Monday, January 9, 2012

Let's Talk Risk

I'm going to be honest with you: as much as I talk about Advance Wars, my first love has always been Risk. Risk has always influenced my thinking when it comes to strategy, which is probably part of the reason it took me as long as it did to catch up with WWN on AW game theory. I've always been better with abstract math than I have with hard math, which is pretty much what the differences between these games boils down to.

Risk is truly a perfect game. Even at its basic core, the game has enough nuances to write an entire book about. And unlike any other game, you can add as many rules as you want to Risk, and so long as the basic core remains intact the game never loses its fun factor. Such variants as "Zombie Risk," or official ones like "Risk 2210 A.D." manage to add to the game without taking anything away. This is because ultimately, all games of Risk depend upon player interaction. As soon as you run into a variant that loses this aspect, you are no longer playing Risk.

In fact the best aspect of Risk is that there are only three ways to be genuinely bad at the game: being a sore loser, a bad winner, or having a lack of critical thinking.
  •  A sore loser learns nothing from his loss: everyone else was at fault. Someone cheated, or got lucky, and didn't exercise anything resembling skill to beat him. His basic thought process boils down to, "I'll get you, Gadgets!" He is guaranteed to continue losing, because he has learned nothing and people will eliminate him and take his cards just so they don't have to deal with him anymore.
  • A bad winner believes he won because he is awesome at the game. He may boast about his skill to the very same people he just beat. He is guaranteed to lose the next game, because everyone is still pissed at him.
  • A lack of critical thinking is detrimental if you plan on being a serial player of the game. This player gets stuck on a particular strategy he likes; he figures if he wins, then he wins, and if he loses, then he loses. He doesn't stop to analyze why a particular tactic did or didn't work, and just goes with the flow. His endgame totally depends on the actions of other players rather than his own personal skill at the game.
Being good at Risk, on the other hand, is totally independent of whether you win or lose. I like to sit down with one or two of the folks I just played with and talk about why the game ended like it did. This conversation can go on for days.

I'll be talking about the various editions of Risk that I have had an opportunity to play with other people over the years in the next series of posts.

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