At Radical I worked with a fellow named Mike Peredo, wicked technical artist and creative sort all around otherwise. Eons ago he and his college cohorts hosted weekly game nights, board games, card games, table top games, until they felt they needed to develop something of their own, a perfect mash-up of their favorite games into something more robust, challenging, and inherently open ended. Essentially the game that never ends, just iterates, evolves, tries new things, returns to things that worked when fixing what wasn’t so broken after all got broken.
One weekday afternoon during a rare relatively calm period during the production of Scarface: the World if Yours, Mike asked LD Scripter Lead Jesse Russell, car tuning guru Richard Mul, and myself if we’d want to come by his house on Saturday for a game of Nuclear Risk-Ticker. Jesse had been a big Axis & Allies / Age of Empires fan, Richard had done his Warhammer time, and I’d liked all of those games for the artistry and detail of the little figurine playing pieces. So we all promised to show up, and I remain grateful we did.
- A clear schedule for an entire Saturday, potentially well into the evening
- 4 – 6 Players with an appetite for seeing Risk turned up to 11, or maybe 13
- A few dozen varieties of beer, cider, pop, mead, and ethanol
- Bags, boxes, and bevies of snacks sweet and / or savory
- A classic Risk board game with all pieces and all army pieces from a second Risk board game, particularly Black as those may end up representing Zombies from prospective & (eagerly) anticipated irradiated areas
- A classic Stock-Ticker board game with all pieces and dice
- A stack of pennies to represent Rads in countries that get nuked or suffer nuclear related accidents
- A stack of custom made rules and items to purchase cards created by the hybrid game\s authors
- A stack of blank cards for new rules each player adds to the game before the game begins, and once all players ratify each new card as viable for inclusion into the rule deck
- Bottle Caps because there invariably is something that requires a marker along the way and nothing else is suitable. Fortunately the ample beverages will supply a cornucopia of caps
- Monopoly money, heaps of it, to pay out to players as the economy flexed and floundered.
The first game session we showed up unprepared for how daunting the game would seem, or how smoothly the game would actually transpire. Initially as we arrived, claimed seats and piece colors, and unpacked our contributions to the snack and beverage pool, there seemed like too much gear for a board game.
Stock Ticker had been brought in essentially to instill an economy into the territories, which subsequently affects the cost of armies, allowing places with crap economies to stockpile troops cheaply while countries with great economies couldn’t stock up as fast, though received other perks, like better ability to buy nukes, or develop launch sites for said nukes.
Risk came in next providing countries, territories, continents to control. Everyone initially gets a few at random, and the deal making beings pretty much immediately after that deal out. Next everyone gets a small allotment of the card from the custom deck the mash-up game’s creators created, the deck that would include ratified new rule / goal cards in subsequent matches but weren’t an option in that first game. Some people get nukes, others launch sites, others various sorts of modifier or bonus or get out of peril free cards, others abilities related to radiation or zombies, and others methods to rapidly transport troops via ship, helicopter, or generally unreliable teleport ( I added that card in game 2 or 3, inspired by David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly).
Next people get their initial banks, some spending money to get things rolling, buy some troops, set up the nations they now control. Those familiar with Risk will of course recognize this step. However, what I forgot to mention is that the Stock ticker has had its first roll, as I recall, and some countries out of the gate have economic issues, good or bad depending on where you’ve landed. Get a small, defendable continent like Australia and have cheap soldiers available, you can stock up and hunker down while the rest of the world get’s their conquests on. Not far from real life, if you ask me. Small sustainable island continents with low population density seems like the perfect refuge when the zombies come calling.
The first game I brought a four pack of tall boy Boddingtons Cream Ales with the widget inside the can activated when the tab is pulled and a six pack of Heinekens to share. I also had a bag of cheese curls, some trail mix, and some peanut brittle. My contributions paled to the stuff Mike’s long time friends showed up with. Exotic tequila, mead with an unpronounceable name, gallons of Guinness, homemade Sangria, home maid lemonade, homemade honey tea, layered deserts I still have no idea what they’re called, just that by the end of the evening the baking pan had been scraped clean by tooth, fork, and nail. And to add that extra embellishment of geek class, Mike provided an array of Lord of the Rings souvenir glasses from, I believe, Burger King, pint sized burly beer thick clear plastic mugs laden with film themed iconography molded as reliefs replete with a switch on the bottom that turned on a light to glow up through the beer like the ring from the bottom of the river when Gollum first found it.
The second game I caught a ride with Richard and we hit the IGA on Main street behind Brewery Creek (and the Brewery Creek as well), and together we got a couple sacks of varied chips, more peanut brittle, and a box of heart shaped pink frosted day old donuts no one by Richard and I were brave enough to actually sample.
The first game I lasted about as long as my Boddingtons, and only then probably because I soldiered up and claimed the dark heart of Africa as my own, safe from adversity until the others got weary of contesting England versus France versus Germany like a recreation of War of Roses and the conquest of Poland, which I believe took an afternoon, horses versus tanks being something like rock versus paper or lemon versus cream.
Second game perhaps infused with the power of Sanrio pink frosted day old donut, I managed to make through to the final third. I suspect some of the seemingly naive deals I wrangled early showed good instinct, and the three rules I contributed to the custom deck never were played to my disadvantage, were the edge that helped me make it to the final third. Sure, winning would have been wonderful, however with games like this, as with road trips for any reason, should be the journey that matters, and the highs and lows along the way.
The nukes fly like purple rain that day, I’ll tell you what. I bought every cheap nuke that became available, and being cheap nukes, that meant they had a 2/3 chance of not hitting their intended target, and a 1/3 chance of detonating on the launch pad, rendering the launch site invalid and irradiating the country, leaving any surviving troops converted into man flesh hungry zombies. After irradiating my first launch site I carved a bloody path to secure a second launch site in Northern Europe. Soon I had my ACME rockets bursting in air over pretty damn near every country I hadn’t aimed at, and all my opponents were dealing with the fallout, pardon the pun, as clear paths now teemed with radioactivity and / or zombies, safe borders now worrisome since all the allied troops on the other side of the line had become zombie cannibals craving relief from the pain of death through the squishy brain juices of the living.
Eventually folks tired of my spamming cost cutter nukes around the map with reckless abandon and formed a coalition of the unwilling to bring my dubious administration to an end. Inside a single turn around the table my controlled areas fell as though on clearance sale. And then, to grin and mock, left me in the top northwest corner of North America withered and sequestered like Sarah Palin’s sense of self respect. I sat through a couple more rounds trying feebly to muster some new troops while the stock ticker made my troops prohibitively expensive, and at long last someone put me out of my misery.
The third game I lost out pretty early and had multiple commitments otherwise, two things that may have had influence on one another, so not a lot to say about that. Also the game happened not long after Richard’s funeral, a couple months anyway, and that left something feeling empty about it for me, since the last time I’d come out to play I’d had that zany whirlwind tour of the IGA and Brewery Creek with Richard before heading up to Mike’s place. A lot had changed before the third game, and the difference became too distracting for me, couldn’t get my head in the game, my head trip had other destinations, other exit ramps inbound.
I ran into Mike not long ago on Main outside Salt Spring Coffee, he and his Mom, the awesome lady that claimed the balloon I’d drawn a whacky skull on for one of Mike’s Day of the Dead / Dias Las Muertos parties, something I’ll write about another day. I expressed, without hesitation, my sincere belief another game is long overdue. I hope he’ll call one.