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"Risk"-Style Map

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Galadriel may have trouble fighting off Napoleon's black horde.

In most Real-Time Strategy games, from Dune II on, the single-player component consists of a number of stand-alone scenarios linked together in a campaign. In recent years some games have eschewed this, using a world map much like the board game Risk either to allow a measure of choice in what scenario the player wants to play or as "eye candy" for the in-story movements of their army. The map divides a countryside, country, world, or even galaxy into distinct political and/or cultural component groups, sometimes uniting small regions into a larger one, or dividing a large one into its components. It's often color coded to help denote larger groupings of states/countries or allies and enemies, and conquering all of one is often a game objective.

This is classically called an "area-based map". Contrast this with a grid-type map (e.g. chess), a hex map, or a point-to-point map.

The player's armies are often represented on the map itself, and can be moved only to a contiguous territory (unless the game allows for special "air" units or the like). If the game allows strategic combat as well, a scenario where the individual units can be controlled starts, the nature of which usually is determined by the territory in question. In most cases only a few of the scenarios are pre-scripted, with the majority being skirmishes played against the computer.

Compare Overworld Not to Scale, Point-and-Click Map, Level-Map Display. See also Spreading Disaster Map Graphic.


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    Board Games 
  • Risk, obviously, as the Trope Namer. In addition, quite probably the majority of strategy games, as well as a goodly number of non-strategy ones. The examples are too numerous to list fully: Diplomacy (possibly the Ur-Example), Axis & Allies, Civilization...
    • Hexmaps are probably more common, since nearly all board game wargames use them. Point-to-point is also fairly common. Tabletop war games often avert this, and use measuring tape for unit movement, as in "this unit can move four inches a turn."
      • The difference in practice between a hex-based map and a "free movement" map using a measuring tape are pretty minimal. This is, in fact, one of the reasons hex maps are so common in wargames; they represent "real" movement more accurately than a square grid does (six one-inch hexes is nearly always less than half an inch off from six inches center-to-center distance, no matter what direction you move in), while minimizing the amount of futzing around with rulers that needs to be done.
    • At the same time, though hexmaps dominate wargames, RISK-style maps are more common in more abstract strategy games.
  • Discworld: Ankh-Morpork is played on a map of the titular city which is separated into 12 different areas or suburbs, each having its own building costs and benefits if you manage to get a building on that area.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Every once in a while, Games Workshop, creator of Warhammer and the Lord of the Rings strategy game (and Warhammer 40,000, but that is less relevant here) will release a new idea on how to do map-based campaigns. These systems never agree with one another, which just goes to show how volatile these "meta-games" can be. The latest ones (hex-based) just gives you a 3D map, some basic rules, and tells you that the rules are just an example and you can do it however you feel like.
  • The conflict rules for Spirit of the Century and later Fate-based games invoke this by loosely dividing the scene of any given conflict that needs enough space into a number of distinct "zones" as defined by the GM. For physical combat, the assumption is that everybody in the same zone should be able to engage each other in melee or fisticuffs while hitting things and people in adjacent or more distant zones requires some suitable form of ranged attack.

