Pandemic Legacy October Playthrough

After a very unexpected victory in September (see Pandemic Legacy September Playthrough) the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club (info here ) now was moving on to October.

— SPOILER ALERT BEGINS HERE —

IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THE OCTOBER 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 nine 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.  In our second July attempt we managed to triumph despite long odds.  In August, we had an unlikely victory and found the Immunologist. In September we found the Paranoid Solider and learned that we had been duped!  A mysterious organization known as Zodiac instigated the COdA virus in order to control the world.  Now we would have to dismantle the oppressive military state that we helped to build up.

October Setup

We read the mission briefing and discovered that we were to find Patient Zero!

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The Search to find Patient Zero

Per the new rules, we randomly added a new military base in San Francisco.  We completed the routine set up and then picked our characters.  Because we had zero (yes zero!) Funded Events, we felt it an imperative to find Patient Zero.  We expected to lose the game this month so Neal took the Soldier and Bob took the Ops Expert so that we could quickly complete the Patient Zero mission.  Lee took the Medic so that he could treat cities and buy the rest of us more time.  Stew would be his usual Dispatcher and move pawns around.  After selecting characters, we decided to start in Kolkata and then we used our September Win Bonus to put some Binoculars on the Jakarta Card.  We randomly drew pawns and Stew would be the first player (again!  He has all the luck!).

Characters and Order

  • Stew — Dispatcher
  • Bob — Operations Expert
  • Neal — Soldier
  • Lee — Medic

Gameplay

Turn 1

Dispatcher — Moved to Ho Chi Minh City (City Zero) and then dispatched the Ops Expert and Soldier there.  He then drew the 1st Epidemic card and Riyadh exploded with the Sprague (Black) virus.  We moved the search track from 9 to 10.  We drew an infection card and it was…wait on it…wait on it…Riyadh!  Outbreak #1!  The other was Beijing (Faded went from 2 to 3).

Ops Expert — Bob put down a military base in Ho Chi Minh City and then searched for Patient Zero.  We moved the Search from 0 to 2 (+1 Tokyo card–which by the way has an equipment sticker on it, +1 military base).  He discarded the Tehran card and flew to Baghdad (Ops Expert ability) and treated 1/3 cubes.  He drew the Ho Chi Minh City player card so 1 Faded joined the Soldier and Dispatcher in City Zero.  For infection cards he drew Taipei (1 to 2) and San Francisco.  Boom!  Outbreak #2!  The non-COdA viruses were getting out of hand pretty fast.

Soldier — He didn’t get a scar because, well, he is the soldier!  Anyway, he picked up the Tokyo card from the discard pile and then searched for Patient Zero.  We moved the search from 2 to 4 (+1 Tokyo card, +1 military base).  He then picked up the Tokyo card again from the discard pile and searched again (search 4 to 6)!  Cheesy?  Yes!  But effective use of the Soldier’s ability to pick up equipment.  For infection cards, he drew New York (Boom! Outbreak #3) and Bogota (1 to 2).

Medic — Moved to Ho Chi Minh City and searched with the Jakarta card with Binoculars!  Moved search from 6 to 10 (+1 Jakarta card, +1 military base, +2 Binoculars).  And Objective #1 is complete and we found Patient Zero!  Because we now had the DNA, Gene Sequence, and the Records, this led to a opening Box #7 and a whole bunch of stuff.  I will save all that for the end of this report.  Anyway, the Medic moved to Hong Kong to finish his turn.  Faded/cubes were added to Baghdad and Bogota by draws from the Infection deck.

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Finding Patient Zero

Turn 2

Dispatcher — He got a scar from being in Ho Chi Minh City with the Faded.  Stew took the Indecisive scar.  He dispatched himself to Baghdad, moved to Tehran and treated 2/3 cubes.

Ops Expert — Moved to Riyadh and discarded the Riyadh card to Sabotage the military base there.  He then treated 2/3 cubes in Riyadh.

Soldier — Picked up the Tokyo card from the discard pile and moved to Tokyo.

Medic — Moved to Ho Chi Minh City and used C4 (no action needed) to Sabotage the military base there.  Objective #2 (Sabotage 2 military bases) complete.  Now only the mandatory mission remained.  He then moved to Kolkata and flew to Baghdad.

Turn 3

At this point we were struggling because we only had a single Black card between all 4 of our hands and realized that we probably wouldn’t complete the mandatory mission.

