Rules Lawyering

Dearest Rachel –

So yesterday, being Sunday, was our usual game night. Only, it was anything but usual. What with Kevin being up here for the week, this was an opportunity for the four of us who have been meeting online to get together in person for the first time since the pandemic – and the lockdowns it precipitated – began.

All we were missing was you.

And while we didn’t dwell much on the fact of your absence – it has been over eight months, after all, and we’ve all had the time to get used to the situation – the evening’s activity revolved around a game that you supported, but didn’t stick around long enough to receive.

That’s right, honey. We broke out James Raillson’s (aka, the Odd1sOut) Café Chaos game that you’d helped sponsor on Kickstarter. You might remember that the game was supposed to be a card game representation of a food fight, so in keeping with the theme (and to make sure nobody went home hungry for missing a meal by being here – although Erin brought her own late lunch when we arrived), I made sure the house – and ultimately the table – was stocked with plenty of party snacks, to the point where the table was suitably messy for the gameplay (and you would have felt at home with how it looked).

I’d even assembled up a couple of those dip mixes we’d been gathering up over the course of the last few summers (where we’d always pick up three or five various combinations they’d be selling at Cornfest or wherever) the night before in preparation for the evening; fortunately, none of it was thrown in retaliation for one of us smacking another with food cards.

Apparently, that’s a problem, as even the rulebook claims that the objective of the game is make sure you remain friends afterward. I remember telling Luke earlier this month about how one of the problems with the human race is that we insist on playing to win rather than simply playing to play. As a result, we have more than our share of losers.

Wish I could claim that bon mot as my own. Or, maybe I should take comfort in the fact that someone else came up with that before me, meaning that I’m not the only one who thinks like that.

Anyway, getting back to the game – and more to the point, the rulebook. The thing is some twenty pages long, and while that’s partly due to the artwork James fills it with, it’s also a surprisingly complicated game. In fact, it’s so much so that the booklet includes a QR code suggesting that, since a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a twenty-page rulebook. I’d let you decide, as this is where said code takes me:

There were also videos of actual playthroughs that James had done with several friends to demonstrate gameplay, but who is going to sit around and watch a half-hour of that (or several half-hours, in fact) in order to play the game themselves?

Honestly, however, it didn’t really help when it came to things like our individual character actions (because each character we chose had their own special action that we could play along with the basic “Grab, Throw and Duck” ones), and we had a few fairly spirited discussions as to what the descriptions of how those specialized actions were supposed to be applied.

No real arguments, though. After all, it wasn’t a case where any of us knew what we were doing, and thus could claim to be some kind of authority on the game. It was more like Calvinball with extra steps. So we were all doing a fair amount of rules lawyering to determine how best to apply this or that action.

One of the biggest splashes (and that could almost be taken literally, given the image of all that food flying toward any of us) was when Erin played an action card marked ‘Catapult.’ The card talked about taking every food card from ‘the mat’ and sending it at the target player. We had no idea what James was referring to by ‘the mat’: the board with our character and action cards on it had no food on it, and everything else on the table had another designation. We eventually settled on it meaning the same as ‘the floor,’ and while we all agreed that the card was decidedly overpowered (flinging five cards worth of food, toppings and conditions at a player, and getting the players on either side of the ‘target’ player splashed as well), we all basically agreed that a catapult would, in real life, be pretty overpowered in an actual food fight as well.

So basically all of us (except Erin, of course – she wisely pointed the catapult at me so as to be out of the splash zone, a detail I missed when I played a similar collateral damage action at Kevin early on in the game) were now suddenly within a hair’s breadth of losing. And indeed, as part of the same round, there was more food thrown (and not ducked) to finish the game.

We all agreed that this might as well be considered a practice game, as none of us knew what we were doing, and set up for another go at things. We probably got only a round into the second game, though, as Chompers woke up and began whining.

To be fair, we were prepared for this; I’d taken some time during the original setup to put together some MREs for him (honestly, this isn’t that far removed from our typical online gameplay, in that each of us will occasionally leave the chat behind to take care of one thing or another in our own house; responsibilities don’t always wait, after all), and it was laid out on the carpet by the pantry. It wasn’t all that long ago that he could drag himself over there, and have his fill of dinner under his own power.

But the girls, in particular, were observing that making sure he got fed is devolving into a group project these days, and were more than willing to surround him as he ate, holding his head up so he didn’t just fall into the food (or worse, as far as he might be concerned, fall on his side away from the food), making sure he got all the little bits up. They also got him outside a couple of times as he continued to express dissatisfaction, or maybe pain?

It’s generally agreed that, for the old boy, the end is near. I’ve told them about the vet appointment on Saturday, where I would seek a professional opinion as to what to do next, but I guess it’s getting clear that he’s not much longer for this earth. You’ll definitely be seeing him before Halloween, honey; whether it will be as soon as Saturday remains to be determined.

At least – and I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, he slept through most of the night; Daniel rubbed him down vigorously shortly after midnight, and he stayed asleep until after seven o’clock. Would that he could do that on days when I have limited time to actually sleep, like this past Saturday.

Oh, and part of the reason the girls took him out was because of the fact that I started to drift off. Having essentially been up since about three in the morning had taken a bit of a toll, and I couldn’t last. But everyone else pitched in to help with the dog, and for his part, he seemed reasonably cooperative; guess he still enjoys being the center of attention, if only occasionally.

Bless them.

Anyway, to end on a lighter note – and to fill you in on the quick hint about travel that Kevin had been talking about – he let the girls know about his plans to save up and meet his sister and her husband (who live in Florida, after all – although he’s never been where Kevin’s planning to go), and take a vacation at Walt Disney World some time in spring of 2023. Now, we still need to come up with dates to get you to Middle Bass Island next year, but this might actually work. Of course, I can go nearly anywhere, anywhen, and hopefully Daniel will be allowed in public by then as well, but this might be an absolutely fun outing for the lot of us, assuming we can all make the arrangements. Kevin hasn’t set the dates in stone, but the idea has now been floated to everyone who might be interested. We’ll see how that goes. I can’t guarantee I’ll still be writing you by then, but at the moment, things don’t feel like they’re going to change much; I’ll keep you up to date about that as things go along. But at least there’s that to look forward to.

And as much as I keep thinking you you’re missing out on all this, and I feel bad for you because of it, I also know that none of this can compare to what you’re probably experiencing. Wish that you could fill us in on what’s going on up there.

But until then, I’ll keep in touch. Love you.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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