As a family we have a tradition every Christmas. We will all end up having a huge fight after a long session of a specific board game. Little did we know, that my choice would do something way worse. It would reveal who we are deep inside.
There we are, all five of us, living room. Christmas eve for my family, means that it is time for us to decide on what board game we will fight over. I mean play. So, considering how we -always- play monopoly and I have been pressing for a strategy game ever since our noble clan arrived in these lands. So, they caved.
I brought out my Risk: Lord Of The Rings edition, -with- the southern areas expansion. It was about to get epic up in this b….
So anyway, naturally mom was out as it was clear to me she would much rather clean the kitchen VERY diligently than play this game. Makes me wonder how she came to love cleaning so much.
The rest however, groaned “Yeah ok fine”. The cry of enthusiasm was heeded! IT WAS TIME!
The Kings and Queen of Middle Earth
As the game required, two of us would lead the forces of Darkness, while the other two would lead the Free People of the West.
My sister, took the yellow color of the forces of good.
I took the green color of the forces of good
My father took the red color of the forces of Evil
And last but not least, my brother, who took the black color of the forces of Evil.
The board was set. The tea (and coffee) brewing, and the players on set. It was time TO GO TO WAR
And then there was chaos
It all started normally, you know how it is, you conquer a few areas, start focusing on an area of your map you have the advantage, then by the end of the two hour mark, it is pretty obvious which territory is held by who, and then the tactical plans start to surface. Nobody was ready for the reveal however. Like peeing naked from the top of a mountain canyon, our inner most true versions burst out with majestic might. And in all honesty, things got very weird very fast after that.
The Democratic coalition of Dunedain/Elves of Eriador and Arnor
Lets start with yours truly first, because nothing is funnier than poking at your own image. See, here where the problem starts with me. I get into games. Like….-very- into games. I am a natural role player, if you wanna call it like that, so immediately, as I stared at the map, the only thing that ran through my head was “How would I make this work for my people?”. Don’t judge me ok? We all are weird one way or another
After taking things into consideration, the lands of Mirkwood and the rangers of Ithilien were a lost cause. The dark forces of Emperor Fatherius and the vile Sorcerer Brosefar were going to wash over those lands. At best I can delay the inevitable, but the resources and blood of my people was better off shed with purpose. And the purpose was to establish a foothold on Eriador, and expand into Arnor. Holding those two locations would mean that a) I have a solid place on the board, easy-ish to defend, access to docks which is always a plus, and some very good choke holds in case of an invasion. Sure I did not have the luxuries of forts (they give +1 to the defender) but all I needed was the solid income of reinforcements to launch my naval assault and sweep evil from the map once and for all! (See? See what I am talking about).
Problem is, those internal thoughts you just read, started to seep into actual words coming out of my mouth. And during one of those times, as I was, and I quote, saying
“No…no we wont put you guys there, lets have you reinforce this area so we can free Rivendel” my brother looked at me, raised eyebrows, and with a very confused and concerned tone said:
“Dude….you do know they are just plastic figurines representing battalions right? They are not…actual people?”
Unfortunately my instinctive reply was
“For you maybe, you got the Evil faction”
I do not even have a punchline for that.
The complete and utter insane rule of the scattered Elven Barbarians (aka. Tolkien be rolling on his grave)
My sister. Oh my gods, my sister. We always kind of knew she had a few screws loose up there you know? But the thing we saw!
For starters, she gets -mad- competitive, but more of a fun carefree competitive way, than actual “I will flip this table if I dont win” competitive. So there we were, my sister had one of the best initial starting areas for the good guys. She could easily conquer Rohan and stage significant bastions of defense and “no you are not talking those two regions ha ha” with the fort of Rivendell and Lothlorien
Unfortunately for her people (I am doing it again), she was, and pardon my French, batshit insane. I get it, she is not a big strategy game fan. She was also not very into the idea of playing the game. But for some unknown reason she
a) got -way- into it
b) Had no idea what she was doing.
My sister’s tactics would revolve around this train of thought.
“Did you attack me in the previous round?”
“Do I have enough people to stage a 3 die assault?”
That was basically it. Like a feral animal gnawing on its chain, my sister would just furiously attack -anyone- that attacked her in the previous round. And I mean…-ANYONE-
Enemy outnumber her 5 to 1? Does not matter, she has 4 units, its a full attack, LETS DO THIS.
You tried to comment on her lack of tactics? ITS ON LOSER, BRING IT!
Mom asks if she can clean up her socks from her bed? WOMAN DON’T TALK TO ME OR I WILL SKIN YOU AND TURN YOU INTO SOCKS
The last line was a legit quote she yelled at our mom while she was attacking an area.
