Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why I Don't Play Risk

In elementary school I went to a travel camp at the JCC (I swear it feels like my entire life has been somehow or another been tied to that place and it needs to end) where we would go on a different trip every day. There was a group of five of us that became pretty close and had our own sort of 'travel camp clique' which I have to assume in retrospect was about as lame as it sounds. But we had a lot of fun together, so one night we decided to have a sleepover - the five guys. A precursor to a bevy of 'man nights' i'm sure we'd all go on to have later.

I can't even remember a few of their names, and memories of other old camp friends long since gone by the wayside are sort of flitting through as I try, but I do remember that night very well because it began the end of any relationship I would ever have with Risk: A Game of World Domination.

For some reason there was a weird obsession with eating pickles that night, and I remrember being really disgusted with the amount of fart jokes made over the course of the evening (so really, my sensibilities haven't changed a bit since I was 15), but it all fell apart when we decided to play Risk. Now I'm no Risk expert, but I know there are supposed to be two sets of die - one are red, one are your regular old white dice. I think you have three dice to attack and two to defend, and one color is more associated with attacking and the other not.

Well, whatever you're supposed to have, we had the opposite. Instead of having three white and two red or whatever, we had the other way around.
Who cares, right? Use the right number with the right action and play the game, who cares about the color?

Joel did.
Oh boy, did Joel care.

Joel was a smaller kid who up until that point I really liked. We got along great.
But he FLIPPED OUT over the dice. He demanded that we could ONLY play with three red dice, because you HAD to have three red dice. When we said we'd really rather just play the game, dice color be damned, he started crying. Literally. And screaming. He said we were breaking all the rules, and he wouldn't play, and that we were all mean, and called his mom to come pick him up at 1 am over the damn dice.

Even then I knew that was utterly lame.

That was the end of the clique, and travel camp kinda sucked that last week.
Risk and I took a little break, but I was back soon enough.

Until New Mexico.

When I first got to the Ranch, I was put in the 4 man room, appropriately named cause it had two sets of bunk beds for four guys. It was certainly the least personal, least private, and generally most unpleasant room in the house to be in. But - you always had company, and some nights we decided to be real rebels and stay up after curfew to play board games. I am a trouble maker, let me tell you.
(also, there is really nothing more emasculating than being 17 with an enforced 'lights out' bedtime - until three twenty something girls come in one night to read you a 'bedtime poem')

So at one point the room was made up of me, RJ, Mikey, and Birdman.

Birdman was there by court order awaiting either trial or sentencing for a drive-by shooting. He was this ultimate Eminem wannabe with a bleached blonde fader haircut, an ever present sidecocked bright red baseball cap, and he used to shave slits into the side of both eyebrows to look like an absolute moron. He tried epicly hard to BE hard, and I guess he did end up there by court order, but this guy was all talk - trying to talk about how he 'killed niggaz' and how 'I ain't gotta lie, I quit school cause of recess.' What I do know is that being at the ranch was a test and if he did well it would reflect on his sentence, so he had a real shot to try and avoid jail and totally failed time after time by being a cocky little bastard who broke every rule and got caught every time. I know he did eventually end up in jail, on top of his whole time spent on the Ranch, so what a real waste.

RJ was a recovering meth addict and dealer, and he was the real thing. RJ's dad was a drug lord in Arizona who actually threatened to disown RJ after he decided to go to rehab. The only reason RJ went in the first place was because he got his then girlfriend pregnant and decided he couldn't raise a child as a meth-addict. He checked into a Wilderness Program and while he was there found out his girlfriend had miscarried. Realizing that if he went home he'd end up exactly where he was before, he checked himself into the ranch instead. About a week into my being on the ranch he had his first meth relapse when the Phase 2 kids brought some on the Ranch. One of my first memories of being there is watching him come down, crying and sweating in his bed, literally sobbing and telling me he was so sorry, apologising to me personally, someone he'd barely known for a week just because he knew I was straight edge, and because I was there.

