Loves eurogames, but social deduction games are cool too!
Venice Carnivale 2015 (best costume seen)
This post is a series of session reports of our finished campaign. IT IS FULL OF SPOILERS, SO LEAVE NOW IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED YET.
My wife Lauren and I are long-term gamers, but only discovered BGG last year and started logging. We'd played base Pandemic before, and we included our 8-year old Shannon in the mix for the first time. In retrospect it really is pretty demanding for this age, and we certainly helped her along the way. We started 28 December and played most nights until completion 7 January. In the session reports below, upgrades are italicized and relationships/scars are underlined.
Early January, Budget: 4. Lauren: Medic, Ted: Researcher, Shannon: Scientist. Got off to a great start and swiftly cured two diseases with this dream combo of characters. But Blue disease got out of control, with severe damage to San Francisco and Chicago (and by the end Miami also). In short, we suffered a series of chain reaction outbreaks and lost the game. Felt sacrilegious writing on the board after we cured Yellow, attaching stickers for rioting cities, and writing names on character dossiers. The killer Coda virus was Red in the Far East. We named the Yellow disease Pustuola and took Positive Mutation as well as Local Connection for Medic which allows her to Treat in nearby cities, the best of the lot in our opinion.
Late January, Budget: 6. Lauren: Medic, Ted: Researcher, Shannon: Scientist. We kept it to minimal Outbreaks this time and easily cured all three diseases. For end-game upgrades, we decided on permanent two Research Centers in Moscow, and Ho Chi Minh City to enable cures and quick transport. Was good to come back after prior, very close one-turn loss, and feels like we have the hang of it (so of course the game will now change for Feb.) We were really loving the theme, so played a full three games in one day.
February, Budget: 4. Shifted characters to take advantage of new relationships--kept Lauren heavily invested in Medic (taking Co-Workers with Dispatcher to allow for card sharing), Ted as Dispatcher, Shannon switched to Quarantine Specialist to contain the now-untreatble Coda virus, (Family Member with Scientist in case we went back to her). Shannon used the new Quarantine rules to keep the Coda virus in the Far East under control. Used Dispatcher's power to rubber band pull people together as main means of transferring cards--key tactic without the powerful Researcher who can give freely. We kept viruses under control well, but were down to only 6 cards in the Player Deck (so 3 more turns in the game) when we won--very challenging and satisfying. For upgrades, we gave Quarantine Specialist Local Pressure, allowing her to project Quarantines from military bases (again very powerful like Local Connections for Medic), also Pilot for Medic, allowing Direct Flight without losing card, key for her to mop up diseases across the board.
March, Budget: 2. Lauren kept souped-up Medic, Shannon kept Quarantine Specialist, and Ted tried new Operations Specialist (Friends with the Medic to share) with an aim to build the newly available Military Bases. He built 3 bases and used them to catapult to needed areas around the world, meet up with colleagues, and share cards. We eradicated Black disease and named it Nova Bubonica, and took Positive Mutation as well as a permanent Military Base in CodaLand, Hong Kong, as base for Quarantine Specialist to spray 5 nearby connections (best space for it). This time we got lucky and ran through the 3 cures pretty quickly, with perhaps half the player deck left, but suffered 4 Outbreaks in our hurry to do so, losing our permanent Research Center in Ho Chi Minh City, leaving only one in Moscow and Atlanta. However, with 3 victories and 1 defeat under our belt, funding level (utility cards) would now be zero, so April would be the most challenging yet...
April, Budget 0 (we've been winning too much and the game is now harder). Lauren: Medic, Shannon: Quarantine Specialist, Ted: Operations Specialist. We had the big surprise Coda mutation partway through the month and the arrival of the Faded, the zombie-like infected who were swarming across East Asia (great reveal--we're loving it). The defense was epic--with the key military base in Hong Kong, Shannon spewed quarantines all around with the Local Pressure upgrade. Lauren as Medic leapt around and cured the big virus concentrations, while Ted as Ops Specialist built up to 5 military bases and helped with curing--we eradicated two--blue (which we coined as Bovine Flu) and Yellow again--took blue Positive Mutation (so all now could be cured without a hospital) and a another permanent Military Base.
May, Budget 0 again. Lauren: Medic, Shannon: Quarantine Specialist, Ted: Operations Specialist. Continued our tried Coda containment strategy, inserting Shannon into the now-legendary Hong Kong base, erecting roadblocks, and spraying quarantines. Ted gradually built up to the objective of six military bases and used to ferry around and swap cards. While swapping in Santiago, we had an unlucky Epidemic followed by instant outbreak, and both Lauren's Medic and Ted's Ops Specialist suffered first scars of the game (Medic Insomniac so max 6 cards (in retrospect we should have chosen a weaker one), Ops Spec Hobbled, cannot enter Fallen city). We eradicated Blue, and fought diseases pretty well, suffering four outbreaks total. It was a tight end--we calculated four turns out and cured the last disease right on the turn where the Player cards ran out, the last turn possible. Our luck can't hold out much longer with these close calls. We kept two permanent Military Bases as upgrades, as the situation has taken more of a military tenor with the Faded and these are not destroyed as Research Centers are by Rioting.
