Pandemic Legacy: April Playthrough

Another month has arrived and so the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club (info here )had to muster our steely reserve and tackle another episode of Pandemic Legacy!




Recap: In the first three months, the disease in Asia (i.e. the red cubes) mutated into the non-treatable and incurable COdA virus.  We spent last month running around establishing military bases and eradicating the BSNL-419 virus in Central and South America.  For a review of the March playthrough click Here

April Setup

April started quite slowly.  Using our bonus from the previous month we put a military base in Tehran.  There were no new developments during setup, our mission would remain the same as March: cure the three diseases that we could cure (i.e. not the COdA virus) and try to eradicate one disease or build some military stations.

Then extremely good luck happened: 6 of the 9 infection cards drawn during setup were blue (the virus in North America and Western Europe)!  What a stroke of luck!  In general, if the infections are huddled together, the medic can sweep them up pretty quickly.

Player Choices: So we decided to start at the CDC in Atlanta and take the following characters (in game turn order):

Stew: Dispatcher (can move everyone around efficiently)

Bob: Researcher (can share cards with other players easily)

Neal: Medic (can treat all cubes in a city)

Lee: Scientist (can find cures more quickly than normal)

And a special bonus was that in a previous month we had given the Medic the Character Upgrade of “Local Connections. Once per turn you may Treat Disease in a city connected to your city.”  Thus, the plan was for the Medic to sweep up either the yellow and black cubes, or alternately the blue cubes, quickly while the Dispatcher kept the Researcher and Scientist together to find cures.  We drew our cards and the Scientist started with two Black cards while the Researcher had another Black card.  We decided that our first goal would be to get cure Black first and then deal with the Blue virus.


The game went completely as planned…for at least the first few turns.  The Medic swept up cubes while the other players tried to pass cards to the Researcher.  We caught a very lucky break when the Medic flew to our permanent research station in Baghdad, treated the Black cubes in Cairo (the only Black cubes on the board!) and the Scientist on the very next turn cured the Black disease.  We eradicated the Black disease on the second round of the game!

It was the second epidemic that sent things in a very unexpected direction.  After resolving the second epidemic card we had to reveal a number of Legacy cards.  And we did not expect what was about to happen!

Basically, the COdA virus mutated again into the COdA-403c virus.  It still couldn’t be treated or cured but now the infected became aggressive and their skin turned a translucent yellow.  They would now be known as the Faded!

Pan Leg April 02

The glowing figures of the Faded

No longer would Red cubes be placed on the board.  The next Red city that we would draw from the Infection Deck would be ground-zero of the Faded infection.  From now on we would place Faded figures on the board.  We quickly realized that the Faded would be the equivalent of a Zombie horde, and one that we couldn’t really address directly.

So, we continued our relentless attempt to meet our objectives before the Faded got on the board.  But of course, we drew a Red city quickly-Ho Chi Minh City–so in our version of Pandemic Legacy the end of the world would begin in Vietnam.


Pan Leg April 01

Ground zero in Vietnam.  Note the new yellow sticker placed over the more familiar red virus circle

Well, this certainly was not a pleasant development.  But we pressed on and quickly cured the Blue disease (the medic swept through Northern Europe and North America treating disease as he moved).  The other three characters then treated the Yellow disease (mainly in Mexico City but not really much of it was on the board) and the Scientist found a cure while at the CDC in Atlanta to win the game.  The very excellent opening draw plus our selection of characters worked very well.  We felt that we were in control the entire time.

Upgrades and Endgame

We have found that curing diseases quickly, and eradicating them, plus being able to move around the globe without burning cards in Direct Flights (that’s what we use our Red cards for now) is the easiest way to win (much like regular vanilla Pandemic).  For our endgame upgrades we chose 1) a positive mutation for the Black virus (we eradicated it in this game, but we haven’t yet decided on a name for it) and 2) to put the Unfunded Event Air Strike on the Sydney card.  Here is what the diseases look like at the end of April:

Pan Leg April 03

Our Event funds are now down to 4, so we expect a difficult time in May.  Also, the board seems to indicate that in May we will need to accomplish three objectives, so we are not optimistic about winning the first time through the May episode.

If you are interested in buying Pandemic Legacy you can get it on Amazon ( here ) or from Z-Man Games ( here ).


