My 3-day Memorial Day weekend was filled with games. And more specifically, Matt Leacock’s sister games Pandemic and Forbidden Island.
It all started on Saturday evening with a big family dinner filled with hotdogs and hamburgers and, before and after, a little gaming. My brother Tony and his son Alex joined me for three plays of Forbidden Island. Now, prior to this, I hadn’t lost the game, but for whatever reason, fate was against us this time. Neither Tony nor Alex had played before, but they are Pandemic veterans, and I don’t think that we made many glaring mistakes in our play. But all three times, our treasure hunters found only watery graves.
After dinner was over and Samantha finally fell unconscious, Tony came over and joined Gwen and me for another couple of tries at the Island. The first ended as had those earlier in the day, but the fifth time proved to be the charm. We were down to only 6 island tiles left and 2 spots remaining on the waters rise meter, but the treasures were ours and we had plenty of Helicopter Lift cards to get us back to Fool’s Landing and then away to safety.
After finally achieving success against Forbidden Island, we pulled out a couple of my new Out of the Box games, Cloud 9 and Basari. I managed to use a Wild card to good effect while piloting the balloon to get the win in Cloud 9, but couldn’t quite keep up with Tony in Basari. Again, I’m continuing to be impressed with both games.
We really were having fun… I promise!
On Sunday and Monday, Gwen and I found some time to get in some Pandemic. In fact, we got in 6 games of Pandemic! Most of the impetus for replay was that the game kept kicking our butts, over and over and over again. We were playing with the Virulent Strain challenge using 6 Epidemic cards. Now, the “heroic” 6-epidemic games are hard on their own, but the addition of the Virulent strain complications proved to be way too much in most of the games.
I didn’t keep notes, but we went through all sorts of role combinations. We had the Troubleshooter/Ops Expert, Generalist/Field Operative, Researcher/Field Operative, Medic/Containment Specialist,and finally, the Medic/Dispatcher. There was one more, but that game ended in like 5 minutes, so I can’t even begin to recreate who was involved. The last two of the combinations were planned, because we were getting a little frustrated with getting killed.
While you would think that the Medic/Containment Specialist would have had the total edge on board control, we actually lost that game due to outbreaks. Because while each of those roles are pretty great at beating back the diseases, they have absolutely no synergy between them. They also don’t have any way to enhance mobility or facilitate trading, so we were smashed by back-to-back epidemics causing chain-reactions in areas that we couldn’t get to very easily.
But on the other hand, the Medic/Dispatcher proved once again to be the absolute best combination in the game. The Medic is just a hammer that can smash diseases back with incredible efficiency. While the Containment Specialist can be just as effective (or possibly even more so) in multiplayer games, I still think that the Medic is better with 2 players because he totally scrubs all the cubes out of a city, which is useful when you may not get back there for a while.
The Dispatcher (my favorite role to play, by the way) can then be everything else that you need. He is clearly suited to help mobility around the board, and can almost always help get the Medic where he is most needed. But even more than just moving around the board, the Dispatcher is also incredibly useful for trading cards. WIth his power, all you have to do is get one person to the city you want to trade, and for one action he can bring the other person there as well. And when it comes to board control, he essentially becomes another Medic once a disease is cured (by being able to move the Medic on his turn as well), which is by far the easiest way to eradicate a disease.
If there’s any weakness of the Medic/Dispatcher combo, it is that there are no shortcuts to getting research stations established around the board. We were a little bit fortunate in this last game that we drew the Government Grant special event card early on, which let us build a second station without wasting a card or another action. We were also lucky that the final Epidemic card was on the very bottom of the deck. But as it turned out, we really didn’t even get close to the end of the deck. With only 4 outbreaks, we cured all four diseases and saved all of humanity (which was, of course, after dooming it to oblivion 5 straight times).
One of the more embarrassing losses suffered throught the weekend.