Pandemic Legacy August Playthrough

After our narrow victory in July (see Pandemic Legacy July Playthrough Part 2) the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club (info here ) now was moving on to August.

— SPOILER ALERT BEGINS HERE —

IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THE AUGUST EPISODE OF PANDEMIC LEGACY YET, DO NOT READ THIS BLOG UNTIL YOU DO. PLENTY OF INFORMATION ABOUT THAT THE EPISODE IS REVEALED HERE.

— SPOILER ALERT ENDS HERE —

Recap: In the first seven months, the disease in Asia (i.e. the red cubes) mutated into the non-treatable and incurable COdA virus. In April the virus further mutated into the COdA-403c virus and the afflicted became the Faded, with ground zero for the new mutation in Ho Chi Minh City.  We suffered a crushing defeat in our first attempt at the May episode as Moscow melted down, while the Blue and Yellow viruses spread like wildfire across the Americas and Africa.  In a heroic effort in the second episode of May, we triumphed and kept the diseases under control.  A rather lucky draw of cards in June allowed us to triumph in our first attempt.  But now the government was barely funding events and in our first attempt in July we lost so quickly that one of the three players didn’t get a second turn! We did however find the Virologist.  See review here (Pandemic Legacy July Episode – Part One).  In our second July attempt we managed to triumph despite long odds (Pandemic Legacy July Playthrough Part 2).

August Setup

The Mission Briefing threw a curve right at the start of the game.  We had to rip up the “Eradicate 1 disease” mission!  We did however get a new mission: Find the Immunologist.  It is another “search” mission, much like the “Find the Virologist” that we completed in July.

 

Pan Leg Aug 03

We drew a number of red cards during set up, so there were plenty of Faded on the board.  We knew that we would have to deal with them while also going into Faded cities to find the Immunologist.  So, Bob graciously volunteered to select the Colonel, a character that we had not yet used.

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The Colonel.  He can removed Faded figures from the city that he is in.  He also ignores roadblocks.  He got the scar on Turn 3.

Stew came up a with a great plan to quickly find the Immunologist.  We also anticipated using the July win bonus to put down our 6th permanent military base.  In other words, we figured that we would accomplish 2 objectives quickly, leaving only the mandatory “cure 3 diseases” objective.  So, we chose to go with the standard Dispatcher, Researcher, Scientist combo.  After determining play order, here are our character picks:

  • Stew — Dispatcher
  • Bob — Colonel
  • Neal — Researcher
  • Lee — Scientist

Our Funded Event total was only 2, so we selected “Local Initiative” and “Resilient Population.”  We used our July win bonus to put a permanent military base in London and a temporary military base in Seoul.

Here is what the board looked like after set-up was finished:

Pan Leg Aug 01

Start of the August game.  Photo taken before we placed the 6th military base in London. The base in Lagos is there, but it is hard to see.

Game Play

When the game started, we automatically accomplished the “Have a military base in each of the 6 regions” objective.  Objective #1 down — giddy up!

Turn 1

We all started in Kolkata.  The dispatcher moved to Bangkok and then moved the Researcher and Scientist to him.  For his final action, he “Searched” with the Ho Chi Minh City card.  This moved the search 4 spaces (+1 red/Faded card, +1 Researcher present, +1 Scientist present, +1 Dispatcher present).

The Colonel moved to Bangkok and Searched with the Beijing Card.  This moved the search 4 more spaces (+1 for red/Faded card, +1 for Researcher, +1 for Scientist, +1 for Dispatcher).  As the search moved 8 spaces, we found the Immunologist!  Objective #2 down before the first turn was over!  Yee Haw!  The Colonel then moved to Ho Chi Minh City and removed a Faded figure.

Pan Leg Aug 02

The benefits from finding the Immunologist.  The Virologist that we found previously has the “Gene Sequence” so two more things left to find.

The Researcher (has 5 actions because starting with Scientist–Family Member upgrade) gave 2 cards to the Researcher, moved to Kolkata, treated a cube and then moved to Bangkok.

The Scientist grabbed one card from the Researcher, moved to Kolkata, flew to Baghdad, then moved to Istanbul and treated a cube.

Turn 2

The Dispatcher moved the Researcher to Istanbul, then traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, took a military shuttle to New York City (via the Veteran upgrade), and treated 1 of the 3 cubes there.  We drew our first Epidemic card in Seoul.  We used an “Airstrike” to immediately destroy 1 of the 3 Faded figures there.  After shuffling the discarded Infection cards, we drew Khartoum which had an Outbreak (#1) and Seoul!  Good thing we hit it with that Airstrike!

