I actually got the chance to play a couple of games with Gwen over the weekend, which has been extremely rare since Samantha came along. Despite the prospect of “losing” an hour later in the evening, we found a little time on Saturday night to get a couple of our favorite games to the table.
We started with my choice for the night, Pandemic. We played a normal game (5 epidemics) and through random draw of the roles ended up with Gwen being the Scientist and me as the Operations Expert. In the initial card draw, I had two black, a red, and a yellow card, while Gwen had a black, yellow, and blue card along with One Quiet Night. The initial disease setup was pretty balanced, with maybe a slight concentration in the eastern black cities and western red cities.
The way I’ve come to understand how best to use the Operations Expert is to use their ability early and often, to best develop a network of research stations wherever they’re needed. I therefore used my red card to take a direct flight to Ho Chi Minh City and set up a station at Hong Kong. Gwen picked up another black card after her first turn, and we were trying to figure out a way for me to give her one or two of the ones I had. In the meantime, while putting out fires here and there, I drew into three more black cards and cured our first disease myself. We exerted a bit more effort and soon the black disease was eradicated as well.
Yellow and Blue were starting to get a little out of control, so Gwen took a shuttle flight back to Atlanta to work on hotspots in Miami and Washington. I stuck around Eurasia, building a few more research stations and keeping the red disease in check. We planned on getting together for me to pass Gwen a yellow card, but again, she drew into the cure herself and we soon had it eradicated as well.
With the sun set on two diseases, it was really just a matter of time before we won the game. In the process, we actually did suffer a couple of outbreaks when we had nearly back-to-back epidemics and flipped three of the four previously discarded infection cards, including the two new outbreak cities. That was only a slight wrinkle in our path to victory, and a few turns later we managed to cure both the remaining diseases.
While we certainly had a very kind card draw, I still thought we did a good job of managing what I’d consider a sub-optimal role selection. There were a few points when I could see the board starting to slip, but we were able to get a handle on matters before they completely broke a-loose. The game was so easy and quick that I was hoping for a repeat performance, but Gwen just wasn’t feeling the Pandemic love for the evening, and so we put the game away.
As her choice of the night, Gwen picked If Wishes Were Fishes, which is probably one of her top 5 or 10 games of all time. For the first half of the game, we were neck-in-neck. Gwen’s usual strategy is to make lots and lots of fish sales, regardless of how big or small the profit is, and to horde her worms. On the other hand, I tend to hold fish while I manipulate their value with the buyers and set up a big sale, but I’m also a lot looser with my worms throughout the whole game. In short, though, the game didn’t stay very close as the end neared, because Gwen’s outlook on the game is apparently far more effective than mine. When the end mercifully came, she had smacked me around by about $50.
As I’ve mentioned before, I really can’t understand why If Wishes Were Fishes isn’t better regarded (other than, of course, the silly theme). Yeah, it’s a bit of a “Frankenstein” game, where several different eurogame mechanics are cobbled together, but the core mechanic of being able to either collect a fish or discard it for its special ability feels pretty fresh to me. Heck, after playing this again, it makes me want to write a full review about it just to delve fully into all that I think of the game. You can expect to see that review just after I finish my Game of the Month! review for Ghost Stories (which should, I hope, be coming soon).
Anyway, we had a really nice evening of playing games, and hopefully Gwen and I will be able to carve out a little more time in the future to repeat nights like this. Unfortunately for me, a nasty stomach bug afflicted me for the last few days, so I was unable to attend my usual Tuesday game night. But at least I have the one-on-one gaming with Gwen to get me through until next week.