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Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu» Forums » Variants

Subject: With 5 Players? rss

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Michael König
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Is there a reason why Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu shouldn't be playable with five players?

I checked the rules of Pandemic: Iberia and it has 8 event cards and a starting hand of 2 for five players.
That would could translate to 8 artifact cards and also a starting hand of 2 cards for Reign of Cthulhu.

There won't be enough sanity tokens for five players, but I might replace these with different ones anyway.

Has anyone tried this? Or does anyone see a reason why this shouldn't work?
 
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Bill Eldard
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Burke
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We haven't tried it with 5, but I'd be curious to learn how it plays with that many.
 
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JC
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I also wish it were designed for up to 5 players right out of the box (it's the main reason I just had to get the On The Brink expansion for base Pandemic).

I haven't tried a 5-player variant yet either, but off the top of my head, I think the main concerns to deal with would be the modified mechanisms and balance.

The smaller amount of locations, the easier mechanics for trading and fast travel, greatly reduced number of cubes/cultists, and the power of the artifacts, for example. The balance seems quite modified from the original Pandemic, but I admittedly don't know if a 5th player would disrupt that balance.

I'd be willing to try 5 players, but don't know when I'd get the chance. I'd love to hear the experience of anyone who does.
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Bill Eldard
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jcsan7 wrote:
I also wish it were designed for up to 5 players right out of the box (it's the main reason I just had to get the On The Brink expansion for base Pandemic).

I haven't tried a 5-player variant yet either, but off the top of my head, I think the main concerns to deal with would be the modified mechanisms and balance.

The smaller amount of locations, the easier mechanics for trading and fast travel, greatly reduced number of cubes/cultists, and the power of the artifacts, for example. The balance seems quite modified from the original Pandemic, but I admittedly don't know if a 5th player would disrupt that balance.

I'd be willing to try 5 players, but don't know when I'd get the chance. I'd love to hear the experience of anyone who does.

All good points, JC. It may require removing some locations cards from the Player deck for a 5-player game, but even than might not result in a rebalancing.
 
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Michael König
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jcsan7 wrote:
The smaller amount of locations, the easier mechanics for trading and fast travel, greatly reduced number of cubes/cultists, and the power of the artifacts, for example. The balance seems quite modified from the original Pandemic, but I admittedly don't know if a 5th player would disrupt that balance.


Good points. I think the common opinion is that "normal" Pandemic is easier with fewer characters, but in this case the number of locations is halved compared to that. This means that more characters should be able to cover a lot more ground.

On the other hand Shoggoth movement might cause more sanity rolls due to possibly more characters in their path.

I also forgot to mention above that the Great Old Ones that cause sanity/card loss should be scaled up linearly with the player count.

I guess without really testing it it's hard to judge if it'll work with five players or not. At least difficulty should be easier to adjust than classic Pandemic, because here a certain amount of clue cards is removed.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to test this solo with five characters or not. We'll see...
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JC
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Hi everyone, I was finally able to play a 5-player game tonight. I remembered this thread and thought I'd share some of my experiences.

Here are the parameters I implemented:
• 7 relics in the player deck (since 2/3/4 players use 4/5/6)
• No clue cards removed (for observation purposes, I was also worried it would leave too few per player)
• Each player still starts with 2 cards (possibly the biggest starting imbalance, but giving only 1 each would be too few)

Here are my observations:
• The "Evil stirs" cards and cultists were drawn pretty quickly, relative to how fast a player could respond, since it would take longer to get back around to you, while clues and summons continued getting drawn. This also made Shoggoths seem to move faster.
• Though we covered more ground, it took longer to trade cards since, again, rounds took longer, and clues were more scattered between us.

In the end, though we lost, it was still a very close game. We only lost by 2 turns. The final Old One, Cthulhu, was awakened by the final Evil Stirs card before we could seal the final gate 2 players away because an earlier Old One spawned cultists, which chained another Old One awakening because a spot was full. So though it was only one trial with one set-up variation, to me it felt just as close a game as with 4-players. Defeat at 2 turns away feels like a typical loss in Pandemic. We were so close I wanted to try again, but our visitors had to go home.

So in general, it mostly felt the same. It felt a bit tighter, mitigated by the fact that you cover more ground. I cannot speak conclusively that it is still balanced, but it certainly did not feel broken.

Edit: I also had to work backwards with Sanity tokens (starting from zero, then adding 1 whenever I got a sanity hit) since there weren't enough.

