Monday, August 9, 2010

A Game of Risk

Saturday evening a game of Risk was played that I don't think any of the participants in will forget. This game was played over Xbox Live and was a perfect storm of a game. While the game itself was amazingly interesting, it was the game below the surface that was truly intriguing.

I have loved games since the dawn of time, or at least since I knew what games were, and I seem to excel in games that require strategy and verbal skills. It's true, I have the hardest time going into places are ordering, or having an open-ended conversation in person, but if a game is being played I come alive. If we play ever play Monopoly just think this; if you want me to shut up just accept the trade because I don't take no for an answer.

The game of Risk on Saturday night had Rob and Travis (both of whom I met in Vancouver) and Zach from Chicago. There was also a random fifth person in the game and in all reality this fifth person didn't stand a chance.

As the game started I got a message from Travis asking if I wanted to finish 1-2. You see, alliances in Risk are paramount. If you don't know the game the object is nothing short of world domination. The last one left wins. Timing of attacks are key and minimizing losses are critical. With an alliance one doesn't have to protect their flank as much and this alliance with Travis was great. What he didn't know was Rob sent me the same message and I sent a text to Zach to make an alliance. I had an alliance with everyone. Maybe I have watched too much Survivor!

The normal game of Risk over Xbox Live is 45-60 minutes. When we hit 45 minutes in this game all five players were still in the game, but the random fifth dude was slipping fast, and using my cunning and deception I was able to get the K.O. blow on him. Knocking a player out is important because you get their bonus cards. Get three bonus cards that match and you get a massive troop bonus, and this bonus kept me alive.

Stalemate. After we got down to four players the game was deadlocked. I had all of North America, Rob had Europe, Zach had South America and Australia, and Travis had Africa. The only thing that changed during the next dozen or so turns were territories in Asia. Nobody had the force to take on another person without heavy losses. If two people go at it a third person will come in and clean up the mess. The rule in risk is to never be the first one to make a move unless you can clean up everyone in one turn.

I was in a pickle. I had an alliance with everyone and everyone kept me alive early in the game so I couldn't attack anyone's main area. I had the most troops by far, but I couldn't make a move.

Because of the stalemate the amount of troops in the game were quite inflated. The highest I had seen before was 117, but over time Zach and myself had over 600! Imagine having that in the real life version (or having to manually dice roll).

Rob made a tremendous move on Travis using logic I had given him the day prior (sorry Travis!) and Travis was knocked out. Travis kept sending me a message telling me to attack Rob and I gave the unclear timeline of, "in time". I had an alliance and couldn't attack. My only goal was to let everyone else duke it out and then I'd have the easy win. I also didn't want to break that alliance because, for one, break an alliance once and then an alliance will never have any merit ever again, and secondly, someone would get mad if I did.

The troop numbers were increasing and the world was in a perfect harmony of sorts because nobody could really accomplish anything. To put an end to this I put an embargo of sorts on Zach. You see, to get a bonus card one must take at least one territory per turn. Zach had 600 or so troops protecting Australia, but that's all he had. I took territories surrounding the other territories and put 100 or so troops on it and his 600 could not reach them.

I didn't see this as breaking my alliance. Eventually Rob was going to suffer the same fate and I was hoping to eventually make a path that allowed the two of them to go at it. Zach though took my embargo as an act of war, and perhaps rightfully so, and it was game on. It had to happen at some point in time or we would still be playing that game. I had over 1,000 troops when Zach started telling Rob that he would come after me so I decided to go after Zach.

Remember what I said about the key is to not make the first move? I forgot about that and made the first move. Sure, I knocked Zach out, but I forgot that, while Rob had 350 less troops than I did at the start of my turn, losing 400 like I did gave Rob an easy mop up victory.

At the end of the nearly 4 hour game everyone was shocked to learn that I had an alliance with all of the players. Each thought that I had an alliance with them and only them. It was easier for me to do it this way, and I needed to do it this way, not only for a better chance to win, but I would be unable to choose who to align with.

People can takes games personally and if someone got singled out, well, they may get mad. What I did on this game was to assure myself that, for one, nobody was going to attack me, but secondly I was hoping that I would not make anyone mad. Defeating people I don't know is a blast, but defeating people I know is not because I can never judge if they will stay mad.

I'm sure the four of us will play Risk again, and I'm sure the fifth person that gets joined up will not have much of a chance, but how much will my word mean? Zach has said he's going to put a post-it note on his television that says, "NEVER trust Aaron on Risk!" but will he follow through with that? Will everyone do this? I'm not sure, but I hope they do because I want another super long game. I get lost in the game and it's amazing, it's just the back-stabbing at the end I don't like. Well, I lied, I do love it. See, no one is going to trust me again :)


  1. Ah and here is one of the first times I find a huge difference between us :) I totally suck at strategy play. I can't think more than 2 steps ahead.
    My psychologists tell me this is because I have a huge difference in verbal and performal IQ, also making me bad at spacial insight (or how do you call that in english?). Also making me terrible at directions by the way, but that's not the point.
    You'll laugh if you'd ever play risk or chess with me! I AM good at monopoly though, but that's a matter of years of practice and cunning and already having a strategy laid out, out of that years of practice.

    When pokemon cards where all that, I played with them too. (remember, that's about 10 years ago or something like that)
    I joined up on a pokemon league, which is a place where you can play the card game and actually earn badges and special 1-time promo cards.
    I understood everything about the game and won any quiz that got given out. I was even giving pointers to pro players!
    Even so I lost nearly every game... Why? I can't think ahead in a game even though I love the game.
    (I can when organising an event though, but that's different, that's knowing things from experience, not strategy)

    PS: Aaron you mentioned I could use my twitter account, but I don't see where? o,o

  2. In regards to the Twitter account try signing out and then click the follow button. Follow those steps and you'll be following twice which is fine by me, I'll take every increase in # of followers I can get :)

    I too am horrible with strategy in chess. Chess, last year, was one of my special areas of interest and I read chess books, but I actually became a worse player. For some reason in a game of Risk I can manipulate the game in my favor, but in chess I can never see or think as to what the other person is going to do.

    On the Xbox version of Chessmaster there is a mode that is called dark chess that changes the game of chess in that you can't see the other person's pieces unless something is attacking it. I am great at this mode and in my presentations I say this modeis a great example of what social situations are because I am used to playing the game of life without fully knowing where I stand.

    Perhaps there's a difference between Risk and Chess in that one is tactics and the other is strategy if that makes any sense at all.

  3. Aaron, before reading the last three paragraphs I was going to suggest that perhaps it was not the best strategy to play all sides against the middle (secretly aligning yourself with all other players against one another). You do see this in Survivor, and shows like it, yes. But regardless of what you see on TV, I am here to tell you, no matter how you slice it, it is cheating. If you and your friends want to set up rules in advance that allow this, then, no it would not be, and there would not be room for hurt feelings and you would not be feeling guilty now. You would not have been feeling guilty during the game.

    But that is usually a big tell. If you are feeling guilty, it is usually wrong. Fortuanately it was just a game, and hopefully your friends will forgive you.

    Have fun, but do not take trust for granted, Aaron. And please do not take your friends for granted even when it comes to playing games.

  4. I can work out what moves need to be made...especially by my opponent (and how to make them do it)...except Monopoly, which I hate.