Thursday, March 26, 2020

Risk is in the approach, and knowing when to stop.

We played RISK on my wife's classic original set
from the 1970's.
I didn't really want to play RISK, but when my son brought it up a few nights ago and said, "It's Family Game Night! Let's Play!"

And then my wife said "Great!" 

I felt a little trapped.   Trapped isn't the right word.  Pinned down?  Unable to escape? Having two few men on a battleground that I didn't want but couldn't avoid?  Yeah, that's about right.

So I capitulated, groaning loudly.  We started the game.

It's not that I don't like RISK. 

When I was a kid I loved it.  My best friend in second (or maybe third grade) Paul Squizzero had the game and on Saturdays, I used to go over to his house and he and I used to play rollicking games with his family on his kitchen table and his mom made us bologna and ketchup sandwiches, which I absolutely loved.

My mom was horrified, as bologna and ketchup were not what my mom wanted me to be eating, but there was nothing she could do about it.  I was nine, and I liked what I liked.  Mrs. Squizzero (Paul's mom) thought I was the politest kid on the planet.

But the thing about RISK that I don't particularly like is the element of luck.  You can have 20 guys in Mongolia and only one in Siam, and by the right rolls, that one guy in Siam could end up winning.   It's not the power of the Siamese training forces.  It's just plain luck. When I was younger I saw some kind of majesty in that, the romanticism of the one fighting for his ideals, but now, when I think of it, it just seems that it is one guy is forestalling the inevitable.  He won't be able to win, he should just give up. 

Is this the difference in outlook between youth and middle age?  

And the rolling, and the changing of armies, and the decision making, the game can be just interminable.  It just tries my patience.  (Boy, I sound like a cranky old man!)

But here we were, playing through it, and I was grinning and bearing it, like a good dad should.  (To be truthful, I was probably grimacing more than grinning.  I was dealt terrible countries, and my son, bless his little Siamese heart,  is an amazing roller.  He might get it from his dad!)

You can get this 60th-anniversary edition of RISK on Amazon.
That first night, it got to be about 9 pm, and we were about a quarter through the game.  I was in third place, far behind, and my wife was way ahead.  She's very good at strategy games, and she's a very lucky roller. (I'd like to think that she gets it from her husband!)

The board was set up on our dining room table, and over the next two days we ate around, over, and through the table, anywhere but where the game was set up.  Each time we played a few rounds, and things were moving.  I made an incursion into North America.  My son gained Australia.  My wife gained South America, and then turn after turn would lose one country only to gain it again.

After three days on and off of this, my son was in the lead, and I thought about giving up multiple times.

Day 3:  The Final Conquest. 

We played a quick round in the morning.  I conquered North America!  I set up strong borders.  I let my wife and son duke it out - she got greedy and tried to swallow Europe whole, but couldn't quite do it, and my son took it right back.   The cards kept on escalating.   We had to stop at my turn so that I could go to a telemedicine doctor's appointment, and my wife could get some work done.

Practicing social distancing in Australia
(photo courtesy of my wife stephanies )
After dinner, we sat down to play, one final time, and agreed we'd finish it off.   I had warmed up to the game. I was in it, to win it.  I fortified my borders.  I took over most of South America from my wife.   I managed to take my son's continents away while keeping two of my own.  My wife didn't have enough firepower to do anything. and flamed out on a spectacular set of rolls against my son. (I told you he was a lucky roller!)

Then it was my son's turn.  He turned in cards and got 62 armies.  He annihilated my wife's armies and grabbed her cards.  He tried to make an incursion into North America through Greenland and failed.  He tried to make an incursion into South America through Brazil and failed.  He decided not to try Alaska, and let me take my turn.  I turned in my cards for a total of 68 armies, and proceeded to romp through Asia, Africa, and Europe, and Australia, taking all of his continents away from him.

Rather than continuing to push my luck, I left strong troops in each of the continents and fortified my borders.  I thought he was going to win over the long haul, but he took a look at the board, realized that he was in for a much longer, sloggier mess than he had realized, and decided to give up!  I emerged Victorious!


There are actually a few morals that I can think of.

Thank you, Princess Bride.
  • Never get into a land war in Asia.   (Check)
  • Spending time with my family is fun!
  • It turns out that forestalling the inevitable will work when your opponent is young and impatient.
  • You should not always listen to your inner voice. 

    I had a fun time playing RISK, even though I groaned when it  was proposed  (I am sure that EMERGING VICTORIOUS had something to do with that.) 
  • Risk is as much about knowing when to stop as it is about taking actual risks.
  • I'm a lucky roller, and I get it from my family.

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