good! This one, like a few previous entries, simply gets too far from classic Risk for me to rank it higher. The game takes place during the battle of Endor, and while it is 2-4 players, it should only be 2. The game is smaller in scale, with the only combat being the space battle around the Death Star. The play mechanics are interesting though! Everything you do is centered around cards, and you plan out your moves in advance. This means that is you plan something with the Empire, but the Rebels have a super good turn, your next move on your card may not be as effective as you hopes.
There are also two little side board, one for the assault on the Endor shield generator and one for Luke’s confrontation with Vader, meaning there are three ways to win the game for each team! Did I mention the board looks like a tie-fighter? Anyway yeah, it’s a really fun time! Again, I wish it played just a little more like Risk. On top of that, for three victory conditions, it isn’t as repayable as the other two Star Wars games. Still, I love that it’s just the Battle of Endor! 7/10.
Risk: Mass Effect Galaxy at War Edition (2013)
I didn’t think Mass Effect Risk would rank this high when putting together this list. But thinking back on it, it’s a really solid blend of elements that other Risk games added! Events cards that change per faction like Lord of the Rings, a partially goal-based gameplay like Star Wars Original Trilogy, a confined map split in half like Civil War- it all works! Op top of that, there’s a counter that the teams will want to keep balanced, else one team will begin sowing destruction. Ships that add 8-sided dice from Clone Wars also makes a solid element, although one we almost never used. It’s another solid Risk that made for a nice long game where nobody got upset in the end! 7/10.
Risk: The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim (2019)
Skyrim takes a few notes from Game of Thrones to create an experience that, as best as you can in a Risk game, captures the essence of this particular video game. First, the design is wonderful! And having five different teams (well packaged I might add) keeps it realistic for the story. You get armor and weapons and dragon shouts and heroes, oh and there’s dragons! The map is confined, and unless there’s a dragon in your way, you are almost always at war with your neighbors. And you’d better hope a dragon doesn’t show up…
Really the only thing we didn’t love about this game was the dragon/hero element. The hero exist almost exclusively to fight dragons, and the dragons do little else but nuisance armies and fight heroes. If these two elements blended a big more fluently into the actual gameplay, this would be one of the greatest Risk games ever. Alas, it’s pretty good. And that’s it. 7/10.
Risk: Godstorm (2004)
Ever wonder what it would be like to destroy an entire continent and every army on it, altering the entire game? Play Godstorm. Temples that offer a more focused troop placement and more balanced focus on defense AND offense, territories with the plague that hinder all who enter, and your choice between four Gods across five mythologies, each of which grant a different bonus? Yeah Godstorm’s got it all! Heck your dead soldiers fight in the Underworld. And honestly, if the Underworld mattered more, this would be a downright impressive Risk game. 8/10.
Risk: The Walking Dead – Survival Edition (2013)
Call of Duty Zombies, but with a much tighter map. That’s it. Walking Dead offers truly stressful gameplay, as you get more of a chance to focus on fighting your neighbors, all while trying to defense against the hordes of undead that grow greater every turn… It is admittedly less stressful than CoD Zombies, but that’s not a bad thing, as the game features even more elements to it, like resources and structures that make for one of the more complex Risks out there. 8/10.
Risk: Star Wars Original Trilogy Edition (2006)
I mean they are getting pretty perfect. And while I don’t think that the classic Star Wars Risk is the BEST Risk, it has consistently been the most enjoyable of Risks that I’ve played. The game features a strong team-based setup for 2 OR 4 players, with a variant for 3 or 5 players where one player plays as the Hutts. What makes this game so special? Well for one, each team has a different objective if you don’t play the traditional conquest version. This means a fresh feel for each game, and a timer for those like me who hate seeing these games through to the bitter end.
The esthetic is also worthy of a Star Wars game, even superior to the Clone Wars edition. Plus the tactics cards make playing with the Death Star a ton of fun! Honestly, both games are so similar that I almost picked this one over Clone Wars. However that one is simply just a tiny bit better. And I’ll explain why… But hey, if you are looking for a Risk game that you can own as a stand in for classic Risk, this is one of the best. 8/10.
