People often complain about how long it takes to play a game of Monopoly. Poppycock, I say! If you follow the actual printed rules of the game you can play games of Monopoly that end in just over two hours. But the longest games of Monopoly can’t hold a candle to the one game designed to last hour after hour after hour, Risk. Rare is the game of Risk that doesn’t last at least two hours, usually longer the more players involved. This morning, my Facebook memories reminded me that two years ago was the day of the longest, and to date, the most infamous game of Risk I’ve ever been part of.
It was a cold, snowy day. Friends and I gathered to keep watch over a friend’s house for the afternoon while they were away. We decided it would be a great time to play a game of Risk. Including myself, there were four players total. We ate a little lunch and sat down at the kitchen table and had the game set up and ready to go shortly after noon. Our friend left, we put on a Pandora station of marches, and the game began. We played one of my vintage copies (if you’ve read this column for a while you’re aware that I collect board games), which has fairly straightforward rules. Territories were divided, we rolled to see who would start, and the player who sat across for me won. He looked at the board and thought of his strategy.
For the first hour or so the game was standard Risk play. Each of us taking turns, concurring small nations here and there, but no major power shift yet. All of our armies and territories were holding strong. Then at hour three, things changed. One played hollered out “Kamchatka is mine!” and that’s when the first of our quartet dropped out of the game, all their territories had been conquered. I took my glasses off to indicate that I was about to make a terribly important remark, I looked over at my two competitors—who I couldn’t see as without my glasses I can’t see squat—and I said: “And then there were three.”
Play continued. The sun sunk down lower in the sky, at almost five hours in, I was down to one nation left. Though I had only one territory to my name, it was strong, and I was risking it all with my lone stronghold. Roll after roll of the dice, I lost a few armies, but I still was holding strong. Then, with one swift roll of a four against my two…I was gone. I was out of the game, but I remained at the table to watch the aftermath.
By now the power shift was dramatic, one friend began amassing so many armies that we had to dump boxes of other colors onto the board to meet the numbers he was banking. It was absurd, it started to look like the board was flooded with cubes of salad buffet ham. “A coward’s victory!” my friend who was loosing to the pile of armies said. As the game bore on, the sun had almost fully set. The friend we were house-sitting for returned, looked over at the table and asked: “Oh, did you all start another game?” The friend who was the first to drop out wearily said “No. This is the same game they started before you left.”
When the game finally came to an end, we all sat back and reflected on what has just happened. How long did we play? The estimations were around six, maybe seven hours. It was a good game, but we were waiting for a call from Ken Burns to make a documentary about it. We were tired and hungry and immediately began to fill facebook with posts about what had happened.
Keep this in mind next time you play Monopoly and fear it going on forever. Monopoly is nothing but a drop in a bucket compared to that eventful afternoon into evening of Risk. I can’t wait for the sequel, as Kamchatka will be mine once more! See you next week.