Reviews written by Sagrilarus
Disclaimer -- I work with epidemiologists for a living and have some insight into their world. I got the opportunity to play Pandemic at the WBC and shortly afterward the guy that explained the game to me asked, "So Sag, how did you like Pandemic?" At first I tossed off some boilerplate issues, but then things started to flow.
First of all, I'd like to state that it was nothing like what I thought it would be. Even the board had a different look and feel than I had anticipated, in spite of looking at photos of it online. It has been wildly popular and has gotten some pretty remarkable reviews, even from He-who-must-not-be-named, so my guess was that it was something that I'd want to eventually acquire should they actually print a few more copies.
But it felt flat to me, and I'm trying to decide why. Jeff and I discussed it in the car ride back home and didn't come to any deep insightful conclusion. I think it could use to be a bit longer and have a bit more complication to it (Sag's standard opinion #2 applied to all games regardless of quality) and very much needed something other than cubes and names like "disease red."
Ok -- now the juice is flowing. I know what's wrong with Pandemic. First of all, the teleportation machine that is the dispatcher and research labs needs to go. There should be ways to accelerate movement, but not zoom you across the planet. If you want to leave it in, then the diseases get to take that same ride. That's how they work in the real world.
Secondly, why didn't these guys come up with some disease names and a card for each describing what it is? They could have used existing diseases or created some of their own and provided some description to add some flavor, some intensity, some gravity to the situation. I mean c'mon -- the players are saving people's lives here. They're doing God's work but when you look down at the board it gets summarized to, "we need to remove a blue block from Chicago." No no no. That disease needs to be real.
Blue is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a neuron-tissue-eating protein that results in a slow, steady decay into insanity and infirmity. A nifty chit with an image of the prion on it would be majorly cool.
And on that note, Creutzfeldt-Jakob takes an extended period of time to develop -- years. You attack it by removing the deformed protein from the food supply and developing a cure or treatment for the existing base of the illness. The first is more important than the second, and that means it's a long war. It's something you need to manage, but it's not panic-time yet.
Now Disease Yellow is panic time. Disease Yellow is the Ebola virus which drops its victims within 48 hours. Ebola is highly contagious, but since it kills its victims so quickly it spreads in fits and starts. Vastly different from Creutzfeldt-Jakob, the most important thing to do with Ebola is to contain it. There's no time for treatment and there's exceptionally high risk to doing so -- when it pops up, you stomp on it with quarantine. Quickly. Whoever is closest rushes to the scene regardless of their skills or previous priorities and establishes a ring around the infection. And since Ebola is endemic to the region it can pop-up seemingly out of thin air. It's never eradicated. Creutzfeldt-Jakob can be completely destroyed -- removing it from the environment removes it from the earth -- no cure needed.
That is what Pandemic needs. A different approach for each disease, and cards and resources that lend themselves better to one effort than another, although all could be effective to some degree on each. I have some work experience in this line of business, and I don't think I could present the game to epidemiologists without them being disappointed in the lack of detail. Adding actual diseases likely would be much more captivating to them, especially if each had a different approach.
Oh, and it needs some nifty chits. Nifty chits would ease much of the traffic on the board as well.
The good news is that the existing game serves well as the basic rules for one killer expansion (no pun intended) should the original authors dare to merely call it that. This could be an excellent game.
Whew. Sorry for the vent. You were so polite to ask and I emptied the dump truck on top of you. It appears that Sag's standard opinion #2 does indeed apply to Pandemic for me. At it's core this is a great game, but it needs to be taken up a step or two to make it really shine.
1. This is the game your boy will remember when he's old and gray.
2. This is the game your boy will have set up for a game when you get home from work.
3. This is the game your boy will go to first under the Christmas tree.
4. This is the game your boy will drive 300 miles to retrieve when you tell him that you're breaking up the house and moving to Florida.
5. This is the game that will take your boy from childish let's-play-pretend games with toy dinosaurs into the world of legitimate competition and tactical decision making on an open field of battle.
6 This is the game that YOU will enjoy playing with him, that will give the two of you common ground, that will help your relationship grow.
There's also something exceptionally satisfying in dropping Mimring in round one.
Wings of War's rule book provides a very basic option, and then a set of rules that you can mix and match as your players are ready to step up in complexity. This is a perfect option for when kids are in the mix.
My oldest boy enjoyed play at age seven with the most basic rule set. We've since added in special damage rules, tailing, and altitude is coming into the picture now. We started with just Famous Aces but now include miniatures.
I've played with my non-wargaming buddies and they enjoyed it well enough, but it's been really rewarding with my boy. My daughter gets in now and again too!
It just didn't work for me. Last Night on Earth is a game that isn't going to provide you with a lot of opportunities to write the script of the story it tells.
It's very likely that if you're one of the heroes you will spend your time searching, and when you're not searching you're likely going to be moving from one place to another. Combat is an awkward affair that generally results in a push.
If you're running the zombies you move them one space and churn your cards.
The game is 95% driven by the story it paints, and that story is likely going to be well out of your control and the control of everyone else at the table. If you're comfortably watching the story play out in front of you, you'll likely enjoy the game. The bits are plush and the game certainly has its own look and feel. But that lack of player involvement was a showstopper for me.
Excellent intensity level and a tremendous amount of variability is available in this game. Well worth the time to find a game. Non-wargamers can get a handle on the game in short order and enjoy playing starting on turn 2 of game 1.