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Battlecruisers: a Review


Let me start by saying that Eminent Domain (a deckbuilding game from Tasty Minstrel Games (website here  TMG ) is one of my favorite games.  I have a preference for science fiction themed games (such as Among the Stars, Ascending Empires) so I am usually willing to take a chance on expansions to sci fi games that I like.  About six months ago I picked up a Game Trade Magazine (Game Trade Magazine) at the Toledo Game Room (Toledogameroom).  I read in it that an expansion for Eminent Domain would be released in 2016 (it’s called Exotica, and a review of it will be coming in the next month or so).  Right next to that listing was a standalone game in the Eminent Domain Universe: Battlecruisers, which was also available for purchase in 2016.  I promptly pre-ordered both from CoolStuffInc. (CoolStuffInc) and waited for them to arrive once they were released.

After waiting about four months, a couple weeks ago they showed up at my door!  At first, I was a bit underwhelmed by Battlecruisers.  The box was very small, maybe 5 1/2″ by 4″ by 2 1/2′ deep, so I wondered what exactly had I purchased. I grew skeptical about my judgment but please faithful readers, continue reading and you will see that I would soon be pleasantly surprised for sometimes big things come in small packages.


The Contents and Rules

From the box cover you can see that the game is for 3 to 5 players and has a duration of roughly 20 minutes.  The short play time scared me even more than the size of the box.  I can count on a single hand the number of games that last from about 15-20 minutes that I would consider worth the time playing them (as an exception to this conclusion, Lost Cities by Rio Grande Games is an example of an excellent short game).  Fearing the worst, I opened the box and poured out the contents.  165 cards, 5 player boards, and 39 tokens (mainly cardboard victory points with a few counters to indicate shields and disabled ships).  Moreover, the 165 cards are really 5 decks of similar 33 cards.  Now I was double-worried!

The rulebook is a simple 4-page fold-out just smaller than the standard 8×11 piece of paper.  The entire back page has suggested scenarios and the first page is mainly chrome and set-up.  I was getting triple-worried!

Okay, I calmed down and read the rules, which took me maybe 3 to 4 minutes to complete.  The game is quite simple and can be broken down into just a dozen or so simple rules:

  1. Each player has the exact same set of cards (6 for 3 players, 7 for 4 players, and 8 for 5 players).
  2. Each player randomly puts a facedown card in their Discard pile and randomly puts a faceup card in their Recovery Zone.  The remaining cards are their hand.
  3. Each turn every player selects and places a card from their hand facedown in the In Play area.
  4. All cards are revealed.  Cards are played in order from lowest numbered to highest numbered.
  5. If 2 or more players play the same card (in other words, two or more play Laser Cannons), each player suffers the Clash effect on the card.  If a player plays an unmatched card, they resolve the main effect. All of this, of course, in the order mentioned in #4.
  6. After finishing #5, any player with only 1 card left flips their playboard to the Red Alert side.
  7. Any player with no cards left is eliminated.
  8. All remaining players take the card (or cards) in the Recovery Zone into their hand.  Any card In Play moves to the Recovery Zone.
  9. If any player has 15 Victory Points they win.  If there is only one player left, he/she wins.
  10. If more than one player remains, return to step #2.

The playboards help keep all of this card rotation organized.  You can see in the photo below that the areas are clearly labelled, with Recovery Zone to the right, Discards on the left, and In Play on top.


If a player has only 1 card left, he/she flips his/her board to the Red Alert side.  Their sole card gets played into the In Play zone (like normal) but now it also counts as being in the Recovery Zone.  The consequence of this is that In Play cards normally cannot be sent to the discard pile by any player’s effects, but Recovery Zone cards can be.  Thus, once in Red Alert a player can be eliminated by having to discard their sole remaining card.


After reading the rules, I thought that the game was a bit too simple.  Across two weeks I played about 10 games with half of them being a 3-player game and the other half 4-player.  Boy was I wrong, wrong and triple-wrong!  This game is great!

Okay, let me back up and explain why.  The bulk of the game is determined by each player’s choice of which card to play each turn. Here are what the cards look like:


The large number in the upper right is the timing element: lower numbered cards play before higher numbered cards.  The upper left are icons that represent an attribute of a card, such as people, supplies, etc.  These icons combo from the Recovery Zone with the main effects of other cards.  The box of text is the main effect, while the Clash effect is listed in the bottom right of the card.

