Hanukkah is supposed to be a joke holiday. Semantically and pedantically, it’s not even a holiday; it’s a festival. A festival that celebrates the pre-modern Israel Israelites not being slaughtered en mass (just kinda sorta slaughtered) by an occupying army.
A brief history lesson for you. After Egypt (in which country we were, quite possibly, not slaves but contract laborers or the people who did the whipping, and left because we weren’t getting paid enough), the Israelites wreaked havoc across what would be today the Sinai Peninsula, Israel, and Lebanon. And then, after settling down a bit after a few plagues that may or may not have been sent to crush the uppity Israelites by a somewhat bi-polar God, Israel had a kingdom.
And then, because if you put three Jews in a room you’ll have four opinions, the kingdom split and became extremely weak. And then, because this is the way the world works, the area was conquered several times by empires that had their shit together. One such Empire was the Hellenistic Greco-Syrian empire, the head of which decided it’d be a neat idea to sacrifice pigs in the Temple.
If you know anything about Judaism, you know that we, as a religion, have a thing about pigs. We don’t like em. They think they’re smart, they’re dirty, and I hear that they are working on the power of flight. So, after learning that pigs were about to bleed in their Temple, a group of Jews lost their shit, holed up in the mountains, and attacked armies. And, surprisingly, they won.
And so today, that’s why we have Adam Sandler’s SNL skit as the theme song for Hanukkah for everyone under the age of fifty.
Where was I? Oh yes. Hanukkah as a festival is traditionally one that has a reputation as being full of terrible gifts. For example, I never expected a good gift in Hanukkah; I expected pencils or socks–receiving something as minimal as a set of Legos was cause to flip shit for a couple of days, well past the point where I’d actually finished assembling the set.
But last year, around the middle of Hanukkah, I received a package from my Mom. The only important thing in the box was a really fancy edition of Risk.
I hadn’t played the game in years, but my lust for the game was reawakened. I had flashbacks to battles fought in the state parks, using a hack to cheat my way to victory online, and I realized that I must play.
I gathered the troops, so to speak, and the troops were as follows:
- Giannis: Giannis was my flatmate. He was from Athens, had served in the Greek military, and learned English through Dungeons and Dragons. He claimed that he’d played Risk before, but it turned out that he’d only played the game with missions. Missions, for the uninitiated, are ways to speed up the game; and, in my opinion, a Risk match that does not last at least three hours is not a Risk match at all.
- Gary: Gary was–and, I’d imagine, is–an amoral human being with Godawful taste in music and film. He had a habit of storming out of sessions when it was clear he was going to lose.
- Jon: Jon, I’d like to think, is my slightly more devious English counterpart. I don’t think I ever saw Jon without a bottle of booze nearby, and he had the perfect mentality for Risk: Throw others in the way of destruction so that you may live.
- Kaitlin: Kaitlin was a super nice girl from Texas who was going through her entire undergrad at Kent. She was afraid of me when I played Risk–for some reason–and, at one point, she disappeared off of the face of the Earth.
- Claire: Claire was a girl from Essex and, to be completely honest with you, I’m not sure why she hung out with us. She was in the American Society (who I sometimes hung out with because they had beer deals at the on-campus bars) and really enjoyed hockey. More often than not, she played the role of the speed bump in front of Jon or Flynn
- Flynn: Flynn is Emperor Palpatine before his face got all weird. He’s got a certain charisma that mostly shows up during Risk; much like Jon, Flynn was a master at throwing people in front of him as a speed bump, but while Jon went at it in an almost Stalin-esque fashion, Flynn was more political about it.
- Gilles: At this point, Gilles was a friend I’d met through Gary. He’d turn out to be my cinematographer for The Attack of The Weretimberwolf-Hybrid, but at this point, I knew him as the man who introduced me to the excessively nerdy Star Wars Risk.
- Tuna: Currently, Tuna is displaying more chutzpah than I will ever have and working at an aid organization in Afghanistan. Tuna played Risk with the mentality of bringing everyone together in one world government. He did this in the same way Napoleon hoped to: Brute force and intimidation. After, though, I’d assume the world would be full of Star Trek, Batman, and Wicked.
- Kyle: As far as I know, Kyle is still trying to join the FBI. Kyle was, probably, the least geeky person at the table the one time he played Risk. He had a look of discomfort, and probably wished he was watching the Premier League instead of pretending to take over the world.
Our next meeting will detail the ins-and-outs of playing Risk with such an international group and, more importantly, the Attack and Defense Plates.