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Paranoia Risk - The Best Risk Variant Ever!

Updated on July 25, 2012

Risk is one of my favorite board games. While there are many new games on the market and some of them do reach and maybe even surpass the elegance and subdued complexity of the original Risk design, I find that somehow my gaming group and family always comes back to the good old "game of global domination."

For sheer dice-rolling face-smashing fun, Risk is still a hard game to beat.

However, I found that there is a flaw in the Risk original ruleset, at least for me and my gaming buddies - the dreaded endgame. Let's be honest about it, Risk endgame sucks more often than not. If you're playing for goals then it usually ends with someone suddenly declaring "I win!" leaving everybody else feeling sheepish and slightly frustrated... the element of luck might be too strong. On the other hand, if you're playing for domination you are usually in for an agonizing slugfest with players gradually dropping off until there are just two crazed superpowers rolling masses of dice while the rest of the party watches on disinterestedly. Additionally it can be really hard to estimate how long a given game is going to last, which obviously presents a whole new set of problems when trying to organize a cozy gaming house party.

Luckily, there is a solution. The magnificent Paranoia Risk! (Which is also known as the "assassin" Risk, just so you know where all of this is heading)

After first encountering this simple variant rule I was struck by its' amazing simplicity and the way it revitalizes the game by making it almost poker-like in psychological intensity it generates among players. Without further ado, here are the rules for Paranoia Risk.

Paranoia Risk - The Rules

1) Remove all goal cards except those directing you to destroy all armies of a certain color. Keep only the colors of armies present in the game.

2) Each player randomly takes one card as his goal. If a player gets the card with his/hers own color it is considered a misdraw. (Of course you have to show everybody that you've been dealt your own color). This is repeated until everybody gets a card of some other player's color.

3) The game proceeds as usual from this point. However...

4) The moment a player's last army is defeated, the player who has the card with the destroyed player's color automatically wins! It is very important to note that it doesn't matter who dealt the death blow. Even if red player killed off the blue one, the yellow player holding the blue card is still the winner.

And that's pretty much it, believe it or not.

What will it do to your game?

I've found that this very simple variant changes the game dramatically, giving it a much higher degree of intensity and suspense. Who is after you? Is this guy who is helping me doing so just so he can quickly stab me in the back when the time is right? I have to protect everybody because if anyone except my target looses, I loose too. But this means that I'm probably protecting someone who has ME on his goal card!

An additional benefit to this variant is that playing time is now much more stable and predictable. A four or five player game now takes an hour and a half, two at most. One of the major turnoffs for my gamers when presented with Risk is that the game can drag on almost indefinitely unless someone takes a strong initiative... which is not that cool if you only have a couple of hours left of the evening.

As you can see, it's fun for all the family but do take care to apologize to everyone involved after the game... it's been known to turn friends and family members against each other quite regularly.

Update: A Risk Variants Site in the works!

Bolstered by the popularity of this humble hub of mine, I decided to create a whole new site with the express and sole purpose of preserving all of the wondrous Risk variants and house rules and making them available to my fellowboard gamers! is still very much a work in progress, but I believe I managed to give it enough content and functionality to be useful to Risk and board game afficionados in general. At the moment you can make comments on the few dozen variants posted there as well as vote on which one is your favorite. Later on I plan to set up a forum where various aspects of the game can be discussed and where you can post your own variants that might be featured, if you so wish, on the main page. Any help and/or feedback is greatly appreciated (this is the first site I'm authoring) and please feel free to contact me at Cheers!


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