Last but not least was Mikey. It was never confirmed, but a bunch of us still think to this day that Mikey was a highly functioning autistic. He was older than the rest of us by a few years, and would wear tight old jeans and ragged flannel everywhere. He rarely bathed or washed, and the staff had to coerce Mikey to shower after one particularly long period of sustained filth. He refused to do chores and would famously stare down dishes as though the were some old enemy he could command to wash themselves through sheer mental energy. His emotions were almost always muted and he avoided eye contact. He had been in Phase 1 an incredibly long time by the time I got there, and I think it's because they had no idea how to handle someone with an actual mental disability. He never should have been there in the first place. I can say that about a few people.

Mikey also had an impressive addiction to computers and computer games. He would routinely sneak out at night and break into the computer lab, staying up all night. One night it was snowing pretty hard, and he left tracks out on the ground. They found him in the lab on four computers simultaneously - playing different games on three, and watching porn on the 4th - earning him the name "The Midnight Prowler."

Mikey was a genius when it came to games of skill, strategy, and numbers and ALWAYS won. Without fail. It was a source of personal pride for him, and I'm not sure he had a lot else to hold on to, so he could get REALLY arrogant - and it got on some nerves.
So one night the four of us are playing Risk and RJ and Birdman decide their sick of Mikey's smug superiority and start cheating with abandon, denying it every step of the way. I'm happy not to be laying in my bed staring at the ceiling at 10:30 so I don't care, but Mikey is getting pissed. Especially when they start to win.

They're laughing and having a ball, while Mikey starts to shut down. Finally, they take him out entirely - they're laughing, and ragging on him. Mikey still has the dice in his hand. He's staring at the board, like he does with the dishes - just staring this blank, distant, terrifying stare that he has, saying nothing. Then, without any warning, he throws the dice as hard as he can at the board, knocking everyhthing over and starts screaming as he takes the board apart. I've never seen Mikey express more than disdain, frustration, or bemusement before but he has gone off, calling them liars, and cheaters, and convicts and worse.

Well that done pisses RJ off so the next thing I know he's in Mikey's face ready to fight, threatening to kill him, begging Mikey to hit him. Mikey is still screaming, Birdman and I get in the middle - I take Mikey, he takes RJ. The GIGANTIC bald security guy shows up to calm everyone down, Mikey is back to staring blankly at a wall while RJ yells "Fucker" over and over again, coming up with about 32 different words for retard.

Suffice it to say, after hours board game nights were a thing of the past.

I didn't mind. I'm never playing Risk again.


Scotty said...

It's less a game of "Global domination", than a depressing metaphor for life: You pass a point of no return, and the outcome of the game is pretty much set. The eventual loser can see his fate two hours before it actually happens, and usually quits upon seeing the writing on the wall, so the winner almost never gets to enjoy his victory. And forget hoping for a comeback - every lucky roll for the underdog only delays the inevitable.

And that's when my dad decided that I was old enough to learn how to play poker.

AZWiner said...


AZWiner said...


I <3 RISK.

but i cheat.


David Pratt said...

Risk was the only video game Claire would ever play with me. She would pile all her soldiers into one country and steamroll over me.

She loved that game.

Damo said...


You and David have inspired my first "personal" post. That being said, the first thing that came to mind when I heard "Risk" were lyrics to the MC Chris song "Geek"

"Don’t fuck with a geek, just cuz he got a gift.
You get in my way bitch you get a Vulcan neck pinch.
One night I didn’t go to sleep, up playin’ Risk.
At dawn, I won, got global dominance.
But it in the hallway it’s completely different shit.
Can’t get my locker open and my pants are always split.
Can’t seem to catch a ride, can’t ever get a date.
But in my mind 7 of 9 thinks I’m great."

Geeky whiteboy hip-hop = teh hotnezz.

Jason Heat said...

That's awesome. I gotta hear that song.

Damo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damo said...

Sorry, last version was incomplete:


My favorite line:

I got brains, fuck B’s and C’s.
I got a grade point average higher than Hendrix on New Year’s Eve.

AJ said...

Wow, auspicious... my friend just invited me to Risk night on Saturday.

Stephen said...

I had a computer version of Risk way back that enabled the player to flank opponents, as well as use terrain to your advantage. It was sweet.

Gamer rage, however, is not sweet.