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Simon C
United Kingdom
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(Continuing the month by month session reports: see our other months here -
January
February
March
April
May
June
Early July
Late July
August
Onwards: to come!)

September! After July’s loss in the first attempt we were glad to be back on track with a straight-up victory in August. The win bonus for August gave us a bonus to searches attempted in September: +1 for all searches or +2 to just one search. Having already completed both searches available, I was confident we’d see another search this month…and we did indeed. A Paranoid Soldier was out and about and needed finding in Military Bases in Faded cities.

…and despite the presence of “Spoilers included” in the title, the rest of this post is also in Spoiler tags. That’s because (spoiler alert for our progress, I guess) we found the Paranoid Soldier this game, and despite the general focus on the mechanical details of the game in previous instalments, I want to talk a lot about the flavour of this and the previous searches throughout the remaining post. So DON’T READ THIS if you’ve played September but not found all of the three characters so far being searched for!

Spoiler (click to reveal)

You’re here? OK, yeah, I lied – there are significant mechanical implications of finding the Paranoid Soldier and I don’t want to give that away to people who haven’t found him yet. That said, there will be a fair amount of flavour commentary here as well!

Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Four objectives were on the table, and we needed three. From previous experience struggling with the quarantine one and the fact we had a head start on the search, we decided up front to leave out the quarantines. We had 5 of the 6 military bases as starting stickers, so that’d be easy.

I had my suspicions about the search: the previous people found had made it clear that something funny was going on and his paranoia was not unfounded. I joked that maybe we shouldn’t look for him, since who knew what CDC planned if he was found. I’d also heard hints that there was a big twist to come soon, but had no idea what form that would take. Well, we’d have to do the search eventually, right? Better to use the advantage provided to us by the win bonus from August – and the alternative was to achieve the quarantine objective.

Opening situation was nice too: all the threes were cubes, not Faded, fairly spread out, and one in Washington. Our hands were a bit mixed, but Nicole had a pair of Yellows and I had Washington, which we’ve stickered with the “wildcard for cures” equipment. I’d have liked to take Tina the Quarantiner to do searching, but unfortunately our one Faded military base (Riyadh) had a single figure on it already so we decided to stick to our now common pairing: the rivals Sam the Scientist and Spike the Soldier – he with the Paramilitary Escort, so good at dealing with the Faded.

The first moves were beautiful. We started in Atlanta and once again Nicole picked herself to go first. She moved to Washington and cleared all three cubes. Then she drew cards, picking up her third Yellow – perfect! I moved to Washington and handed her the card, allowing Nicole to cure Yellow instantly. Then for my remaining two actions, I retrieved the equipment from the discard – and traded it straight back to Nicole, preparing her for her next cure!

There were some Faded on both of our borders (the edges of Blue and Red) so we were eager to get Spike over. As he drew into the necessary Black cards for the search I headed into central Black and towards Riyadh to attempt the search before too many Epidemics made it impossible. Nicole was doing a sterling job keeping the cubes clean and had already discovered the Blue cure (needing only three cards makes it fairly simple!) – not to mention eradicating Yellow. Red was our only concern: once again, one colour had decided to deal itself almost singularly to me. We swapped a couple but we’d seen about 8 of the 12 and Nicole was still only holding a couple. No matter: it wouldn’t take too much to trade them across with Rivalry.

I made it to Riyadh and in two actions completed the search. I started to scratch off the card. Nicole asked if we needed to do it then and interrupt the gameplay and my turn – I responded “of course, it might be important!”

I had no idea how important.

We were told to open Box 6. I’d been expecting it to be a fixed calendar entry like boxes 1-5, even though 7 had already been revealed to open due to completing the checklist. A mid-game unexpected opening was a surprise. What could be inside this box?

A series of cards. Carefully taking them one at a time, we pulled out the folded email trail: a verified conspiracy; a traitor inside CDC; a setup to trick us into building Military Bases everywhere. Oh dear.
A ‘hand-written’ note. A second check on the list towards Box 7 and presumably a full cure for C0da. Hooray!

“You’ve been played.” To be honest, I wasn’t too surprised. I’d been coming to realise how heavily the game was pushing us towards building military bases, and the ever-growing doubt over the things the military was providing us – guns, airstrikes, a frikking nuke! – it made sense the military was going to be an evil force behind this and we’d have to turn around and do something else about these bases. Removing that objective was painful – but at least we’d have a replacement and we hadn’t wasted time that game already building our sixth.

“A Traitor in Your Midst.”





Well.

It turns out I had in fact been a traitor for the last three months (so THAT explains why we lost for the first time in July – Spike’s first game!) Slightly oddly, I appeared to have also tracked down the Paranoid Soldier, handed over the full details to the goodies in CDC (such as Samantha) and only then gone “oh, by the way, it’s me, bwahaha!” which was a little odd, but such is the way of villains (alternatively, possibly the Paramilitary Escort was actually the villain and killed Spike just after he managed to transmit the data to Samantha – slightly less impactful but also less of a weird plot element). But wow. My character was lost: gameplay wise that was huge, both long term (lack of Paramilitary Escort, lack of rivalry with Samantha, lack of security in Faded zones) and short term (I’m playing a Civilian for the rest of the month, losing the red cards I was hoping to trade across, and unable to pick up any equipment from the discard any more).

