Oh, you’re sorry, are you?

Gina Barreca

HARTFORD, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — An old detail kept elbowing me, tugging at my sleeve like an annoying little kid, when President Donald Trump said he thought it might be a good idea to buy Greenland.

Then I went back to check on the map of the world as depicted by the classic board game Risk: Greenland is one of the golden-yellow territories in the game, as much part of North America as Canada and Mexico.

Maybe Donald Trump was remembering this when he said wanted to buy Greenland. But if that were the case, of course, he’d also consider buying Mexico as part of the same package deal. Not likely.

Or maybe Mr. Trump’s entire focus has always been on his own board game which, unsurprisingly, is called Trump: The Game. I’d never heard about it until Facebook friend Char Piacentino proved to me that she wasn’t making it up.

If you haven’t heard of it either, don’t worry.

First issued in 1989, Trump: The Game didn’t exactly enthrall the nation. A Dec. 30 L.A. Times article that year announced that Trump’s game was “among the retail sales bombs this holiday season,” along with a line of children’s clothing promoted by Pee-Wee Herman.

The winner of Trump’s game is the one who merely amasses the most money. The players start, naturally, with an inheritance. (Who doesn’t? I once asked my father about our inheritance, and he said, “Your brother gets the pots. You the pans.”) After that, it’s luck, not skill, that gets you ahead.

Ironically enough, although Trump’s game was reissued in 2004, it never was an earner: It sold fewer than half as many units as expected.

Hasbro stopped manufacturing it.

There’s another vintage board game I worry an American president might become too good at playing. It’s called Go For Broke. Its rule book, from 1965, now seems almost prescient: “Players receive one million dollars ... and race to be the first player to spend all of their money and go bankrupt. Players can risk money at the Racetrack, the Casino, play the Stock Market or make donations to charity.”

I wasn’t allowed to play the board game Risk when I was a kid, so what do I know about diplomacy, conflict and world conquest? It was the early 1960s, and my brother Hugo, six years my senior, played Risk with other cool kids, all of whom were boys.

Girls, perhaps unsurprisingly, were not encouraged to go anywhere near Risk.

While our brothers were strategizing about how to occupy continents and territories, whether to attack, move or pass, and how to build up their borders for more effective defense, their little sisters and I were busy learning skills that would become important to our lives as women. We practiced our own crucial rituals in games such as Mystery Date, in which we assembled “outfits,” then opened a door to reveal whether our outfits matched that of the potential mate on the other side.

Talk about risk.

Or we learned how to be named Miss Popularity by becoming expert at buying dresses, getting autographs, preparing for picnics, and — even in 1961 — getting a silver credit card.

Boys had to slay their enemies to win; all the girls had to defeat were our friends.

But while the boys could form alliances, make treaties and dominate globally, girls used a miniature plastic phone to address the eternal questions of womanhood with nuanced replies such as “yes,” “no” or “busy.”

At what board game should the president of the United States be proficient? Should she play a mean game of Mille Bornes” or would that indicate too close an alliance with the European Union? Should he be unbeatable at Scrabble? Should she sizzle at Chutes and Ladders?

A world leader should be good at Life and learn the rules of Sorry, because all of them will face Trouble at some point. But they need to have a Clue.

The best games teach real lessons, and at the very heart of every game is the need to keep everyone engaged. To fold up map of the world, throw the pieces onto the floor and walk away would be a real risk.

You wouldn’t want to do it for all the gold in Greenland.

Gina Barreca, a board of trustees distinguished professor of English literature at the University of Connecticut, is the author of 10 books. Visit the Hartford Courant at www.courant.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. © 2019 Hartford Courant.

Tribune Wire

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(3) comments


As I understand it, once the glaciers melt the entire interior will be a kind of giant lake because the weight of all that ice has depressed the land. It will be really nice. Denmark is smart to hold on to it.


Well said, Airball55.


What a waste of ink. Ok, I get it..the writer hates Trump. But no where did it state anything in regards to strategic investment, real reasons to look into it (as others do) and what not. I remember when buying Alaska was deemed a bad idea...This article was just an embarrassment.

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