    Video Games 
  • Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds executed this quite well, using a slider to control the passage of time while things moved, were built, or researched. This led to Oh, Crap! moments when the area you just emptied of your army in order to invade a Martian territory is the victim of a strike just before/after your own occurs. No building occurred on the tactical map. If your shiny new battleship, or artillery cannon wasn't finished before the battle began- Tough. In the latter case of buildings, they appeared as half-built structures which could be targetted for destruction by the invading force.
  • Dune II itself had a map of this kind, but it was almost purely cosmetic; the same scenarios occurred in the same order regardless of which territories the player chose. Only the layout of buildable rock changed depending on the player's choice.
    • It does make a difference which territory you pick in the penultimate mission. You get to choose between two, each controlled by one of the other Houses. The major enemy base you fight depends on which House controls the territory (though the other House will also have a base, it will be much smaller).
    • One of the game's sequels, Emperor: Battle for Dune, did this more conventionally.
  • Rise of Nations series:
    • The first game is an early example that uses this trope. The global grand campaign where every civilization in the game face off against one another only had a limited set of possible scenarios for each contested territory, usually determined by what direction the attack is coming from and how built up the target territory is.
    • The Thrones and Patriots expansion added new civilizations to the grand campaign map but it still had much the same set of limited scenarios for each attack. However, the new campaigns that focus on a specific historical era (the conquests of Alexander the Great, the colonization of the New World, The Napoleonic Wars, and the Cold War) have many scripted scenarios for most if not all the territories on the map; for example, attacking Cuba as the US in the Cold War campaign starts a scripted scenario representing the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
    • Rise of Legends, a steampunk-fantasy themed sequel to the above, features both scripted and unscripted missions.
  • The second Expansion Pack for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, Dark Crusade, featured this kind of campaign mode instead of the traditional linear campaigns in Dawn Of War and Winter Assault . The final expansion (Soulstorm) also had a campaign structured like this (though it was handled in a more unwieldly manner).
    • The turn-based predecessor to Dawn of War - Final Liberation - also possessed a Risk-style map for the Imperium to reclaim from the Orks.
  • The Total War games feature a variation of this: the campaign map served only to generate troops and battles to use them in. Actual battles occur when two opposing forces meet on the map, and there is no base-building involved.
    • The first two games had Risk style maps where units move from province to province and initiate attacks, or reinforce pre-existing troops. Every game from Rome and upwards gave all units a certain number of movement points so they could wander across the map freely rather than hop between adjoining territories. Provinces still exist however in terms of how the economy mechanics work as every large city draws its resources from the surrounding land essentially being the capital of a province.
    • As of Empire: Total War, regional capitals (i.e. provincial/state capitals, such as Albany for New York or Boston for the "Confederation of New England" in the Road to Independence campaign) are the "control point," so holding it grants you control of the region (in terms of boundaries) but also every building and 'town' (home to a single building) in it at its existing level of development.
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn (and C&C: RedAlert) the Commander can choose the missions in two separate continents depending on your side, Africa for NOD, Europe for GDI, the whole Europe in Red Alert. The map is simply an artificial facade of a Campaign Tree, but you can see other areas on the map being contested or conquered by the warring factions.
    • Tiberian Sun and Tiberian Wars used it in an interesting way, because there are a number of optional missions you have access to, which usually make the "main" missions much easier if you complete them all.
    • Kane's Wrath, the expansion to Tiberium Wars, made efforts to avert this by having a global map where every army could be moved freely around the map with no defined territories. Each base the players found develops its own (circular) zone; the borders of which prevented allied units from founding another base close to it and instantly caused a battle to occur is an enemy entered it. Further, the amount of open, uncontested area covered by the base determined how much money its owner gets every turn.
    • Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2 had a multiplayer function in which players could choose which territories to fight over, and those territories would periodically change hands based on which faction won the most matches in that territory.
  • The Weapon Master mode in SoulCalibur 2. Yes, in a Fighting Game. Any battles generated on the map were played out as a match or series of matches. Advantages and disadvantages were granted by equipment and leveling up. Similar modes appear in later games of the series. The arcade version of SCII even had a stripped-down version called Conquest, in which the saved characters of other players of the same arcade machine would be encountered as NPCs. This mode was inspired by the excellent Edge Master mode in Soul Edge/Blade for the PS1, which also has a Risk-like map.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic III featured a campaign map, which didn't even start to correspond with the actual scenarios played. In fact, it was merely a decoration, usable even in custom campaigns.
