Wednesday 28 Sep 2016

Master of the World
AJ Robinson

Playstation, Xbox, computer games, online games yeah, these are the modern play places of our world. But, there was a time when such things were beyond even dreams or flights of fancy they had not even been conceived of. Yeah, I know, it was a thousand years ago.

Back in the care-free days of my youth back before the surface of the Earth cooled my friends and I indulged in old fashion fun, especially during summers on Marthas Vineyard. We were up with the sun, out the door to play, and didnt return until hungry dragged us inside not necessarily to our respective homes, either. No, we grabbed food wherever it was handy. Then we resumed our play until it got so dark that we couldnt see each other! So, on the nights of the full moon, we were out late.

Our games were mostly the simple basic things of long ago tag, Frisbee tag, crab soccer, war yes, I know, not politically correct and then games inspired by the latest games and TV shows. The porches of our cottages became the decks of battleships, the control center of Sealab 2020, the bridge of the Enterprise, and so on.

We also played the old fashion board games, and we had them all: Monopoly, Risk, The Game of Life, and so on. Those werent usually all that memorable, but there was this one time a certain game played one night over at Dailis cottage. A bunch of us: Jimmy, Eddy, Dailis, Reed, and I all sat down around the small dinner table in the equally small dining room and set up a game of Risk. Once the armies were given out, we started placing them. I tended to go for Europe I always liked England and Iceland; Eddy loved getting Australia, and I think Jimmy preferred Asia.

Once everything was in place, the wars began. We all adopted a simple strategy: attack one country, take it, and then only put one army in it. That way, the opponent could easily re-take it, and we wouldnt lose much. What we wanted were those all-important Risk cards. Once we had some of those, we could trade them in for more armies. For those who dont know the game, you get armies based on the number of countries you hold, the continents you control, and the cards. The cards can be decisive; the more cards that get turned in, the more armies you get.

But, the game did not go well for me; the dice would not cooperate or maybe Lady Luck was against me. At any rate, I could not win a country to save my life! So, as the game progressed, my domain dwindled and dwindled. Eventually, I held nothing but England, Iceland and Scandinavia. Each turn, I got the minimum armies, and placed them in my countries, but there was no point attacking the surrounding nations were too powerful. It became quite comical; the others referred to me as England standing alone against the might of Germany a World War II reference.

Meanwhile, the others traded nations like pawns in a chess match, and began turning in those Risk cards. Once the count got up high, they started to make their moves. Eddy drove up into Asia, Dailis swept through the Americas and battled Jimmy and Reed for Africa. They seemed to take pity on me, and pretty much left me alone. There was the occasional attack, but I was so well fortified that they couldnt dislodge me. Things were not looking well for me, and I realized that I would soon fall.

And then an opportunity presented itself.

Reed got to the point where hed been squeezed by Dailis and Jimmy; he held parts of Europe, and nothing more. I noticed that he had a lot of Risk cards, and I remembered a rule about them. If you eliminated a player, you got their cards and immediately turned them in for more armies!

That was my in.

Getting my armies, I attacked. Reed was caught by surprise; hes fortified his fronts with Dailis and Jimmy at the expense of his flank which faced me. Now, suddenly, the dice were my friend. It only took a few turns, and Reed was forced to lower his flag. The war had been costly Id lost many legions, but I had his cards. A quick trade-in, and I had 40 more armies! At this point, I saw that Jimmy was vulnerable. While his front lines were well defended; if I could break through, the nations behind them had only a single army defending them.

I heard in a movie once that you should never get involved in a land war in Asia. Well, I decided to throw caution to the wind I attacked! It truly seemed that Lady Luck had kissed my dice, because my armies were a juggernaut to rival Alexander and his Greek phalanxes. I crushed Jimmys entire frontier from Africa through Asia, and then set my armies to protect my new empire.

On the next series of plays, Dailis and Jimmy tried to counterattack, but their efforts proved fruitless. At this point, Eddy was separated from my countries by Jimmys, so he couldnt hurt me. But, what he did do was beat the snot out of Jimmy. It was clear that he was trying to knock him out, but he failed. On the plus side, hed worn Jimmy down so much that I was able to mop him up. His empire crumbled, and I picked up the pieces his Risk cards. With those armies, I turned on Dailis; a three-pronged attack from Asia, Iceland and Africa. He fought valiantly, but the writing was on the wall even the armies of the US couldnt resist me.

Finally, it was just Eddy and me, and he had a very well defended stronghold in Australia. Everyone gathered around to watch the final attack. The dice flew across the table time and again; each of us losing armies as the battle raged. While his Aussie troops were strong, they could not ultimately resist my overwhelming forces.

Australia finally fell.

It was done; I ruled supreme, and had done what Napoleon, Caesar and Alexander could not I was now Master of the World! In a way, you could say that the British Empire had re-asserted itself, and once more the flag never set on its empire.

As we left, now quite late, Dailis mother and father were in the living room, and they asked how it had gone. They were quite surprised that I had managed to rally my troops and triumph, and I assured them I would rule wisely and they wouldnt have to kiss my ring.

These days, games are so much more high-tech, and its said that kids can go online and play interactive games with people all over the world. Yet, I have to wonder, just how well do they connect with those friends? I used to worry about my daughter and her friends, as they seemed more than willing to veg-out in front of the TV, computer, and all manner of electronic games. Fortunately, Ive seen where they still enjoy a simple game of Monopoly, Uno, and others.

So, years from now, which of those games will be the ones that truly stick in their minds, and summon up happy memories of their friends the fancy electronic ones, or the ones where they get to really interact with their friends?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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