(I’ve written about Carcassonne on this blog a couple times already, so I won’t really be repeating anything I’ve already said. This is about something else entirely.)
I think it’s rare for a game to ever reach 100 plays — at least it is for me. It takes a special mixture of mechanisms, pacing, and replayability to get to that number. Busy lives and other hobbies competing for our time and attention make it that much more difficult. This is the first time I’ve hit this milestone in my boardgaming hobby, so I’m using it as an opportunity to pause and reflect a bit.
This past week, my wife and I started gaming together again. It seems like it’s been so many years since we played together — maybe since our first son was born 8 years ago? Can it really be that long? Gestating, birthing, feeding, cleaning, teaching, playing with, and raising two little boys has a way of focusing ones attention and consuming all available energy. Juggling work, kids, family, and chores just took everything and there was no room left for games. Then we started building a house and that took pretty much every ounce of my attention and energy and I just haven’t been around much, mentally or physically.
Boden is almost 8 now, Bennett is 4, and while the house isn’t entirely complete, we’ve been moved in for a year now and are starting to feel like we’re on more stable footing.
I’ve missed her. I’ve missed playing games together just the two of us. We used to have long and thoughtful conversations while we played late into the night, sharing space and attention. I feel connected to my wife more when we’re playing a game together, sharing the same headspace, than when we’re just going through the daily routines, weekly obligations, and working full-time jobs. I’ve been a bit down in the dumps since they ended quarantine and made me return to the office, so one night out of the blue she suggested we play a game.
“Any game you want.”
// Hmmmm… Do you want to help me reach my 100th play of Carcassonne? I’m only 6 games away. //
“Yes, but it’s been a really long time. How about we just play the base game with no expansions?”
Nostalgia isn’t the word. It’s like I was teleported back to when we bought our first house, when we were just married and it was just the two of us, when we used to play Carcassonne every single night after dinner, never even bothering to put the game back in the box. She picked up right where she left off, too — my fiercest opponent. It didn’t take her 3 turns to start fighting me over the big farm. We traded blows and kept the tension high right to the final scoring.
// Rack ’em! //
I can’t speak for her, but for me it was like tasting the favorite dessert that you forgot all about and the memories all came flooding back. Even as I write this I can feel a swell of emotions.
She and I make a great team. We work really hard. We share the load. We try to keep things fair and balanced. We can go on alone when needed. We can go without for long periods of time. We trust that the other will be there when we get back. When the boys are difficult, we tag team it. When one of us is stressed out, the other steps in. We bend and compromise. We get the jobs done. All of that is our normal. We’re good at it. But we haven’t played together in ages!
We played 6 games of Carcassonne over 3 nights this week and it almost feels like we’re dating again. Seeing into my wife’s mind as she plots her next move, trying to unravel her plans to see how she’s going to attack me next, looking for any opportunity I can to tip the scales and put her on her back foot so I can make progress on the score track while she focuses on defense.
She won. I won. She won. I won. She won. I won. It felt like we were dancing.
And just like that, I finished my 100th play of the game that began our boardgaming hobby. It was the perfect way to pass that milestone — with my best friend, and best player 2.
I can’t wait to play with her again.