Games in a Pub – 29th April 2012

Family commitments, a sabotaged deck (?!) and valiant efforts to save the world

With a family celebration on Sunday afternoon evening I showed my face briefly at the pub and, whilst waiting for the full team to gather, we played a quick game of Fuchs & Fertig (won by Oliver) and Straw (won by Robin).

Pandemic - The box artwork
Once Simon had joined us I continued our efforts to introduce Robin to collaborative games, in response to a request he had voiced several Sundays earlier. Having played Panic Station at our previous meeting, this week I took along Pandemic (designed by Matt Leacock, published by ZMAN Games and a classic in this genre). Explaining the game and ensuring the guys were poised to save the world I slipped out of the pub and back to the family bash.

Oliver [O] kindly agreed to record the team’s efforts to save humanity and his record of events are embellished at times by Simon [S] who also sent me some notes of the evening:

[O] We ended up playing Pandemic twice over. The first game ended rather quickly when the four Epidemic cards turned up in the top half of the deck, which wasn't supposed to happen!

[K] I am not sure how this occurred as I spilt the deck into 4 piles and each of us shuffled one Epidemic card into our quarter before merging the cards back into one deck.

[S] During set up of the game, we had carefully mixed 4 Pandemic cards into four quarters of the playing deck to give us a fighting chance. Then we found that the 2 extra pandemic cards, that can be used to make the game more difficult, were still in the deck. Kevin ‘helpfully’ looked through the deck face up, i.e. from the bottom, and removed the first two pandemic cards he came to. We can’t remember if he then shuffled the whole deck before putting it back, but the result was that the odds were stacked against us. By less than half way through the playing deck we found that every other turn would turn up a Pandemic card causing the used infections cards, numbering only 3 or 5, to be returned to the top of the deck. This meant every go we turned over the same cities to be infected that had just recently been attacked, meaning that outbreak after outbreak was triggered.

[K] Oops!
Pandemic - The game board
[O] But the three of us did a post mortem and decided that we had been too eagerly chasing cures and not spending enough effort dealing with the threat of outbreaks, and the outbreaks overran us (black cubes - plague - ran out). So we decided to set the game up again for another go, this time making sure the epidemic cards were evenly distributed.

We planned much more carefully, and I think there were only 2 outbreaks in the whole game as a result. This came at a cost in terms of pursuing cures, but we still managed to get three of them together fairly quickly. Again, the Black Plague was our downfall, the only disease we didn't cure in time. But it came very close! We realised on Simon's go that there were only 4 player cards remaining in the deck, meaning we would run out when it got to the end of Robin's go. I had 4 of the 5 cards I needed to produce a cure; I had a Special Event card that allowed me to build a research centre for free. There was just no way for Simon, on his turn, to give me the final black card I needed, and no way for me to get enough cards to Robin for him to be able to make the cure. We only just ran out of time, but alas, once more, humanity was doomed.

Pandemic - One of the Epidemic cards
[S] Despite racking our brains for a solution, there was no way to achieve this before the pack ran out. We played on to the inevitable defeat to find that the last pandemic card had been at the bottom of the pack. This had helped it be a close game that we nearly won. There was a fair bit of postulation that if only we had noticed the depletion of the player deck a little earlier, we may have avoided defeat. We had a look at the other player characters and thought that if only we had swapped to the one that allowed you to swap any city card when you have two players in the same city, it might have been different, but then so would the rest of the game.

 [O] In our second post mortem, we realised that this time, it was down to focussing too much on avoiding the outbreaks: if I hadn't paused to heal Madrid, and Robin hadn't paused to heal Cairo on the move before, he could have shared knowledge in Algiers with me, and I'd have built my research centre and cured the final disease in time. Ah, the benefit of hindsight...

We agreed it was a very fun but very frustrating game to play: fun with all the planning on how to deal with things, but frustrating because we came so close but couldn't win. Humanity, it seems, is still DOOMED!

[S] Life is full of “if only” moments so we took heart that Kevin had played Pandemic three times and was yet to win a game. We called it a night at a relatively early 21:45 and went on our ways looking forward to our next chance to play, and next time those viruses better watch out!
Pandemic - A very poor photo of the guys playing Pandemic. Sorry!
Thanks guys for taking the trouble to write up your take on the evening.

Our next event at the Blue Anchor, Crowborough is in two weeks time on Sunday 13th May starting at 7pm - £1 per head. More details can be seen on our Facebook Page Social Gamers - Crowborough

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