Once I saw a few videos on YouTube of In the Lab (ITL) playthroughs, I knew I would be buying the expansion. I loved the addition to the theme, and we had already saved the world a few times with the base game. My wife was hesitant to play after trying to understand my hasic explanation of the new rule set, but we both love Pandemic, so we made our plans for our session.
We decided to get out of the apartment and went to a nearby park. Seeing as it was our first game with this expansion, setup was a little bit long. As far as I could see, the ITL rulebook doesn't indicate the new rule from On the Brink (OTB) expansion regarding how many Event cards to add to the player deck, so I also had to research that. Anyway, we finally got everything set up and we were ready to play!
(I didn't take notes for this playthrough, so some of this will be vague recollection)
Wife - Virologist
Me - Researcher
(We chose these roles due to their Lab abilities and ability to exchange cards)
Epidemics - 4
(Why make it hard when you are learning something new?)
Resilient Population (one of the best Event cards)
Government Grant (another of the best and a major bonus for ITL)
Forecast (another great one)
Infection Zone Ban (I hate chain reaction outbreaks, so good card)
Starting Diseased Populations:
Things were fairly even across the board, with a few more red cubes than the others and one of the annoying cities, Johannesburg, had three yellow cubes.
Starting Sequence Card:
Red or Yellow with 3 Red, 1 Yellow and 2 Grey
Decent mix of colors favoring red with one Event (Infection Zone Ban)
We headed to Asia to clean up some of that area and we decided to try to cure red first. Things went okay for awhile, but we started burning a lot of cards to fly around the world to different hot zones. There was a large gap between our first epidemic and the second one, so we got a large mix of cities and we were able to start some momentum toward curing red. A timely Government Grant just after the first Epidemic helped us put a Research Station in Hong Kong and my wife was able to place one in Baghdad.
By the time the second Epidemic hit (which put three cubes in the most annoying city, Santiago), two things became clear. First, we were going to get smacked again by an Epidemic pretty soon. Second, we were not going to win because we had discarded a lot of cards and the Player deck was too low. So, we decided to do our best and try to cure at least two diseases.
Just before the third Epidemic hit, we cured Red. A new sequence card came out and it was Black/Yellow. With the third Epidemic we started to get smacked by Outbreaks. However, due to my wife's diligent treatment campaign, there were no chain outbreaks. So, the cool new Event card I got at the beginning of the game NEVER got used. (It is important to note at this point that I forgot to include the Event cards from OTB; a couple of those, like Remote Treatment, might have helped).
At this his point, I finally used the researcher's ability to sequence for free, which yielded the easy Yellow sequence card! Finally, a break! We also used Resilient Population to eliminate pesky Santiago.
By the time the fourth Epidemic hit, we had cured Yellow also. We also were also able to Characterize the Black disease. A timely Forecast prevented us from dying due to Outbreaks, which allowed us to lose with dignity by running out of player cards.
Loss (Red Cured, Yellow cured)
1. Better with More Players?: My wife and I felt that it was difficult with only two Roles playing. Since you need to stay near Labs, it makes it hard to put out fires. It also wreaks havoc with card management, since you only have 14 cards to use. We will test this out next time by each playing two Roles or inviting our two friends who have already played base Pandemic to try this new challenge with us.
2. Build Those Labs: Especially with a two player game it is absolutely necessary to get as many Labs on the board as possible. Placement will depend on Cards and distribution of infection cubes, but needing to be in a lab for lab actions (outside of the Government Grant freebie) makes proximity very important.
3. Don't Forget Your Abilities: We picked the Researcher and Virologist because of their Lab abilities AND their ability to share cards. We ended up forgetting the sharing cards part and it probably slowed us down a bit. Also, whenever there is a chance, use the free Lab actions immediately.
4. Sequence x2: Try to get that second sequence out early. It will help provide direction as to what zone(s) to focus on and to remind you that you need to cure more than one disease to win.
5. Card Management: Although the ITL Challenge fosters the idea of all team members contributing to cure a disease, the reality is you should still dump all the cards of one color on one player, especially in a two-player game. That just makes it easier to Characterize, Sample and Cure faster. The other player can focus on another color or help in treating the necessary diseases for sequencing.
This is my first post. I hope you all enjoyed the summary and a little of the strategy at the end. I also hope this will not be my last post!
Here's to TRYING to save humanity!
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Good stuff Matt. Thanks for the tips!