Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Pandemic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pandemic. Show all posts

Friday, June 5, 2015

Importance of theme in a cooperative game

Future Wolfie of iSlayTheDragon recently reviewed Samurai Spirit (designer Antoine Bauza, artist Victor P. Corbella, publisher FunForge).  It seems like an interesting game - I've got it on my wishlist - but a couple of sentences in Future Wolfie's review jumped out at me:
In a way it’s like a cooperative version of Blackjack, with much better art and a few special powers thrown in the mix. But that’s what it really boils down to in a sense: trying to hit a maximum total card value without going over.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Boardgames by candlelight

Early this week a sequence of winter storms came through northern Virginia, and my house lost power for about 45 hours.  My kids were pretty bored without their usual sources of electronic entertainment, but one nice thing about boardgames is that you don't have to plug them into the wall.  So as we sat by the fireplace trying to stay warm, we broke out the games and had a reasonably good time by lanterns and candlelight.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Summer game photos

Now that summer is over, I thought I'd compile some photos of games we've played over the last three months.

The yellow plague outbreak gets away from us.
We love Pandemic, but we have such a hard time winning.  Late last June, the yellow plague took root in remote Santiago, and we neglected to deal with it until the outbreak counter reached the critical point.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wiping out Pandemic

It has been a long time since Kathy and I have beaten Pandemic (designer Matt Leacock, artists Josh Cappel and RĂ©gis Moulun, publisher Z-Man Games).  We usually don't play it in a two-player setting, but today I got a hankering to pull it out again, and I'm glad we did.  Since we had such early success with the game in "easy" mode, we've been playing in "normal" mode for quite some time but somehow never managed to beat it at that level of difficulty.  We've run out of cubes of a color, we've reached the end of the Outbreak track, we've run out of player cards ... basically we've lost every way there is to lose.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Final day at WBC

Yesterday was the last day of the Boardgame Players Association's World Boardgaming Championships 2011.  A record 1642 people attended WBC this year.  I met other designers, developers, and of course many gamers, including quite a few familiar faces from PrezCon.  And of course vendors, who were good enough to thin out my wallet in exchange for a few additions to my game shelf:

(c) Worthington Games
Used by permission
I've had my eye on Tech Bubble (designer Mike Nagel, artist Sean Cooke, publisher Worthington Games) for quite a while now.  We've really enjoyed push-your-luck games like Can't Stop and Incan Gold, so what I read about Tech Bubble makes me think it will fit right in.

Some time ago I did a survey in earnest for two-player games that my wife and I would enjoy, and Jaipur (designer Sebastien Pauchon, artist Alexandre Roche, publisher GameWorks) came up pretty high on the list.  DiceHateMe had a pretty funny review last April, including the following comment that caught my attention:

  • Jaipur - while sometimes frustrating because of the luck of the draw in the Market - is incredibly fun. Why? I honestly have no idea. There are some games that, if dissected, the parts would make most game scholars scratch their heads and utter a collective “huh?” However, put those parts together and a rare synergy occurs. This is the magic of Jaipur. 

I love games like that.  I happened to see it for 20% off at the convention and picked it up.

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
And then I got to the Z-man booth.  As my good friend Grant G. said, "I never met a Z-man game I didn't like."  I was really hoping to find Traders of Carthage, but apparently that's been out of print for a while.  But I did find The Speicherstadt (designer Stefan Feld, publisher Z-man Games) an auction trading house game that I've had my eye on for a while but which sold out at PrezCon last February before I could make up my mind to buy it.  Luckily I wasn't so indecisive this year.

I needed even less deliberation to pick up Farmers of the Moor (designer Uwe Rosenberg), also at the Z-man booth.  This extension to one of my favorite games, Agricola, adds horses and peat to the farm.  I expect Farmers will bring a little "aroma" to our Agricola sessions.

I had, unfortunately, blown my budget by the time I got to the Stronghold Games booth, where I encountered Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War (designer Robert Abbott, publisher Stronghold Games).  Oh, baby.  The DiceHateMe review of this cloak-and-dagger deduction game really brought out the evil laugh in me.  But how do you indulge your inner spy when you've got a bag full of games already?  Well, fortunately, Keith F. felt the same Cold War nostalgia I did.  (Oh, wait, he's not nearly as old as I am ... Keith, what grade were you in when the Berlin Wall fell?)  Nevertheless, Keith picked it up, somehow confident that he'd be able to get me to play it with him a few times.

Keith, Brian, and I sat down for two last games of the weekend - Trains Planes and Automobiles and Citadels, two more games that Keith bought on my recommendation.  (What a trusting soul.)  At the last minute, as the vendors were boxing up inventory, Brian ran back and grabbed a copy of Pandemic, because Keith and I knew that he wanted to buy it; he just needed a little encouragement.

So all in all, the three of us managed to stay entertained.  We drank beer, we competed in tournaments, we played games till 2:00 in the morning, we bought bags of games ... and yet none of us went home with a plaque.  Oh, well.  There's always PrezCon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Games that even the in-laws can play

Okay, to be fair, my mother-in-law may not be a convention-going serious Euro-gamer, but she likes to learn a new game or two, and she has really come to enjoy Settlers of Catan and Guillotine.  Even my father-in-law will jump in for a session of Word Thief.  So when they came to visit over the last several days, while the oppressive heat kept us indoors most of the time, the board game closet got visited quite often.  I had the opportunity to introduce them to a few games that they really seemed to enjoy.