Dispatcher — Dispatched himself to Tokyo, grabbed the Tokyo card from the Soldier.  You might remember it has an equipment sticker and that sticker is the Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.  The Dispatcher cured Fischer-Titus (Blue virus) without an action and then flew to Baghdad and treated 1/3 cubes.  He drew Epidemic #2 in St. Petersburg.  He then drew Mumbai (Outbreak #4).  We were rapidly running out of Black cubes to put on the board.

Ops Expert — Moved to Baghdad by discarding the Ho Chi Minh City card.  He treated cubes and then with his last action equipped the Parachute sticker on the Algiers card.

Soldier — Took a direct flight to Chicago, treated 1/1 cubes there, moved to San Francisco and treated 3/3 cubes.  Then he drew Epidemic #3 in Delhi.  The first infection card drawn was Mumbai (Outbreak #5) which led to chain outbreaks in Delhi (#6), Karachi (#7) and Tehran (#8) and the game was lost!

Here is the board at the end of the game:

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A Panoramic photo of the board at the end of the game.

The Vaccine

Because we collected everything necessary to open Box #7, the game changed as we now had access to a vaccine to stop COdA.

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The Vaccine is found!

By finding a vaccine, we now had two new objectives: Vaccinate 6 Faded cities and have 3 Vaccination Centers on the board.  We were instructed to put all kinds of new stickers in the rulebook to simulate the new vaccine rules.  We also got some cool orange buildings and doses.

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Vaccination Centers and Vaccine Doses

And when you vaccinate a Faded City, you put a Vaccination sticker over it!

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Vaccinate those cities!

Also, the Immunologist is now a character choice.

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The Immunologist

Endgame Upgrades

We moved our Funded Event total up from 0 to 2 (yay!).  We used both upgrades to put 3 equipment stickers each (so 6 stickers!) on red cards.  We added all 3 of the new Bioreactor (discard to produce 3 vaccine doses) and all 3 of the Aerosol Unit (use one dose to remove all Faded in a city) stickers.  At this point the entire Top Secret dossier was exhausted.  I guess the only twists and turns left must be in the Legacy Deck.

Because we lost we will have to tackle October again.  But…somehow we felt that we won anyway because now we would be armed with Vaccination centers!

 

 

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Review of The Grizzled

It’s August 2nd, 1914 and the General Mobilization Order has been declared.  You and your buddies must assemble and be drafted into the armed forces to fight in the Great War!  Will all of you survive?  Welcome to The Grizzled!

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Box cover art of The Grizzled

 

The Grizzled is a cooperative game for 2-5 players set in the First World War.  It was designed in France and is published/distributed in the United States by Cool Mini or Not (CMoN).  The basic idea is that a bunch of buddies drafted into the war must survive a number of missions and stay alive until the war ends.  The art is evocative of the Great War without being unnecessary disturbing or graphic.

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Two examples of Trial cards and a Grizzled card. The Trial card on the left has the Mask and Whistle threat, the Trial card on the top right has the Whistle and Snow threat.

Rules and Components

The rulebook is short (about 9 pages of rules with a few supplemental pages) and concise.  It has plenty of examples and graphics to explain any possible rules questions that might arise.  The components include 6 Grizzled cards (the players), 59 Trial cards, a Peace card, a Monument card, some cardboard Support tokens, a handful of Speech tokens, a Mission Leader standee, and a cardboard Game Aid (which shows an overview of the turn’s components.)  The production value is quite nice!  The art is excellent and the components are all sturdy.  The components also fit back into the box quite nicely.

In short, the object of the game is for the players to successfully survive all the Trials and reach the Peace card (which is on the bottom of the Trials pile).  If the cards in the Morale Reserve run out before the Trials Pile, the Monument card is revealed (which is on the bottom of the Morale Reserve) and the players lose.  The implication is that the Peace card represents the end of the Great War and the Monument card represents the death of the players before the war’s end.

The Mission

At the start of the game the 59 Trial cards are divided into 25 into the Trials pile and 34 into the Morale Reserve (with the aforementioned Peace and Monument cards slipped underneath their respective piles).  The players choose their Grizzled character cards and the game begins.

The game is played through successive Missions.  Each mission has 4 steps: Preparation, The Mission, Support, and Morale Drop.

