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Subject: Training Day - a mini-review from an Arkham Horror junkie rss

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Charles Picard
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My wife and I have played a lot of Arkham Horror over the last few years (and have shared it with a number of other people in that time). At least one of them has turned into a fiend who now buys everything that comes out.

So, when I started seeing various recommendations for Pandemic, I knew I'd need to check it out eventually. Since a lot of my opinions are shaped by my time killing monsters in Arkham (and there are probably others of you out there coming from a similar perspective), I thought I'd throw in my comparisons and reflections as I go.

Rules & Setup
Straightforward and fast, especially when compared with Arkham Horror. (My wife and I must have played a dozen games of AH, before we felt we could be sure we weren't going to miss some small mechanic or card interaction.) Also, the size of the Pandemic board means its going to fit in a lot more settings. (Smaller footprint, shorter set-up, & short play time may mean that Pandemic is going to make it to the table more if the wife likes it.) I also appreciated the understated graphic design and its focus on abstraction and color choices designed to help play instead of obscure the board.

Gameplay
I was up and playing in about an hour from opening the box. I solo-played a two player introductory game, and still found it somewhat challenging. I ended up with the Scientist and Researcher, probably not the best two player combo, but what do I know? Rather than change the mix, I decided to just go with it. Due to a decent draw, I was able to knock out the Blue-bonic plague on the first turn by trading to the Scientist and having her do her thing right there at CDC. A great way to start, but then I became apparent that in order to keep the Researcher/Scientist synergy going, I'd have to keep them somewhat close to each other (at least in terms of the number of moves it would take to get them back together). I got another break in that the first Epidemic card didn't come out for awhile... but then I hit a point where it seemed like I must have had one Epidemic toward the bottom of one of the mini-piles and another toward the top of the next. [Incidentally, I liked the idea of intentionally spreading out the Epidemics in the small piles before building the big deck--I wish Arkham Horror did something similar with Rumor cards.]

Things picked up momentum quickly. I was helped by one rules mistake... I would get to a good spot and then build a Research Center, instead of using the appropriate card. This, however, was balanced by the fact that I didn't know the rule about removing all diseases from a city with the Treat Disease action once the disease had been cured. I was knocking out diseases, but not eradicating anything, and as the game progressed I was just starved for Black cards and treading water to keep things from getting out of hand until they turned up. In fact, I managed to finally get Black Death cured with only four Yellow Fever cubes left! So, even with the rules screw-ups, it was an entertaining play that left me with the feeling of just having escaped.

Gameplay Redux
Another solo play with two characters. This time the Medic & the Operations Expert. I found out just how grueling it can be to do card hand-offs when you have to have both players on the same space at the same time w/ the right card. It seems like this type of coordination would require some table talk to set up. I had everything ready for the Medic to do a handoff in Ho Chi Minh City, when the Medic completed his own suit of cards and then the game rolled down a completely different path. This seems to be a game in which you have to give up a plan if something really good falls into your lap (even if you've been working on your plan for several turns). Note to self, don't get tunnel vision!

At The End of the Day
I can see that this is another good co-op game filled with somewhat agonizing choices. You can neither afford to get spread too thin by trying to fight to many fires at once, nor get too cosy with the idea of picking one problem to focus on. If you like Arkham Horror, and its many evil spawn, you should definitely give this a play or two. It'll give you that same panicked rush, in about a quarter of the time. It won't replace Arkham for me, but I'm looking forward to adding it to the regular line up.

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Keith Matejka
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Sounds familiar!

I'm a huge Arkham Horror fan and I just played Pandemic for the first time yesterday with the wife.

I really enjoyed it as well, but agree that it won't replace AH in my collection. Their themes are different and play times are so different. I think I'll ussually perfer Arkham, but when plauying with non-gamers or have a shorter time to play, Pandemic is a great choice.


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Charles Picard
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kmatejka wrote:
Sounds familiar!

I'm a huge Arkham Horror fan and I just played Pandemic for the first time yesterday with the wife.

I really enjoyed it as well, but agree that it won't replace AH in my collection. Their themes are different and play times are so different. I think I'll usually perfer Arkham, but when playing with non-gamers or have a shorter time to play, Pandemic is a great choice.


We have some new friends that are way into Pandemic. Like everyone else we've met in Seattle, they don't exactly bend over backwards to make social time with people. Now maybe we'll see them some!
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