First of all, I gave my in-laws a copy of Trains Planes and Automobiles and took the opportunity to show it off in true family-game fashion.  Although billed as a game for two to six players, I included an optional rule for seven or eight players.  So with both in-laws, three sons, my wife, and myself, we launched into a seven-player session - the only shortcoming being that I had to provide a spare game piece from another game to accommodate the seventh player.  I must say that as the game designer, I do very badly at my own game.  I kept chasing stories in locations accessible only by automobile - Vicksburg, Ciudad Juarez, and Phoenix* - while others jetted around from airport to airport, racking up assignments.  My oldest son Patrick overcame a late start and beat everybody to the final assignment to win the game.  I have to say, we all had a great time, and I'm really hoping to be able to demonstrate this game in the Junior Events room at World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania starting tomorrow.

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
Our game sessions over the last several days were frequent and fun.  My 15-year-old, usually so impulsive in push-your-luck games, turned out to have perfect timing in Incan Gold and won that game hands-down.  My father-in-law and other two sons pushed a lot of poker chips around the table playing Blackjack, in which my ten-year-old ended up winning his grandfather's house and car (or would have, if the titles were on the table). We had a great session of Apples to Apples that included Patrick's girlfriend.  My wife demonstrated her unstoppable command of word games in Word Thief.  We had several really fun games of Guillotine, which is always good for a laugh.  I was very pleased to engage my mother-in-law in Reiner Knizia's Ingenious, which is both intellectually and aesthetically satisfying - so much so that she insisted on a second game immediately.  And, finally, we introduced the in-laws to the notion of a co-op game with Pandemic, which we lost when the Player Deck ran out before we were anywhere near curing the black disease.  Our family has now managed to lose Pandemic in all three possible ways.

So the in-laws' visit became a smorgasbord of boardgaming fun.  The summer heat was never really a factor as we found great entertainment right in our own home and in the good company of family.  And that's what vacations are really all about.

* Now, I should note that I'm perfectly aware that you can fly to any of these places today, and might even have been able to do so fifty years ago.  But for purposes of making TPA interesting, I only put airports in about a third of all cities on the map, and provided rail service only to another third.  So there are many cities on the map that, in the game, can only be reached by car.  That's what makes it a challenge.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Busted by blue bacillus

Kathy and I tried a two-player session of Pandemic on Tuesday afternoon.  This was, I think, our fourth or fifth game, and we're definitely still getting the hang of strategy in keeping the diseases under control.  Our first two games were two- and four-player Introductory games, which we won easily enough.  I think we won our first two-player Normal game as well.  We started to think the game was a little too easy - until we lost our first three-player Normal game a few weeks ago.

Blue outbreaks overwhelm our feeble
efforts to control the disease.
Well, our suspicions that this game really isn't as easy as it looks were confirmed.  In our latest effort, Kathy's Dispatcher and my Scientist were foiled despite our early discoveries of cures of the red and yellow diseases.  While we scrambled through southwestern Asia and Europe to treat the black and blue diseases, consecutive outbreaks in Toronto and Chicago consumed the entire supply of blue cubes and ended the game in defeat for the Centers of Disease Control (CDC).

Pandemic really is a fun game, and the nice thing is that our kids will sometimes join us as well.  I think this will become something of a family favorite.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pandemic infects our family

(c) Z-Man Games.  Used by permission
I had read an intriguing review of the co-op game Pandemic (designer Matt Leacock, publisher Z-Man Games) that prompted me to put it on the top of my list, largely because it seems to work well for two players as well as for more.  I went to Game Parlor Chantilly looking for it but was told that it was "between print runs," so they didn't know when they would get another one in.  So, off to eBay I went to get a copy, used if necessary.

Success!  It arrived last week, and right away I knew I would like this game.  The production quality is very nice (no surprise, coming from Z-Man), with a strong bio-technology art theme as well as a cosmopolitan, world-travel flavor.  I inventoried the game parts and came up short one Infection card, which hasn't noticeable affected the game play.  (I contacted Z-man, and it looks as though they should be able to provide a replacement.  The eBay vendor, Longhighdeepflyball, very graciously offered to refund my entire payment, but that seemed unfair to him and unnecessary, really.)  I had only played one co-op game before, Castle Panic, which was great fun with the kids.  I looked forward to trying out this highly-recommended game.

I was not disappointed.  Kathy and I played our first session soon after it arrived.  She played as the Scientist, I as the Operations Specialist.  We played the Introductory game, in which all of our cards were face up and there were only four Epidemic cards in the Player Deck.  We got the hang of the game without too much difficulty and really enjoyed the tension of racing against the spread of disease as well as the co-operative aspect of the game.

We recruited my 15- and 10-year-old sons to join us on Saturday, and because it was their first opportunity, again we played the Introductory game.  Liam was the Scientist, Kathy the Medic, Corey the Researcher, and I reprised as Operations Specialist.  We had a fair number of outbreaks, and the Player Deck started running low, but we managed to find all the cures and win the game.  The kids really liked it.

Despite complaints I've read that the game tends to get repetitive, it seems to me that there would be a lot of replay value in two respects.  First, each player plays one role for the entire game, so every game has the potential to be different, at least until you've played all the roles once or twice.  Second, infections in a given game tend to congregate in the same regions over the course of one game (since every Epidemic causes the infection to "intensify," putting the same Infection cards back into play at the top of the deck).  So I would imagine that each game provides a new regional challenge.  We'll see whether my expectation bears out.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to trying it out at a more challenging level...