June, Budget 0. Same roles (Lauren souped up Medic, Shannon Quarantine Specialist, Ted Ops Specialist), but this time our luck ran out after a string of very close victories. Ted leapt around and built up to the required 6 bases, while Shannon contained Faded very well from Hong Kong (which nearly became infected at one point), while Lauren's Medic hoovered up the board. We added all but 3 of the many new equipment stickers to cards, which soaked up some actions (perhaps too many in retrospect), and took a long time to get the right cards to Cure diseases. Yet suddenly after arranging all three of the team to meet in Africa, we all had three sets of 5 to cure; two were cured fine, but one turn before the final set could be turned in, we had chain outbreaks in Europe and lost with the 8th outbreak. Again, we'd played very well and were just one turn from victory with Faded fully contained to its red base region, but Budget 0, having to build the bases, and buying equipment had slowed us that bit too much. There was much sadness, but it was probably a blessing in disguise, as we took a Military Base upgrade (so now had 5 of 6 needed bases for victory condition at start, Ted could shift to a more useful character next time) and a card upgrade to cure disease, and we finally got Budget 2 for event cards. Here's hoping for another string of 4 victories...
June, Late, Budget 2. Ted shifts to new Dispatcher (Coworkers with Medic to allow card sharing), Lauren Medic, Shannon Quarantine Specialist. We started with a slick 5 military bases after our prior loss. There was a Faded in our traditional Asian base Hong Kong, so Shannon used a Grenade Belt and went in, staying for two turns laying road blocks and quarantines. We did a good job of swapping cards and healing, using Dispatcher's rubber band power. We extracted Shannon to help find cures, and rapidly got all three in addition to the 6 bases while the Faded stacked up in Asia. However, we still had to complete a third objective--Lauren was next up as Medic and was going to eradicate either Blue or Black, then we drew an Epidemic and subsequent Outbreak, going from 4 Outbreaks to 8 in one chain and losing a single turn ahead of victory. Faded-land in southern Asia was looking bad now, including its first expansion outside red area to Kolkata, and with our first Fallen city in Ho Chi Minh city. Other than that, there was not too much damage, outside the US. This hurt--it was again as close as you can get, so loved the drama, but two such close losses made us think how we could improve for July. We stuck with Dispatcher and gave the Veteran (Military Base travel use) upgrade to use our new network, also gave Shannon as Quarantine Specialist the Forecaster (look at next two infection cards upgrade, should be powerful as she would see what was coming up and Remote Quarantine to block.) At least the budget is up to 4...
July, Budget: 4. Same roles, Ted: Dispatcher, Lauren: Medic, Shannon: Quarantine Specialist. We debated whether to switch Ted to Colonel or Soldier to go into FadedLand to search for Virologist, but decided Shannon could do that from her Hong Kong base, though we'd have to build a Research Center to search, as our one in Ho Chi Minh city was destroyed. Lauren super-Medic put out several clusters, Ted went into FadedLand, built Research Center, searched, then dispatched Shannon in. We used an event card to build sixth military base and accomplish that victory condition, also eradicated blue, but held off on curing 3rd disease as we did not want to end the game before we found the Virologist. All three players searched and we found her, then cured. With the July Military Base bonus for victory, we now have 6 bases on board from start, so instant victory condition fulfilled. For other two standard game end perks, took a event card sticker which allows to kill one Faded, also character upgrade for Dispatcher Flexible (for an action discard a card and draw another from discard of that color, thinking we could use to recall the search city and easily find scientists). We only had 2 Outbreaks and felt very confident this time out, now team is fully upgraded, board is set up as we want it, optimistic going into August.
August, Budget: 2. Ted: Dispatcher, Lauren: Medic, Shannon: Quarantine Specialist (fully buffed team). We went into August confident, having won first objective (six military bases) off the bat, with out main goal to find the lost Immunologist in a Faded Rioting city. We had bad luck with an Epidemic card on the second turn, but with the Medic hoovering disease cubes and Quarantine Specialist blocking the 3 cubes, we were fine. Ted attached the Binocular cards (discard for double search bonus) onto two cards in hand, his second turn went into Faded city he had a card for, and went up 8 steps in one turn, leading to an easy find the following turn. We gradually used the Dispatcher to gather the cards, Medic to treat, and Quarantine Specialist to spray FadedLand down and roadblock. Soon we'd cured all all three diseases and eradicated two. As our upgrade, we chose level two Positive Mutations on Yellow and Black. Though we had maxed-out characters, we thought we'd have to take down Faded in future, instead of just Quarantine them, so Shannon opted to switch to the Virologist for next month, able to turn in red cards to remove Faded anywhere in the region, or discard the actual card to remove three. As a new character, we gave her a relationship (Coworkers with) Ted as Dispatcher, to allow them to swap cards. Ted already had Coworkers with Lauren as Medic, so now could trade among all three if needed--a powerful synergy. We prepared for September optimistic we could find the lost soldier.
