I hate politics, yet love strategy games. Both politics and games have always been a huge part of holiday traditions for my family. We’re a group of arguers, my family. We’ll argue anything. A-N-Y thing. It doesn’t matter what we believe, or even if we agree with the opposite party. We’ll argue for the sake of arguing. It’s what brings us together. Recently over on Lessons from Teachers and Twits Renee asked, “What are some non-traditional family rituals that bring you joy?” I of course had to respond. The following is an expansion of my reply:
Every Christmas and Thanksgiving we get together as a family (no way, really?!?!). After the presents are opened, dinner had, dishes done, and desert well on the way we all join together to play a game. We usually play Trivial Pursuit which gives us ample time to argue over the correct answer to a question and to fight like cats and dogs. We’ve also been known to play Monopoly (until dad lands on my brother’s hotel on Boardwalk and flips the board over), RISK, and more recently Bananagrams. These are times of family bonding. And times to ritually destroy each others fragile emotions over board games.
I believe I was 13 or so the first time we played RISK. Both my brother and I were smart enough to know not to trust dad, yet dumb enough to think that he wouldn’t destroy us given the tiniest chance. For those not in the know, when playing RISK you basically try to take over the board by chancing dice roles and armies against your opponents armies. My brother, being twice as competitive as I am, immediately gets into a land war with dad over the control of Australia. I sit back and collect every territory of South America giving me extra armies at every turn as long as I hold those territories. Dad picks Latin America as a starting point to try to knock me out of S.A. I pick North Africa to protect my border. Eventually all the territories are divvied up and we can begin. Immediately, my brother attacks my dad to wrest control of Australia away from him. Dad of course gives him a run for his money. I fortify my border with Latin America and attack dad, taking him out and gaining control of a crucial border. We go back and forth winning and losing territories at each turn. We’re collecting cards, trading them in for extra armies to use to fortify borders all over the world. Here’s where the politicking comes in to play. Dad sees himself as the loser in this if things keep going the way they are. He’s more competitive than my brother is, and HATES to lose (see Monopoly above). So he starts making deals. He first tries to get my brother to stand down and allow him to keep Australia. Failing in this, he makes a pact with me to not attack me for 4 turns if I take my brother out at the Ural Mountains territory. Stupidly, I agree. Two turns later, I’ve taken out my brother at the Ural Mountains, drastically depleting my armies in Asia. He strikes. First he blows through my defenses at Latin America, then Venezuela, second he switches up and attacks North Africa. Then abruptly he ends his turn. “What about our agreement?” “Yeah, I went and broke that. I needed you not to have control of South America.” Eventually I’m wiped out and it becomes a one-sided two person battle for control of the world. Dad of course wins. We win a valuable lesson: We can’t trust dad. Especially when it comes to board games. If he can’t win legitimately, he’ll cheat to win. So now when we play, it’s two on one. Many times my brother and I are able to take out dad and begin our head-to-head battles. Occasionally I win however it’s not really about that with me. It’s about teaming up with my little brother to destroy dad.
Are you competitive? Does your family get together to play games? Which ones? Comment below: