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Subject: Defense is the Best Offense: An Appreciation 40 Years Later rss

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Hunga Dunga
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When I was a kid, I played this game with gusto, trying different strategies based upon different geographical starting points, as well as reading books on telekinesis in order to try to manipulate die rolls. However, after I was introduced to Avalon Hill wargames, I turned my nose up at Risk. It was, I decided at the age of 16, a game for babies.

Many years later I have kids of my own. One day I came home from work with a muffin. Both my girls asked if they could have a piece. I said, "Ok, I can do one of two things. I can try to cut this muffin into 3 equal pieces, but it isn't very easy to get them all the same, or I could cut it in half, then cut one of the halfs into two quarters. I'll take one of the quarters, and the two of you can roll a die to see who gets the half piece. Which would you like to do?" "ROLL THE DIE! ROLL THE DIE!!", they screamed. It was then I realized they were ready for a decent die-rolling game. We were already playing Monopoly (and Knizia's Africa), so the first game that came to mind was Risk.

It was at that point I started to remember all the negatives of the game. Sure, you get to roll handfuls of dice, but the incessant march to eliminate one player after another, until the inevitable is only, what, 97 rolls away? I bought a shiny new copy of the game, anyway, and cracked the shrink wrap.

Six years later, the girls (now 12 and 14) still drag it out every once in a while. We enjoy it as a family, and here are some reasons why:

A. We play the Capital Risk variation. Instead of one player eliminating every other player from the board, the goal is to simply capture the "capital country" that each player has chosen at the beginning of the game. And once your capital is taken, you can still play on, given you still own other territories. So no one need be eliminated for victory to occur. Capital Risk is also a shorter game: we finished one game in 15 minutes.

B. Rolling and comparing dice is fun. Unlike many dice games where you roll dice to create specific combinations, Risk uses a simple head-to-head "I get a higher number, you lose" mechanic. Ok, it's a bit more complicated than that, but not much. This is a perfect mechanic for a sisterly grudge-match, and frankly, my wife seems to enjoy knocking off my armies, too. Risk is saving me hundreds of dollars that I would otherwise have had to spend on therapy sessions for my family.

C. Calculating the odds exercises your brain. There are a number of skills needed to be successful at Risk, and probably the most inportant is understanding the probabilities of winning a battle and developing a fuzzy logic to make the most important decision when in attack mode...knowing when to STOP. (Hint: It's before you run out of armies.)

D. Understanding the virtue of patience. A successful Risk strategy involves patience. You have to wait to build up defenses, and wait for the combat cards to accumulate in order to cash in for new armies. We let our girls knock themselves out the first few games, but they quickly learned the importance of accumulating strong defensive positions before marching toward a new territory or continent.

E. Strategic thinking. Ok, compared to many other games, it's pretty basic. But deciding how one approaches continent acquisition and protection requires a bit of thought, which many times turns into conversation. And conversation in families is a very good thing.

We play other games here: Settlers and Seafarers of Catan, TransAmerica, Royal Turf, and others. Risk has a special feel to it, though, that you don't get from other games. It's pure conquest, just for the hell of it. But the more astutely you play, the more the dice will work in your favor.

C'mon lucky six, c'mon six, SIX!!!
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Jason Sample
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Re: Defense is the Best Offense: An Appreciation 40 Years La
Quote:
Many years later I have kids of my own. One day I came home from work with a muffin.


I thought, for a second, that I had been mysteriously transported to another website. I wish I had a nickel for every game review that contained a story about a muffin. That was also an interesting way to solve that problem.

I enjoy reading gaming stories about kids. I like the image of a father/mother/fathers/mothers sitting at a table playing a game with their children (this holds true for aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc.). The TV is off, no one is on the phone, and everyone is laughing and having a good time. The truth is that any game that brings you closer to your kids (be it Risk/Monopoly/Memory/Gulo Gulo/CHa Cha Chicken/etc.) is worth playing. For this story alone, I would give Risk a 10.

Peace,
Jason
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Hunga Dunga
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queequeg wrote:
That was also an interesting way to solve that problem.

I actually had no idea which solution they were going to pick. I was being honest about my ability to cut round things into three equal pieces. But the girls figured that a 50/50 chance at half a muffin was better than the arbitrariness of a possible smidgen less than 1/3 slice of muffin.

And, yes, anything that helps create laughter and conversation in the family is a good thing!

 
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Danny Stevens
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What a top review for a game I had let gather dust for years!

My daughter is 11 and its time to play Risk. The idea of playing Capital Risk is a perfect way to avoid the things I really didn't like about the game. Now where was it? Rummage...rummage....."Hey Hon', do you know where my game of Risk is? .... you know, RISK..."
 
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