Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pandemic - Session 1 - Solo - 4 Characters

Pandemic - Session 1 - Solo - 4 Characters

To make this brief, We All Died, but I had a hell of a time doing it.

This was my first game of Pandemic (the 2013 edition) and I'm sure that even after watching youtube videos and reading through and consulting BoardGameGeek I made plenty of mistakes.

A couple of comments on this edition; the game components are very nice. The board lays flat and I'm glad it is a small gameboard and everything is in easy reach. The cards are standard deck of card size (or seem to be) and shuffle well. I'm not big on the oversized or undersized cards that most games seem to come with anymore or the thin cards that don't shuffle well and appear as if they will wear out quickly. I dislike sleeving cards as it has made them hard to stack and shuffle (at least for me). My one complaint is that, while they were thoughtful enough to include zip-locks, most of the zip-locks were tiny and all were hard to open. (A good zip-lock has one side of the opening higher than the other so that you can easily separate the two edges).  I rebagged them. Not a big deal, especially since I didn't bother resorting all the cubes back into individual colors in individual bags.

The 2013 edition comes with seven characters and I drew four randomly. I may have been mistaken but it seemed to me that four characters would have an easier time than just two. I'd looked them all over and would have chosen a different set of characters as my dream team and probably placed them in a different order but I enjoy a random draw and will be replaying this game frequently and I want to see how the various abilities work in conjunction.

The first character drawn was the Medic and I was very pleased to have him on the team. His first turn started out well very well. He drew a government grant in his starting pair of cards and I had him play it immediately and dropped a research station in Atlanta.  Since one of his teammates was the Contingency Planner I would be able to use it again.

Montreal and St. Petersburg both had drawn to max for infection and I was able to have the Medic sweep by and clear Montreal from turn one. I sent him on his merry way toward Europe, but his very first card draw is an epidemic. Initially I looked at this as a bad thing but with only four epidemics in the deck this would give the rest of the team an epidemic free ride for at least the next go round.

The epicenter of this first epidemic was Sydney and the Dispatcher was the next to go. I burnt a red card and flew the Contingency Planner to Manila and headed south to go after a disease in Miami. I was in luck because infection spread in Europe and Asia managing to leave Sydney alone for the time being. After finessing another government grant the Contingency Planner build another research station in Manila (and then discarded the event) before heading south and nipping the chance of any Sydney outbreak in the bud. By the end of the game the Contingency Planner had more than proven his worth.

The fourth member of the team was the Operations Expert. Several times his ability to build a research station anywhere was handy and he may in fact be crucial as winning factor in curing diseases, but he lacks the immediate usefulness of the Medic or Dispatcher.

At the start of the second go round things are looking very good. The Contingency Planner draws One Quiet Night and I am thinking I have the game beat but at the third time around the Medic draws another epidemic with Kinshara at its center. At the end of the Dispatcher's turn Kinshara is drawn again and an outbreak spreads the yellow death through Africa and crosses over to South America.

I'm not too concerned here because there just aren't any other cities which are maxed out on disease. It is the fourth time at bat for the Medic and he comes up with the Airlift. I have the Medic use it to drop the Dispatcher to Kinshara mainly because I didn't want to waste a city with mandatory discard but it was really a waste of the even more valuable Airlift. The Kinshara infection card had just come up and the chance of an outbreak from an Epidemic draw seemed slim. At this point the Medic had four red city cards and was sitting in Bangkok with the Contingency planner who'd just arrived and in his turn hands him the red Bangkok card. There is a research station in Manila and it looks like the first disease, red (Bird Flu), is about to be defeated. The Contingency Planner ends his turn by drawing both Forcast and Resilient Population and I can see a win coming.

Then comes the next epidemic. I'd been letting South America and Africa slide for the most part but now disease is building up and letting the Yellow Death grow may lose me the game. With luck alone Yellow stays contained. I cure Red and the Istanbul outbreak is halted by removing the Istanbul infection card from the deck.

The game is moving pretty fast. The last epidemic comes and goes without more than moving the infection marker another place up on the track. Black, the Zombie Plague, is cured; the Yellow Death follows, but the player card pile is mighty slim. Finally the world runs out time before the last disease, Blue, can be cured.

What a blast. Things really got exciting toward the end even though I had a handle on outbreaks I just couldn't get the diseases cured fast enough. This is not the end but I was happy to have come so close on my first try (whether I played correctly or not).

This a fantastic solo game. Not sure how it will play with a bunch of Alpha personalities I have gamed with in the past but it will be fun seeing how it works out. Definitely a game for many replays.


  1. Pandemic is a very fun game, Jason, and I played ~10 times before participating in a winning team =) If you like Pandemic's style of play, but want something a little faster and easier to play with most children, check out Forbidden Island (from GameWright). It's by the same designers, and has a similar vibe, but plays in ~30-45 minutes.


  2. It was Wheaton's TableTop episode that hooked me. The gameplay is great. I also tried Flash Point which is very much like Pandemic. Now I want to check out Stone Age. Recently tried Lords of Waterdeep solo and it plays well. I think I saw Forbidden Island on TableTop as well. All these co-op boardgames naturally play solo perfectly.