The Game of Deployment

The Game of Deployment (Spouse Edition) | Official Rules

1 player* | Includes BONUS! Pandemic Expansion Pack for extra fun (at-home COVID tests sold separately)

Slip, slide, swear, and cry your way through the Game of Deployment! Allow the Air Force to spin on your behalf to see how you can get through each day without going insane while your partner works in an undisclosed desert region on the other side of the world. See which new curse words enter your daily vocabulary! Burn with resentment as your spouse gets uninterrupted sleep each night and you clean vomit out of bed sheets at two o’clock in the morning. Will your spouse be home for the holidays? Will he miss every single birthday this year? Will your geriatric dog still be alive when he returns? Keep bumbling along until you, the pawn, greet your spouse at the airport and he can comment on your undereye circles and ask, “Have you always had those gray hairs?” But watch out! If the Air Force says so, you go all the way back to start at any point in the game! 

*Please note that while this is a single-player game, if you have children, they will always be with you when you play. 


1 Pawn




*The Official Gameboard is property of the United States Air Force and is subject to unlimited and unpredictable changes with little or no notice.

**The Official Spinner is property of the United States Air Force and cannot be provided at this time. However, the Air Force will spin in your place, and you can expect to inch across the gameboard at a pace slower than molasses in the winter. As is the case with most government equipment, the spinner is often broken, resulting in the pawn moving erratically across the board and becoming disoriented. 

***Please note: The Official Rulebook is classified and has been redacted by the United States Air Force, so we are providing this rulebook as a courtesy to help you through the challenges you will face in the Game of Deployment.

Object of the Game

Complete the game with your marriage, children, mental health, and home all fully intact. 

Set Up

Once you receive word that your partner will be deploying, do not begin to set up the game. Repeat: DO NOT SET UP GAME. Inevitably, the game will get pushed back (or worse, pushed up, and you will have wasted precious time). Acquire a power of attorney and locate spare keys for the house and cars. Memorize or write down passwords for your internet, cell phone, and TV providers (experienced players will tell you these services tend to go out during game play). Sign up for a grocery and meal delivery service. Join a wine club. Get used to a dirty house. Hope to spend extra time with your spouse before he leaves, but realize that pre-deployment training will consume his schedule until departure. 

Go to the airport. Watch your kids hug their daddy goodbye. Kiss your spouse for the last time in six months. Pretend it will all be fine. Drive home on autopilot. Cook dinner. 

Game Play

Getting Started

Typical game play begins with making a list–mental or physical–of all the things you plan to read/watch/listen to/clean/organize/accomplish during the game. Examples include: binge-watching the entire Downton Abbey series, organizing your digital photos, and taking a couple writing workshops. Note: You can revisit this exercise later and add items such as “getting at least six hours of sleep per night,” “showering regularly,” and “learning about cabinetry repair.”

People will tell you that the first few weeks are the hardest, but you will find them fairly easy; you are still as well rested as you will be for the next six months. You are still homeschooling and keeping a routine, all of your appliances are currently working, and your closest friend has not moved away yet. 

Speaking of friends, it’s not safe to post about deployment on social media (loose lips sink ships!), so be sure to only tell a few trusted friends that you’ll be alone. If nothing else, have them check in now and then to make sure you didn’t fall down the stairs or get locked out of the house by your five-year-old. Also, do not prioritize telling the friends who might say things about you “supporting the mission” or “knowing what you signed up for.” If possible, choose the ones who will send you Ghirardelli chocolate and Starbucks gift cards. 

What to do on your turn

On each turn, see where the magical Air Force spinner takes you! Will you take a hike through the Forest of Loneliness? How many dips will you take in the Pool of Exhaustion? You could spend two months in Homeowner Hell waiting for your air conditioner to get fixed while the Las Vegas heat blazes! On a visit to Isolation Island, there’s a possibility you will question how strong your marriage is instead of sleeping. Fear not! If you’re lucky, you will find the hidden jumper cables, so even if you feel emotionally disconnected from your spouse, at least his car is still running back home! 

There are always thrilling twists and turns in the Game of Deployment – some players have even commented on the silver linings: learning how to identify a recurring yeast diaper rash on your one-year-old, installing a window air conditioning unit on your own, being told over and over how strong and amazing you are even when you haven’t showered in six days, and extra bonding time with your baby as you sleep train him alone. And the biggest silver lining to the Game of Deployment? Even if you lose a turn, you still get to play every round! 

End of the Game

The game ends when your spouse returns from deployment. At that time, we recommend playing The Game of Reintegration, specially designed for two players who haven’t seen each other in 6+ months.

Looking for more stories about motherhood, military life, and finding beauty in sacred/ordinary moments? Subscribe to my newsletter, Late to the Party. Every couple of months, you’ll receive a short note from me, some personal recommendations, and a journal prompt.

5 thoughts on “The Game of Deployment

  1. Great writing, as usual! And creative!! This story is why I always tell people on Veterans Day to remember to thank spouses and kids, too. They are true hidden heroes!! Thanks you!


  2. Omg… This made me laugh and brought back lots of memories of our time in the air force!!! Once again thanks for your candid, thought provoking writing!


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