Risk: Halo Wars Collector’s Edition (2009)
Ever since I bought it, Halo Wars has been a staple Risk game for me. If you want to own more than one Risk game, or another near perfect version as a stand-in, you can’t do better. Why? Halo features the five-team setup from Star Wars, making for team play and standalone play very well. Yeah I know Star Wars did it first, but Halo Wars did something else that many other games have copied: obtainable and competitive objectives that steer gameplay. Toss it on a very balanced map, sprinkle in leaders AND bases, and you have what has been one of the most replayable Risk games for me.
Risk: Star Wars – The Clone Wars Edition (2005)
Downside: only up to four players. Upside: Everything else. Team play is encouraged but not needed, as a two-player game means all four teams can still be in play! Let me tell you, that is SO much better than having a neutral player standing around doing nothing. The map is very well balanced, and the rules and additions like ships work well for an exciting game. The weighted gameplay has also never been better, as the Republic gets just such an unfair advantage early on. More planets, Separatist leaders to capture, and better tactics cards. But there’s a twist…
The longer the game goes without a winner, the further along Darth Sidious’s plan progresses. Until it is time to strike! Now the separatists get to roll for EVERY SINGLE Republic planet, capturing it on a solid dice roll depending on how long the game has continued. However while that sounds like the end of the game, Clone Wars offers the ultimate change for a comeback. Once Order 66 is complete, that player must place the Emperor on a planet. If the Republic captures him, they win. That it’s easy of course, but it has consistently led to the closes Risk matches we’ve ever had. Truly awesome Risk game! 9/10.
Risk: Game of Thrones (2015)
Sometimes you just need a big, huge, MASSIVE Risk board. No? Just me? Well if you are like me, Game of Thrones has got you covered. The game can hold up to seven players, and offers arguable one of the most tense gameplays, as the tight map and harbor connections mean that no kingdom is safe… The ‘seat of power’ element per house (of which there are seven unique houses) offers a fun spin on a capitol game of Risk, while the second map (Essos) cam bring the playtime to a nice and long four hours.
We’ve got leaders, we’ve got currency, we’ve for special units and extra dice and d8s and score counters and tactics card and balanced territory cards and ports and castles and- did I mention that Westeros is huge? Its just my dream Risk. Sure if you want your Risk to be complex but not THIS complex, Halo Wars has got you covered. But if you desire a Risk game that asks you to step up and really craft a wargame strategy on a more advanced level, well this is probably the best Risk game for doing so. 9/10. But there can only be one Lord of the Risks…
Risk: Lord of the Rings (2002)
Copy, paste almost everything from the 2003 edition of this very game. Except for one key difference. The larger map from that game (which included Return of the King) makes for a longer, more campaign-like game. However that’s not always what Risk feels like. In fact many of the best Risk games in my opinion offer a tight, confined map to constantly present the need to battle for its players. Meanwhile the track for the One Ring to move is even shorter. Yes that means a shorter game, which I typically don’t love as much. But what makes this version the best Risk game to me? Well the added elements still feel like Risk, and they are just as good as they are in the trilogy game. Except the confined map! That’s the difference for me.
This map creates the PERFECT back and forth struggle for power that Rick and Morty fails to with its portals. Want to fight across the mountain? Well guess what, you’ve gotta go through Moria. There’s a troll there? Too bad, fight harder! My enjoyment from Risk has always been how much I can actually implement strategy into the gameplay, and this version of Risk forces you to think outside the box more than any other version for me. You can’t just sit in Australia. And as an adaptation, this version of the game offers the best gameplay both as an adaptation, a companion, or a replacement for classic Risk.
So what is your favorite version of Risk? Are there any here that you think are in the wrong place? Or are there some that I missed out on and need to review? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know your thoughts!
-reviews by Ryan Prince