I read that you and your brothers played a modified version of Risk. My question is, how did you revise the rules?


My brothers and I found that we weren't interested in the way collecting cards allowed you to get a sudden, out-of-the-blue reinforcement, often tipping the balance in battle. The dice provided enough randomness for us.

We also didn't love the way you could conquer vast territories by sweeping through almost undefended territories one after another, moving faster than any real army could possibly do, while your opponents can't rush troops to defend against your onslaught. It made the game too unrealistic, and it also allowed one player to become world-conquest dominant too early and too easily.

So we first made the rule that if you hold one territory in a continent, and no one else holds any, you can collect the armies from that continent. But someone can deprive you of that continent if they put a single army into a single territory.

With most of the territories unoccupied, you could no longer roll up territory after territory. You could move an army into an empty territory, but then you'd have to wait till your next turn to move those armies into an adjacent empty territory.

However, instead of being able to make ONE move without battle at the end of your turn, you could move any army, without a battle, once per turn. This allowed the progress of massed armies at a reasonable pace, while allowing opponents to buttress their forces for the onslaught.

We quickly learned that the two-point continents were the easiest to hold; that Europe, Africa, and North America could be set up as your base of operations and the foundation of your military buildup. Asia is almost impossible to hold.

Now alliances have the practical value of preventing mischief by having a player deprive you of a continent by dropping one army into it. And if you prove to be untrustworthy, breaking an alliance without warning, others will be reluctant to ally with you.

With these rule changes, we found that Risk was much more fun. And games didn't take that much longer. It became more about maneuver (like real military actions) than dice rolls and vast seesaws of dominance.

In addition, we moved off of the Risk game board and onto larger maps. We'd by a paper map and mark territories with felt-tip dots and connecting lines for maps with lots of islands, and felt-tip borders for land-centered games. Eventually I would invent a fantasy world, create its map on a large piece of muslin which we spread out on the floor, and then play the game to take over this invented world. It came to be that for a while, we rarely played on the same board more than twice; and each new board offered new challenges, tactics, and strategies, most of which you had to deal with on the fly. It kept the game from being repetitive.

The only thing it didn't solve was the tendency for two dominant players to swallow up the other players' territory until you had two players in a stalemate. Usually we ended the game at that point, declaring it to be a cold war, instead of brutally slugging it out to find a single winner. So eventually, nobody would play with us. Who could blame them?