December 11, 2017

Life Lessons From the Classic Strategy Game RISK

Prepare for battle…

Credit: Risk/Hasbro/SMG Studio

Leave it to technology, to bring back an old friend in a new way. We’ve recently joined the realm of the online gaming community, about a decade plus behind the rest of the world. I know, we finally got tired of having our computer beat us at chess. Anyhow, we noticed a free app featuring the game Risk while idly scrolling through the Google Play store, and decided to give it a try.

Remember Risk? This classic game of strategy occupied a good portion of our childhood, as we conquered the world or were vanquished off the face of the planet endless times. It’s a great game, with a fine balance of strategy, prudent and bold decision making (that’s why it’s called Risk) and just plain luck. And like fantasy football and other seemingly meaningless time-wasting pastimes, a brief search of ye’ old web reveals that some folks out there take the pursuit of Risk VERY seriously.

Anyhow, playing the game got me remembering those endless afternoons of Risk play with friends as a kid and made me realize, there’s a few lessons to be learned there in this classic game:

1. It’s better to make allies with your neighbors than to fight them- If you’re only playing a two player game of Risk, you’re missing out on one of the game’s most crucial elements: making and breaking alliances. Like Survivor, the key to success at Risk is making alliances… knowing that ultimately, you’ll be fighting each other by game’s the end. One of the first steps to winning is to secure and defend a continent, and I’ve found its always easier to do this with friendly allies on the border, rather than fending off continuous attacks. The level of alliances and secret counter-alliances in Risk can get deliciously complex,  and you just have to take the good natured backstabbing in stride.

2. Bank on troops for a rainy day- Do you attack to exhaustion, or do you build up a bulwark of defense? Or perhaps you ‘turtle,’ simply building up all of your armies on one territory that no one dares attack? Risk teaches a great life lesson that we all (hopefully) learn young: keep some resources in reserve, but you need to be out there, and well, risking things a bit to level up. I’ve never seen anyone win a game of Risk by turtling exclusively… to me, that’s a last resort move to perhaps avoid elimination.

3. No plan survives contact with actual battle- I used to get so mad as a kid, when someone smashed through my carefully crafted defenses. As an adult, I realize being flexible and having a backup to the backup plan is all part of the game, be it Risk or life. Sometimes, failure presents a new and unthought of opportunity, a direction I never would have taken given a choice.

4. Live to fight another day- The dice and the cards in Risk are balanced in such a way that both attacker and defender have unique advantages. Still, the devil’s in the dice sometimes. The new Risk app has a “blitz mode” which allows you to run through all the rolls of a battle at once… and while this is certainly faster, things can go south in a hurry. Roll those strikes one at a time, and you can decide to call off battle if needed. Likewise in life: its always worth knowing just when to cut your losses and move on.

5. Australia, Australia- Turns out, Lex Luthor was right. Conquer the continent of Australia, and it becomes very difficult to unseat you. Hey, it’s a great defensive position, with only one way in and out. Plus, you can’t control the jewel box that is Asia with its mighty seven troops per turn, while Australia is nipping at your heels. To beat someone that has ‘dug in’ to a defensive position in Australia, I’ve found you have to deal with the rest of the world first, then them last. The life lesson? That bottleneck defensive position can work both ways, sealing you in from the rest of the glory of world conquest.

And that’s what the game of Risk has taught me about life. It is addictive, playing strangers online and remembering old days of gameplay… and we’ve successfully resisted the paid version thus far, opting instead for the free game that limits play pretty much to one game a day to feed our addiction.

Now, onward to world conquest.

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