I wear my Halloween costume all year round!
You know it’s not going to go well when six of the nine initial cities are Faded, two at each level. And did I mention that our quarantine specialist had turned into a traitor and run away last month?
Initial disease incidence was as follows:
3 - Khartoum (Faded, now with permanent military base), Los Angeles (Faded), Milan
2 - Tokyo, San Francisco (Faded), Miami (Faded)
1 - Chennai, Santiago (Faded, Ground Zero), Lima (Faded)
In addition to those six Faded cities, including Santiago where we would have to spend time looking for Patient Zero, we would have to deal with the rioting (Level 2) citizenry of Tokyo, one of the most restive in the world.
The good news is that this situation encouraged us to take a completely different approach than we had in the other games. We had previously gotten into a sort of pattern, loss of the quarantine specialist notwithstanding. We had a Researcher who shared information with her coworker, and the Medic’s rivalry with the Operations Expert helped them cure disease relatively easily as well.
But curing disease was not our top concern at the moment. We just had to keep those Faded cities under control. And so despite everything that had happened last month, we introduced two new military characters: Matthew Mustard (the Colonel), who could travel through roadblocks and remove Faded Figures, and his family member JD Mustard (the Soldier), who could spend time in Faded cities without acquiring any scars. We set up JD as a rival to Emelia the Generalist as well, so they could pass cards more easily. This was the first game where we didn’t use the Medic at all, and we also left out the Operations Expert. So the team was made up of Soldier, Colonel, Generalist, and Researcher.
One thing that did bother me a bit at this late stage in the game is how the remaining Relationships seem almost completely useless. We’re now out of Coworker and Rival stickers, so we’re left with Family Members (who gain an action when they start in the same city) and Friends (who look at the top cards in the player deck when they start in the same city). We hardly ever have characters starting in the same city, though I guess that would happen more often if we were using the Dispatcher and passing cards by actually meeting up. Possibly we should revise our strategy more to take into account the relationships available.
Anyway, we gathered the team in St. Petersburg, and used September’s win bonus to equip the JD the Soldier with some binoculars to help him search. One of our top goals for the month was to find Patient Zero so that we could use his DNA to discover a vaccine. Since we already had the other two components that we needed, this goal took precedence even over winning. We wanted to be done with COdA already. And given the initial setup, our chances of an actual victory seemed pretty slim.
The situation quickly worsened with a turn two epidemic, though we were able to use an air strike to remove a Faded figure and prevent an outbreak in LA. And we cured Blue relatively quickly, leading to its immediate eradication since we had already dealt with the one Blue city infected with disease. JD the Soldier led the search for Patient Zero, spending time among the horrors of the Faded in Santiago and using his one pair of binoculars multiple times, thanks to his ability to pick up discarded equipment.
And we did it! We found Patient Zero and discovered the vaccine. COdA was no longer a lost cause, but something that could be treated. The treatment would be a slow and laborious process, involving the gradual building of vaccine factories and transport of vaccines around the world, but it could be done. We had real hope at last.
Of course, they say it’s darkest right before the dawn. And that meant everything had to get worse before it could get better. Colonel Mustard was putting in his best effort to eliminate Faded Figures, but with six Faded cities in the initial nine, getting shuffled back into the deck quickly with a second-turn Epidemic, we just couldn’t keep up. No sooner had we sabotaged the military base in Santiago than the outbreaks began.
First it was Miami, leading to rioting in that city (Level 2) and spilling over into Washington, where it caused a chain reaction. So Washington become unstable (Level 1) and spread COdA into New York and Montréal, causing both of them to become Faded as well. This marked the point at which all of North America was lost to a disease that had started in Chile.
North America is lost
And the outbreaks didn’t stop there. Before long there was another outbreak in Miami (now Level 3), followed by one in Tokyo (now Level 3), and then Taipei was drawn from the bottom of the deck in an epidemic, escalating its single disease cube into a full-on outbreak.
Of course Emelia the Generalist was in Taipei when the outbreak occurred. She received her third scar, and was only saved from loss by her Determination. We selected Monophobia for the scar, which would prevent her from searching alone, because we suspected that we had completed just about all the searches that we’d have to.
Continuing to resolve the epidemic, we shuffled the cards back into the deck and immediately drew Tokyo again, leading to the collapse of that city—our first collapse of the game. Tokyo also happened to contain a military base, and Emelia was standing just a couple of cities away, planning to destroy that military base to lead us to victory. We had managed to cure Black and Red in the midst of all the chaos, so we just needed to sabotage one more military base to win.
Emelia in Taipei
Emelia was the Generalist, so she had five actions per turn. She was holding one red card in her hand (Beijing), and her coworker the Researcher had two red cards herself, which Emelia could easily take from her with a single action each. One of those cards was Tokyo itself, the one that Emelia would need to destroy the military base. So she should have had an action to spare: take the Tokyo card from Sandra, walk to Osaka, walk to Tokyo (discarding her Beijing card to get into the Collapsing city), use the Tokyo card to sabotage the military base.
Emelia's available card
Emelia's coworker and her available cards
But alas, it wasn’t to be. Poor Emelia had been scarred by her experience in London earlier in the month, and was plagued by regrets. If only she had done something more to save the people of that city. She just couldn’t bring herself to leave behind a city with three disease cubes, at least not without paying another card as she went. But she didn’t have a card to spare. She could take one from Sandra with her spare action, but that *still* wouldn’t be enough, because she would face the same problem in Osaka. And so our choice of the Regretful scar, which had seemed so harmless because we never wanted to leave a city with three disease cubes, ended up costing us the game.
And so the game went on, continuing to deteriorate in the next infection phase. We managed to prevent an outbreak in Miami because we had constructed roadblocks all around, but the city still started to collapse (Level 4). The soldier was in there when it happened, and so he acquired a scar: he was now Overcautious, meaning that he would need an extra card to discover a cure. Since the Soldier absolutely can’t discover cures anyway, this one really seemed like it couldn’t backfire—but then, we thought that with the Generalist’s Regretfulness as well.
Finally, another outbreak lead to rioting in Sydney (Level 2), and that was one outbreak too many. The game ended in a loss. And if only we had survived that infection phase, we would have won on the next turn, with the Soldier sabotaging a second military base. So close, and yet so far.
But it wasn’t all bad. After all, we had found the vaccine! And when the Generalist was unable to get into Tokyo to win the game, she instead used her Beijing card to construct our first vaccine factory, which we made permanent as a game-end upgrade. (As the other game-end upgrade, we placed an unfunded event sticker on Madrid, which we can use to place three roadblocks in future games).
Our first vaccine factory
So while we might have lost the battle of October, we felt like we had actually laid some important groundwork that could ultimately help us win the war. We had a vaccine and a factory where we could produce it. This was progress!
It was just too bad about all those cities now on the verge of collapse….