By Brooke Moran
In the midst of March Madness, a second block elective class at James River High School is playing their own type of tournament. A tournament with the game of Risk.
This is the first year an International Relations class is being offered at the high school. International Relations can also be known as global affairs or global studies. The class focuses on how different diplomacies react to others. It gives students the opportunity to know what is going on between various countries around the world, not just what is being aired on the closest news station.
Mrs. Cox is one of the history teachers at the high school. She has taught at James River for 15 years, and this is the first year she has been given the chance to teach this course. This second block class is very small, having 13 students when all are present. The grade levels range from sophomores to seniors, but the group mostly consists of seniors. To help the class further understand the idea of global interactions and foreign policy, the students are competing in a tournament against each other with the game Risk.
If you think the board game Monopoly takes a long time, try playing Risk with teenagers who aspire to win. The game of Risk is known as “A game of strategic conquest,” and basically world domination. The goal is to take over countries, and eventually a continent until a player's armies have taken over the entire game board. This “world domination” is also determined by chance. When taking over countries, the opposing players have to roll a dice, and then the team with the lowest roll loses an army piece. The more countries a player has, the more cards they receive. These cards can eventually be traded for more armies. Once players take over all the countries in a continent, they receive more armies every turn. More armies mean the player has a higher chance of their invasion being successful. When playing, the students have the choice to play in a group with others or play alone. By having someone work with you, it is easier to strategize and bounce ideas off each other.
The way this class has the tournament set up is simple. In the beginning, there are two boards set up with the students divided onto each board. One board has students that are working in groups while the other board consists of students that are playing without partners. On Friday, the winners from both game boards will combine and play in a championship game while the teams who lost will play on a different board. When the game first starts, the students seemed to be very laid back. Slowly, as the game went on, the players become agitated and want to win. Students start raising their voices and making alliances with other groups while also trying to gain territories and more armies.
The entire reason for this Risk tournament is to better understand foreign policy. Foreign policy mostly consists of treaties, conflicts, resolutions, sanctions, and embargoes. While the game does not have sanctions or embargoes, it helps to understand more and why treaties and resolutions are so important. In the game, sometimes it is helpful to ask for assistance to try and defeat an army rather than taking them on alone. An alliance is how I got my armies pushed out of a country. Two teams joined together to try and force my armies out. This is how treaties and alliances work. Even though making an alliance can be beneficial at the time, there are a couple of issues with making an alliance in this game. One reason is, to be the winner of the game, you have to take over the map. This means the alliance will be broken at one point or another. Another is that it is very easy to get pushed into making an irrational decision when it is not needed. The game is based on change, so students should try and think logically before making an alliance that will ultimately fail. This game helps students understand, on a lower standpoint, how important one move can be.
This tournament is helping students get ready for their next big assignment; running a country. In pairs, the students will be acting as leaders of a country and will be making government decisions. One team acts as a peacekeeping mechanism while others act as empires or countries. The assignment is the same idea as Risk, minus the hostile takeovers. The tournament is helping the students get ready for a situation where they decide the outcome of an entire country full of people and its armed forces.