Durfee never saw it coming. Under cover of darkness Sunday night, Saybrugian and Piersonite forces stole out of L-Dub and mounted a frontal assault on Post Office territory, overwhelming the unsuspecting Morsel defenders. Across Old Campus, Davenport College turned on Ezra Stiles, and the combined forces of Berkeley and Branford seized South High Street from Saybrook and Pierson.
Is this a scenario from “Studies in Grand Strategy?” Not quite. The clash of collegiate forces Sunday night marked the beginning of Old Campus Tree Risk. In the uniquely Eli adaptation of the classic board game, every tree on Old Campus is a potential territory to conquer. The YaleStation-based game allows any Yale student to place and command armies in territories controlled by his or her residential college.
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Old Campus Tree Risk is the brainchild of Gabe Smedresman ’06, who thought that a pan-Yale game of Risk might be “something really cool to do.”
“It had been stewing inside my head since summer, so one day I sat down with a game board and drew it out,” he said.
Smedresman, an architecture major, was quick to point out that Old Campus Tree Risk was meant initially to have a more substantial physical component in addition to the online game. His original plans called for a bright cloth banner to fly from each conquered Old Campus tree.
“It started out as an art piece as much as a game,” Smedresman said.
While the $700 Smedresman received from the Committee for Campuswide Activities was not enough to carry out his artistic vision, it was sufficient to create the game in its present form.
So far, Yalies have nothing but good things to say about Old Campus Tree Risk.
Ryan Beauchamp ’10 said he thought the game was a good way to get students who normally do not play intramural sports to participate in pan-Yale competition.
Over 350 Yale students have taken part in the game so far. Sam Purdy ’10, who is in Davenport College, said his college is fielding Old Campus’s most formidable army.
“We had an all-out recruitment blitz last night. Half of Welch came out at midnight for a battle cry,” Purdy said. “It’s a little nerdy, but I think that might be why it’s so fun.”
While Davenport freshman counselor Sang Hoon Lee ’07 declined to discuss specifics of his college’s Risk strategy, he mentioned that Davenport was planning to hold meetings to discuss plans for the game. Davenporters have also created a Facebook group assigning each player the name of a famous general, Purdy said.
The game is proving more popular than Smedresman imagined, creating technical problems he has struggled to fix. For example, the game’s expanding size demands hundreds of individual dice rolls in order to determine the outcome of battles.
“I wrote the program to crunch the numbers entirely [on Sunday] night,” he said. “I was in severe danger of having to roll dice for several hours.”
The problem left players waiting for hours to see the updated map of Old Campus after Turn 1.
Another on-the-fly change in game play was the addition of Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges to the game, as part of Farnam Hall and Durfee Hall, respectively.
Despite the glitches, the game has some Yalies like Beauchamp wondering just how far Old Campus Tree Risk could go.
“It could be the next Bladderball,” he said.