In case you were wondering, some of the parts to make my groovy Rough Riders were sculpted by Rob at Curious Constructs.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

In Search of The Ultimate Risk Set

This post has been a long time coming. I have wanted to broaden my blogging topics for a long time but just never got around to it... until now!! In part this was inspired from seeing Odie's new blog Full Color Gamer, which is dedicated to painting board game pieces. I have also really enjoyed seeing other peoples side projects too. Like Headologist's Alternative History Game "1919", Colonel Scipio's Trench Raider Rules, Admiral Drax's Flames of War stuff, Mordian7th’s MERCS as well as everybody else's cool interesting stuff that isn't 40K. So here go's, you might wanna grab a beer before starting this one... lots to tell! 

Risk and Life
Risk. What a game. Since I started playing it as a kid I have seen it both forge and shatter friendships. Some of the most memorable games I have ever played was back when I was in officer training at HMAS Creswell (the Royal Australian Naval Collage). Someone had a Risk set at the time and all of us - young budding ‘military leaders of tomorrow’ treated the games as serious as our formal military training! I swear that the aftermath of those games may have changed people’s careers. It is certainly true that the alliances and backstabbing changed how we treated one another during training....
"Yeah, sure I’ll swap my duty shift with yours, after all mate, you had my back in Egypt!"
"You can’t trust Middle Watch; Smith is leading them this week and don’t forget what he did to you in Europe!"
-Said as if ‘Egypt’ and ‘Europe’ referred to an actual event rather than a simple silly little game!!
After I left the military I played Risk with my new mates. My good mate Jeff enjoyed it so much I got him his own set for his 30th. Later at my wedding his Best Man speech was full of hilarious Risk references. Even to this day, if I start to get annoyed with anything, my mates will say “it’s not Europe” in reference to the time I completely lost my shit during a Risk game.

So yeah, Risk has been influential in my life and probably deserves some special treatment. Thus, I set out to create The Ultimate Risk Set!  

My First Risk Miniatures
It all started one boarding Sunday afternoon back in 2010. I thought I would paint up a few risk pieces to snazzy up our games. I was aiming for minimum detail, just a quick and easy job so that I would eventually get through them all.
Starting with the ‘green’ nation I decided that I’d try and keep to historical coloured uniforms, so they became Russians. I also painted up the 'British' (Red)  and the 'French'(blue) but unfortunately they are not still around.
My Improved Risk Miniatures  
I found myself trying to add detail to the men where there wasn’t any.  So I decided to upgrade the units to 15mm Napoleonic figures! I used ‘AB’ miniatures from Eureka miniatures.

I cut and filed the bases down a little and then glued them to 6mm nuts. I then filled the centre of the nut with a mixture of sand and glue, which gave a rock solid hold between the figure base and the nut and also added extra weight. Originally I glued felt to the bottom of the nut. They looked great on the board but had a tendency to fall over with the felt base.

Base filed down, glued then green stuffed.

My Improved Risk Board  
Some time later I went on a trip to the US and while over there I picked up the RISK Onyx Edition. Nicer cards and a beautiful big wooden board would compliment my new painted figures well.   

 A game with a few new and old pieces.

My Improved Risk Board Mk2
To get around the issue of the models fall down, I decided to upgrade my board with tin plates on each territory. Likewise I glued a magnet under each nut to hold it to the board. The felt was still too thick, so I replaced it with fabric tape.

I never got around to finishing these and gluing them onto the board . They were just too hard to cut. I am planning to go back and finish it at some stage though!

Changes to the Rules

I had the 2003 edition rules and the 2009 edition rules (from the Onyx set). After searching on the net I found the earlier editions and compared how the game had changed over the years. I decided that for my Ultimate Risk set I would pick out the best elements of each edition’s rules and combine them. I also started toying with the idea of my own changes and tweaks to the game.

But then I ran into Castle Risk!

This game was produced back in 1986 and has a few really cool changes from the ‘normal’ game. Firstly, it is played on a board of Europe.

The aim of the game is to capture your opponent's castles (and flags) rather then hold the whole board or defeat every unit. This has the advantage of shortening the game time which is sometimes a problem with Risk.

Rather than collecting territory cards you also collect castle cards which give you access to special one-use abilities. These are awesome! Using a General or Marshal card betters your dice rolls in attack or defence respectively. An Admiral allows you to attack across the ocean (which changes everything!). A Spy allows you to look at a player's card hand and eliminate a card from it or defend against another spy. A Diplomat forces a truce with another player for one turn. And finally, Reinforcements give you additional units, as there is no other way to ‘buy’ them by handing in cards.


