Risk has all the trappings of a phenomenal board game: It’s cheap, engrossing, and equipped with the uncanny ability to ruin lifelong friendships in one fell swoop.
But like the beloved jam band Phish, relatively few of us have time for a good board game these days — and it’s often difficult to gather enough people who actually want to play. Luckily, the Web is the best virtual coffee tables ever for even the most casual Risk players. Almost all the sites you’ll see online abide by the same set of rules as the French classic (or a similar version thereof) and let you play at your own pace so you aren’t stuck waiting while your opponents drag their feet.
Below are a few of our current favorites, from Conquer Club to Major Command.
Updated on 3-8-2016 by Will Nicol: Removed PopCap’s version of “Risk” and added “Risk: Factions.”
Risk: Factions ($10)
Risk was originally released in the ’50s, which makes it ancient when compared with today’s modern game design. The iconic title has undergone several official redesigns in that time, including one designed specifically for video games, Risk: Factions. The first thing one might notice about this game is that, unlike many of the other entries on this list, it looks professional.
Officially licensed by Hasbro and published by Electronic Arts, Factions has production values that make free browser incarnations of Risk look like student projects. The game’s solid frame rate and cute art style — embodied in the game’s five colorful factions — make it one of the more attractive versions available, but the gameplay changes are where it really stands out.
In addition to classic Risk mode, Factions provides an updated version of the game where, in addition to the typical routine of invading countries and rolling dice, players can complete objectives such as capturing an enemy capitol or conquering an entire continent in one turn. Doing so will provide bonuses to the player, which in turn gives the game more strategic diversity. Other gameplay additions include different types of terrain, such as volcanoes, which can greatly impact the flow of the game. Factions doesn’t reinvent the wheel, though, and many of the classic game’s weakness are still present. Grueling campaigns can grind to a halt due to unlucky dice rolls, frustrating even the best strategist. But the changes still make for more dynamic campaigns, ushering Risk into the modern age of game design.
Conquer Club (Free)
Conquer Club was one of the first online strategy games to tackle the world of Risk, and it holds true to its founding principles. The free-to-play game features almost everything you know and love about the Parker Brothers original, just without the official title. The game doesn’t require any additional software — aside from your favorite browser — and touts a robust, active community that frequently hosts online tournaments and hosts one of the most rip-roaring forums on the Web. The interface could definitely use a bit of a facelift, but the wide selection of maps and the sheer number of diehard members have kept the game alive and well long after the site’s launch.
Dominating Twelve (Free)
Like Conquer Club, Dominating Twelve features stunning maps and gameplay that help make it shine among the rest of our picks. The interface and gameplay are sleek,with more than 30 maps to choose from, but games take some time to fill up given the rather small community of users. Once signed up, players can choose from a classic deathmatch scenario or Capitals, a game in which your opponent only needs to capture your capital in order to capture all of your territories and automatically win the game.
The game is free to play, regularly updated, and provides a premium option should you decide you want unlimited active games, private messaging, vacation periods, or a slew of other features not included with a standard account.
Land Grab (Free)
Although it’s not Risk per say, Land Grab is another browser-based strategy game that shares many similarities to Risk without any association whatsoever, legally speaking. After creating a free account, players can participate in up to four game at once as they battle for ultimate world domination on more than 60 user-created maps. The interface and maps are decent — not outstanding, but what can you expect when players create the content? Nevertheless, some of the maps are standouts and show a good deal of promise. Land Grab ranks among the best Risk-like games given the fully-fledged customization options, strong base community, and excellent replay value.
Major Command (Free)
Cartographers rejoice! Major Command, aka “MajCom,” boasts some of the most stunning Riskesque gameplay currently available online. The interface and map design are simply gorgeous, whether you are confined to a single battlefield in Africa or operating on a global scale, and the ability to choose between Casual and Real Time game modes adds a level depth that’s hard to find elsewhere. Like Risk, players are randomly assigned a region and given deployable troops in an effort to conquer the entire map or reach the mission objective.
The game is free to play, routinely updated, and features a lively community that can never seem to get enough of Major Command. Try joining a clan, entering a tournament, or opting for the premium version if you really want to get down and dirty.
War Gear (Free)
With more than 200 public maps, War Gear is one of the most extensive and customizable options when it comes to playing Risk-like alternatives. The site allows players to schedule their games on their own time — whether you want to take turns over a period of several days or mere hours — and features a vast wealth of user-created content. Launched in 2009, the site maintains a strong, loyal following four years later and is still constantly growing and evolving.
The support team, something we sometimes write off when it comes to free game sites, is one of the best around, given its openness to community suggestions and its innovative features. Other noteworthy features include the ability to host private matches and comprehensive hot key support. The only downside is an inconsistency between maps.
Warlight is a Risk alternative that is actually worth it both on and offline. The game features an admirable AI, a decent collection of maps, competitive ladders, and compelling gameplay that works in the same vein as the rest of the picks on our list. Some of the maps are massive (3,000 territories) and players can choose the pace at which the game plays out if they want more fast-paced gameplay than is traditionally offered. The site is also frequently updated, with new features rolling out regularly, and boasts one of the more flexible game engines out there.
While we welcome the greater customization the engine offers, the varying gameplay mechanics and modes can be a bit much for the novice gamer, taking considerable time to get up to speed. The active community is also fairly small and forum posts remain sparse at times.