Edit 2: We also scaled up Old One effects, based on how they scaled from 2-4 players. Like with Shudde M'ell, we collectively discarded 6 sanity tokens, since it's usually 3/4/5 for 2/3/4 players.
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Michael König
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Thank you for your session report, JC!
I still haven't gotten around to play it with five characters, but I did play it with four characters for comparison. And some of my impressions mirror yours, which is why I'm going to add them here.

First of all, I also didn't remove any clue cards, because it actually was my first game.
I accidentally added 8 artifact cards, because I was already thinking about the 5 character game. (I followed the Pandemic: Iberia rules that add 8 events and have 2 starting cards for 5 players.)
I also went the "insanity token" (instead of "sanity token") course and used Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game – Bag of Cthulhu figurines.
Playing four characters solo, I lost track of some of the artifact cards, one of which might have saved the game, but maybe not, more on that later...

Artifacts are less powerful than events in Pandemic
1. Since it's easier to exchange clue cards, they are more powerful than city cards in Pandemic. That means that artifacts aren't necessarily that useful. In my case that was exacerbated by the fact that I added too many. Although I distributed them evenly through the clue deck, I think I had half of them in the initial draw after the shuffle (i.e. half of the cards I drew were artifacts).
2. As most artifacts require the player to roll the sanity die, those cards are less often played than the events in Pandemic. I only played two over the whole game, although I had lots of them.
3. One Great Old One blocks the possibility to play artifacts an other player's turns, which also makes them less useful. That's why I'm not totally sure if that one artifact might have saved me, because after the fact I wasn't sure if I would have been able to play it before the game crashed and burned.

I believe it is more difficult with more characters
The initial Shoggoth spawned in Kingsport on the other side of the starting area. My second character was the hunter, and I moved her through the portal to Kingport to stop the Shoggoth before it reaches the portal.
Before my second turn with the hunter (so after 4 or 5 turns) the following happened:
1. The Shoggoth had moved onto the portal in Kingsport.
2. I drew an "Evil Stirs" card, which put the next Shoggoth directly on the portal in Innsmouth.
3. The next cultist card moved the Shoggoths.
4. BAM: Two Great Old Ones!
While this wasn't what killed me in the end, it was the beginning of it.
With less than four characters I should have been able to kill one of the Shoggoths before it went through the portal...

I managed to close three portals, before I got Azathoth in the fifth spot of the track. That reduced my cultist pool by three to zero and meant that I had to remove three cultists every turn, or I would lose. I just couldn't manage that.
Afterwards I noticed that one of my characters had an artifact that would let me skip the cultist phase, which might have saved the game or at least delay the end. But since I was only allowed to play it on that character's turn due to another Great Old One, I'm not sure if I would have been able to play it in time even if I had remembered it.

Overall impressions:
* Artifacts can be nice, but less helpful than suspected at first.
* I'm pretty sure that the game is not easier with more characters.
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JC
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Nice insights! Many seem similar to my experiences, like more characters = slower response, and evil stirs + cultists multi-OldOne combos. Your experience seems to echo my impression that more players lets you cover more ground (but it takes longer to respond in a nearby area), while less players lets you react faster (but it takes longer to respond in an area far away).

My impression regarding artifacts/relics was quite different. In my plays where we've won (less than 5 players though), relics seemed really powerful and necessary, and were what let us steal victory despite all the losing conditions crashing down on us. It was actually in the strategic utilization, combination, and timing of the relics where our most intense "cooperation" in this co-op game happened. The relic that blocks an Old One's effects is like the counter to the Old One that hinders using relics on others' turns. And the one that removes all sanity rolls for one round feels awesome in multi-relic clutch plays.

Alot of reviews say this game is easier than regular Pandemic, and while I think some major aspects were simplified, everything is lessened so losing conditions happen way more quickly (running out of cultists, areas getting full, number of Old One/Outbreaks is less). The relics seem to mitigate all this bad stuff, which necessitates the sanity roll to add an element of risk to it. And because of this, we found ourselves exhausting our relics even if the sanity rolls could drive us insane. Perhaps it was because you included 8 that it seemed like you didn't utilize many.

In any case, I love this ongoing analysis and comparison of experiences and I hope this title gets more love. The nuances of this game make it more thrilling to me than regular Pandemic. And incidentally, making it tighter made the game shorter, which makes it easier to play multiple times in a row.
 
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