Friday, October 13, 2006


My boys received a major introduction into nerd-dom today by playing their first game of Risk.

Ah, yes, the perennial favorite of high school- and college-aged guys with nothing better to do on a Friday night, Risk is a gateway game. Sure, at first you're just playing on Friday nights for a couple of hours. But then you're using the extra rules that came in the game. Then you're using some "more real" rules that someone else made up. Then you're making up your own rules to add realism. Then you're playing Axis & Allies. Then you're a mess, playing anything Avalon Hill puts out (even Korean War games; snap out if it, man).

That's right. You know who you are. Don't you look down your nose at us D&D'ers just because your games are "based in fact". We all know a Panzer III Ausf J/1 couldn't really pull of the move you tried last Saturday night, and I have the Jane's stats to prove it!


Anyway, my wife was out of the house on a babysitting gig for the co-op (simplified: we sit for them, they sit for us; no money changes hands). I had promised the boys that if they cleaned their rooms before dinner then we would play a board game. They did, and so I had to pony up.

When I made the promise, I was thinking along the lines of Sorry!. But it turns out that Timothy left Sorry! at school. And so, upon surveying the game shelf, I discovered that our entire stash consisted of Risk, Clue (Simpson's version, oh yes), Monopoly, and half a chess set.

Chess was obviously out, Monopoly would take far too long (counting out the money takes half an hour, choosing pieces - actually, fighting over pieces - takes another 15 mintues), Clue would be way too complex for Jonah and Sam. That left Risk, but I had to kiddify the rules some.

Here's what I came up with:
  • 4 teams: Timothy, Stephen, Jonah, Sam & Daddy (that's me)
  • Each player/team got the same number of cards
  • All pieces were 1 army (cannons were popular)
  • To start, each player placed 1 army in each of the countries on their cards (wild cards traded with Daddy)
  • At the beginning of each turn, each team got 1 new army no matter what. If he had a continent under his dominion, he got an extra piece for each continent. If he wanted to move pieces from one country to another, he could do so.
  • On his turn, each player could attack one country. We followed the regular Risk dice rolling convention, which took some explanation, but less than I thought (see below).
  • If the attacker cleared the defender out of the country, then the attacker could put a new army from his box into his new country and his turn was over. He could also move armies at the end of his turn.
  • The attacker was allowed to fight to the last army. If he lost, the defender could put a new army out of his box into the attacker's newly emptied country (my only nod to realism, I promise).
Originally, we were going to play until someone took over the world. But as the clock passed 8:30, the crying got to be a little too much and we stopped it. The winner was the person with the most countries. Timothy had 17, Stephen had 14, I had 10 or so. Maybe less.

How did it go? Great, actually. In spite of several injuries (all Stephen) and lots of crying (everyone except me), the loudest crying was when they had to stop. Jonah announced at 8:15 that he was done. So we divvied up his countries, moved his pieces off the board, and started to go upstairs. About halfway up the steps he started crying and saying he wanted to go back and play. Sam, who had been crying for the previous 25 minutes straight (missing Elmo, spilling the armies, having to go potty, not getting to roll the dice while he was in the potty, etc.), began crying again.

After prayers (Sam: "Dear God, help me feel better. Help everybody else feel better. Help all the brothers to feel better. Amen.") and hugs & kisses (Sam: "I didn't want a kiss! Suck it off!") both Sam and Jonah settled into their usual nighttime routine of not going to sleep, the game forgotten.

Timothy and Stephen had a really good time and both asked to play again and thanked God in their prayers for the new game.

The rules worked out well. It seemed to plod along at first, but after continents came into play the older two boys began to get a better idea of strategy. Jonah was the first one with a continent (South America). Stephen quickly took Australia and I took Africa. But all three of us lost our continents at one point or another. But Timothy took Asia and held it. He was about 15 minutes away from owning the board when we called time.

Even more important than strategy (to me) was sportsmanship. Everyone cried at some point or another, usually out of disappointment in losing a country. Timothy (sweet, tender, kind-hearted Timothy) was the only one to make an obvious decision not to attack a recently saddened brother. Stephen had just lost a bid to take back Australia, and Timothy had enough armies there to wipe his younger brother off the map. But Stephen was still sniffling, so Timothy looked at me, looked at the board, saw my lone army in Kamchatka, and moved 5 armies out of Austrialia and into neighboring China (or something-istan) to clean my clock. He left Australia alone for the rest of the game, and instead took Africa away from me. Good boy.

Die-rolling was difficult for them to comprehend initially. In Risk, the attacker rolls one die for each army, up to 3 dice total per turn, and the defender rolls one die for each of his armies in the battle, up to 2 dice. In the real rules (and in our family rules), the top die roll for each player is compared and a winner declared. Then the second rolls are compared, etc. So it's possible for both players to lose an army in a battle.

My guys didn't get this at first. They kept wanting to add up all the dice and pick a winner overall for each battle. After several explanations, Timothy got it. Stephen got it quickly thereafter. Jonah was content to be told who won and who lost (unless he lost, at which point he pouted mightily). Sam just wanted to roll the dice.

Overall, a fun time. We'll try it again next week, I hope. But we're also planning on getting some more games this Christmas. Battleship, Stratego, and a replacement Sorry are all on the list. But we'll keep Risk in rotation. And maybe Axis & Allies when they're older. And does anyone know if Avalon Hill is still in business?


At 10:32 AM, Blogger Splitcat Chintzibobs said...

Not that I would be one to know much about it (I must have overheard a couple of nerds discussing it), but Avalon Hill was bought out by Milton Bradley several years ago. MB continues to sell Axis and Allies and A&A type games but none of the rest of the old AH games. Most of the games are available on Ebay from time to time. Some are quite collectable. So I hear.


Post a Comment

<< Home