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El Conquistador

November 30, 2014

When I was growing up, my cousins, brother and I enjoyed playing the game of RISK.  RISK is a strategy board game of global conquest produced by Parker Brothers. My cousin Tommy introduced me to the game.  Tommy was a year older than me.  We eventually got my brother, Michael, and his brother, Bobby, into the game.  We would often have sleepovers and play for many hours, often until the wee hours of the following morning. It was fun.

After high school, my cousin Tommy went into the Marines and later worked in the elevator repair business.  I went to college and then worked in the insurance industry.  My brother Michael went to college and eventually became a priest.  My cousin Bobby worked in the elevator business like his brother did.

Years went by and we got together at a family party.  We reminisced about the fun we had playing RISK and other games growing up.  We talked about getting together to play RISK again for fun as adults.

When I was a kid, my dad would host an annual poker game at our house with his brothers and friends coming to play.  They would play poker, drink beer, eat snacks, and laugh until the wee hours of the night. It looked and sounded like such fun for them. I wasn’t into playing poker, but thought I could host a similar event playing RISK instead.

I had the idea of hosting a RISK event at my house and called it El Conquistador© (i.e. The Conqueror).   I put together the plan and executed it.  I sent out a flyer with invites to the people I wanted to play.  That first year it was me, Tommy, Bobby, Michael, and my buddies, Patrick and Vernon.  I put the following wording on the flyer “When the final battle is won, there will only be one….El Conquistador“. We would play a game of RISK until one of us triumphed, conquered the world, and claimed the title El Conquistador.

I made a big pot of my award-winning homemade chili and put a sign over it that read “Chili Conquistador”.  I also had lots of beer, pop and snacks.

I wanted the prize that would go to the winner to be something special that all would covet and that the winner would treasure.  I thought of the Stanley Cup that goes to the winning team of the NHL championship tournament.  The winning team lifts it overhead when they win it.  Later, they drink champagne out of it to celebrate their victory. Then they take the cup back home and revel with it for the entire year.

Months before the first El Conquistador, I began looking for a suitable prize that would be used for the event.  I had the idea that I might find silver goblets that could be engraved with the words El Conquistador and the current year.  I could get a set of them, then have a new goblet engraved each year with the new current year.

While on vacation in Uniontown, MO, I came across an antique store and found a set of 8 silver goblets that I bought at a very reasonable price.  When we got back, I had one of them engraved “EL CONQUISTADOR – 2000”.  Our prize cup was ready.

I thought long and hard on making that event something special for all who played so that it would be an annual tradition.

I also put some time into thinking which strategy I would employ in playing the game.  Would I go after a foothold in Australia?  South America?  Africa?  Or get bold and seek to first conquer and hold North America or Europe?

I’d played RISK many times and under various strategies.  They’ve all worked from time to time.  Some were more successful than others, depending on many variables.

I played the game out in my mind over and over again trying to think through which strategy was most likely to win, and finally decided what my intended game plan would be. I decided to try a bold approach that I had not seen win before, but thought since we were playing with 6 players, it might just work.

The day of the event, I welcomed the players, put out the food and drinks, and went over the rules.  Each player chose a name for themselves.  I chose the name “Yukon”.  Yukon was the name of the silver and gold seeking prospector in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer claymation cartoon on TV. The name seemed to match my strategy (that follows) and my quest for winning the silver grail.

For my strategy, I decided to focus my troops in Asia.  Asia is the hardest continent to conquer and hold.  It has many entry points from North America, Australia, Africa and Europe.  But I also theorized that most of the players would be battling viciously early in the game over continents like Australia, South America, Africa, North America and Europe.  So I placed my first army in Alaska (a move to make it look like I would make a bid for North America, and would also be representative of my Yukon name origin), and then proceeded to concentrate my troops in Asia. I then played conservatively for many rounds while the other players battled for each of the other continents.  Each of the other players all took heavy losses in those early battles for supremacy. While I each turn would take a nearby country with few troops, win a card, and build up my armies.  By the time one of the players eventually conquered Australia, they were spread thin in the process of conquering it.  So then I followed their conquest, by in turn conquering them in Australia and getting all their cards.  I then had a foothold in Australia, which is one of the more successful strategies, a handful of cards to get more armies, and played out the remainder of the game almost flawlessly, conquering the world, and winning the game.

I was Yukon – El Conquistador – 2000!  The very first Conquistador.  I was ruler of the world! I claimed the El Conquistador Cup© as my own and drank deep the glory of the triumph, before my now subjects, and reveled being El Conquistador.


My now tarnished El Conquistador Cup (it was highly polished silver when it was won)


The subsequent year my cousin Tommy triumphed and became El Conquistador (2001). The year after that my cousin Bobby was El Conquistador. (2002)

The following year there was a bit of controversy.  The game was taking a long time to play, and was down to three players: Me, my cousin-in-law, Mike, and his son, Brandon.  Brandon had somewhere else he wanted to go.  So did Mike.  We could have argued for a forfeit for not playing out the game that was supposed to begin and end that day no matter how long it took, but in the interest keeping peace, and the integrity of the contest, we decided it best to let them go and finish the game on another day.  I counted up armies on each country for each of us so we could recreate the game later, and let them go.  On a subsequent Saturday we scheduled to play out the remainder of the game from where we left off.  Only, in a very shady set of circumstances, Mike and Brandon had plotted in the meantime since we stopped the prior play to gang up on me so one of them would become El Conquistador. Their plan seemed to work as they soon eliminated me from the game.  They continued play for a little while longer, but then claimed they had somewhere else to go again.  Rather than play out the remainder of the game, they took an army count of the board and said they would finish the game on another day from one of their homes and let me know who won.  I kept asking over weeks and months who had won, but they said they couldn’t find time to schedule the remainder of the game. In my mind, that year the world was in chaos and there was no El Conquistador.  In their minds, one of them (I think Mike) eventually became El ConquiEl Conquistadorstador when they finally played out a game together. However, I don’t think they played that game out until after the following year, when in the meantime, I had held another El Conquistador game which was won by a friend named Sam Ionta.  So in my mind there was no El Conquistador in 2003 and the world remained in chaos.

Sam won that last El Conquistador (2004) game that we played together, the year I moved out of my home in Aurora.  For various reasons there has not been an El Conquistador since.  He might argue that he is still the reigning El Conquistador, and he would have a valid argument.  Some others might argue that  title is only for a year, and that world is in chaos again, and that here is no longer an El Conquistador. Their arguments would be valid too.

Could there be another El Conquistador?

Perhaps.  There may be some day.

Until such time that there is another El Conquistador, each of the prior Conquistadores will savor the memories and glory of their own personal conquests, and perhaps even on occasion they may have occasion to hoist their cup and guzzle some beer, wine, champagne, ambrosia or other libation from it, savoring the glory of having once been – El Conquistador.


Are you a RISK player?

Share some of you memories of playing RISK in the comments section below.

Did you know?

You can play RISK online at






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