I was shocked. Nicole was angry – she didn’t like the game taking away the things we’d worked to build and thought it doomed us to failing this game at the least, not to mention leaving us without a way to deal with the Faded. I thought we were still in with a decent shot – only one cure to go, and (as was confirmed by the dossier windows and the final card) a new objective of destroying two military bases – and tried to rally us together to push on.

But the game had turned against us – whether through misfortune, misplays caused by shock, or by simply forgetting how to play (and especially how to deal with the Faded) without Spike. Within seeming moments there were pending outbreaks in Europe, threatening to spread the Faded even further into Blue. As a civilian, I rushed to Madrid, now Faded and covered in figures, and roadblocked the entire city – sacrificing that civilian at the start of my next turn to reset again to Atlanta.

Nicole was handling the cubes in Asia and headed south to destroy our Ho Chi Min base and roadblock the last route out – also threatening to submit more cities to the Faded. We only just remembered the fact the Base was needed in order to build roadblocks, slowing the solution by a turn, but she kept it under control and protected the East while achieving half of our second objective.

However, I wasn’t willing to keep throwing civilians into guaranteed death. Not for thematic reasons, unfortunately – simply because the commitment of leaving them in a Faded city happens before drawing some more cards, and that risked me drawing the few remaining Red cards and immediately losing them, preventing Nicole finding the third cure! Instead, we planned ahead to the end of the game: we decided permanent roadblocks were looking more and more important, so we wanted to blockade the Atlantic. I popped to London to set these up and was fortunate to be safe for the turn in order to get back again to North America.

And so we waited on a final Red card to appear. Joy of joys – Nicole drew it! She had the cards to instantly cure the disease. Now we just needed to survive to my turn – I was within three spaces of our South American Military Base so I could go down, prep C4 and win.

Unfortunately, Nicole had also drawn our fourth Epidemic card. And, proving that the game had indeed turned against us, it revealed the worst possible city: Baghdad. It was at one figure due to Accelerated Incubation, so immediately popped.

Which meant Istanbul, already at 3 figures, popped.

Which meant Algiers, already at 3 figures, popped.

Which meant that Cairo, which had started this process at a mere 1 figure, popped!

Leaving us with our first Yellow faded city (Khartoum), six outbreaks, and only one Faded figure left in the supply – but we’d survived.

That was just the draw phase though. Now we had to pick three cards for the Infection Phase.

The very first card was Paris – Faded and already at 3 figures. Paris got its first Panic level. We had three cities to spread into (with Madrid and London road-blocked from Paris): Milan, Essen, and Algiers.

Milan was faded already, and didn’t have three figures in it. Essen was unfaded, and Algiers would have simply panicked more and caused a further outbreak. However, with only one figure left, I realised we could order the resolutions of the cities: placing a figure in Milan did nothing, and then on attempting to resolve Essen we immediately lost – without panicking Algiers and without even fading Essen! (No Faded figure went in it, right?). Finally, at least, we had a silver lining.
But overall - what phenomenally awful luck.

Our second loss, meaning we’re now set to play September again. A September with no new surprises – both less exciting and less optimistic, since our best things (ESCORT!) have been taken from us. Worse still, we’ve got to achieve the Quarantine objective, which we’re really not confident about.

But on the plus side! We had two end game upgrades still to take: we went for making the roadblocks out of Europe permanent, and for the third level mutation for Yellow (meaning both it and Blue now only take four cards to cure – or three if we do continue to use Samantha!) We’ll have two Funded event cards to use in our next game.

And if it continues like this? Hey, at least we get to see what’s inside Box 8

Nicole was pretty down after the game – still angry at what it had done to us and dispirited about our chances going forwards. Although I’d rather not be playing September again (a last minute victory rather than that horrendous loss would have been far better for morale in general) I’m interested to play forwards with the new situation and also keen to have to work on some new tactics – we’ve become maybe a little over-reliant on Samantha and Spike. At the least, if we can get through September (win or lose) then hopefully October will give us space to move positively into the end-game.

Onwards…to late September!


Edit: Late September has now been played and is chronicled here.
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Laura Blachek
United States
charlotte hall
Maryland
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First, take heart... We lost early sept and entered late Sept with the same set of objectives you have. We did end up pulling a win in our second game.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
i found the paranoid soldier halfway through the second turn of our game and found out i was the traitor. We had to pause our game to let the news digest (and one of the players instituted a play strategy of 'completing a search should never occur before the end of your turn'). We lost our quarantine specialist, who was part of our dream team.

Also, i expect that particular upgrade is designed to be too tempting to pass by. I really wonder how many people not only use it but end up having it attached to a character that is active when you open that box..... Hmm, this sound like a poll!

Oddly, i was really thrilled to read this game twist, even if destroyed our game plan, caused me to play an entire game as a civilian, and made us lose early september... I was getting used to only seeing game twists at the start of a new month and was totally expecting the paranoid soldier scratch off to be more like the virologist scratch off.

Back in july we found the virologist quickly and were counting on not her giving us an immediate benefit to help us through july...and.. Nothing... . Then in august we missed finding the immunologist so had no foreshadowing on anything being different about the soldier.

Hilariously, a round or two after we found the soldier we found the immunologist... Our response to his request for the design files was... "Yeah....kinda already got that covered for ya...."

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