September, Budget: 0. Ted: Dispatcher, Lauren: Medic, Shannon: switch to Virologist. As we started the second month with a big search for the Paranoid Soldier in FadedLand (this time in rioting cities), Shannon marched in as Virologist and swiftly searched to good effect, as did Ted as Dispatcher. Shannon had bad luck twice in a row as we were missing our usual quarantines, as the Faded swiftly grew, and she rapidly got two scars (Regretful and Fear of Small Planes) as Epidemics popped up in her city. She did use the cure all Faded ability twice, but we decided to retire the Virologist after this mission. Lauren kept hoovering up cubes, while we found the Paranoid Soldier with the help of Ted using his upgrade ability to redraw red cards and binoculars from the discard pile. This was another big reveal, about the paramilitary Zodiac conspiracy to spread the Coda virus, and the fact that Ted's prior character, Operations Specialist Jimmy Diamond, had been the traitor Sagittarius (no wonder why he built all those military bases). Having built them, Ted now set to work dismantling military bases, though in retrospect taking down the key Hong Kong base in FadedLand which had been so key for the Quarantine Specialist might have been premature. At least we still had a base in Jakarta we'd leave to last. In any case, the diseases ticked on as we nearly ran out of cards before we cured the last disease, ending in a real nail-biter, on the last turn, with zero player cards left. It was the highest drama yet (it was late, but I physically couldn't sleep afterwards, too much real adrenaline), as it did not look like we'd make it. We all felt very satisfied for having pulled through again--what a game...
October, Budget: 0. Ted: Dispatcher, Lauren: Medic, Shannon: Quarantine Specialist (fully buffed team). We set out to find Patient Zero in Bangkok where it all started, confident we could succeed in our third search mission in a row. Alas, we soon ran into difficulties; Shannon had the bad luck to be in an unlucky outbreak, and Ted had to come in to save her with Grenade Belt before her turn came around to avoid getting a scar. Even with Ted and Shannon in Bangkok feeding cards to search, we were always one behind, and just when we had the right combination, we had our fourth epidemic and the search became impossible. At this point, Lauren's Medic had been unable to control the diseases all on her own, and we had chain reaction outbreaks in northern FadedLand and even Atlanta/Chicago, bringing us up to 8 outbreaks and losing the game. This was a tough one--lots of bad luck with wrong cards coming up and lack of the Bangkok card (which would have made for an easy search). In retrospect we should have also built a temporary military base in Bangkok to make the search easier, as it would not become permanent, but our mindset was anti-base following last month's revelations. We did not eradicate any diseases, and had maxed our 3 characters, so the upgrades were frustrating and not that useful--we added the two last event card stickers (nuclear option and tacnet). We were confident we could tackle it next month using the base tactic, and also a martyr gambit--bring in the Soldier to atone for his role in Coda's development, then heroically block up to three Spread Infections in return for Scars as needed, while using his ability to draw up the many equipment cards in the discard pile. Desperate times called for desperate measures...
October, Late, Budget 2. Ted: switch to Soldier (Rivals with Quarantine Specialist to pick up discards), Lauren: Medic, Shannon: Quarantine Specialist. We went searching for Patient Zero for a second time, this time optimized. We had bad luck with an Epidemic card on turn one, which Ted's Soldier avoided by heroically taking a scar (Indecisive, no roadblocks), avoiding an outbreak which Lauren was able to treat before it came up. Then things looked up as we found Patient Zero through a card building a Military Base, search by Shannon, and two searches by Ted's Soldier drawing up red equipment discards. This led to the big discovery of the vaccine and new victory conditions to build Vaccine Centers (the first in Bangkok, City Zero, which was poetic). Faded were a real problem, growing up to three groups of three-strong in danger of chain outbreaks. Ted used the Soldier ability to good effect, drawing cards, discarding though other cards, and allowing Rival Shannon to pick them up--this contributed to two cures of Yellow and Blue toward the end of the deck. The Soldier also heroically took another scar (Monophobic, cannot search alone) to block infections. Ted and Shannon created two of the new Vaccine Factories, picked up the new Faded vaccine, and vaccinated 5 Faded cities of the 12 afflicted. The Medic was unable to treat the rest of the world alone while we focused on Faded, and we ramped up to 6 outbreaks. For a moment it was so bad, we decided to nuke Manila to create a firebreak and stop a chain outbreak, though an extreme measure as the vaccine was frustratingly in sight. We tried to swap cards through travel, without many special abilities--our cards were unfortunately not concentrated. As we came to the last round for all players, we realized Shannon would be one short to cure the last Yellow disease, so we focused on vaccinating and attaching equipment to cards. So Late October was a tactical defeat, but a strategic victory--we upgraded to two permanent Vaccine Factories in FadedLand, reduced infected cities to 7, and maximized equipment and were up to 4 Budget/special events. We were confident we could finally put an end to Coda, especially as Ted switched back to the efficient Dispatcher who could enable swift card transfer and Curing.
