Risk Review: A little global domination for your Windows Phone

We’re hard at work on our Skulls of the Shogun review, but it’s a long game and also features an extensive multiplayer component. As such, we’ll hold our judgment of that title until next week. In the meantime, let’s look at one of those formerly Nokia exclusive Xbox games that half of us loved to love while the other half loved to grumble about:  Risk.

The Nokia-Electronic Arts partnership has produced games in a variety of genres so far. The mostly highly represented game type is actually board games, with The Game of Life, Connect 4, Trivial Pursuit, and Risk among its numbers. Risk recently gained Windows Phone 8 compatibility, making it a prime target for review. It’s also one of the stronger board game adaptations to appear on Microsoft’s mobile platform.

Conquest of the world

Risk is a strategy game for 2-6 players. The board contains a map of the world with each continent divided into multiple territories. The goal is to eliminate all other players and take ownership of the entire world, presumably forcing its inhabitants to listen to nothing but the winner’s favorite music for the rest of eternity.

At the start of a game, each player receives a certain number of territories. By default, the game randomly assigns territories. The number of units placed on each territory is also random. However, you can choose to manually distribute territories for a slower, more analog experience.

Years ago, I found the real board game a bit tough to learn because of all the dice rolling and my opponents already knowing basic strategies ahead of me. Luckily, the game starts out with a helpful tutorial that makes learning a cinch. Besides, this version is set up in a largely intuitive fashion, with just the right amount of automation to get new players going and keep the overall game moving at a brisk pace.

Game phases

Every turn consists of three phases. Wrap your head around those and you’re ready to take on the world, so to speak.

  • Deployment: At the beginning of each turn, you’re awarded a number of units based on how many continents you have completely under your control. These units can be distributed among your territories at will. Generally, you’ll want to put them in places that you’ll be launching attacks from or expect to receive attacks.
  • Attack: Risk’s battles are one part a game of numbers and the other part luck. You’ll select a territory with which to attack and an adjacent recipient of the attack. Each side gets to roll a certain number of dice depending on how many units it has involved in the clash. The highest roll wins, while the defender wins in the case of a draw. You can choose to manually watch each dice roll or instantly view the battle results – a much appreciated touch compared to being forced to watch each spin in The Game of Life. A player can launch as many attacks as he or she pleases in a turn before moving on to the final phase.
  • Fortification: After your attacks wrap up, you can reposition units from one single territory to another single territory. That’s the only gameplay element I’m not crazy about; I’d rather be able to move units to or from multiple territories. But I guess it has the benefit of preventing players from building impregnable defenses.

All in the cards

Risk also has a collectible card system to keep things interesting. At the end of a turn, players are awarded one card if they have successfully conquered another player’s territory. Once a player collects three of the same card or one of each card type, he or she is then prompted to trade in those cards for additional units. Those units can make a huge difference in attack or defense, so you’ll generally want to cash cards in when you get the chance.

Single player

Board games are meant to be played with friends, so videogame ports often drop the ball with their single-player components. This version of Risk doesn’t introduce a metagame or any fancy new modes to spice up the one-player game. But it does at least offer three difficulty settings and the choice of how many AI players to compete against.

Whereas playing The Game of Life by one’s self is about as exciting as watching paint dry, Risk fares much better. The player has a lot of choice in how to approach the game, both from offensive and defensive standpoints. Do you focus on taking the smaller continents first, or take on the larger continents in order to gain a much higher number of troops on your next turn? And who is the greatest threat to defend against?

Even the battles, while relying on the random factor of dice rolls, can basically be won by numbers, so they don’t feel too arbitrary. On the whole, playing a game or two by yourself now and then is surprisingly fun.


Like every other Nokia exclusive port to date, Risk lacks online play... But so does this iOS version upon which it’s based, so we can’t complain too loudly. This one does at least outdo The Game of Life by offering two different multiplayer options: Pass and Play or Local Wi-Fi.

Risk is one of the few mainstream board games that I can actually see being fun enough to play with others in a local setting on a phone. Plus the automation of territory distribution and dice rolls really speeds up what can otherwise be a very time-consuming game.


This game’s Achievements are quite reasonable on the whole – far more so than the other Xbox strategy board game, Carcassonne. Most of them come down to winning a certain number of games or receiving different numbers of kudos for attacking and defending in various ways.

The hardest Achievement is ‘Allrounder.’ You’ll have to win a game against the AI on all three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, and Hard. As you can imagine, the latter difficulty will present something of a challenge. Still, use some careful thinking, practice, and/or a little cheating and you’re sure to prevail.

Note: On Windows Phone 8, the in-game Achievements menu has a bug in which a black vertical bar flickers on the screen as pictured above. It’s a minor bug and doesn’t hurt anything.