Each player is missing at least one card from their deck, as it was discarded before the game began, so each player’s set of cards is slightly different.  Moreover, all players can see what is in the Recovery zones, giving some insight on what cannot be played by a certain player.  The goal each turn is to either get victory points, force one or more opponents to discard card(s), or play an advantageous effect such as returning cards from your discard pile to your hand, while also avoiding clashing with any other player.

As an example, here is the Card #31 Laser Cannons:


When played, this card is going to make at least one player discard a card.  If only one player has it in play, all other players (who are not shielded) must discard.  If two or more are played, a clash occurs, and all players with Laser Cannons in play have to discard a card.  Importantly, they cannot discard the Laser Cannons, unless they are in Red Alert in which case they must discard Laser Cannons and they will be eliminated later in the turn.

Basically, the game is about managing your hand and getting a good rotation of cards moving from In Play to Recovery to your hand and back into play.  At the same time, you need to figure out what other players are likely to play and avoid clashing with them.  This makes for some tense games of chicken as two or more players try to bluff playing a certain card hoping to get another player to play a different card in response.  The most hilarious moments in the game occur when players bluff and double-bluff and then still play clashing cards!

Across the ten or so games that I participated in, I think only 2 or 3 were won by eliminating all but one player through discards.  Most of the wins were via getting to 15 victory points.  The games were faster than the advertised 20 minute playtime.  We averaged anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes.  I think veteran gamers are all going to be able to play a game in under 20 minutes almost every time.  We found this enjoyable as we were able to play multiple games, giving everyone a chance to claim at least one victory.

The Good and the Better

The game is truly fun to play!  The fear of clashing drives the tactical element, as each player has to plan ahead and manage his/her hand and anticipate the actions of the other players.  The joy of sneaking in a Captain (gets massive victory points), Attack Bots (take a card from an opponent’s Recovery Zone and add it to your hand), or the devastating Laser Cannons brings absolute joy to the player who accomplished the feat.  Moreover, there is a subtlety to purposely clashing in order to force a Red Alert player to discard their last card.

Thematically, the game holds together very well.  The art is borrowed from the Eminent Domain deckbuilding game, so the space theme is evident.  Moreover, as a player loses cards they get a sense that their battlecruiser is getting blown apart by the other players, both in the physical sense of having fewer cards, and in the functional sense of having fewer tactical options (i.e. lose your Shields card and now you cannot activate any more defensive Shields as long as the card stays in your Discards).

And now for the better!  Battlecruisers has an assigned set of cards for a “first” game.  Unlike (Shadows over Normandie) which makes its initial scenario too complicated, the cards used in the first game are quite straight-forward, with none of them having any combination effects via the icons in the top left corner.  This allow players to understand the basic flow of the game and ascend the learning curve at a nice pace.

The back page of the rulebook gives 21 separate scenarios for players who are ready to jump into more advanced play.  Each scenario, with names like “Clash of Captains,” “Tech Warfare,” “Scorched Space,” and “The Nushura Contingency,” list a set of cards to be used for that particular scenario.  We played through 4 or 5 of these different scenarios–and I can confidently say, each played differently than the other.  “Scorched Space” was a discard-fest as we blasted each other’s battlecruiser apart; “The Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly” was a grinder where it was really, really, tough to get either victory points or force discards.  The rules also encourage players to assign their own set of cards if they choose.  Therefore, replayablity seems quite high, at least after 10 or so games.

Final Words

The numbered sequence of cards is not complete, indicating that one or more expansions are probably on the horizon should sales of Battlecruisers be robust.  Given that TMG has released expansions for the base game Eminent Domain, I fully expect them to do so for Battlecruisers.

So if your gaming group is looking for a game to play in between longer duration games, or if your group likes to play a single game 4 or 5 times in a row, I recommend that you run, don’t walk, to your local game store (or hit up one of the online retailers) and get yourself a copy of Battlecruisers!


What’s Coming Soon at Toledo Tuesdays

I thought it might be a good time to let you know what is coming up next at Toledo Tuesdays.

