A Column That Somehow Turned Out to Be About Risk

I was in a mood for part of last week. I've been sick and my hair is falling out, which makes me kind of grouchy and depressed. Then my DVR exploded, had a seizure and stopped working, destroying three weeks worth of recordings. While I was grouchily looking at my Twitter feed and wondering how in the heck I would even remember what shows I used to watch, I saw an article about what it's like to be a girl gamer. "Why do we even have headlines like this?" I thought. This whole delusion that girls don't game is misguided and ridiculous. I've been playing video games since Pong and Asteroids and my sons' friends who are girls all game, in one form or another. It's not exactly news that women of all ages like to play all sorts of games.

As anyone who has been following this column knows, I like puzzle games the most, but I've beaten a couple of editions of Zelda, played loads of Mario games, beat down the Raving Rabbids, and even played Adventure, an all text game I played in college in the early 80s. I mostly play at pogo.com these days as they offer a wide variety of games and I like their badge system where I can win icons for completing various tasks that range from quite simple to making me cuss a blue streak difficult.

Lots of games have been added since I last wrote about Pogo, including some versions of classic board games such as Scrabble and Risk. Risk, despite its reputation as the greatest game in the world on Degrassi, has never been a favorite of mine. It took too long to play and I didn't quite get it. It was like Monopoly without the excitement of the cards, which can be a game changer. (Those taxes on hotels and houses can be a killer. And who doesn't like winning second prize in a beauty contest?)

Or at least that's how I felt before my son Cullen taught me how to win the game. When playing on Pogo there's an option to speed up the game, so players get to choose countries and place their troops at the very beginning of the game, starting with all countries occupied. I try to start with taking control of North America, which gives me five extra troops each turn and only needs to be defended in three locations. Europe also gives five extra troops but requires much more defense. Once I have North America I aim for South America, which gives me three more guys, then Africa, and then from there I can sweep the board.

You get one card for each turn in which you conquer a country. When I first started playing I turned these cards in as soon as I could but soon realized they are much more powerful if I can hang onto them for a bit. Each card has an image on it. If you get three that are the same you can turn in and get a number of troops, which starts off small, at four, and gets larger, up to 40 I think. Also if the three cards are different you can turn them in. You're allowed to hold up to five cards, at which point you must trade three of them for some troops. When you completely wipe out another player you get their cards and if you end up with five or more total you get more troops, right in the middle of your turn, which can be exciting and extremely useful.

If you can wipe out robot player number two, who has three cards, then you'll add to your troops (which I mysteriously refer to as "plumping up" – no idea why) and then you'll hopefully have enough to wipe out player four, and so on. I've gone from the game asking me if I want to surrender to me marching across the world, conquering everything in my path. (I don't recommend this in the real world of course.)

Pogo also offers a little dude who gives you advice about where to attack and when to stop attacking. I agree with him sometimes, and sometimes he suggests I attack because someone is about to be wiped out and I haven't noticed, but often I don’t understand where he's coming from. I like to end my assaults with countries that are easy to defend and he often suggests I attack just one more, which would leave me open on three sides, instead of one. Also sometimes when I follow his suggestions about order of attack I get boxed in, with all of my dudes surrounded by my own countries, with my main force unable to attack anyone. Then I wonder if he's really working for me at all.

He's also no good at suggesting how to reinforce your troops, which is what you do when you get new guys and also at the end of every turn. I like to add all of my dudes to one country at the beginning of a turn, giving me a force to be reckoned with, and then use that group to conquerify as many countries as are logical. At the end of a turn you have a chance to move troops from one country to another, so long as you hold all the territory between them. This is an excellent opportunity to reinforce your borders by moving guys who are in the middle, going to waste, to your borders.

I'm not an expert by any means but I do have a 68% win rate after 185 games, so I'm not awful either. You can access the game here: http://www.pogo.com/games/risk.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Cherie, who says, "I tried the new Friendlies burger with the bun made out of grilled cheese sandwiches. It was delicious but I may never poop again!" Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.