November, Budget 4. Ted: Dispatcher, Lauren: Medic, Shannon: switch to Immunologist (Coworkers with Dispatcher to allow sharing cards). We confidently set out to eradicate FadedLand of Coda. Lauren went around the world keeping disease under control, while Ted and Shannon used the two Vaccine Centers to distribute across East Asia. We sabotaged the military base in Australia and methodically worked through, suffering four outbreaks, but using event cards to prevent any chain reactions. In fact, the mission was easy compared to last month, with a long break between epidemics and we swiftly cured two diseases and had the cards to cure the third. But we help off for two turns from curing so we could vaccinate every Faded city and also eradicate Yellow so we could take the Positive Mutation (now they all had level 2), and we also took a permanent Vaccine Factory in Bogota (purely to meet the third victory requirement and as a transit node.) At the end of the month when we drew up the December requirements--search the ruins of Atlanta for Zodiac's Coda virus stockpiles--we knew we could do it. We decided to pull the poor Soldier out of retirement--though he had two scars from his attempt at martyrdom last month, he could pull cards with equipment straight from discard pile, key to the difficult Atlanta search requirement. Combine that with super Medic to keep diseases in check and Dispatcher using his extra moves (searching would only take so much after all) to keep the Medic moving, and we were very confident we could save the world in the final month, December.
December, Budget 2. Ted: Dispatcher, Lauren: Medic, Shannon: switch to Soldier. We started with FadedLand entirely vaccinated, so had only one real objective to win, find the hidden virus stockpiles in the ruins of the CDC in Atlanta. Lauren went first with Medic to get the other three viruses under control, then Ted went to Atlanta and used Dispatcher power to bring in Shannon's Soldier. She did the first searches, and in future rounds used her take-an-action-to-pick-up-equipment-discards to quickly get the cards we needed. We had two epidemics and one outbreak, but early in the game we found the virus stockpile, and saved the world. It was a result of lots of optimization and planning, though felt a bit anti-climactic. We'll take the victory though, as the real nail-biters were the couple months before.
360 (40 per game won in first half of month)
20 (20 per game won in last half of month--and we failed two months so had no points for May or October)
145 (5 point for cities level 0 or 1)
26 (2 points for cities level 2-3)
2 (1 point for cities level 4, as we had two level 5 cities for which we scored nothing)
100 (bonus for vaccinating every Faded city)
100 (bonus for destroying Coda stockpile in Atlanta)
0 (80 point bonus for destroying every military base--this big all-or-nothing bonus we missed galled us, as we had 2 bases left, plenty of time left in the last game, and could have very easily destroyed them had we known)
Grand Total: 753 of 1000, so well into the 676-800 Disaster Averted Level. We felt great achievement at this, though were a bit annoyed we'd missed the 80-point blow-up-all-military-bases thing which would have put us into Legendary, as that would have been simple to do, but that objective card came off the board in December. Surely as it was a personal, vice Zodiac evil faction goal, that should have stayed on the board as a non-mandatory goal. Ah well, we had a great time throughout and still loved the game, so didn't dwell on this.
Characters: Looking at characters, we played every one except for the Colonel and the Generalist, and were very pleased with our choices. Lauren had played the Medic beginning to end, and her souped up abilities were key each time. Shannon started with Scientist, tried Virologist, Immunologist, and Soldier at end, but rest of game was the Quarantine Specialist, also key during the Faded days and why we managed to keep Coda contained to red zone plus a single black city (have seen in some other groups it spread to many cities, so even though not rewarded in victory conditions, we were pleased). Finally, Ted started with Researcher, four games as Ops Expert (who turned out to be the traitor) then settled on the Dispatcher which was critical to trading cards and moving the Medic to key spots.
Final Thoughts: We loved this game--real emotional highs and lows, planning tactics and choices between the 17, roughly nightly games. Can't wait for Season 2...