A long-running virtual game of strategic conquest helps eight Wesleyan graduates keep their skills and wits sharp.
What do two MBAs, two consultants, two lawyers, an actor/writer, and an entrepreneur have in common? It may sound like the start of a bad joke, but their 10-year-long quest for world domination is anything but.
It all started freshman year in 2009, when a group of friends began playing a digital version of the popular board game Risk. As seniors, Noah Feingold, Peter Frank, Phil Hall-Partyka, Adam Ilowite, Jeremy Koegel, Julian Silver, Kevin Walters, and David Wei (all ’12) began taking their dreams of global supremacy a little more seriously, forming teams and using the online platform
Warfish.net to regularly compete against each other, even after having spread out across the country after graduation.
“What makes this special is that everyone’s committed to it,” David Wei says. “Checking Warfish is part of our daily routine. We all have families, careers. But it’s one of those things. You always check Warfish.”
Since graduation, Wei estimates the group has played well over 300 games almost nonstop. They’ve organized themselves much the way a professional sports league would, complete with a regular season, league charter, a codified rulebook, and, most importantly, a season-ending tournament that determines who gets to hold the league trophy (and yes, there is a real, shiny league trophy).
“This is a group of friends that hung out a lot together at school,” Wei says. “Warfish is a great shared interest and it’s helped us maintain that good-natured competitiveness that we developed at Wesleyan.”
Though the group mostly plays remotely, they do their best to gather in person once a year for their equivalent of the Super Bowl. Previously held in locations like New York City and Cape Cod, this year’s main event accommodated their wide geographic dispersion by meeting in the center of the country in Kansas City, Missouri. Wei and his teammate, Feingold, are two-time champions but were felled in the competitive Kansas City tournament by an upstart squad managed by Koegel and Ilowite.
The different participants’ characters and career choices are occasionally reflected in their playing styles. Koegel (currently practicing law in Los Angeles) and Ilowite (an engagement manager at McKinsey in Texas), for example, have a team mantra of “never forget,” meaning they have long memories for any perceived slights in the course of play. Wei (an investment manager in New York) and Feingold (who just completed his MBA and MS in environment and sustainability from the University of Michigan) have what Wei calls “a more pragmatic approach” thanks to their MBA backgrounds.
“There are definitely some common themes that play out because of our personalities and backgrounds and career choices,” Wei notes. “But the most important lesson when you play Warfish is to be versatile and adapt your strategy to what’s in front of you.”
Beyond the running, 10-year tradition, one of the biggest coincidences of the Warfish world is one of its maps. Wei explains that participants can choose from a variety of different boards to play on. As luck would have it, someone had previously designed a map to replicate the Wesleyan campus—complete with Foss Hill, College Row, and several other notable locations—which Wei defined as “an insane coincidence because there aren’t that many maps.” The group has yet to discover the identity of the Cardinal cartographer, but are encouraging to any other graduates who might care to join the Warfish community.
“Individual games max out around eight people,” Wei says. “But the Warfish community is open to anyone; we’d be super supportive of anyone else wanting to join. All you have to do is head to Warfish.net and request an invite.”
Noah Feingold just completed an MBA and MS in environment and sustainability from the University of Michigan. He now works for an electric utility in Detroit and is focused on accelerating the adoption of clean energy/clean energy technologies. Noah would also like to use this space to see if Kevin or Jeremy are interested in trading for one of his second basemen.
Peter Frank is living in Brooklyn, New York, where he plays on a soccer team with Stephen Nangeroni, Zach Dixon, Robert Troyer, and Sam Tureff (all ’12). When not competing against and alongside fellow Wesleyan alums, he serves as a co-founder for DEV (dev.to), an online community platform for software developers.
Phil Hall-Partyka is living in Los Angeles and has worked at an economic consulting firm since completing an MBA from the University of Southern California in 2016.
Adam Ilowite is an engagement manager in McKinsey’s New York office when not polishing and admiring the championship trophy at home in Austin, Texas. Adam works with health care organizations across the country, and most recently relocated to Singapore for three months.
Jeremy Koegel is currently practicing as a lawyer in Los Angeles. He lives with his wife and two cats, all of whom are pleased that he currently shares joint custody of the championship trophy with Adam but are happier that the trophy does not reside in their small apartment.
Julian Silver is out in LA acting and writing for TV and film. He writes with Reiss Clauson-Wolf (’13), and thanks Dana Levy (’12) for allowing joint custody of him. He is also roommates with Andrew Dominguez (’12), who does YouTube yoga in the living room.
Kevin Walters is in his final year of law school at UC Berkeley. He plans to fight against the criminalization of poverty and the anti-black criminal legal system in New Orleans after graduation. Prior to law school, Kevin honed his game strategy as a chess coach and his good-natured bantering skills while working at a neighborhood bar.
David Wei currently lives with Leslie Wentworth (’12) in New York City after receiving his MBA from Columbia Business School in May and is continuing his career in investment management with Durable Capital Partners. They have a two-year-old Shiba Inu named Peaches (IG @peachesinthebigapple). In his spare time, he’s working on honing his Warfish algorithms to get back to the top.
Photo courtesy David Wei ’12