Real life, like Risk, requires great self-discipline

Have you ever played the board game called “Risk”? Last week I taught my three oldest grandkids (ages 11, 9 and 9) how to play the game. It took us five hours, and we still weren’t finished when they had to go home. They all loved it. I played the game with them to teach not only about international politics, but also about life.

The goal of Risk is to conquer the world. It is a game of military strategy. The board is a simplified map of the world. You use your “armies” (playing pieces) to launch attacks, defend yourself on all fronts and conquer vast continents. But there are dangers as well. You must consider your goals and the consequences of your decisions. If you are not careful, you could lose all!

The game teaches its players the value of diplomacy — the art of convincing other players to attack someone else, or to join in an alliance against a common foe, only to break that alliance when more pressing self-interest comes into play. It also teaches players that avoiding conflict can allow a player to increase in power.

My grandkids were fascinated and played with intensity. Two of them formed an alliance against me for a time to keep me from conquering the world. I, of course, took advantage of all the “teachable moments.” I explained that this maneuver is called balance of power. It was a strategy used by the British to maintain their empire for 300 years. The U.S. also uses balance of power to maintain peace in the world.

Wars usually weaken countries, win or lose. I told my grandchildren that this is how the U.S. became the only superpower in the 20th century. The U.S. watched Germany and Japan attack their neighbors in two world wars, only entering two years later after both the Allies and the Axis powers had exhausted themselves.

America’s buffers of two oceans and weak neighbors to the north and south, I explained, have allowed the U.S. to grow in strength and avoid costly and prolonged wars.

The game was a geography lesson for my grandchildren as well. They had never heard of Kamchatka, or the Urals, or Mongolia before playing the game. They also were largely unaware of the major continents and their relationships to each other.

I tried to teach my grandkids the concepts of having realistic goals and weighing the consequences of every decision, both on themselves and on others. Pride and greed play a major part in losing the game. Like Napoleon and Hitler, players often overextend themselves, making them vulnerable to defeat.

Winning Risk requires humility, self-discipline and self-awareness, and the ability to calculate costs and benefits.

I kept asking them, “What’s your goal? Why are you attacking that country and not another? Are you just trying to get a card, or are you ready to begin your attempt at conquest? What effect will your conquests have upon the relative strengths and weaknesses of your opponents?”

As in all human endeavors, luck plays a major part in all outcomes symbolized by the roll of the dice. We can only partially control whether we will succeed or fail. There are many factors we must consider and adjust to.

Finally, in spending time playing Risk and other games with my grandchildren, I am building relationships and memories that they will have for the rest of their lives. That was part of my calculation and hopefully part of my legacy. They will remember the good times they spent with each other and with their grandfather. As they say, the time invested is “priceless”.

We all play a real-life form of Risk every day of our lives.

The problem is that most of us aren’t any more aware of the decisions we make and the consequences we experience than my grandchildren were before they played. Self-awareness and self-discipline are the absolute keys to success in the game and in real life.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Back to the wild — a whole new outdoor recreation world | Guest editorial

When enjoying the great outdoors, continue to socially distance and be aware of how else COVID-19 has changed our world.

KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons

KCLS has expanding its online resources so patrons can continue to learn, build skills, stay entertained and remain mentally and physically active amid the pandemic.

Ardra Arwin.
‘Let’s not go out and play!’

A poem by Renton resident Ardra Arwin, age 8

How using a face mask to cover my Asian face could put me in danger

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Asians and Asian Americans have been targeted.

Opinion: Public deserves honest information on sex education

The Washington comprehensive sex education bill passed in the Senate on March 7.

Grocery store staff are working hard to keep the shelves stocked during the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo
Thank you grocery store clerks

Recognizing the sacrifices of our unsung essential workforce.

Catch each other during this fall

How we can use the quarantine to reflect on necessary social changes

To our elected officials: Be bold, be consistent, be honest, be helpful

By Patrick Grubb, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Governor Jay Inslee has been… Continue reading

Letters to the editor for the week of March 13

Reader worries about the county’s reach Dear editor, The article regarding King… Continue reading

As the deadline nears, state lawmakers face a few challenges

There are four major decisions lawmakers are tackling before the end of this legislative session.

A tax break for working families

As rents continue to climb in our communities, as food prices continue… Continue reading

Accelerating equity in STEM education in the Puget Sound

At the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), headquartered in Seattle’s South Lake… Continue reading