The Colonel flew to Seoul and removed all 3 Faded figures.  He then drew Epidemic #2 in Karachi.  As you can figure, the Infection discard pile now had only 3 cards in it.  We drew Karachi (outbreak #2) and Khartoum (outbreak #3).  We now were going to have to hussle before the 3 regular diseases got out of control.

The Researcher moved to Khartoum via Cairo, treated 1 of 3 cubes, then moved to Lagos and treated 1/3 cubes.

The Scientist moved to Lagos and took a Blue card from the Researcher.

Turn 3

The Dispatcher took a military shuttle to Lima, moved to Buenos Aires via Santiago and treated 1/3 cubes.

The Colonel got hit with a scar in Seoul and selected “Regretful.”  He then moved to Shanghai and removed 3/3 Faded figures there.

The Researcher moved to Tehran and treated 1/3 cubes.

The Scientist cured the BSNL-419 disease (no action required and no need to be at a research station via upgrades), treated all the cubes in Lagos, moved to Khartoum and treated those cubes, and then moved to Cairo.

Turn 4

The Dispatcher moved the Researcher to Cairo, then treated the cubes in Buenos Aires, moved to Johannesburg and treated there.  He then used the “Local Initiative” card to quarantine Karachi and New York.

The Colonel removed 1/2 Faded in Hong Kong, moved to Kolkata and treated 1/3 cubes there.

The Researcher handed a Black card to the Scientist, then moved to Bangdad and put the “Medical Equipment: Binoculars” on a Red card and moved to Cairo.  He then drew Epidemic #3 in St. Petersburg.  We used the “Resilient Population” event to remove Delhi from the Infection deck.  We then drew Mexico City (2 cubes now), Santiago (3 cubes) and Los Angeles (outbreak #4).

Pan Leg Aug 05

Binoculars–should help in searches needed to finish the requirements on card 30 (see above picture).

The Scientist cured the Blue (Fischer-Titus) disease.  Grabbed the Istanbul card from the Researcher and cured the Black (Sprague) disease.  Objective # 3 met — Game over man!

Pan Leg Aug 06

Panoramic view of the end of the game!

Endgame

Well, none of us expected to win the August episode with an unfunded event total at 2, but our long range planning really helped.  Our “munchkin” strategy of getting 6 permanent military bases paid off, as did placing a bunch of “unfunded events” on player cards.

At the end of the first game in August, the game gives you a new character “The Immunologist” and a bunch of new upgrades.

Pan Leg Aug 07

New upgrades at end of August game.  Check out the “Nuclear Option”!

We took advantage of these new upgrades choosing: 1) to add the “Tactical Centers Now Online” to the Osaka card and 2) to give the “Hacker” upgrade (+1 card in hand) to the Scientist.  We then moved our Funded event total to zero (yikes!).

Onward to September!

 

 

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Birthday Games: Mysterium, T.I.M.E. Stories, Epic Spell Wars, The Grizzled, Eclipse, and Power Grid expansion board (Quebec & Baden-Wuerttemberg)

Well, yours truly the host of this blog had a birthday recently.  All my friends and family bought me a bunch of games.  So take a look at the photo of the gifts:

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My birthday haul of games!

So…which game or expansion should I play first?  Drop a comment on the blog/Facebook/Twitter and let me know your opinion.

Oh, the kitten is called Nigel and he was a birthday present from my wife.  He loves to play too!

Spooks: Escape the Haunted House

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Spooks

 

Ever felt the need to play a simple card game with friends/family?  You know, a fairly quick and fun game that anyone can learn in a few minutes?  But you are bored of Uno, poker, rummy, Tripoly, etc.  I know a game that you can try: Spooks!  It’s a Steve Jackson Games product from the early 2000s.

Bones, Bats, Goblins, Spooks, Spiders….and a Black Cat

The rules are fairly straightforward.  There are 56 cards.  5 suits from 1 to 10 plus a Master card (which is basically an 11).  Two suits are blue (Spiders and Spooks), 2 suits are red (Bones and Bats) and 1 suit is green (Goblins) plus a single Black Cat card.