  • Sengoku Basara (a.k.a. Devil Kings) features a Risk style map, where you can only attack neighboring countries. No matter which territory you chose, you take the fight to their capital. Victory means you take their entire land.
  • Quite possibly one of the first examples of this were the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Koei) games, in which you can capture enemy territory in several ways, although the most common one is the simplest: March your army in.
    • The Empires expansion packs in the Dynasty Warriors games played out like this, and a conflict between two occupied territories led to traditional DW gameplay where you hacked and slashed your way through everything that didn't look like you.
    • Nobunaga's Ambition is another Koei game that uses this.
  • Some ladder ranking systems for online games function sort of like this, with players signed up for different sides, and battles occurring wherever they overlapped. Total Annihilation used a system called “Boneyard”, and World War II Online even has the entire European theatre being contested in months long recreations of the entire war!
  • The map Hydro in Team Fortress 2 was intended to be this. To Valve's disappointment, it was deemed Scrappy Level almost immediately.
  • Warpath and Canalzone 2 in Team Fortress Classic had two teams try to take all five control points across a symmetrical map. Warpath only required you to touch the control point to capture it, while Canalzone 2 required someone to carry a flag that cuts their speed by half to cap. If a detpack set by the enemy team explodes in your base, all of your control points reset.
  • EndWar uses this, as well, for both its World War III single-player game and the Theatre of War online version - all of the points on the map represent different maps and scenarios for play, with some territories being Capitals (controlling all three grants immediate victory, and each requires 3 victories, first in Assault, then in Conquest, then in Siege, to take), some territories being Bases (that grant Air Support and Force Recon to engagements within range, and can be Raided to remove these benefits for two turns), and the rest being standard Conquest maps.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom showed a Risk-style map in which an area flashed before each scenario to show where it was taking place. You didn't have a choice in where to go, but each area of the map did indeed have its own stage layout, which stayed the same whenever you returned to that area.
  • Empire at War uses the core concept of a "Risk"-Style Map, but the visual is a set of planets, rather than an actual "Risk"-Style Map. One of the single-player modes for Star Wars: Battlefront 2 works similarly.
  • Castles II: Siege and Conquest, a kingdom-building strategy strategy game, with an RTS-like combat mode, employed a Risk-style map of "Bretagne". It is a rough contemporary of Dune 2.
  • The Battle for Middle-earth has a Risk-style map of Middle Earth in the first game's single-player campaign, and something even more Risk-like in the sequels "War of the Ring" mode.
  • Elfmania, a 1994 beat-em-up, has an (incredibly tenuously related) example: the two-player map is divided into squares. The players choose where they fight, and the square is marked with the winner's symbol. The first one to get six in a row wins the game.
  • Universe at War: Earth Assault features both kinds of campaigns. In the linear story mode, the risk-style world map only fills the role of a briefing room until the last leg, but there is an option to play this kind of free-form game on it.
  • Myth: The Fallen Lords and its sequel both had a map showing the movement of both your forces and the forces of the undead, which was the background of every mission's briefing.
  • Seven Kingdoms has a randomly generated variant. The missions are also randomly generated, but oddly redone every time you restart a mission, so the map only represents general progress (and some events are simply beyond your control). Especially as you can't fail in the sense of losing territory, you'll just restart the mission.
  • Stronghold features a map identical to that of England and Wales (or Germany in its current borders) though the name of the country is never stated. The map is divided into counties, each a different color depending on who controls it. The player cannot choose where to go next however, it is only used to show the player's progress.
  • Syndicate goes big time with this. Each and every region on Earth is shown with the colour of the company controlling it.
  • Strategy games by Paradox Interactive are this trope - most notably Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, Crusader Kings and Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun. Most of the games made by Paradox in-house use the Clausewitz Engine, which essentially appears to be a Risk style map (though it is sort of on steroids, what with the hundreds of provinces). The games themselves are merely different mechanics built around the map. While all games that have been produced so far have used maps based on real areas of the world, several mods have proved that it can be used for fantasy worlds (including Game of Thrones and The Elder Scrolls) as well. Previous Engines also pretty much did this as well, and several other games they publish use different engines which feature risk style maps.
  • Dungeon Keeper 2 uses a 3d Risk-style map for its campaign mode, and some maps can be entered at different points on the overworld map.
  • Pandemic has a map of world countries with Risk-style geographical simplifications (e.g. Peru, Brazil and Argentina are the only countries in South America).
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has a color-coded overlay for the turf wars in Los Santos, denoting blocks and sometimes even streets as belonging to a certain gang.
