Risk is just about the perfect example of a board game made vastly more enjoyable on the computer. Now, I enjoy rolling dice—games like Can’t Stop
are among my favorites—but until I acquire a vast amount of free time I don’t know what to do with, I’d rather not invest the couple of days needed to play a full game of Risk in vivo
. I’ve only played one real game of Risk, and got bored so quickly that I amused myself by concentrating all my forces in a single country, and then in one turn blazing a merry path of destruction across most of Asia, killing off every single one of my armies along the way. Naturally, I was eliminated before my next turn came ’round, but since that was my exact goal in the first place, I didn’t exactly mind.
I learned to appreciate Risk by playing the game on my Macintosh Plus
, yonks ago, while I was trying to stay sane in medical school. The implementation for the Mac was written by Tone Engel in 1986, and can still be played (with a slight modification by Richard Loxley
) under the Mini vMac
This version could play up to six live or computerized players. Three types of computer players were available: aggressive (marked by the male symbol, ♂), neutral (+, presumably representing Switzerland) and inconsistent (*!?, randomly alternating between aggressive and neutral). Aggressive opponents were pretty easy to beat: they tended to overextend themselves, going for more territory rather than fortifying gains against a counterattack, and they didn’t seem to understand the advantage of conquering whole continents. The neutral opponents, on the other hand, were deceptively tough to beat. They calmly built up their forces until attacked; then they threw everything they had at their aggressor until they’d recovered their lost territory. That might not sound too bad, but two or more neutrals appeared to form temporary alliances against a human player: neutrals could capture each other’s territory, on the way to punishing the human, without provoking a retaliatory strike.
In my prime I could beat five neutrals simultaneously, but only if I could capture Australia or South America right away, and built up my forces while my opponents expended their armies on each other trying to get to me.
But the most fun I had playing Risk—and the reason I’m writing this down—was a little game I called “Armageddon Risk”: Good against Evil, with the entire world at stake. Armageddon Risk began with two aggressive computer players, called (of course) Good and Evil.
On a Mac Plus, the game would proceed slowly enough that one could watch the contest unfold and keep track of individual battles. In Armageddon Risk it was crucial to call out whenever one side or the other captured a whole continent. If Good were the winner, the announcement would be triumphant, lighthearted; if Evil, low and dejected. For example:
South America’s GOOD!
] North America’s EVIL.
THE WORLD IS GOOD!! [Rejoicing