Pandemic, Followed by a Totally Random Thought

Since boardgaming content on the old website has been a bit sparse lately, let me begin with a report about an actual play of a real, live boardgame on Saturday night.  Gwen was feeling at least a little better, and after Samantha finally decided to give in and fall asleep, we managed to get Pandemic to the table again.  After our cake-walk on the normal difficulty a couple of weeks ago, I decided that we’d step it up and be downright “heroic” this time (which means that I stuck the sixth Epidemic card into the mix).  Through random draw, Gwen ended up as the Medic while I was the Researcher.  Our initial setup looked like this:

The “before” shot…

I was holding three blue cards and one black, while Gwen had 2 red, a yellow, and a black.  I gave her my red on the first turn, and then we started heading over to quell the mess brewing in Asia.  Throughout the game, Red got worse and worse, and Blue snuck up on us a bit as well.  Starting from the Madrid-Paris-Milan chain and then spreading up into Essen as well, a blue deathtrap was forming just as Asia sat on the brink of destruction with Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Taipei all sitting at three cubes each.  Gwen and I were trying to organize ourselves to cure both yellow and red within a few turns (since I was holding the cards that she needed to finish off both), but also realized that we couldn’t ignore both threats. 

The key message of what we did next is that you really need to be aware of all your information when playing Pandemic.  In looking at the infection discard pile, Taipei, Shanghai, and Essen had already been drawn, but both Essen and Milan were available to be drawn at any time.  We were sitting at 5 outbreaks, and if we drew Milan, it and Essen would both break.  But, if Hong Kong was drawn, then Asia would melt down completely with a chain reaction of 3-4 outbreaks.  I, unfortunately, was sitting in Paris (which had but one cube) while Gwen (whose turn had just ended) was in Ho Chi Minh City.     Now, I could have stayed in Europe and cleared a cube out of both Essen and Milan, significantly reducing the risk there and especting Gwen to just take care of Red on her next turn.  But having identified not only the possibilities of what could happen, but also the relative risk in the two areas (that Red could kill us that turn, while blue would just put us at 8 outbreaks), I decided to blow a card on a direct flight to Dehli, hoof it over to Hong Kong, and remove a single cube. 

What happened next?  Hong Kong was the first card I pulled off the infection deck.  That was World-Saving Decision #1.  However, Paris was also pulled, putting two cubes there and setting Europe up for certain doom (because if Milan was drawn, it would break into Paris, filling it with 3 cubes, and into Essen, which would break and then cause Paris to break and destroy all of mankind).  Once again, we looked at the board.  Asia looked like crap, with three cities filled and several others sitting with 2 cubes, and us having only 3 or 4 unused red cubes.  So there would have been plenty of good that the Medic could have done there.  But the priority was getting to Milan, because of all the 3-cube cities in these dangerous areas, it was the only one still left in the infection deck.  Gwen therefore took a direct flight to Baghdad, moved to Milan and cured it, which, as you may have guessed, turned out to be World-Saving Decision #2 when she pulled Milan a few moments later in the infection phase.    

Soon, we pulled off curing both red and yellow, and I finally drew into the blue cure a turn or two later.  Before the end of the game, Black (which we had ignored most of the game) almost rose up to bite us in the butt, but I was able to feed the last Black card to Gwen just in time to get it cured and win the game.  Good threat assessment and knowing which cards were still in the infection deck (along with pretty decent board management and coordination skills) won us this game, and it was an extremely satisfying win!  Unfortunately, it was too late to play a second game, because both of us were certainly hyped up enough to go at it again.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.

And now for the totally random part of this article.

Has anybody else out there watched the new NBC show Kings over the last two weeks?  Essentially, it’s a re-imagining of the story of King David from the Bible, set in the modern-day kingdom of Gilboa.  They don’t really address if this is some sort of alternate history or if it’s just supposed to be set “elsewhere”.  They’ve done a pretty decent job of establishing an atmosphere that is believable, but there are still a lot of holes in the setting, especially about how Giboa fits into the big picture of their whole planet.  The characters are well-defined and interesting, and the plot has already begun to get all twisty and interesting.  But the thing that excties me most is that I want to see how closely the story will follow the historical account of David, both the personal and political events that will take place as well as in his attitude towards the king (Saul in the Bible, Silas on Kings).  It’s got me hooked so far, which almost certainly means that it will be cancelled soon and I’ll never get to know what happens.  So please, for me, give it a look and check it out.    


  1. Tony


    I love Kings, and it will probably be cancelled within the month. I did have a chance to introduce Pandemic to a group of non-gamers (except for Alex) at our Church retreat the 1st weekend in March. Good reception to the game. Because I had more players than allowed, I teamed up a few teams (i.e. 10 year old with adult) to play. The game went well – (considering I had 7 players with 4 pawns) until with two cures left to be found – a poor shuffling incident resulted in two epidemics within 4 draws, flooding the middle-east with the black death.

    I also led a couple of games of wits and wagers which went over amazingly with the mixed group of 10 – 80 years olds.

  2. Chris Norwood

    Yeah, even after 56 plays, I’m still loving Pandemic.  Now I just can’t wait for the expansion!

    And Wits & Wagers continues to be one of the best-received party games I own.

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