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PUBLISHED: 1:45 PM on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The Risk taker: Meet my inner Napoleon
It's been wild times at my house lately. All-night parties, tumbling dice, thrills of victory and the desperation of defeat as would-be emperors inch toward international domination.

You see, I've just learned to play Risk. I was bitten by the war game bug and infected with a unique flu, the only symptoms being an intense need to make up for so many years not spent huddled over a Risk board.

I played all manner of board games growing up. Somehow, Risk remained an obscure game, never on the radar as something to hole up with in the neighbor girls' basement.

The neighbor girls even had a Risk game. A cruddy, beverageringed box that had survived their father's teen years and was kept in a storage room with his MAD Magazines, Zeppelin albums and pole vault poles. These cherished items were waiting for a son to come along and properly appreciate their charms. Three daughters later, the items still waited in vain, the dusty, faded box unappealing to our pink, girlie fingers.

For the uninitiated, the point of Risk is to move your armies into territories on the Risk game board map, eventually taking over every continent pictured. Territories are taken by challenging the player who currently occupies it with a dice roll, highest roll wins the battle.

In itself, this does not sound like it would make for interesting play, and I was skeptical in the beginning whether I would be entertained by the banal premise. I soon learned that the true meat of Risk is the emotional aspect, the highs and lows of combat, and explaining its rules academically is like trying to explain why a certain melody or painting or red swirling sunset is fantastic. It's hard to assemble the correct words to describe something with such emotional appeal.

As a virgin Risker, my purpose became clear early on - I would take over my fool competitors and leave their pansy carcasses wounded all around the living room. End of story.

I started small, winning over a few territories, finding my feet and developing a strategy. With the first continent that became mine, I knew the adrenaline and intense motivation that coursed through great conquerors like Napoleon.

Thrills that allowed me to stay up until daybreak to play a board game. Forget my former favorites, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit, they never provoked this sense of power.

But strategy is not enough. Napoleon famously said that he'd rather have a lucky general than a good one, and luck is the aspect of Risk that keeps it interesting, bringing the elements of fate and chance.

Knowing I could easily lose a continent I'd bled to conquer to the punk sitting next to me who was blessed with a series of lucky dice rolls kept me on my toes and my borders reinforced. When that continent was inevitably taken from me, I was left like a quarterless gambler at a slot machine, with nothing but a hunger to rise again.

Risk has never and will never be hip or cool or a child's must-have gift.

It sits on a high shelf of relative obscurity, and maybe it should be taken down and dusted off once in a while.

Spend a night with your friends building imaginary empires on the kitchen table and challenging one another's military and diplomatic principles.

You may be surprised, women especially, with the fierce competitive spirit that's been lying dormant for a while.


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