The World Cup started today, and you’ve likely read (or had the opportunity to read) countless breakdowns of the teams from all kinds of angles and perspectives. You may know the top players from each team, which Groups will be the most difficult to escape, the different cities the games are being held and even some of the off the field controversies surrounding soccer’s biggest stage.
But today, I bring you the World Cup preview as you haven’t seen it before. For today, I want to break down each team not based on talent or coaching skill or home field/continent advantage. Anyone can do that kind of pedestrian analysis. No, today I want to break down the countries in the World Cup based on how easy or difficult it is to defend that country in the board game RISK.
Now as you may be aware, RISK takes some liberties in grouping countries into different territories and, in three cases, splits up larger countries into different parts. For our purposes, when looking at defending Russia, Australia and the United States, I looked at having to defend all the parts of the country. Also, several countries are grouped into territories. For example, Costa Rica and Honduras are in Central America, both according to geography and in RISK, so they are grouped together.
After compiling a list of the teams and territories, I looked at the number of borders in which they could be attacked from. While this number is useful in helping determine how difficult it is to defend in RISK, we also have to take into account the strategic values of the country. A territory that has five borders in the middle of Asia may have less value than a territory in Europe that has five borders. Obviously this is all subjective and your rankings may vary (they’d be wrong if they differ from mine, but they would vary.) I’ve also factored in the likelihood of a territory being attacked into the rankings. A territory with lots of borders but little strategic value may be easier to attack, but is less likely to conquered a territory with a few borders but higher strategic value.
So here we go. Note: RISK Territories are in parentheses
32. Russia (Ukraine, Afghanistan, Irkustsk, Kamchatka, Siberia, Ural and Yakutsk) – Russia is comprised of seven different territories and frankly I lost count trying to figure out how many places they can be attacked from. They border territories in North America, Asia, Europe and Africa. It’s a massive country that spans nine time zones ( a fact I learned and remembered from the Olympics.) If you’re controlling all of Russia in a game of RISK, you’re either doing very well to be able to control that much territory or you’ve spread yourself thin and will probably be out of the game shortly.
31-27. Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivorie, Ghana, Nigeria (North Africa) – North Africa has seven different territories that border it. From Brazil to the west to Europe to the north, North Africa has a difficult time staying in one players control for long, especially if someone is able to maintain control over South America.
26. United States (Eastern United States, Western United States, Alaska) – Were it not for Alaska, the United States would be much lower on the list. Alaska borders with Asia and anytime someone tries to control North America and get the five bonus armies each round that comes with control, Alaska is vulnerable to being attacked to prevent that from happening. With six territories able to attack the U.S., the country scores low on this list.
25. Iran (Middle East) – You mean the place where Europe, Asia and Africa all meet is a difficult place to control? Shocking, I know. I ranked this below the United States due primarily to the low odds of someone needing this to own an entire continent. Asia is a vast place and as I mentioned earlier, controlling it is difficult. I did consider moving it below the United States because it often becomes what my friends and I call a “card territory” where we basically take turns attacking it and then losing it so we can accumulate RISK cards to trade in for armies in the future.
24-20 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Switzerland (Southern Europe) – With its proximity to Africa and the bounty of armies that come with controlling Europe, Southern Europe is prime real estate and difficult to defend. No one wants to allow someone to control Europe if they can help it and someone seeking Africa may attack into Southern Europe solely to prevent someone from ruling the area.
19. Brazil (Brazil) – Brazil has fewer points of attack than Northern Europe, but it’s strategic value places it lower on the list. Three of the four borders it has are with territories in South America, making it a prime target early in the game to try to get and hold the continent. It’s also vulnerable to attack from North Africa.
18-16. France, Portugal, Spain (Western Europe) – Like Brazil, Western Europe shares borders primarily with continental neighbors and North Africa. It’s ranked as easier to hold on to than Brazil simply because controlling Europe is more difficult than controlling South America.
15-13. Belgium, Germany, Netherlands (Northern Europe) – Despite having five borders, it’s ranked easier to hold than Brazil and Western Europe because it’s surrounded by continental neighbors in a difficult continent to control. Because of that, its strategic importance is lower than the two territories previously ranked.
12. England (Great Britain) – Were it not for Iceland (not in this year’s World Cup), Great Britain would be much more valuable on the board. However, as with Northern Europe, it’s surrounded by continental friends meaning it would either not be strongly fought over during early parts of the game or behind a strong defense later on by someone seeking to retain control of the continent.
11. South Korea (Mongolia) – Why South Korea is a part of Mongolia, I’m not sure, and even though it has more borders and thus more potential attackers than Great Britain, it’s ranked as easier to defend due to the difficulty controlling Asia. With no outside threats, only Asian territories, it’s safely tucked away. It’s biggest threat would be from someone coming from the south after controlling the Australia and Oceania continent.
10. Colombia (Venezuela) – Venezuela has three territories able to attack it, but one of those is from a neighboring continent, making it the first step out from North America should someone decide to go that route. Bordered to the south by Brazil and Peru, Venezuela is also tough to defend early in the game by those competing from control of the region.
9-8. Costa Rica and Honduras (Central America) - Another territory bordering a continent, Central America is ripe for attack from someone who gains control of South America early. Likewise, it’s one of the three access points to North America and therefore a likely target if someone is able to gain control of the continent in order to break up that power base.
7. Ecuador (Peru) – Like Great Britain and Mongolia, previously, Ecuador is surrounded by friendly continental neighbors. I considered ranking this one more difficult to defend, but once someone controls it and the rest of the continent, it’s really only going to change hands if the entire continent changes hands. If someone does control South America, it’s likely they’ll have strong defense in both Brazil and Venezuela, making it more difficult to conquer.
6. Mexico (Mexico) – Another country that’s behind a fortification if already owned, Mexico isn’t really worth going after unless you’ve secured a good portion of the North American continent or have plans to do so imminently. There are only three points of attack in to Mexico, but with a continent as vast as North America, owning it is fruitless unless you own the rest.
5-3. Argentina (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay) – There are only two ways to attack this territory, both of which are continental neighbors. It’s at the southernmost end of South America with no real strategic value to owning it once control of the continent is settled. If you want Argentina, you’re likely making a play for South America and if you’re successful, you’ll keep it for a while. If you’re not, the previous owner will likely reclaim it.
2. Australia (Western Australia, Eastern Australia) – Another nation that has two parts to it, only unlike Russia and the United States, Australia is difficult to get to and even when you do conquer it, you’ll need a turn to regroup to get back out of there. It’s similar to Argentina in that it only has two ways to attack it (for our purposes, we’re assuming Eastern and Western Australia don’t attack each other since they’re playing together in the World Cup.). However, it gets the #2 spot because there’s only one way to get to those attacking countries. Siam provides a fantastic buffer /bottleneck. To get to Australia, you have to get through Siam. That kind of defense is what makes Australia my favorite place to own at the beginning of the game.
1. Japan (Japan) – When I first started this, I thought Australia would take the top spot as easiest to defend. As I mentioned, you have to go through Siam to get there. But Australia’s strategic value makes it a popular place early in the game where the territories may change hands several times before things get settled. Japan, on the other hand, is an island unto itself. It only has two territories that can attack it, but there’s very little reason to. There’s no real strategic value to owning Japan. It doesn’t border another continent so it doesn’t get attacked that often and it has limited places it can attack and those it can attack are both part of Asia, which we’ve established is the most difficult continent to own.
Now I kind of want to play RISK.