This Means War! by
(11 Stories)

Prompted By Toys & Games

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Perhaps a more accurate name for the game is “Revenge!”

When we were too old to dress up as army men and re-fight WWII in the back yard, we found strategic board games where we could use our minds AND still kill each other, figuratively. The battlefield we returned to repeatedly was Risk!

The blue map, the wooden blocks, and the pastel country card sets with their silhouettes of Napoleonic artillery, cavalry and soldiery still sit in a box in my garage. I think I had never heard of Asian provinces like Irkutsk and Yakutsk until I played this game, nor did I get as angry as I did when I inevitably got ganged-up on during a marathon match.

Sometimes we would carefully set the board with its hundreds of pieces under the bed to continue the next day. We quickly learned it was better to create a small paper map and just write army locations on it. The games went on and on invariably because someone showed mercy before eliminating an opponent’s last armies. Then there were the conspiracies and back room deals to share conquest of a particular continent. And the retaliations that came with a particularly dastardly move. Perhaps a more accurate name for the game is “Revenge!”

Once you learned the winning strategies of where to attack, when to stop, and the key timing needed to win a card set to get bonus armies, you could predict the ebb and flow based on the behavior and mood of the players. Mockery, blatant aggression, and pacifism, conniving, destruction, shouting and laughing – all were ingredients of this action-packed contest based on the dice roll of war for the dining room table.

Profile photo of Mike Sanchez mike7353

Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Patricia says:

    I never played Risk (or Battleship, or any war games), and can’t ever remember wanting to. I’ll bet, at least when we were kids, there was a real gender difference in this preference. I wonder if that’s changed, since it sounds like there is much more strategy to these games than just “global dominance!”

  2. Susan says:

    Shouldn’t learning the strategy and nuance of this game be a requirement for holding public office in the modern world?? I love these games that could go on for days, and I like you describing the “ebb and flow” and learning to read the other players.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    I used to play marathon games of Monopoly in much the same way you’ve described, but you sound like you had SO much fun. The only problem with board games is that you always needed someone else to play them with (or against?). But I love the way you’ve described the moves and strategy. You’ve captured your spirit of fun and adventure admirably.

  4. Suzy says:

    I remember playing a board game called Diplomacy in the ’70s, which was similar to Risk but (at least we thought at the time) more sophisticated. It also involved a board with a map of the world divided up into regions, and making and breaking alliances with each other in order to win. Beyond that, I don’t really remember much about it. Did you ever play that one?

  5. John Zussman says:

    I’m impressed that the game is still so vivid in your memory. I never played Risk myself, although I had friends who swore by it. But I remember when my best friend and I “graduated” from simple board games to Avalon Hill games that took days to play. I particularly remember Air Empire (each player owned an airline and bid competitively for profitable routes) and Dispatcher (each player owned a railroad and had to get trains to their destinations on time). AH also made Diplomacy, I think. Wouldn’t it be a gift to have the time and bandwidth to play those games today? Thanks for the great memory.

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