Chris and James were exhausted. Half-term dads syndrome. Chris had hauled his family to London Zoo while James had, well, buried stones and twigs in the garden (his son’s idea*). Less exhausting than a trip to the zoo, but James did have to hold the bucket for the soil and was forced to watch. All the time. “Watch, Dad. Dad, watch. Put your phone away and watch me.”
If real life was ‘worker placement’, James and Chris might have placed themselves elsewhere yesterday. As they couldn’t, because it’s not (shame), they were baggy-eyed and delirious by the time kids had gone to bed and they settled/slouched into two-player conflict.
First up, Agricola: All Creatures Great and Small. James hasn’t played this that often, so while all the symbology was familiar from the big version, he couldn’t really remember what to aim for, and how fast to aim for it. Chris claimed similar, though he could have zonked and been talking in his sleep. Somehow, James assembled a neat Tetris-like arrangement of horses and sheep. Chris developed a farm with wide-open spaces for unknown reasons. (It would have hurt less, perhaps, if he’d nodded off and fallen face-first into it).
What would be the worst game to fall face-first asleep into? El Grande with its Castillo, maybe?
The scores were added. James won. They compared scores to the old scorecards Chris collects (it’s a passion) and chortled nervously at their pathetically low scores, eyes darting to and fro, frantically trying to spot something they’d done wrong. Something they hadn’t added points for. But no. Shame-faced, that game was packed away sharpish.
(And Chris had spent the day looking at creatures in fences. You’d have thought he’d have put that to use).
James 34, Chris 27.
Next up, James’ fondness for Carcassonne, the first set, was catered for. Normally a casual game where life is put to rights through wise debate as the tiles are idly considered and twiddled between finger and thumb; or mercurial banter fizzes between players or they talk nostalgically about childhood (they both had Demon Driver – and loved it (such low standards of realism in 1980!)). But this night, chatter was subdued as they stared bleary-eyed and tried to concentrate.
With little effect. The whole game was a bit of a botch-job as the simplest rules seemed forgotten. James found a tile next to his Opal Fruits he seemed to remember taking off the pile several turns earlier when Chris had halted proceedings to check the rulebook to see if gaps were allowed. Both players, perhaps from post traumatic stress disorder, made huge mistakes. Chris was in constant commentary mode, regularly announcing how beaten he clearly was, with James’ farmers dominating three quarters of the tiles.
But when it ended, Chris was shocked to find he’d won. James had carefully dominated a large area with just three completed castles in it. Chris got more points from his weedy little patches and won.
Chris 116, James 112.
*James’ son is 4 so there’s yet hope he’ll grow out of ‘planting stones’. One day.