Overall Impression

Risk’s closest Windows Phone competitor is fellow strategic board game adaptation Carcassonne. That game has a bit more going on under its hood and boasts the online multiplayer that Risk lacks. Still, Carcassonne’s actual online implementation is terrible and the Achievements require an insane amount of grinding compared to this one.

Risk also carries the benefit of being easier to learn and generally better known, so it works much better in a local setting. I’m not crazy about pass-and-play multiplayer, thus the addition of local Wi-Fi support is most welcome. Risk stands above most other Windows Phone board games thanks to its relatively deep gameplay and sharp interface. If you like this style of game, consider this one a very low risk purchase.

Risk costs $2.99 and runs on both Windows Phone 7 and 8. You can find its Windows Phone Store page here.

QR: Risk

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • First
  • Thanks for letting me piggy back.
    Wasn't this article published a few days ago and then pulled shortly after? I was wondering what happened to it.
  • Ditto, I even commented on that one...oh noes11!!! m y nternet scor!!11!
  • Its nice to know that you can count to one.
  • Purchased the game right away when it was released. It's awesome. Love the board game as well.
  • Yeah I was very excited by Risk. Other than the annoying, but fixed, WP8 compatibility issue, I have loved the game. Two updates would be nice though. Real multiplayer and a way to signify a string of attacks. Sometimes I get into a situation where I have an army of 40 and attacking country by country can be a little tedious. Would be nice to have a gesture whereby I can just drag my attack path across several countries to help speed the process up.
  • Why exclusive?
  • Nokia and EA have a 20-plus game exclusivity deal. It's Nokia's way of ensuring their customers have plenty of games to play while also encouraging potential customers to choose their phones over competitors'. That said, all Nokia exclusive games will apparently become non-exclusive after 6-7 months time.
  • Do we know all those game titles?
  • We posted a list with most of the titles last year; Dead Space, Madden, FIFA, etc. That said, some exclusives have shown up that weren't on the list, so there could still be more surprises.
  • Hey Paul, thanks for the review, how is your State of the Xbox Part III coming?
  • My pleasure! And thanks for asking about my editorial series. The next installment will go live either today or tomorrow. And part 4 is almost done as well, so expect that one on Tuesday the 12th. :)
  • Hahaha :) awesome, I tweet these articles to Microsoft, Xbox, and windows phone, keep up the good work :D
  • +1 !!!
  • +1
  • Now if someone woudl do a version of Catan with multi-players for Windows Phone...
  • That would rock!
  • Second! But as for Risk I've been playing it since it was released back on the palm pre. I turned stomping the computer into an art form! Would be nice if they built in online multiplayer.
  • This!
  • Love this game. Was so mad\frustrated when I switched to WP8 and it hadn't been updated yet. Between this, Destiny & Doom, and Skulls of the Shogun my L920 battery weeps.
  • Same here.  Bought it on WP7.5 only about a week before getting my Lumia 920.  The crashing on start was the first thing that shattered my assumption that all WP7 apps would work on WP8.  When it finally came back though I played the hell out of it.
  • I havent tried it, but Robotek looks like more fun than this... (It has very similar gameplay but very nice graphics.)
  • Robotek and Risk have about as much in common as Angry Birds and Farm Frenzy 2.
  • Exactly. They're vastly different games.
  • You got me on this one. I assumed similirality by the screenshots.
  • No release today? Kinda figured but starting to lose hope of weekly release coming back. Glad I have a 920 or I couldn't take it.
  • Actually, there is a release! Story coming up in a few.
  • Can't wait Paul thanks
  • Carcassonne would have the benefit of Online Multiplayer over Risk, if it ever worked :|
  • How long until its stripped of achievements and free for Nokia owners?
  • What you should be asking is how long until Nokia gives its owners free strippers? That's a question that needs answering, darn it.
  • My wife would have an issue with that but, I wouldn't...and yes, i would sell my 8X and get a Nokia if it came with that feature !
  • That's what Jessica Alba is for!
  • EA Madden on WP8?
    My cousin had the Sony playstation android phone and the madden was hard enough on that even with the control pad,sounds like a developers nightmare and sales failure from launch
  • I imagine the controls might be difficult, but a game like Madden will sell on name alone.
  • Any expected date or are they waiting until next madden in August?
  • No date and unfortunately Nokia doesn't feel like sharing that info.
  • No online multiplayer = No deal. Then again, EA = No deal, as I refuse to buy from them. Still, nice review, and I do like the game Risk a lot.
  • Now I think I should've gotten the 920 instead of the 8x.
  • Looks pretty decent.  I'll be interested to check it out in 6 months or so.
  • Paul You should try World Domination. Its a risk variant, but build around online play. Plus, its free. Nice review btw :)