From then it went downhill rapidly for the Elves and Rohirim under my sister’s banner. Despite her threats of, and I quote
“Burn down -all- the villages in this region I am attacking, nail your farmers on a cross and burn every single one of them”
She was rather predictable, and in all honesty started viewing this as more of a comedic affair than the story of life or death situations of a nation like…ahem…someone else.
As such, her areas were carved by the other three kings, and soon her people were nothing more than a few bastions of barbarian regions, still clinging on to their independence furiously fighting -ALL-.
The sneaky crybaby legions of Sorcerer Brosefar (my brother)
My brother had the -best- starting location of any four players, hands down. Within the two hours it took me to establish myself into Eriador, he had literally half the map. His empire ranged from Rhun all the way down to Mordor and it was only a few valiant defenders that prevented him from completely owning Mirkwood and Rhovanion. And yet! -EVERY- single god damn time someone would attack him, he would just fall on the ground, flopping around.
“Woe is me! Everyone is pitted against me!”
“Common guys! Why not attack someone else for a change?”
I dont know Sorcerer Brosefar, maybe we attack you because you own -everything-!?
But his schemes were not only that, of which Wormtongue himself would draw inspiration from. They also had the Cunning of Saruman, which he promptly dethroned after he took Isengard and expanded into Rohan. You see, my brother’s tactics almost succeeded, and the Insane Queen of the Yellow Good guys, for a moment ignored him and attacked only the other two. But, as it was the case with most strategy games, my brother got drunk with power, as he saw victory growing near.
Most of the map was littered with the Black Legions of his banner. Truly the only thing standing between him and total victory was the Emperor Fatherius’s stubborn hold of the south, so lets all focus there and…hey wait a minute, when did all those Green folks expanded into the north?! Jo…I mean er, Wallnut! you sneaky devil!
The Evil, but noble, Empire of Fatherius
Never has there been an example of how my father operates in his life (with, some exceptions off course) then the way he handled this game. Quiet, calculating, with slow patience and an often naive sense of honor, my father and I had very similar ideas.
Step 1) Establish a foothold
Step 2) Expand and secure said foothold
Step 3) Win
My father…I mean, Emperor Fatherius begun by swiftly kicking Sauron in the eye-face and establishing himself in the lands of the South. With Legions of Haradrim and orcs following suit, my rangers of Ithilien fought bravely indeed, but alas, with the Mad Queen slowly descending into feral insanity, and no way to reach the docks to flee to the North lands of prosperity, they fell in the slow, efficient march of the Red banners.
However, it was honor that was his downfall in the end. You see, me and my brother, long have learned to master sneakier tactics. My brother employs the victim card, while I employ the “shut up and hope nobody notices” card to stay under the radar. My father, was and is, a worthy opponent and not one to be underestimated, but at the same time, he is predictable.
At least for me and my brother who have lost -so- many times in games of strategy to him.
A bit of my brother sicking my sister at him, me slowly but surely kicking him out of the north, and off course, my brother’s own expansions south, meant that my father failed where I had succeeded.
Even in the end however, just as the Green Democracy started to sharpen its steel, and the Black Legions set their murderous gaze upon each other, my father gave out what is officially described in Risk as the “Oh damn” maneuver.
As if conjuring reinforcements out of thin air, Emperor Fatherius launched a double assault at both me and my brother, taking significant regions from us, or at least clearing out a -lot- of our manpower from the field, thus, showing to everyone in Middle Earth, that Fatherius was not one to be ignored.
As the dust settled (we all had to go places)
My sister was pretty clearly out of the game about 3 hours into it. With very few regions, and none of them of any tactical significance, the title was up for grabs for us three.
However, with my father slowly losing and my brother expanding, a bit too fast, a bit too much. The final question was
Who conquered middle earth in the end?
In all honesty, the game would have been decided in about 2-3 turns. I did not have the expanse my brother had, and as such did not have the reinforcements he would be able to bring on the field, that much is true.
On the other hand, my brother was mostly pre-occupied with the conquest of the south, and had a -lot- of 1 battalion areas, whereas my people had established an almost impregnable hold of the north. Unfortunately, those attacks never happened, because we were about to have visitors, and quite honestly, everyone but me got -super- bored.
I like to think I had the more chances to victory. All it took was lady luck smiling at me a single time for me to win. Because if I managed to break Brosefar’s stronghold in the North, then I would be able to expand and bunker into areas faster than he could retake.
On the other hand however, should I fail to do so and lose even a single crucial battle, then it was only a matter of time before Brosefar’s legions would sweep over all that was good and green in this middle earth.
Moral of the story
Don’t do drugs. (We never did, but figured this is a good time to place this as any)
But seriously, if I ever thought that there was a slight chance you get to see someone’s character from a board game, this session only confirmed my assumption. From my brother’s sly tactics, to my sister’s explosive passionate behavior, I think that board games are the best and the story above is all the proof you need that you should start playing more of them.