I loved all of these card so much that I had to include them in my Ultimate Risk set! Following this decision my game went through many rule rewrites. With my mates, we would go over and over and over the changes, playing games in-between. It was loads of fun but I thought we would never end up with a final set of rules, ever!
Well, we finally did it! My biggest desire was to cutting out anything that was too complicated from our new big rule set. The result is a game that plays mostly like the standard Risk game but with lots of cool extra stuff. It is also a game that is simple when it begins but escalates as it goes on, so first time players are not overwhelmed by all the new rules.
Our Alternative Ultimate Risk Rules
I’ll save a more in-depth look at how it plays for another post but here are the basics:
The aim of the game it to capture other nations flags, which are held at their castle, while defending your own (like Castle Risk). 
There is no need to capture whole continents but doing so will still get you the same bonuses in extra units, so it is a strong strategy like in the original.
There are mission cards (like the later version) but you don’t need to complete them in order to win.
As you complete missions you draw ‘Castle Cards’. These are the character cards from the castle risk game. Instead of being one use cards they are special units that you deploy on the board. They are powerful and useful in their own right but they also unlock other ‘components’ of the game.
Each nation’s castle (and flag) is set up at a specific location -for example British in Great Britten, French in France, Russian in Russia etc.  
Each nation has a deck of Nation Trait Cards, of which you can choose a certain number. The traits relate to the nation in some way and have in game effects like starting with a special character, starting with more men, gaining rerolls that you can use at any time, the ability to draw extra missions or re draw castle cards, or most importantly, starting with colonies (other territories).  
This is a really interesting twist because if people don’t pick their colonies then the board starts relatively empty. So there is the choice to start with more men, better abilities or lots of territories.
This part of the game evolved from the fact that having fixed starting positions meant that some nations have an advantage. With the traits however, every game is completely different but somewhat even.
-In one game the French started with no extra territories but with a General (Napoleon) and a massive massive army. They ripped through Europe until the Russian player played a dirty trick card called The Russian Winter. It was just like history playing out on the board!
At the end of your turn you collect gold for each territory you conquer (like the cards in the original) and you can use it to by extra units (as well as other ‘components’ that you have unlocked).
One last twist is that you don’t need to leave units in a territory to control it. You can simply plant a small flag and move on. This really is an awesome twist. It means that you can put units where they need to be rather than having to spread your army out everywhere. This rule really enhances the game play and level of tactics.
As I said, I will follow this up with a full rule post, but that covers the major stuff!
Now let me show you all...
My Risk Gaming Pieces
These are the castles with their flags.
Here are some of the other nation flags that I am still working on.
The flags are simply aluminium foil on a copper rod.
Here, the British are defending their National Flag.
And here they have captured two other flags.
The plain flags are the 'territory flags' that you use to claim territories.
The small flags are just map pins from a stationary store, on a nut, with DAS modelling clay on the top. I have magnetised these too.
Here are a few of the Trait Cards. They are printed on paper and pasted onto thick card.
NB I didn't mention this above but some traits are worth more then others (denoted by the number of flags in the corner) and some traits are negative - which allows you to choose additional traits.
This is the back of the Trait cards.
I used a stencil and silver spray paint to make them.
Each player receives their Trait Cards in a little diplomatic satchel (for fun).
 These are the mission cards.
There are several types of missions. The higher the rank on the card the harder the mission and the bigger the reward in Castle Cards.
I have made lots and lots of mission cards!
When you complete a mission you get Castle Cards.
These are the original ones from my Castle Risk set.
-Use a big 3-8 dice in defence (equivalent to a D6 +2).
   -Get an extra Manoeuver at the end of each turn. 
-Can retreat if attacked.
Unlocks: Fortified Territories
costs 5 gold each.
Enables you to roll 3 dice in defence.
-Use a big 3-8 dice in attack (equivalent to a D6 +2).
-Get an extra Manoeuver at the start of each turn. 
-Can retreat if attacked.
Unlocks: Officers (the little guy)
costs 1 gold each.
They can also manoeuvre and retreat  
-Use a big 3-8 dice in Sea Battles (equivalent to a D6 +2).
-Allows armies to attack by sea
Unlocks: Naval Fleet (ships)
costs 3 gold each.
Can attack other ships and hold oceans like territories
This is the big ship that you use if attacking across the ocean.
-Force a truce across a boarder
-Force a nation wide truce
Unlocks: Cities
Each city counts as an extra territory (generating more wealth)
-Can kill other characters.
-Can steal gold.
-Can view opponent's mission cards.
-Can stop enemy spies form performing actions.
This enables you to spend gold on extra men, which you can deploy at ANY TIME (even in your opponents turn!) They cost a lot and the cards are hard to get, but Reinforcements are awesome!
This is my gold. It is from Mused Fable 
For every 10 pieces of gold you have, you must place a spoil token on the board.
If someone captures it they get 10 pieces of your gold. It means that you lose your wealth gradually if attacked, rather then to the last person that wipes you out.
The Forts. These are from Lord of the Rings Monopoly (I think).
The Cities. These are from a special edition of Monopoly.
It was also during this period that the next big change happened. With a whole heap of extra stuff on the board and bigger playing pieces the normal Risk board was becoming too small. So in my typical style I upgraded it!!!
Yet another New Risk Board

