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Subject: Quarantine: Blacklist Entry #44 rss

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Joel Eddy
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Hype disbelieved.

I first heard about Quarantine when it rose to the top of the Most Anticipated Games of 2013 Geeklist. I’ve always enjoyed digging through the nominations of the this annual Geeklist and was keen on what I saw of Quarantine, especially when it reached into the eighth spot even beating out Up Front! Upon first glance, the game had a very approachable graphical design with a unique theme of running a hospital. “This is great,” I thought to myself. “It will complete the trilogy of emergency service games following in the footsteps of Flashpoint and Police Precinct!”

When I received my copy of the game, my expectations held true in regards to the presentation. The illustrations and overall design were extremely well polished. This carries through to the game’s rules which were very digestible and likewise well presented. I even liked the Microsoft Clippy knockoff, which served to add clarifying points throughout the rules.

Fast forward to my second play of the game. What a yawn fest this game is! After my first play, I was a bit suspicious, so we tried it again. The game is entirely dictated by the drawing of patient cubes. And it’s mind numbing!

Let me rewind a bit. Each player has a hospital with various different colored rooms specific for curing a matching disease. You can also purchase special room tiles that are randomly set up at the beginning of the game and made available to purchase during a given game, ala Dominion. On you turn you typically get four actions plus four draws of cubes out of a bag. You might draw different colored cubes representing patients, who need to be funneled into a room of a matching color. Or, you can possibly pull grey cubes representing “Graysles”, which I guess is a tame abstraction for common communicable ER diseases like staff infections or random respiratory or blood infections. In an interesting thematic twist, these “Graysles” can be spread more quickly if you have tiles that form four adjacent corners creating a nurses station. I guess the nurses in these hospitals are negligent so the infections spread faster.

If colored patients are drawn on your turn, you normally put them in line at the front of your hospital to be admitted, but you can also send them to someone else’s hospital to screw up their waiting line. If grey cubes are drawn, you can use them to infect an opponent’s hospital. When a room is infected, an action will need to be used to remove the grey cube before that tile can be used otherwise.

On the surface, this actually sounds really neat... and even thematic! In big cities, hospitals often funnel patients to other hospitals when they get busy. In the game, you can use this to mess with the order that your opponents can admit patients and thus cure them converting the patient cubes into income and/or points. The grey cubes representing keeping a clean hospital was also a nice twist.

Even the method used to put up special room tiles for purchase is an interesting twist. On your turn, you can declare a special room for purchase and place the cubes you would be willing to spend onto the tile. But, you can’t actually add the new tile to your hospital until everyone else has had a turn and an opportunity to purchase the room for your set price. If it comes back to you, the tile is yours and you can add it to your hospital. The process is abstract, but it’s somewhat loosely familiar with how hospitals can be competitive with each other in regards to bidding for and showcasing that they are up to date with the latest advancements in medicine.

I’ve talked too much about the rules! What the game boils down to is the random cube draw, shuffling patient cubes and rooms around, and fiddling with less than exciting special room abilities. This game looked like it may have some kind of engine building capabilities, but because of the random cube draw you don’t really end up doing anything with any purpose. The special ability tiles COULD be neat, but they just kind of move stuff around, give you an action here and there, or let you cure a couple extra people. You definitely do improve the efficiency of your hospital, but just slightly. Once everyone advances their hospital to a certain point, less than half way through the game once you’ve played, you are basically just pulling cubes, shuffling them around, sticking your opponent with annoyances... and that’s it! I can’t emphasize enough how dry and methodical the whole pulling of cubes part of the game is. It gets old real fast.

And, the “Graysles” are especially wonky. More than once, a player pulled mostly grey cubes on their turn, which they of course placed on opponents’ hospital tiles. The grey cubes just take an action to clear (unless you have a special ability to clear more than one at a time). The game just boils down to an action count. Clear some grey cubes. Clear some colored cubes. Buy a building or two. Clear more cubes. See who has the most scored patient cubes. Target them. Repeat. It’s repetitive cube juggling!

For more Blacklisted items, check out my Geeklist: The Black List
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Twisted Archer
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I just don't get this, since often your reviews have mirrored my tastes. Maybe a critical rule was missed?

Just today I raised my rating from a 9 to a 10. For us, Quarantine has been incredibly engaging, awesomely thematic, and just pure fun. The game is simpler than it at first appears, with each action being completely intuitive. The rules just make sense, and seem to fade into the background so you can really get into the guts of the game. Funneling patients through your hospital in the most efficient manner is a really neat challenge. And the Quarantining mechanic makes the spatial element of tile laying very unique. The interaction is quite superb. When the game finishes you are left wanting for more.

I have never quite played a game like Quarantine before, and for now it's our family's favorite.
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Manchuwok
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Thanks for posting your thoughts Joel. I'll repost my comments from your geeklist here:

Designers who attack any negative reviews of their games have always rubbed me the wrong way, so I long ago decided to never be one of them. I am happy to let all the positive ratings and comments speak for themselves (here's a fantastically written review by Daniel Thurot for those looking for a different perspective)

Even if I don't agree with a viewpoint, it doesn't make it less valid. It represents the experience somebody had with my game, and I would like to try to learn from that. If they misunderstood the game, then I need to design a game that is less easily misunderstood. If they missed out on all the fun, then I need to make sure the most fun parts stand out even more. They may even have some valid criticism that I can improve on. Each of these things puts the onus on me, the designer, to craft a gaming experience that will be as good as possible for as many as possible.

