Thursday, March 29, 2007

Now for something a little Risqué...

As I stated in my previous post, I had a couple of friends stay over at my place for a couple days. I was expected to do some basic things with them: go out to lunch, show them around campus, watch a movie or two, etc.

So imagine my surprise when they ask me if I have a copy of Risk with me.

As it turns out, I did. I only keep one board game in my current room at all times, and that game is Risk. It is, without doubt, my favorite board game of all time. And so when someone comes over to my home and asks me to play...well, my eyes light up a little bit, I can tell you that.

And now, a few tidbits on Risk.


They say that a favorite board game can say a lot about a person....Actually, no one has ever said that (at least, not as far as Google can tell me), but I certainly believe it to be true, at least to an extent. Now, keep in mind that I don't feel that someone who loves Sorry is inherently apologetic. But, considering that Risk is my favorite board game with Monopoly coming in second, I can spot a few common themes:
-Long, drawn-out games.
-Ruling over others (financially or territorially).

It's the second one that I feel is key. You see, when since I was young, I have had megalomaniacal tendencies. Remember how I mentioned that I am a monarchist? Well, in the perfect monarchy, I am king. Perhaps being hooked on Pinky & the Brain didn't help. Neither did the "Hail Andrew!" salute instated in middle school by my peers. And, yeah, being called "God" in high school just exacerbated the situation. The point is, I want to rule over you. Risk provides me with the euphoria of conquest without the blood-stained clothing and war-crimes.


When I play Risk, I play Risk. I like to say that I am one of the best Risk players I know. People often comment on how I will stare at a board for minutes at a time, contemplating whether or not I should weaken my defenses in Ukraine so that I can overtake Ural.

However, my strategy is different than most players. You see, most players play to win. I, on the other hand, play to ensure that another player loses. At the beginning of a game, I will usually pick a player at random (though I do have favored targets) and then make it my mission to clear the map of all their troops. At that point, a new player will be chosen at random, and the process continued.

And yet, for some reason, I often (not always, but often) end up winning anyway. It may be luck, but I like to think that it has to do with my focused game play, intelligent attacks, knowing when not to attack, and knowing how not to be attacked. Put together, these allow me to not only accomplish my initial goal, but to accomplish my secondary, tertiary, and (ultimately) final goals leading to victory.


There are a few basic play styles and strategies in Risk:
1. The Blitzkrieg General: Try to expand and attack as quickly as possible along a single path, usually leaving your backside vulnerable, but giving you a large boost in reinforcements while depriving others of the same.
2. The Brooder: Do not attack for the first couple turns, favoring instead to build up armies in one or a few contiguous territories.
3. The Leonidas (Formerly called the "Whim-and-a-Prayer Player"): Attacking with everything, all the time. Even in the face of overwhelming odds, they will attack, hoping that the dice rolls are in their favor.
4. The Diplomat: The category I fall into. As the name implies, this relies heavily on diplomacy and keeping in close communications with your enemies companions. There are a few subcategories of this:
a) The Bargainer: "All I want is Siam. Give me Siam, and I'll let you have all of South America."
b) The Threatener: "You will stay away from my territories, or I will personally end your reign in Asia."
c) The Peacenik: "If you don't attack me for the next three turns, I won't attack you either."
d) The Deceiver: "Don't worry, if you move you troops away from Alaska, I promise I won't attack (heeheehee)."
e) The Ally: "We can help each other, you and I. Working together, we can destroy our friend over there.

I have elements of all of these subcategories except for The Deceiver. I am quite sure that in all the years I've played, I have never put-and-out stabbed anyone in the back. It's just bad policy that may work once, but as George W. Bush says, "Fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."


I have a primary Risk group that I like to play with during vacations in Southern California; myself and three others. I personally four is the minimum number of players in order to enjoy a game to its fullest. We are all Diplomats, and it shows. At least three times on any one turn, one of us will point to another. They will then bring that player to another room to discuss the game and strategies and politics, as will the two remaining at the board. We tend to speak in very hushed voices, giving it a real feel of a cloak-and-dagger political movie.

When I talk to the others in these correspondences, I tend to speak in absolutes. "I can tell you now, attack him in the Western United States this turn. If you don't, he will come back and destroy you in all of your Canadian territories and weaken your position overall." I probably wouldn't speak with such authority if I didn't turn out to be right about 95% of the time. However, people are always distrustful, and so they won't always take my advice. I can't help but feel vindicated when my soothsaying proves correct.

Often, though, the games in this group end up in little teams forming. Such is the case when two of the players happen to be dating. This gives their bargaining process a little something extra. After all, they can offer each other things I can't - and won't - attempt.


I even have created a principle based on Risk. It's been dubbed "The Madagascar Syndrome." The basis behind this has come from the many games I've played with my normal group. In it, we noticed something very peculiar. When there were multiple troops on the African island of Madagascar, they would all fall, with relatively little difficulty. However, if there was but a single troop on Madagascar, that troop would win an abnormally high number of battles. What's so special about Madagascar? Who knows, but it must be a nice place, for that troop to fight so hard for it. Hence, when any one troop on a territory wins more battles than the odds would predict, it is a case of the Madagascar Syndrome.

Now, I use the term "Madagascar Syndrome" in common usage. It's actually a very relevant term in gaming. I've noticed time and time again in Wii Boxing that I can beat down an opponent to their final health bar with relative ease, but goddammit, I can't finish them off before the bell rings. Have you ever played a fighting game in which you've beaten an opponent down to a tiny fraction of their life with little to no problem, but they come back and kill you before losing any more of that fraction? Congratulations, you're a victim of the Madagascar Syndrome.

Personally, one of the reasons I enjoy the concept of the Madagascar Syndrome (other than the fact that I created it) is that it just sounds good. "Madagascar Syndrome"...ahhh. I've made a promise to myself that I will write a book using it as the title. Here's a mock-up cover, even:

Keep in mind, I have no idea what the story would be, or how it would relate to the Madagascar Syndrome, but it will be good.


In closing, Risk is cool!


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Anonymous said...

Ah, Andrew, we all know that your true goal is to prevent Eddie from winning. Any self respecting monarchist would rather have a socialist dictator like myself come in second place then allowing a capitalist have the potential for overthrowing you. No matter who you are playing with, your goal is to prevent Eddie from winning, and every decision, be it in Berkeley or Bellflower all plays into the master goal of preventing him from winning.

-Comrade Chavez