  • First, expect a review of Battlecruisers: Eminent Domain Universe in the next few days. This might be giving away the punchline, but the game is much more fun than I had expected.
  • Second, my wife promised that she would get me a better backdrop for my photos than either my gaming table or the carpet, so hopefully the quality of the photos will improve. 🙂
  • Third, and this is the really fun part of this announcement, Stew has agreed to start a recurring series on the blog!  If you need a short bio on which member of the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club Stew is, click About.  Stew is going to give you his opinion on why certain games are horrible.  He might discuss the game play, rules, theme, etc, and I am sure that it is going to be a brutal dissection of whatever game he decides to trash.  He wants the series to be called Stew’s Rant Corner and I couldn’t think of a more perfect title.

So I hope you like the new developments as Toledo Tuesdays moves forward.  As always, I thank you for stopping by and reading!

Shadows over Normandie: A Review

SoN box

So for a few months I have been looking at a game at my local store that has caught my eye: Shadows over Normandie.  It is by Devil Pig Games ( and with the tagline “Achtung! Cthulhu” on the boxcover bottom, I was intrigued.  It looked like a World War II mash-up with the Cthulhu Mythos.  It also looked quite expensive.  The box was heavy, promising loads of thick cardboard punchout counters.  From the back, I realized that the game was in essence a table-top miniatures game but instead of the usual 3-d figures, it utilized cardboard counters; instead of elaborate 3-d landscapes, cardboard tiles and overlays took their place.  Oh, and the local game store is Toledo Game Room, check it out at: Toledo Game Room

Now I am no fan of miniatures games for three reasons. First, finding something to store all those oddly shaped minis is always a problem.  Second, I can’t paint worth a darn, so I can only buy games with pre-painted minis.  The quality of pre-painted minis has a very wide standard deviation and you really can’t tell what they are going to look like from the pictures of them.  Third, minis games typically rely on purchasing more and more minis (at an ever expanding price) in order to make your army better and better.  In short, a minis game that was made of cardboard punchouts could be the ticket for me.  Further, the game is part of the Heroes System Tactical Scale system (think Heroes over Normandie) so I figured that the rules would be tight and the game well play-tested.

The following review is based on both my assessment of the materials and playing through the first scenario in the Lost Battalion Campaign Book, “Chapter 1: Fight and Night in Black and White…”.

Box and Materials

The presentation and artwork of the box cover and back are quite impressive.  You get the feel that the game is going to be a cross between gritty WWII squad level combat, Cthulhu horror and a touch of campy humor.  Moreover, the production is slick and professional.  The back of the box lists all of the components inside so it was pretty clear what the game was about: a minis battle with cards to add twists and turns.

The materials inside basically are six cardboard boards, five cardboard punchouts, some dice, and three decks of cards (one for each faction).  Again, the quality upon inspection is quite high: the tokens are thick, sturdy, and colorful; the cards are not flimsy and easily read; and the boards are sturdy.  The art on the counters and board is clear and the pictures invoke the sort of game at which the box cover hinted. The dice are high quality and the activation markers are painted wooden pieces, again of substantial quality.

There are two center-stapled books inside: a rulebook and the aforementioned campaign book.  Both are also of highly production value.  The colors are sharp and vibrant and the paper stock is solid.

SoN books

After having inspected the components, I was still quite happy about my purchase.  The game appeared to have a polished feel and had all the quality of a top-notch product.  There was however a glaring omission: there are no counter trays, bags, molder plastic insert, or any other means provided for storing the counters and other units.  I had to grab my stash of excess plastic bags that I had accumulated from other games to organize all the counters, dice, cards, etc.  This was a rather strange misstep from a game that seemed to be doing everything else right.

The Rules

As it was obvious that SoN is a minis game, I expected a gob of tactical rules…and this is exactly what I found!  The first 13 pages contain the basic rules of the game and I daresay it is a dense 13 pages.  Now, I have been playing boardgames for over 4 decades and am a veteran of old Avalon Hill games like Advanced Squad Leader, so an encyclopedia of rules isn’t going to scare me away.  But, wow, there were so many rules that I feared that the learning curve would be way too steep!  And if the first 13 pages weren’t bad enough, the next 3 contained the recruitment options (which I prayed at this point I didn’t have to actually use in the scenarios from the campaign book) and the 3 pages the unit special abilities.  Yikes!  There was like a bazillion special abilities.

