Making the Grade: Continents in Risk

What does Risk have to do with comics? Very little, unless they made a comic based on the board game that I haven’t heard of. But I was reading a few old Marvels the other day and I saw this ad on the back cover of a 1985 issue of The Avengers. Just one look was all it took to transport me instantly back to my university days, hanging out with my nerd herd and spending many late evenings in the common room playing Risk while the other students were acting risky in other ways. Anyway, enjoy:

I like Africa. It’s a nice, solid piece of cartography, which is something that most people just don’t appreciate anymore. Plus, when my armies go rampaging through it like Hannibal’s happy hordes, I like to make lots of Jumanji-type stampeding sounds. Its only drawback, strategically speaking, is its close proximity to the powderkegs that are Europe and the Middle East. Real-life Africans can probably relate. B-

What is it with Australia? Every time a couple of us get together to play, the one player who fancies himself a master strategist heads straight for the land down under and fortifies that mother. Why? Sure, it’s an easy way to pick up an extra few soldiers, but it’s Australia, for crying out loud. It’s like in Superman II, when Lex Luthor asked the evil Kryptonians to save Australia for him after they’ve conquered the world: decent real estate, sure, but not — and I mean no offence, my Sydney friends — where the real action is. C

A headache to conquer, a headache to hold. Put it this way — when’s the last time any real-life conqueror managed to hold on to the Middle East, Japan, Siam and Irkutsk for any period of time? Sure, the laughs start rolling when it’s 3 a.m., everyone’s drunk and someone uses the old “Ukraine-to-Ural-to-your ass” line, but on the whole Asia’s entertainment value is limited, to say the least. C-

Oy vey. And you wonder why Eurasia’s inflamed backside takes up so much space in your history textbook. Seven territories surrounded by six ways to get there… not a fun place to start your career in world domination, but at least Iceland gets a chance to kick ass. France, Spain, Germany, Italy:­ all are subsumed into generic “northern-southern-western” blocs. Not Iceland, though. Iceland is the proud guardian of the north, Europe’s first and best defense against those dastardly Greenlanders. I think it’s nice that even little countries like Iceland gets to play in the war games. It’s like The Little Engine That Could on a geopolitical scale. B

South America
Like Australia, this seems to be the continent preferred by your more serious Risk enthusiasts as a base of operations. They say it’s all part of their overall military strategy, which is impressive until you realize “roll big numbers” is the only real strategy in the game. Anyway, South America: it’s orange, it’s easily defended, B-

North America
Awright! Now, this is a landmass worth fighting for. I know I’m leaving myself open to accusations of continental chauvinism here, but I don’t consider Risk a game worth playing unless my armies are rolling all over those purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain. Unlike Australia, it’s in the action just enough to make it interesting; unlike Europe and Asia, it’s just far enough from the main battlefields to allow a little breathing room. Plus, if you’re ever playing with a Nova Scotian or Long Islander, pointing out the absence of his or her home address is an endless source of fun. Well, maybe not endless, but after that “Ural-to-Ukraine-to-your-ass” routine wears thin, you pretty much have to take your laughs where you can find them. A



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