I played a Risk marathon last night: three games in a row. It occurred to me that Risk is actually a remarkably good model for international politics. Sure, it leaves finance out of the equation, but a game based purely on population relationships does a pretty good job of consistently and accurately simulating world affairs. Here’s my breakdown of socio-history based on my observations of the game:
Native Americans Sure it seems like a good idea to settle North America early on. Unfortunately, in order to get those five extra armies each turn you have to spread yourself thin. Even with heavy fortification at your entry points, once the invaders have a foothold, they will quickly take the continent.
Genghis Khan Starting with your troops in Central Asia, you quickly spread to the rest of the continent while your enemies are concerned with other problems. As soon as the rest of the world realizes that you’re about to develop a huge population, they turn their cannons at you, forcing you to retreat to China, where you are surrounded.
Napoleon You easily take all of Europe in one turn, but encounter a series of bad rolls on the Eastern frontier. You are also short. And you think everyone is picking on you.*
USA Unable to stay in Europe, you wait until someone else attacks the Americas, and then you swoop in and hit them while they’re weak. Once you get your stronghold in North America, it takes all of your efforts to maintain it. So, even though your mission card tells you that you need to be involved in Africa and another continent, you choose to primarily defend your own borders. Occasionally you get involved in a foreign conflict in order to win a card. You also are compelled to maintain a large presence near panama.
The Middle East The crossroads of the world, you are always a hotly contested territory. You are the key to Asia’s seven extra men per turn and you are also a gateway into Africa. Europe, Asia, and Africa all want a piece of you. North America probably wants a piece too because their mission is to conquer Africa.
Communism One player will inevitably draw the “kill red” mission card. Need I say more?
Australia Chills out at the bottom of the world. Remote, you can only be accessed via Siam. Most people assume all you do is surf and build crazy opera houses, but with 2 extra men each turn, you just have to wait for your chance to easily take Asia and the world.
China (Asia) With such a potentially huge population, the rest of the world always has to look out for hidden dragons.
The UN An alliance forms between most of the players, but everyone lies about their desire to be involved in the Middle East. Asia is also lying about their plans to invade either Europe or North America. It sometimes seems that all this conflict could easily be solved by getting together for a beer, but in the heat of the moment it's just not as much fun.**
**And anyway, what's stopping us from drinking beers together while our armies fight one another?