On Risk, Part 5: The Tuna Match

Ohai! I bet you thought I’d forgotten about Risk and all of its glory. Nope! I just… set it aside. For… the opportune time. Which is now.

[Gently coughs into palm] Right.

The last time we met, we discussed the tactic of play favored by douchebags across all varieties of gaming media: Rage quitting. Any time your host has dropped a match on X-Box Live, it’s probably because of rage quitting. Any time that dick Dungeon Master freaks and cancels D&D meetings because you’ve seemingly created an invincible, all-powerful character to blow through his carefully-planned campaign, it’s probably because of rage quitting.

But now, I’d like to turn our attention to a happier time. Specifically, I’d like to talk about one of the funnest games of Risk I’d ever played, one that took place in early summer in Canterbury, just before dissertations had to be handed in, soon after shooting ended on The Attack of The Weretimberwolf-Hybrid and right before half of Woolf College started going on benders.

It was one of the nights I’d decided to cook up a batch of jambalaya and subject my friends to klezmer and the sort of spice that only three habanero and six chili peppers can provide. The players were:

  • Myself
  • Flynn –  aka Emperor Palpatine
  • Claire – Impressionable and essentially putty in the hands of Flynn
  • Kyle – An American who spent much of the game with a look that said, “What the Hell am I doing playing this game?”
  • Tuna – Who, I believe I’ve mentioned is The Most Interesting Man In The World
  • Giannis – Who grew quite bored early on and left to go to The Venue.

The game was momentous, as this was the first time Kyle and Tuna had played Risk. I found this shocking, since Tuna is one of those people who seemed destined to either rule the world or die trying–and since he had a history of playing Dungeons and Dragons (see Deeandee), nerdery was nowhere near out of the question.

The game began as it normally did, with Giannis getting incredibly bored without the structure of missions to propel us forward, Chris rapidly taking over more and more land, and Claire slowly being taken into his control as he “suggested” how she should go about winning. (She never seemed to mind that it wound up in Flynn coming extremely close to winning.)

I, as usual, flailed around in my corner of the map, barely holding on to South America.

As the game went on, and after about the tenth time explaining the rules to Tuna–a repetition I was fairly positive was more Tuna trying to distract people from his troop movements via frustration–we hit that point in any Risk match where the game hits a tenuous balance. The four of us–Claire having been knocked out and gone to work–had split the board roughly evenly. I held North America and bits of Europe. Flynn held South America, bits of Africa and bits of Europe; Tuna held Asia and bits of Europe, and Kyle lurked in Australia, clinging to life and building up as much of a buffer in Siam as he could.

It was a technique I knew well. Will had used the same technique at one point, refusing to take more than one territory at a time. He’d built up a force of seventy armies in Siam before erupting out and taking over half the world, ending the game. Kyle, though, was in a slightly different situation:

He’d chosen to ally himself with Tuna in what I call the New World Order. See, Tuna is prone to long discussions about how he wants to take over the world and unite all countries, basing his new culture on Star Trek‘s version of Earth. Fair enough, yeah?

Well, not so much when you’re on the other side of the table, trying to think of ways to break up a united Asia (which, if you haven’t experienced it in a Risk match, is simultaneously mind-boggling and terrifying).

We sat at this impasse for twenty minutes, as Tuna tried to convince Flynn to join his government, Kyle nodded along, and I appealed to Flynn’s sense of unity with the Man Squad and our quasi-NATO alliance. Here are Tuna’s arguments:

  • The war had gone on long enough and cost too many lives
  • A good leader recognizes when his situation is hopeless
  • Joining his government would benefit his people, thus encouraging their admiration
  • He shouldn’t trust me, because I “broke” a treaty with Tuna, and was thus untrustworthy (I didn’t break any trust, I just exploited a loophole)

And, finally

  • Ripping open his shirt a la The Hulk, flexing his pectoral muscles, and shouting, “JOIN ME, FLYNN! JOIN KYLE!”

Buttons flew every-the-fuck-where. Seriously. This took place in May. In August, I was still finding buttons around the kitchen.

The room erupted into laughter as Tuna, poker faced, continued shouting that Flynn needed to join the government and end my destructive reign characterized by the prolonging of a world war that had raged for five hours (in-world time, approximately ten years), and, ultimately, just screaming.

Eventually, after Tuna came close to passing out from screaming, Flynn agreed to join the New World Order. And, shortly after that, Tuna began wiping me out.

“Hey,” I said, “how about you just leave me North America?”

“No,” Tuna said, “you have to be taken out.”


“Because you stood against the New World Order.”

The logic was sound.

That’s when I learned to never cross a world dictator-in-training. Tuna, if you’re reading this, I submit my application for a position as your Minister of Awesome and Books.


ADDENDUM: Kyle, who now works for a hoity-toity financial institution, has hit me with a flood of fact-checks. So: This story is flawed factually, and I am a dirty, dirty liar and should never be trusted.

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