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RISK 2210 AD: Violent Rhetoric, Prosumer War Crimes in Space

January 19, 2011 2 comments

Risk: the Game of Global Dominance

Risk map, land and water territories


Last weekend the members of my absurdist friendship quorum (a motley crew of jaded but brilliant blue-collar art-house left-wingers hailing from San Francisco and Los Angeles) met again for our ceremonial Risk 2210 AD clash. It’s quite possible your only exposure to Risk is an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer declares that “the Ukraine is weak.” FYI, that was old, classic Risk they were playing. Still fun, but a far cry from the vastly more complex and exciting Risk 2210 AD, which won the Origins Award for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game of 2001.

For fear of inciting self-destructive thoughts in the minds of the reader, I will not attempt to explain the rules of the game except to simply state that the newer game involves colonizing water territories and the moon, as well as wielding nuclear weapons and diplomats. Additionally, over the years my friend Travis has made several addendums to the game: most notably, a MAD (mutually assured destruction) card and a separate continental shelf for Antarctica, as well as a corresponding Global Warming Card that, if played, overturns all MOD’s (machine soldiers), space stations, and commanders positioned there.
Moon, nuclear cards

some of Travis' original Risk cards including Emporer Palpatine's "I Will Make It Legal"



It would be impossible to overstate the significance of RISK 2210 AD to my friends and I. If you can imagine combining a fun game, a ruthless battle of wits, and a hallowed religious rite into a drunken six hour mind-fuck, you’re close to grasping how dear it is to our hearts. It almost always results in one or more players verbally abusing each other. Again, precious.


Our legacy of Risk is riddled with instances of broken alliances and compromised childhood friendships. My friend Matt claims my friend Jason’s soul is rotten to the core because once Jason violated a non-aggression pact at a crucial territorial border. Jason disavows this, claiming that, on the contrary, it is he who has been the victim of multiple instances of corrupt gameplay. He frequently rails against AFQ (Absurdist Friendship Quorum) member Pat for an alleged history of “illogical attacks that make no sense” in a wider strategic sense except to screw Jason over (“ream”) and remove him from the game.
"blood libel"

Jason, victim of Risk "blood libel", and Matt


Speaking of illogical attacks, Jason once tried to strangle someone during a game of Risk. The end result was Jason getting beat up. The guy he tried to strangle went on to serve as a sharp-shooter in the second Iraq war. Huge planet, small world.

This round took place at a ski resort in Salt Lake City. After we had lassoed in several cases of beer, vis-a vi grappling hooks, unemployment insurance and student loans, we took our seats at the table—it was time to establish our initial positions on the board. This is one of the most exciting parts of the game, because you get your first overview of where some of the great battles may occur, as well as fairly reliable hints about who might be planning to station themselves on the moon. You also get a chance to look deeply into the grinning faces of your fellow Mancationers and try to sniff out what their strategy may be. You witness, first hand, the transformation from sanity to insanity, from man to animal.
Travis plans his victory

Machinations of Travis



My friend Chris is soft-spoken and remarkably laid back, but get the boy in front of a Risk board and he turns into blood-thirsty monster. Travis, who has internalized the rules of the game like clergymen embrace the Bible, gleams with tactical ingenuity while he plays. You always get the feeling he’s working toward the unfolding of some epic master plan that inherently entails your destruction. Matt is much the same; he often starts off the game controlling a small continent, then uses water colonies to quietly posture himself for larger power plays. Jason is the eternal victim. Even when he’s not being triple-teamed and screwed over—which is most of the time—he argues and whines about the decade-long conspiracy against him. If you hear a high-pitched voice using five-syllable words to bitch about a lunar attack from two years earlier, it’s undoubtedly Jason’s.
Back to the Future

Leap Year card


This time around, we played with some of Travis’ new cards: including Lunar Shift, High Tide, Mayan Calendar and Leap Year, which allow you to add or subtract years to the game; and Rigged Election, Under Tow, and others which allow you to change turn order. Pat had played a Scatter Bomb Moon card, and effectively wiped out half of Jason’s MODs. Jason, predictably, flipped out, throwing his iPhone across the room and accusing Pat of yet another “capricious and perennial injustice”.
Pat on the moon

Pat: "One love, Jason. Die!"


To add insult to injury, Pat played the card while declaring, “Just tryin’ to see what that’d be like.” A kind of ‘one love’ smirk on his face.

During our 4th game, I was terrified that a Global Warming card would be played, which would flip my arctic shelf like a tiddly-wink, and send my Earth-bound forces sliding into the icy sea—to freeze, drown, or be eaten by polar bears themselves starving from depleted seal populations—so I absconded to the moon.


Jason, who had attacked Matt and angered him so badly that he declared that his next five games would be devoted to making sure Jason finished last, realized he would soon be wiped from the surface of Luna-lita. He took on the pallor of a freshly snipped eunuch. “Oh my God…” he uttered. “Oh my God!”
Howard Dean

“Beyyaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!” I shrieked, summoning the life force of Howard Dean with a whip of my forefinger. Realizing I would win my first game in several years I stood up and drove it home. “We’re going to CAL-I-FORNIA, and TEX-AS, and NEW YORK, SOUTH DA-KOTA, and OREGON, and MICHIGAN, and then we’re going to WASHINGTON DC and take back the White House—BEYYAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!”

And so I continue the ardous task of forging my independence on the harsh mistress that is the Moon: population 1.

-Jake Anderson
Revolution on the Moon

photo by draikinator

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