  • Preparation: The Mission Leader decides how many cards each player is dealt from the Trials Pile, with a minimum of 1.  The game’s first mission always has a minimum of 3 cards.
  • The Mission: The players in turn take a single action.  The most common is to play a card from their hand.  Threats go into the No Man’s Land and Hard Knocks are assigned to a player.  This continues until either all players have withdrawn or there are 3 identical Threats in No Man’s Land.  Players may also take actions to use a Good Luck Charm and Make a Speech to remove Threats or Withdraw from the mission and play a Support tile.  If all players withdraw the Mission is successful and the cards in No Man’s Land are discarded.  If 3 identical threats are present the Mission fails and the threats in No Man’s Land are shuffled back into the Trials pile.
  • Support: Any played Support Tiles are revealed.  Each Support Tile points to the left or right of the player who placed it, thus supporting a fellow player to whom the tile is passed.  If one player gets more support than any other, they can remove up to 2 Hard Knocks or recover their Good Luck Charm. If any player has 4 Hard Knocks after the Support phase, the game is lost.
  • Morale Drop: The total number of cards still remaining in all the players’ hands is determined and an equal number of cards are now transferred from the Morale Reserve to the Trials pile.
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Two examples of Hard Knocks

If at any point the Peace card is visible AND the players have no cards in their hands, the game is won.  As soon as the Monument card is visible, the players lose.

Basic Gameplay

This game is all about card/hand management.  The basic tension is that players want to empty their hands each mission BUT by doing so they are forced to play Hard Knocks (which make the game harder and harder) and to place Threats in the No Man’s Land (thus making it more likely to see 3 identical threats pop up and fail the Mission).  Withdrawing from a Mission too early means the players might have a successful Mission but will have a lot of cards in their hands, thus moving a large number of cards from the Morale Reserve to the Trials pile.  If the players do not withdraw early enough, they might be forced to play a 3rd identical Threat and thus fail a Mission and end up shuffling the Threat cards back into the Trials pile.  In general, each Mission you want to discard more cards from the No Man’s Land/Hard Knocks than you move from the Morale Reserve into the Trials pile–thus slowly whittling away at the Trials pile to reveal the Peace card.

So, it’s all about figuring out how many Trial cards to distribute at the start of each mission.  If you have no cards but another player has 3, during Preparation should you allocate only 1 additional card to each player or do you push it by allocating 2, 3, or even 4+?  Do you still have a Good Luck Charm, maybe you can distribute more cards?  Does one player has 3 Hard Knocks already, maybe you shouldn’t load up their hand?  Tough, tough decisions must be made.

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What a 3-player game looks like at the end of a successful game.  My Grizzled (Lazare) is at the bottom with 3 Hard Knocks!  Note that the player on the top had Withdrawn before the last Threat with a Whistle was played–so the Phobia card with a Whistle was no longer active.

An added level of complexity is the Support system.  Managing the flow of Support tiles is key to getting rid of Hard Knocks and recovering Good Luck Charms.  If you keep giving Support to one player, that player will end up with most of the Support tiles.  If they don’t Withdraw in a mission, no support will be given out.  And of course, if you keep giving Support to your Left, you will run out of Left pointing tiles and thus no longer be able to give any support to the player on your left.

And key to The Grizzled is that players cannot reveal the cards in their hand.  This secrecy makes the game a bit harder as active coordination is not possible.  To make matters worse, in one game I got the Mute Hard Knock and couldn’t communicate in any way to the others players until I got rid of it.

Evaluation

The Grizzled is basically a multi-player cooperative puzzle disguised as a card game.  The only random element in the game is the order of the Trails pile–which can of course make a game harder or easier based on which cards are drawn.  The game is much more about effectively managing how many cards are in the players’ hands, not letting too many Hard Knocks pile up on one player, managing Support tiles, and figuring out the proper time to Withdraw from a mission.

It took about 2 Missions before we figured out how to manage all these issues.  Playing at the Rookie level (there are no Traps–which forces the automatic and mandatory play of a card from the Trials pile) quickly became pretty easy.  I do though recommend that players start on the Rookie level, even if you are experienced gamers, just to get the rhythm of a game of The Grizzled.  Traps are active in the Normal Game and can upset even the best of plans.

The Grizzled is a challenging game and one in which players must truly try and cooperate.  The secrecy about what cards are in hand prevents one player from “solving the puzzle” and then telling everyone else what to do…a typical problem in most other cooperative games (cough cough Pandemic cough cough).

Playing the game is fun and not overly long.  The box estimates 30 minutes but our games took longer–mainly because we did not rush playing cards.  Sometimes you really need to think about the puzzle in front of you and reason out the best action to take.  There are great moments in the game when you play that Snow & Whistle threat that you thought was safe to play and the next player groans loudly–you then realize that the only cards they have in hand must be Snow/Whistle and that you have just accidentally jeopardized the Mission.

So give this game a try as it isn’t very expensive.  You can pick it up at List Price $24.99 at most game stores or find it at online retailers for about $16-19.  Once you have your copy, I wish you luck as you try to survive the Great War!