I hope you are able to enjoy the fun Quarantine has to offer, but if not, happy gaming with the games that do match your tastes!
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The root of all evil... but you can call me cookie.
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Thanks again Joel, I too tend to find that my opinions of games line up quite nicely with yours. In reading the rules, reviews and watching videos I kept saying to myself "there must be more to this" as it just seemed like a bland game to me. I kept digging because with a nursing background the theme would be excellent for my girlfriend. Your feelings after playing the game match my thoughts on it without having played it and saved me from getting this one. I just don't think it's right for us.
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Al Leduc
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Quote:
Or, you can possibly pull grey cubes representing “Graysles”, which I guess is a tame abstraction for common communicable ER diseases like staff infections or random respiratory or blood infections.


I thought "Graysles" was a clever form of cubed Measles.
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Joel Eddy
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BoneDog wrote:
Quote:
Or, you can possibly pull grey cubes representing “Graysles”, which I guess is a tame abstraction for common communicable ER diseases like staff infections or random respiratory or blood infections.


I thought "Graysles" was a clever form of cubed Measles.


You might be right about that. Mechanically they suggested to me a dirty hospital where staff infections can become rampant if proper care isn't taken. Hence, the name of the game as well. Hospitals will often quarantine areas if an contagious infection is found.
 
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Jack Byrd
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Those would be Staph infections (short for Staphylococcus Aureus), or MRSA when antibiotic-resistant.

Staff infections are solved by making sick workers stay home .
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Joel Eddy
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jackbird wrote:
Those would be Staph infections (short for Staphylococcus Aureus), or MRSA when antibiotic-resistant.

Staff infections are solved by making sick workers stay home .


Doh! Bad habit! Thanks for the correction.
 
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Twisted Archer
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A great review, by banned member Michael Barnes, was posted (offsite) today.

He called it appealingly fresh while at the same time reminiscent of the classic German games of old. Just found a new resource for good reviews!
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Patrick C.
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I highly respect the designer's refreshing positive attitude about criticisms of his game. We would all do well to emulate this behavior. If he could bottle and sell that we'd have a better world.

That said, I've been contemplating while I disliked this game so much. I played it 2p and it's taken a good week or two for me to wrap my head around how so many people could be so complimentary about a game I loathed apparently as much as Joel did.

I'm beginning to see now how the game would be drastically different with 4p vs. 2p. 2p is so unacceptably bad, so outright boring and mundane that it should never have been published as an acceptable form of play. Everything I've read has indicated that 3p is acceptable and 4p is where this game shines. 2p is a waste of time. I do have to fault the publisher and/or designer for that. It just shouldn't have been presented as being playable at 2p.

I'm tempted to keep the game just so I can try it once at 4p. However, 4p games are exceptionally rare for me so even if it's good I might not keep the game.
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Twisted Archer
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travvller wrote:
I'm beginning to see now how the game would be drastically different with 4p vs. 2p.


I'd have to agree that the game is best with more than 2, but it is still a good game 2P. A far cry from poor. For me the game is good with 2, very good with 3, and amazing for 4.
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Joel Eddy
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Just to chime in and be absolutely fair to the design, I did not try it with four. Only with two and three.
 
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Patrick C.
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twistedarcher wrote:
travvller wrote:
I'm beginning to see now how the game would be drastically different with 4p vs. 2p.


I'd have to agree that the game is best with more than 2, but it is still a good game 2P. A far cry from poor. For me the game is good with 2, very good with 3, and amazing for 4.


First of all, this game has an auction mechanism. The vast majority of 2p games that have auctions are not good for 2p. This is just a fact. So the game suffers for that. Good 2p auctions are the rare exception.

Secondly, in my 2p game the cubes just piled up on both sides making the final scoring of who had no patients irrelevant. The game became all about maximizing the processing of the patients for points with no regard whatsoever with actually reducing the number of patients. Lacks theme and removes an entire component from the game.

Normally I try to have a different strokes for different folks attitude when it comes to opinions of a game's value. But when it comes to 2p there are so many really really good ones out there. It's not just a game's worth by itself at 2p, it's how it compares to other games.

A couple of comparable tile game examples of the top of my head:
Taluva
Carcassonne: The Castle
Carcassonne: The City

All three of these have interaction, screwage, tactics and strategy. When comparing Quarantine at 2p against these, the game is indeed very poor.

El Grande is one of the highest rated games there is. It's preferred player count is 5p with 4p being second choice. No one in their right mind plays the game at 2p. This isn't about a game's inherent worth, it's about how it plays at specific player counts and how it compares to other games at those player counts. Sure, Quarantine is playable with 2. But why would you choose it over other games that are better at that count?
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Twisted Archer
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travvller wrote:
El Grande is one of the highest rated games there is. It's preferred player count is 5p with 4p being second choice. No one in their right mind plays the game at 2p. This isn't about a game's inherent worth, it's about how it plays at specific player counts and how it compares to other games at those player counts. Sure, Quarantine is playable with 2. But why would you choose it over other games that are better at that count?


Totally agree. I try to only play El Grande with 5. Just noting there's a difference between "Best with" and "Only playable with".

I feel the auction or "price-drafting" mechanism, actually does work with 2. It's actually a pretty neat solution to a 2p auction, and turns out to be similar how Knizia solved it in Medici vs. Strozzi. But yeah, the multiplayer game really does take it up a notch of awesome.
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James Clarke
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twistedarcher wrote:

Good grief! This man was banned over 6 years ago. How evil was he, and when does his sentence come to an end?

Justin Gatlin was running again after only 4 years.

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Nick ChemE
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Highland Cow wrote:
twistedarcher wrote:

Good grief! This man was banned over 6 years ago. How evil was he, and when does his sentence come to an end?

Justin Gatlin was running again after only 4 years.



How does someone go about getting banned in the first place?
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