While I took the time to read it all, and summized that most of the rules were fairly common to all mini/strategic boardgames (for example, zone of control and line of sight), there were still a ton of unfamiliar rules (particularly those pesky special abilities).  My brother’s assessment of the rulebook was quite blunt: he simple said “there are too many rules.”  To be honest, I had to agree with him.  I kept hoping that once we got starting on the scenarios that the game would ease us in by only including units with no special abilities or maybe only one a piece.  This of course did not happen…but more on that later.

Okay, the actual rules.  The gameplay is sequential with the side that went first the previous turn going second the next turn.  In 3 play games, the turn order rotates (player 1 then 2 then 3 then 1 etc).  Each turn is divided into 3 phases: orders, activation, and supply.  In the orders phase each player alternates (in turn order) placing an activation marker face down beside one of its units on the board.  Players have a number of activation markers equal to their number of “stars” on their units.  Once all activation markers are placed, starting with first player and alternating again, each player activates the unit with the “1” marker and then the “2” marker, etc, during the activation phase.

SoN dice cards

Activated units may move, fire, or do nothing. A unit that moves can also assault an enemy unit if it reaches it.  Combat occurs through assault or fire.  In the case of assault, both units are at risk, but generally the attacker has a slight advantage by taking the higher of two dice (the game only uses d6, which I think is a problem, but I will comment on that later) while the defender only uses one die.  A unit that fires might inflict damage on an enemy unit in the line of sight.  In short, units either have one step or two steps (the usual flip the counter mechanic) before being eliminated.  After all activation markers have been revealed, the supply phase begins.  During the supply phase the first player has the option to move (and only move, no assault or fire) any or all of his units that were not activated in the previous phase.  Once the first player is done, the other player may now move any/all of his non-activated units.  Players also redraw cards to replace those which they used in the previous turn.

Thus, despite the massive and scary set of rules, the game actually has a fairly easy and intuitive order about it.  You set out activation markers, you reveal and fight, and then other units move.  A madness bag of tokens adds the obligatory Cthulhu insanity element to the game.  Basically, soldiers who are rattled (“suppressed” in the game terms) and have line of sight to big, scary otherwordly horrors, might lose their grip on their sanity and do random things, like run away or shoot at their own buddies.  Cards are randomly drawn and do the various things that you might expect: add bonuses to combat, ignore results, etc.


The three factions are divided up into the American WWII soldiers, the Cthulhu Mythos units, and dark Nazi magicians (or something like that).  Not only is there no back story to really explain in detail the history or composition of each of these factions, their names are downright confusing.  Why in the fact are the US Soldiers referred to as “Majestic”?  Majestic?!?  What the heck is that supposed to mean?  I have no idea and I couldn’t find a good explanation in the rules either.  I can understand “Deep Ones” for the Cthulhu units, that makes sense, but Majestic?  The Nazi units are called the “Black Sun”.  And again, I have no idea why.

The H.P. Lovecraft meets campy WWII atmosphere comes through loud in clear.  The pictures on the units, the art in the two books, even the scenarios carry through with the theme (e.g. scenarios titled “Escape from Hell”, “And now for Something Completely Different”, etc.).  By doing some searching online, I discovered that the Achtung! Cthulhu tag on the boxcover referred to a gameplay world that has some pre-established heroes, villains, factions, etc.  My best guess is that my confusion stems from not being immersed in the Achtung! Cthulhu universe.  Maybe a short, little page or two about this background could’ve been included.


But the proof is always in the pudding, so how did the game actually play?  Well, let’s return to the scenarios in the campaign book.  My brother and I decided to start at step one and play the first scenario.  Because all of the rules are translated from French into English, issues of connotation prop up.  For instance, page 5 of the campaign book goes over “creating armies” in some detail.  However, it looked to me that the first scenario (Chapter 1: Fight at Night…) did not utilize these rules.  The army recruitment section of the scenario displays  the needed units (in other words, it doesn’t list them, it shows them to you).  However, the printed units are so small that my brother and I had a very (and i mean very!) difficult time determining exactly what units were pictured.  This was not, and I mean not, a good start to things.