  • The Saints Row series color-codes the different 'hoods on the in-game maps of Stilwater and Steelport according which gangs controls them. Typically, the map starts out as a patchwork of three-to-four colors and gradually gets filled out with purple (the color of the player's gang) as the story progresses.
  • Caesar II featured a map of territories you could choose to rule. Generally, only territories adjacent to one you already conquered are available. There are major differences such as the resources available and the friendliness or otherwise of local population.
  • Empire Earth III has this as well on its Campaign mode.
  • Imperialism, where the world (or at least Europe and North Africa) is divided into provinces, similar to Diplomacy.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire has this, as multiple battles can take place at once.
  • Warlords Battlecry 2 did away with a story but allowed the player through this trope to choose which region to attack.
  • Shattered Union does this to the US in a Divided States of America scenario, with the game's seven playable factions starting out holding four of the maps' twenty-four territories (the N.E.A. only gets three as the E.U. takes the Chesapeake area to begin with). Factions then may attack a neighboring territory once per turn to try to win it - the main campaign is won once your faction controls all twenty-four and you move on to the final showdown against the Russians who invaded Alaska.
  • In Episode 2 of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Strong Bad's overworld map from the previous installment is eaten by the King of Town, so he uses the game board of a Risk-like game called "Maps and Minions" as a substitute. Appropriately, the episode centers around federating the breakaway "countries" of the other characters into Strong Badia. Toward the end of the game, there's a deluxe version of Maps and Minions in the King of Town's castle, which has to be played to complete the episode. The objective of the board game is to get one particular character from one end of the map to the other, using the other characters to clear a path through the defenders.
  • Atom Zombie Smasher has a randomly generated version of this kind of map which is used to calculate how close you are to winning (or losing) each turn and to simulate a zombie outbreak
  • Lux is classic Risk, In Space! And in New York City. And in California. And in Cold War Germany, in Tasmania, in China during the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in the Roman Empire, on a dart board... over 800 different maps of varying difficulty and quality, mostly user-defined. (You can even play on the original Risk map, not to mention various derivatives thereof... including one where the land and water have switched places.) A couple of spin-off games focus on conflicts from ancient history and the history of the USA.
  • Conquer Club is the same, only Web-based (nothing to download, play from anywhere you can get at the Web).
  • Warzone (formerly known as Warlight):
    • As a Risk-inspired web game, naturally it makes use of the Risk-style map. In total the game has over 2500+ maps to choose from. Tellingly, the original Risk map is here named "Small Earth".
    • This carries over to its Idle Game spinoff, Warzone Idle, which is based around conquering territories using automatically generating armies and money.
    • The "Clan Wars" mode also involves a Risk-style map, in which clans have to earn territories through winning quickmatches. Unlike in the main modes, the map display is purely eye candy since the territory locations are irrelevant and there is no way to earn another clan's territory.
  • Go Cross Campus used such maps like its ancestor. It also added in ways to teleport units from one territory to another.
  • The mission briefing for Heavy Weapon is like this.
  • Knights of Honor worldview is a Risk styled map that includes Europe, Northern Africa, the Near-East and parts of Russia. The world is divided in provinces, which are color-coded depending on which nation they are part of. Since there are three different starting points in history, there are three different maps to start on.
  • North And South simply uses a map of the eastern United States, with players taking turns moving armies across the boundaries. Since the actual shapes of the states don't matter with this kind of map, some of them are very oddly drawn. To list just a few examples: West Virginia (which in Real Life wasn't granted independent statehood until 1863), New Jersey, and Maryland are all lumped together in one great blob; Missouri and Arkansas "lean", intruding upon the states to their west; Wisconsin is all but unrecognizable with the bulge at the top being given to of Michigan and its western edge rendered a diagonal line; Pennsylvania is a generic parallelogram, missing the extension on top and the eastern "nose"; Lakes Ontario and Erie are connected by a strait (and are drawn as one body of water in the NES version); Iowa's southeastern "arm" is missing; and Texas's southern border is completely wrong (it does bear some resemblance to Bell's proposal during the Compromise of 1850, but in 1861 it already had its modern-day boundaries).
  • Battle Realms uses this often to allow a choice of which missions to do first. Though the player has to complete every mission in a given path, picking one mission will grant access to additional units or heroes that would otherwise be missing in the second picked mission

    Web Original 
  • Linkara actually uses a Risk board to outline his takeover plan of Kickassia (after a quick tutorial by Board James) The actual plan is a Zerg Rush, so he apparently took the tactical depth from invasions in that game too.
  • It's very common on the Random (/b/) board of 4chan for posters to start games of Risk using homemade Risk boards with many more territories (to the point the rules of conquering are heavily modified) than the original board, or boards based in fictional franchises (such George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.)