You return to the ramparts. You used to stand guard once a decade; now, you’re here every week. The walls below are broken and crumbling. An army of death stands silently below. In your heart of hearts, you know the end will come soon. While you man the ramparts the armies never move. Yet once you leave your post, when you gain some fitful sleep or doze in front of the hearth, you hear the distant noise of crumbling stone and the din of battle. Guilt or shame drives you back, where you find a little more has crumbled away, and death has crept a little closer. The army of death can only strike when you do not man the ramparts; yet each assault destroys something irreplaceable and significant - an ancient edifice or treasured ally. Every time you man the ramparts and stare into the face of death, the armies do not move; but all you can think of is your empty stomach, your full bladder, your warm and comforting home, and the unending, eyeless stare of the enemy. The game ends when there is no defence between death and what you treasure, save yourself.
I wanted to write something for a long time, but I found it hard to think of something that felt generic, or fall into any of the traps I encountered as a judge last year. In the end, this was something much sadder and more personal, inspired by the fear and anxiety of a loved one who’s in and out of hospital. Not tested for balance, but then, regrettably, the armies of death are often overpowered.