The next big issue was that all, and I mean all, of units had multiple special abilities.  So much for easing us into the kiddie pool.  Nope, we are dropping you off of the 10 meter board into the deep end! I hope you can swim!  Needless to say, my brother almost abandoned the project right there and then.  So we reluctantly kept passing the rulebook back and forth for about 30 minutes trying to memorize all these darn special abilities.  We were not happy.

Then things got worse.  We both had scout units. Basically, they may deploy a number of spaces away from each sides “deployment zone”.  My brother was the US Soldiers (ahem…Majestic units) and his scouts could deploy up to six spaces away from their deployment zone.  My Deep Ones deployment zones were within six spaces of the US deployment zone.  Could he deploy his scouts inside my zone?  We had no clue…and neither did the rules because we couldn’t find a single mention of this issue anywhere.  Uh oh, the very first scenario has a rules problem in it during set-up?!? Did anybody playtest this game?  I do both alpha and beta playtesting for a historical simulation boardgame company (think lots and lots of chits) and one of the first things that I always try to get straight is set-up.  Having these sort of problems at the start of a game is a real killer on player enthusiasm.

Anyway, we muddled through by house-ruling whatever we couldn’t find an answer to. We got to playing the game and quickly discovered that despite the encylopedia of rules and unclear scenario set-up issues, the game plays very quick!  It really is move and shoot and on to the next turn.  Once we got the hang of the rather simple combat mechanism, playing the intro scenario took maybe an hour.  The back of the box says 30 minutes, but that is a wildly optimistic opinion of how long the game will take.  Set up is going to take more than 10 minutes alone.  If either player has any ability to think in a tactical/strategic manner, there will always be that inevitable moment where the decision to assault or shoot will be 50/50 and a long period of thinking will be required.

In short, the game plays fast and furious.  Combat is fairly lethal.  Assaults almost always hurt one side of the other and firing seems to inflict a step wound about 50% of the time.  We found that almost all of our units were eliminated by the end of the scenario (which was only 6 turns long).  The action is fast and furious and any role of the d6 can bring happiness or pain.


The one scenario that we played was indeed fun.  A squad of US Soldiers gets ambushed and has to get off the map to get away from the Deep Ones that surrounded them.  My brother (the US player) was constantly debating whether to shoot or move, and the best strategy wasn’t always obvious.  I wasn’t certain either what exactly would be the best thing to do with my swamp monsters, who seemed to be good at assaults but not so hot in fire-fights against those well-trained American soldiers.  I enjoyed the game but I did encounter one nagging issue: results are determined by a single die role.  To be honest, I felt like that as long as I chose reasonable actions, most of the time the game seemed to devolve down into a “if I roll 4+ I kill your unit and if I roll 3- I don’t” fest of coin-flipping randomness.  For all of the rules and special abilities, in the end, it felt like a series of coin-flips determined who won.

Now, maybe some people out there like games like Monopoly, where you get the deception of having a lot of thought in your actions, but in reality the die rolls determine the entire game, but I most certainly do not!  Don’t get me wrong, playing Talisman can be fun, even if you realize that the random dice rolls and card draws are basically playing the game for you, but the rules of Talisman are much, much simpler than Shadows over Normandie.  If I am going to devote hours of my life figuring out the rules to a game, I really do not want coin flips to determine the winner.  My brother also felt that the game played like this as well.  This was indeed a great bummer.  My only hope is that the rest of the scenarios give the game a different feel.


Shadows over Normadie has some strengths.  In no particular order, here are the ones that I see:

  • High production value of art and components
  • Fast gameplay
  • Theme is excellent
  • Plays like a miniatures game without all the 3-d minis


  • Over-complicated rules
  • Learning curve too high
  • Intro scenarios not simple enough
  • Game feels like a series of coin-flips


Like any game, there are some good and bad elements to Shadows over Normadie. In general, the game is quick, fun, and evocative of the Cthulhu Mythos/Campy WWII movies/miniatures combat games that are its theme.  Whether the quick, fun shoot-em-up is worth all the time going through the rules, sifting through the pieces, the coin flip feel to it all, and house-ruling the rules problems, well I will leave that to the reader.  In my mind, it is, but my brother seems to disagree with me.  I guess you can play the game and figure out which side you are on for yourself.

For info on the TTGC follow this link About