The idea of taking over the whole world has always tickled me.
My first interactions with Axis and Allies were through a screen. I spent hours playing against the computer on my CD-rom version of the board game; even without the magic of all the 3-D figurines spread out before me, I absolutely loved it.
My joy is obvious in the secret videos my dad made of me belting out the lyrics I had made up to the tinny, repetitive music blaring through my family computer’s clunky speakers as I sought my great victories. In my dad’s recordings (which still, unfortunately exist) my excitement can not be contained: I jump up and dance around the chair, then sit back down, but only for a second before pulling my legs up, standing on the seat, and bouncing myself up and down with the song.
Little did I know I was actually missing out on all the greatest parts of the game. I was certainly aware that my computer version had begun as a physical game: I remember being mesmerized by a website with pictures of the an old version of the game board. The variety of game pieces was thrilling for someone who had spent so many hours painstakingly setting up giant battles with his army men. This game seemed like a dream come true.
During my childhood, Risk was the only board game of world domination I would get to enjoy and it often proved quite a challenge to entice my younger sisters into battle with me. They did not share the rush I felt as general of a vast army, standing over the battle map in contemplation of my next assault. When I was finally able to arrange a game, I was disappointed that I only had one piece at my command (the army: horses represent five and cannon’s represent ten) and that the battle sequences left way too much to the chance. Those games always left me wanting more.
My itch would remain unscratched until many years later when, while living in a Madison, WI dorm, my roommate and I discovered a small board game store. We could have easily spent a few thousand dollars there, but, between us, we had just enough to buy our first real kick-ass take-over-the-world board game: Axis and Allies.
We could barely contain our excitement during the bus ride to the Dane County Regional Airport where we worked nights for a small Midwestern airline. How we ever got away with repeatedly taking over the office’s entire break room is beyond me. I can still recall the faces of flight crews as they looked over the battle map in wonder on their way out to the hotel shuttle.
The game takes up a lot of space and every single surface: every table, counter, chair and even the microwave, was covered in cards and pieces. Long after the last flight had arrived and after the last bag claims were taken, the battle in the back room still raged. We did our best to keep it civil through the jittery intensity of pot after pot of coffee, but we would not always succeed. Long after the last bus had left the airport stop, the empty airport terminal resounded with the frustrated shouts of battles over battles.
Through the rest of college and thereafter the games would be held in basements away from the mocking scorn of less nerdy roommates and we began to alternate our cups of black coffee with whiskeys. It is difficult to express the blurry confusion that comes at three or four A.M. as clouded minds get tripped up by the complex mathematics of giant battle sequences. Do you remember which of these forty-five attacking tanks and planes in this space still have some movement points left?
Since we had originally split the cost of the game, and because my former dorm-mate and I now live many states away from each other, we pass the game back and forth every few years when we see each other. I’ve now had the box in my closet for several years and I’m disappointed to report that I have not made the most of it.
Now I stare down at the map and make my battle plan: what combination of texted words can I use to coax my sisters over to my place tomorrow so I can once again take my rightful position as Axis Commander. Can we make it through a whole war without old rivalries and unhealed wounds exploding into a flipped over board and the possible loss of some of my precious pieces?
We’re full-grown grown-ups, now; I’m sure we can handle it. Whatever happens, my heart already pounds in anticipation as I stand over the battlefield and ride the intense rush of my insatiable desire for world domination.