This ordered this oversized poster online and it came in August 2012. At this point we had been reinventing my Risk game for over two years!
This is the original image
Loads more space!
I started painting on the territory markings but still haven’t finished, and now I am contemplating adding a few extra territories.
 Here I added an extra route into Australasia. We got too sick of the old 'hold up in Australia' tactic. This addition works really well. 
I haven't got any really good photos of a proper game set up but here are a few bad photos from one game where we were using the old plastic pieces.
In this game the Spanish ruled the waves!
Before I made the character pieces we used paper ones to try it out.
The new pieces look way better then the little plastic ones!
I better stop talking about Risk now (this post is ridiculously long already!!!!)
But one last thing....
My pieces were getting very scratched from game wear and storage so I made a display plinth to store them. Here they are:
It is handy having magnetised miniatures.
And some French slowly getting painted.
Loads of ideas for other nations!
I hope you have enjoyed the journey. Its been a blast for me :)
More to come soon!
Comments and questions always welcome. 



  1. Wow. When you mentioned your Risk set the other day, I had no idea it was this advanced.

    This is some really crazy, impressive, beautiful work. The level of customization is overwhelming. The work put into the custom boards and cards is just incredible.

    You should really be proud of this set.

    1. Thanks Odie. At the moment all I see is all the unfinished elements. The only consolation is that it is playable as it stands which means that it does get pulled out and played with a far bit. I would like to get those ships painted though!
      Glad you enjoyed it and good luck with your board games too!

  2. That's pretty mad.

    Well done.

    You're nuts.

    Off to Amazon to buy my dad 'Risk' for Christmas.

    1. Zzzzzz, Im sure you will see that there are so many variations of risk at the store. Just recently Dr Who risk has come out (where you play as Daleks) and there is Starwars Risk, the Walking Dead Risk, Starcraft Risk, Halo risk... It's all a little crazy. If you are interested though, 'Risk: Balance of Power' is a good 2 player version played on a board of Europe.

    2. Oooh. Cheers for the headsup, I'll let you what he gets.

  3. I've never been much of a Risk player but I absolutely, bloody love this, what a labour of love... utterly superb!

    1. Thanks Kieran. It is one of those crazy projects that keeps growing and growing with a life of its own. It was nice to be able to share it with people. I'm making plans to pull it out over Christmas and finish it up... although I don't know if it will ever really be finished!

  4. You've done an amazing job here. I'm blown away with how much you've done with 'simple' risk. I really want to paint up a basic set now for one of my friends or even myself.

    Very well done sir.

    1. Thanks! Painting the basic set is good fun. Just a very simply few splashes of paint makes the game look a millions times better. You should totally give it a go. :)

  5. Oh crumbs that's seriously impressive, Ackland!

    I really really love your casles and flags: beautiful!

    1. Glad you enjoyed seeing it all Drax. One day I will pull it all out again and finish it off... I hope!

  6. I am actually working on a similar project myself and extremely impressed with what you've accomplished! I'm very interested in reading more about the rules you created for it. Is there any way to see more perhaps? Great job on the pieces, those are fantastic!

    1. Thanks! This is well overdue for another update post. In the meantime if you can’t wait feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll send you a copy of the home brewed rule set. You should be able to see my email address on my blogger profile.

  7. I have made my own RISK game as well. Send me an email

  8. I have made a giant risk board with cities, generals, and now I would like to implement sea territories. I have ships coming and plan on using napolean risk rules. How does your currency work and ships? Any advice would be appreciated! Tracea06@gmail. Com

  9. I have made a giant risk board with cities, generals, and now I would like to implement sea territories. I have ships coming and plan on using napolean risk rules. How does your currency work and ships? Any advice would be appreciated! Tracea06@gmail. Com

    1. That's awesome Andrew. I'll dig out the word doc of my rules and send it to you. I haven't played with my set for a while now and I can't remember off the top of my head LOL.

  10. Hi,

    wow I am amazed by your set, great work.
    I am looking for additional rules for awhile now and also created a few myself (from axis and allies) but i'm very fund off the idea with the flags and leaving flags on taken land. would you be so kind and share your rules with me. thank you very very much and keep up the good work.

  11. where did you get the ships?