I was walking past a game shop today. (Er, almost "past".) On almost a whim and a whiff of the comments on BGG I popped inside and bought Pandemic, which seems to have newly spread to Australia.
(Which just goes to prove... hype and a decent BGG rating do generate sales.)
Tonight my wife and I opened the box and battled the diseases within.
We shuffled in four Epidemic cards, as recommended in the rules for a first game.
4 x Scarlet Fever: Beijing x 3, Seoul x 1
4 x Black Death: Istanbul x 3, Riyadh x 1
3 x Bluebonic Plague: Toronto x 2, Chicago x 1
7 x Yellow Fever: Sao Paulo x 3, Bogota x 2, Johannesburg x 2
Starting Players / Cards
Operations Expert: Jakarta, Paris, Essen, Toronto
Scientist: Khartoum, Hong Kong, Manila, Special: "One Quiet Night" (no additional disease for one turn)
Honestly it was no surprise to see resurgent disease being problematic in such high density semi-developed cities in the world. But fortunately such locations are fairly well connected for travel.
We agreed early not to spend time treating any level-1-alert city unless there was a hope of total eradication of a disease.
After a short ponder of the world, we concluded the Operations Expert should set up research facilities near/in the various level-3-alert hot spots, since they also happened to be fairly good access points to their respective regions. So indeed she set of on a trip through Sao Paulo to Istanbul while the Scientist went West to reach Hong Kong, where he played a card to also set up a facility. On the way we each treated disease in the worst cities, taking them away from the brink of outbreaks. Establishing this global research network took only a couple of turns each.
This served us in good stead for the game, as we were able to jaunt around the world rarely needing to expend valuable cards.
The first Epidemic occurred after five turns / ten disease cards.
At about the same time, the Operations Expert managed to accumulate what felt like an early breakthrough as she found a cure for Bluebonic Plague. Very shortly afterwards there was a thinktank in Sao Paulo followed by a highly fruitful experimental team excursion next door in Bogota, allowing the Scientist to return to San Paulo and establish a cure for Yellow Fever.
Over the next few turns, with occassional interruptions to curb possible outbreaks in the Middle East and China, we managed to eradicate Yellow Fever completely, and reduced Bluebonic Plague to a mere sniffle.
All the while, the Scientist continued to progress promising research lines on Scarlet Fever, while the Operations Expert gathered productive data on the Black Death.
With Yellow Fever scoured from the world, Bluebonic Plague looking set to follow, and promising research on both remaining diseases, we got a little complacent. Even though the Scientist completed a cure for Scarlet Fever, a sudden epidemic and a spate of infections saw five outbreaks in China and a looming threat of "critical mass" overwhelming the region, plus an epidemic leading to an outbreak of Black Death around Mumbai and in a few short turns we realised we weren't as secure for victory over these diseases as we thought.
But even with three Chinese cities on level 3 alerts, careful analysis of the infection patterns revealed that the region was probably at it's worst for the time being, barring another epidemic mutation, with only Shanghai desperately needing a single treatment to ward off complete pandemic.
While the Operations Expert concluded eradicating Bluebonic Plague, she was gathering more much needed info on the Black Death. The Scientist meanwhile headed to Shanghai to administer the (aforementioned) much needed treatment. On the following turn, a meeting of minds in a conference in Algiers gave the Operations Expert all the pieces she needed to put together the fourth cure. A step over to Istanbul, and the world could breathe easy again.
We like this game!
We were quite surprised at how quickly we lept from zero outbreaks to six. (Maybe four turns?) It seems you can't afford to let your guard down.
We were probably lucky that Bluebonic Plague stayed in North America, and Scarlet Fever stayed in North China. Although it increased possibilities for chain reactions (and we had two in North China) it also meant that little travel was needed to treat and control those regions.
Setting up the research facility network early worked very well. I wonder if, for two players, we happened to have dealt ourselves the best two Roles? Each saved us several turns worth of cards.
When an Epidemic card comes out, the infection cards (each naming a city) that have already been used get shuffled and restarted as the next series of infections, meaning that already-infected cities continue more infections. This also meant that we had useful information. When we were eradicating Yellow Fever and Bluebonic Plague we would treat the cities that had already reappeared from the infection deck first. Only when a disease was down to two cities would we consider treating a city that was soon to reappear in the infection deck. Furthermore, it meant in spite of the look of pending doom in North China, we knew only a new Epidemic could bring Beijing or Seoul around again soon, so only Shanghai was an immediate threat.
Overall, this feels like for us it has the right weight, appropriate pondering, and good difficulty setting options. After only this first game, we're up for more virulent challenges.
Nice session report. Glad to hear you're enjoying this great game.
I think the Ops Expert is largely looked at as the weakest of the 4 roles, but it's probably better with 2 players, since your biggest problem is getting around the board to keep outbreaks down. But definitely the Scientist is big in a 2 player game as it helps alleviate your hand limit issues. Congrats on saving the world!