Just finished up the game over the weekend, and I was curious how different our experience is from other people in terms of what upgrades get used.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
We ended up applying all of the positive mutations and none of the unfunded events.
We tended to make our structures permanent and pretty quickly got up to about 4 permanent research stations and about 6 permanent military bases, mostly just to make moving around the board a lot faster.
We used a pretty modest number of character upgrades, mostly because we tended to re-use the same characters a lot. (I think this is kind of a shame, and would have liked some game mechanic that encouraged mixing up characters more, but we really felt like we were using the "best" set a lot of the time.)
Anyone have a radically different experience in terms of their upgrade strategy?
Since the thread is marked spoilers, I'm not going to tag my comment.
We also applied all of the positive mutations, and I'm guessing most groups did as well. We didn't make any structures permanent unless we were forced to by the game. We didn't use a single road block the entire game. We also didn't build any military bases.
We used a modest number of character upgrades, and several unfunded events.
It's been awhile since we played though, so I can't remember specifics. We're planning on playing a 2nd campaign pretty soon here...
We applied 1 positive mutation to any disease when we eradicated it; in hindsight, considering how good those are, I would probably have used both upgrades on it right away (assuming that's allowed, I don't have the rules handy). So at the end we had 3/2/0 applied, because we just never had any luck eradicating Red (Black Coda).
We had 3 permanent research stations (one irritatingly made just before we got vaccine centers, because we had lost the stations in atlanta and the middle east, and wanted to have options). We used upgrades to get 6 permanent military bases so that objective was always free. A win bonus later gave us a 7th and then the rules gave us the 8th. We had sabotaged 7 of them before the end; the one in Sydney didn't seem to be hurting anything and it wasn't an objective anymore, so... bah, there's 80 points.
We made 2 vaccine centers permanent, one even after we had vaccinated all the cities, simply to give better travel options.
We used a few character upgrades, notably the obviously powerful ones like Pilot, Military Veteran (or whatever that was called), Paramilitary Escort, Local Connections. We even had one with the mini-Forecast ability that I have no idea why we picked that upgrade except maybe lack of options?
We made a good number of roadblocks, mostly to keep Coda contained in the middle east, but also around a pair of adjacent red cities that chain outbroke multiple times in one game (back to back epidemics) and were level 5. (We played about 18 games, I think, so we got a lot of upgrades.)
Equipment, once it became available, was a popular choice, simply because you got 3 for the low cost of one upgrade! Unfunded events were basically a "there's nothing better" although the ones to add quarantine, remove cubes, and add roadblocks all eventually got created and used. We built the nuke after losing Early December because we were completely out of better ideas, but didn't use it.
In 15 games, we got a lot of positive mutations, a couple more Research Stations, 6 Military Bases (plus 1 from win bonus and another from game rules), all 3 vaccine factories, a few character upgrades (local connections, veteran, local pressure, paramilitary escort, grizzled, pilot, determined and flexible - the last for lack of anything better to do).
We avoided Unfunded Events, and created Equipment on cards in hand during gameplay to guarantee it being useful at least that game. We might have placed roadblocks during play once or twice - otherwise it was only the win bonus roadblocks and we didn't ever bother making them permanent.
It doesn't exactly answer your question, but you might find this posting about our experience interesting. (Whole-game spoilers!)
We intentionally maxed out on positive mutations as quickly as possible, shooting for two per game if possible. This was job one. It helped that we had abysmal luck and lost a game each in January and February, so we had extra game-end upgrades early on.
We were lucky and didn't use the scientist in the first game, so when they introduced relationships, we were able to do the scientist/researcher co-worker combo. (If we had used both scientist and researcher before they introduced relationships, we would have been out of luck.) From that point on, we used scientist/researcher in every game. Surprisingly, we still often had problems curing diseases; often the cure colors we needed went to the other players. This despite the fact that both scientist and researcher had rival relationships with other characters so they could get their cards easily.
After disease upgrades, we focused mostly on starting structures. We had a bunch of starting research stations and six starting military bases (one per zone), but abysmal luck burned down a number of our starting research stations. The starting military bases cost us a bunch of victory points in final scoring; we weren't too happy about that. We went out of our way to ensure the starting military bases stayed on the board: we specifically had the operations expert build additional military bases that we could sabotage, so that the starting military bases would remain untouched.
We had a couple starting vaccine centers, but we had way more vaccine than we needed, so one probably would have been enough.
We did none of the unfunded events. The only time we used roadblocks was to wall off the CODA region. (Our CODA region was red, which required only six roadblocks to completely isolate.) That guaranteed the CODA region would never expand.
We spent the rest on character upgrades, but weren't super excited about them, mainly because we expected our characters to die unexpectedly. Surprisingly, nobody died; the only character we lost was the traitor.
Other than scientist/researcher, we definitely used a good mix of the available roles.
In January we used the medic to help us eradicate diseases and get us positive mutations. In February we started using the quarantine specialist; in May we needed the operations expert to build tons of military bases.
In July we retired the operations expert since we had all our starting military bases.
In August we used the colonel to handle Faded, but he turned traitor.
In October we switched to soldier since he was super duper awesome at searches, especially with binoculars.
In our last game in December, we brought back the medic, which we hadn't used since January.
Every time we got a new search, that was our top priority; our strategy always revolved around how to complete the search as quickly as possible (until the December game, where we had to split our time with finishing up the Faded cities).
We were extremely stingy about adding equipment stickers. Most seemed useless. A handful were absolutely critical: grenade, binoculars, aerosol unit. We made sure to only add them when needed so the soldier would be guaranteed to have them when he needed them.
Then in December we applied a bunch of random equipment stickers to help the soldier complete the stockpile search.
Despite having some massive bad luck regarding chain reactions (such as a few cases where the epidemic city was next to three-disease cities, and the first infection cards we drew after the epidemic caused multiple chain reactions that instantly ended the game), we managed to avoid having any collapsing or fallen cities.
Forward 1, Forward 2, Forward 3... siege attack 5?
Why for this life there's no man smart enough, life's too short for learning every trick and bluff.
We basically went 1 mutation 1 permanent station/base on any game we eradicated a disease (we assumed two mutations weren't possible).
For games without eradication, we usually used 1 permanent station/base and 1 character upgrade, except for really near the end when we added one unfunded event IIRC.
14 games, pretty smooth sailing all the way.
We went heavy on positive mutations and unfunded events with good emphasis on permanent research bases and vaccine factories when those were available.
The reason was that it was just myself and my gf playing, and we tended to play the same characters, so our regulars were completely full on character upgrades quickly.
We never used roadblocks, and resisted putting out military stations period, let alone making them permanent as she spent the vast majority of the game as a Medic, so only 1 of us would have been able to use those connections. Of course, this made the end game easier too, but that was just a fortuitous side bonus.
Overall it seems like positive mutations and bases that allow fast movement of any sort are the best overall upgrades across any scale as they allow the players to win faster and move around more efficiently. Even if you have a researcher, the easier cures with the higher level mutations can save time and effort game after game. What is optimum beyond that seems more like a function of scale than anything.