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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #53: Risk

Sometimes, instead of taking three hours to win World War II, you'd rather conquer the world in under sixty minutes. That's where the classic board game Risk comes in. Best played with three or four people in a multi-lateral strategic exercise, it can also be enjoyed in a two-player, zero-sum clash of world powers. Either way, the mechanics are simple even if the interactions can become complicated. Distribute your armies. Defend with discipline, attack with overwhelming force, husband your cards until the right moment, and get lucky with the dice. There are a variety of theories on how best to approach the game, and the correct ones involve starting in Australia if you can. Failing that, South America.

I remember playing a lot of Risk as a kid, initially being sufficiently bewildered by the card aspect that we often simply left it out as a house rule. Later, as we embraced complexity, our map-based armed conflicts moved on to the herculean Axis & Allies, leaving Risk to molder in the basement (I believe our 1980 version is precisely there - in my basement). But Risk would have its revenge. In the mid-1990s, I first became exposed to the sturdy Mac II computers that populated the student senate offices at UNH. I graduated from the Smith-Corona electric typewriter I'd brought to campus with me and began writing term papers and proto-novels on them, my brief flirtation with Apple desktop computing. I consider it youthful collegiate experimentation. However, those machines included a couple of games on them, one of which was MacRisk. The black-and-white graphics were crude, but we played this thing (and a similarly rudimentary edition of SimCity) for hours that we should have spent on homework or student power or meeting girls. What can I say? When Ukraine is under attack, you answer the call.

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