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The red and blue suits

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Master of Bones, Master of Goblins, and the Black Cat

The cards are shuffled and dealt out.  The player with the 1 of Spiders leads.  Play proceeds clockwise.  If the last card is blue, the next player must play a card with the next highest number in any suit (any 2 on the 1 of Spiders for example).   If the last card is red, the next player must play a card of the same suit (bat on bat for example) or play the same card number of any suit  (a 2 of Spooks on a 2 of Bones).  If the last card is green (Goblins) a special round occurs in which each player selects one card.  The cards are revealed and the highest Goblin wins the trick and can lead the next card.

If a player cannot play a card special rules now apply.  If the last card is blue the player is skipped.  If all skip, the player who played the blue card can now lead any card.  If the last card was a Bat, the player who cannot play must receive cards from the other players’ hands!  If the last card was a Bone, the player who played it can lay down a mixed-suit straight with the highest card being the new lead.

The Black Cat is a wild card and can be used to substitute as a legal play or to win a Goblin trick.  The first player to get rid of all their cards wins.

Once everyone knows the rules, the game moves fast!  As you might guess, switching the lead suit back and forth from blue to red to green and hand management are the fundamental strategies.

When one player goes out, the other players add up the point value of the cards in their hand.  If a player gets to 200 or more points, the player with the least number of points wins!

There are variations (such as giving the Master cards special powers) that add further complexity for serious gamers.  There is also the common card game variant of a “silent hand” of discarded cards to keep everyone guessing as to which cards are still in players’ hands.

So give Spooks a try and you will find a nice little game that you can keep on your game shelf for those nights when more social gaming is required.  Oh…and you get to say “Bone” all the time too!

Roll 4 Initiative: Dice I Can Read!

Okay, today I am going to talk about a pet peeve of mine…dice that are hard to read!  At some point everyone has bought some fancy dice from the local game store or at a big convention like Origins and Gen Con.  You know the dice that I am talking about, the ones with strange glyphs instead of numbers, funky two-tone paint jobs, outrageous symbols for pips, etc.  They looked really cool and you just had to buy them.

But then the horror, the horror!  In the middle of a hot game of 4th Ed. D&D or maybe old school World of Darkness Vampire you chucked those dice onto the table and, wait on it, wait on it, you couldn’t read the result!  Okay, maybe you teenagers out there with perfect eyesight can read anything from a parsec away, but us old Grognards need some dice that we can read without having to pick them up and hold them two inches from our slowly deteriorating eyeballs!

Well, I found a solution and its called…

Roll 4 Initiative

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Roll 4 Initiative: Label from the Set of 15 Dice

 

 

Roll4Init01

The Bag of 15 Dice

They are a dice/accessory company out of Southwest Michigan.  And as it says on their label, “Bigger Dice for Bigger Rolls!”  Well, you won’t roll any higher numbers (I have a special set of dice for that, but maybe I should leave that discussion for a different post) but the dice are indeed bigger.

Bigger is Better: R4I Dice are Bigger than Normal

Here is visual proof:

Roll4Init05

The Eyes Have it!  The R4I d20 on the left, a normal d20 on the right.  Visual proof that the Roll 4 Initiative die is bigger!

While it doesn’t look like very much, it is clear that the R4I d20 is just over 2mm while the regular d20 is probably slightly under 2mm.  The base of the triangle on any of the 20 sides is 1.2mm for the R4I d20 and 1.1mm for the regular d20.

The Numbers are Bigger too!

And yes, I guess you do get bigger rolls with the R4I dice because the numbers are slightly bigger/wider.  Wow, bigger in two different ways (I guess I better just leave it there before the jokes begin).

But Wait…There’s More!

Not only are the dice and numbers bigger, the dice are made plain on purpose.  Why?  So that they are even more easy to read from a distance!  You can chuck out a few dice and easily read all of them at a glance.  Here are 4 dice of different sizes:

Roll4Init03

Easy to read isn’t it?

Okay, I know what you are saying, without some other die to compare, how do I know that R4I dice are easier to read?

Well check out this comparison!  I won’t mention from which other dice company I bought the die on the right.

Roll4Init04

Which “16” would you rather read at a distance in a dim, smoke-filled room? You don’t play games in a dim, smoke-filled room…what’s wrong with you, you should!

The Best Part…wait there’s still more?!?

At Gen Con I was able to get a pack of 15 dice for only $6.  Whaaaaattttt?!?  Yep, that pack of dice in the second photo was only $6.  Think about how much you have paid for a standard pack of 7 dice in the cheap see-through plastic container with the cheap black plastic lid that cut your fingers when you tried to open it!  C’mon who hasn’t been sliced by those containers.  I hate them!

