Troops really do come from all walks of life. While the military has plenty of the jocks and popular kids, the nerdy kids also raised their right hand. But you're a few months into a deployment now and everyone's looking for something new to do.
The troops who were picked last in gym class are now playing football with the guys and the former football star is now working away on their first D&D character sheet. When you're bored in the desert and see the other guys having fun — screw it. There's nothing wrong with a bit of team building among the squad.
Some of the more traditional tabletop games, like Dungeons and Dragons, can played anywhere you can find a pen, some paper, a few dice, and, if you're lucky, a copy of the player's handbook. Coincidentally, pen and paper is about all troops sometimes have while deployed and at least one person can get a set of dice sent out.
It's not just Dungeons and Dragons that's making an unironic comeback among hardened war fighters. Other tabletop classics, like Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy, are making a splash with troops. Sure, Warhammer runs a little on the pricey side and assembling and painting an army by hand will take months. Thankfully, cash and downtime are about the only two things troops have on a deployment.
Even if the troops don't want to nosedive into the deep end of nerdom, it's not too uncommon for troops to be playing Risk (and not just until people get bored. This battle rages until someone wins, which may take a few days). Others are constantly fussing over their fantasy football team, which, let's all be honest — and take this from the guy who extensively writes about Star Wars and Game of Thrones — puts them a pair of BCGs away from joining the commo guys in playing DD.
Ranger Up even got in on the fun by livestreaming a campaign. Matt James, a U.S. Army veteran and game designer, was the Dungeon Master for Nick Palmisciano and the rest of the crew . They may have been kicked back a few more beers than they did when they played in the back of the AV club, but they — and everyone watching the stream — were having fun.