Risk: A Once-a-year Tradition

My friend Kyle has an annual (for me it’s annual, for him it’s semi-annual) New Year’s Day Axis and Allies game.

Image couresy of axisandallies.org

Basically, Axis and Allies, a strategy board game based on World War II (hence the name), is a game that is notorious for taking forever to play. In the version we played, Kyle was Germany, I was Japan, and we fought against the United States, U.K., and Soviet Union. We started the game at about 10 or 10:15 and finished at about 4:00. Yeah. It took forever.

Not only that, but believe it or not, we didn’t actually finish the game. We got tired of it. And it helped that Kyle and I had already captured 9 out of the 10 required capital cities, had completely obliterated the Soviets (I had half of Russia, he had the other half), and had a considerable economic advantage, thanks to the countries we had taken control of. By the end of the game, I found myself just glad that the game was over. Good thing it’s only once a year.

But as I climbed into my car and turned the ignition, I couldn’t help but think, “Why do I play this game?” Sure, it was kind of fun, especially for me as Japan to take over Canada and invade Alaska and capture Los Angeles. It makes me wonder about the state of the world and consider the degree to which things could be different from what they now are. What would have happened? Thinking about the game this way, it was kind of interesting. But it was also a huge time commitment. “Why do I play this game, if even for once a year?”

I don’t have an answer to that question just yet, and I probably won’t find the answer before I finish typing this post. But I do wonder if, during this conflict that ended approximately 70 years ago, either side asked themselves some of the following similar questions: Why are we doing this? What are we really getting out of it? Is it worth it?

Strange as it is to play a game that takes several hours to play, after the first few hours, the game doesn’t really feel like a game anymore. It becomes a form of work. It’s no longer fun to think, to plan, to strategize. It’s not easy to keep going, and I can’t help but think that this feeling of fatigue is a microcosm of what was actually felt when the war dragged on for weeks, months, years.

Why do I do the things I do? What am I really getting out of it? Is it worth it?

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