Anyway, I have no idea if they offer deals like the one I got at Gen Con from their online store (you can check here  R4I).  All I know is that I am very glad that I found Roll 4 Initiative at Gen Con 2016.

Now I need to get started on that darn D&D adventure so that I can roll some dice!

 

The Big Book of Madness: A Post-Gen Con Review after Two Games

The Big Book of Madness by Iello Games (BBoM) was released last December.  My brother and I got a chance to check it out at Gen Con 2016 (check out some photos Here and Here) and we purchased it.  We really enjoy cooperative games such as Pandemic and Ghost Stories, so we figured BBoM would be a nice addition.

BBoM01

The Big Book of Madness

Initial Impression?  Visually Stunning and Great Theme!

One of the negatives that I got from walking about the Indy Convention Center at Gen Con 2016 was that many game companies are rushing games to market.  Without naming names, I saw a plethora of games with bad art, cheap/sub-standard components (can you say it looked like crayon on a cereal box interior?) and poor execution.  The Big Book of Madness is exactly the opposite of all that!

The art is visually stunning and evocative of the theme: students of a magic academy open a Big Book of Madness and now have to try and contain the monsters jumping forth from its pages.  The character choices (there are 8, 2 in each of the 4 colors/elements of magic) are all distinct in presentation and have different rules mechanics.

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4 of the 8 characters.  Sorry about that light source on the Green card, my bad!

Other game components are also of high quality.  The board is sturdy and supports the theme. On the board, he BBoM rests in the middle, the madness emanates from the hole on the right, and the scroll on the left keeps track of the rounds and curses.  On the scroll, the arabic numerals are rounds, the roman numerals are the 3 levels of difficulty, and the brown cards are extra curses to add each round.  Spaces for the curses are at the bottom and the large numbers are for the individual turns within a round. A book token moves along those big numbers counter-clockwise from 1 to 5 and back again.

BBoM02

The Board

One of the best thematic components, and also a great source of evocative art, is the Big Book of Madness itself.  The book has a cover that is opened at the start of the game, revealing the first monster and its curses.  Each round the book is turned until it gets to the end.  Here is an example of what an open book looks like.  Looks like a real book, doesn’t it?  In reality it is a set of double-sided cards that are slowly flipped and moved from the left pile to the right.

BBoM04

Example of an open book.  Pretty cool huh?

Game Play: Fun…and really, really tough!

To summarize the rules, each player manages a deck of element cards and a set of spells toward the goal of removing curses.  If the players remove all the curses on the board they defeat the current monster and get a bonus, otherwise they get a penalty.  If the players defeat the final monster they win, otherwise they lose.  Players get more and more element cards and also Madness cards as the game progresses, combining deck-building and resource management mechanics.  The game has a lot of opportunities for cooperation as players develop a common support pool of element cards and can actively give non-active players actions during any active player’s turn.

I found the level of both tension and difficulty within BBoM to be very similar to Ghost Stories (Ghost Stories at Asmodee).  We played both a 2-player and a 4-player game, and like most cooperative games, the more players involved, the harder the game felt.  We won the 2-p game but lost the 4-p game (pretty badly actually).  While bad luck certainly played a part in the 4-player loss, most of the game we felt like we were behind and struggling to catch up as the number of curses slowly increased each round. And we were playing on the lowest level (I) of difficulty!

As this is what makes BBoM very fun indeed!  Beating a cooperative game the first few times you play it should be tough.  The enjoyment comes from both trying to win and also learning how to win.  At one point in the 4-player game we were down and just about out.  On my turn I needed to draw a 3-point white card to defeat a curse that was going to finish us by draining the Madness deck.  What happened?  I drew the needed card and well…the crowd went wild!  We were hooting and hollering even though we knew that I had only temporarily delayed the inevitable defeat.  I learned a lot in my first two plays of BBoM and I anticipate that winning will be easier but probably not more likely than 50-50.

Verdict: A Very Good Game

What else can I say about BBoM?  The rules are well-written (and the rulebook is gorgeous too) and the game offers 1) enough strategy and complexity to keep avid boardgamers interested while 2) being simple enough for casual gamers to enjoy it.  Here is an example of what a game looks like in progress:

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The Big Book of Madness in progress.  Note the little Book marker on space #3.

If you like cooperative games, I highly recommend you run, don’t walk, to your nearest game store and buy The Big Book of Madness!