Saturday 31 January 2015

Roads & Boats session

I first played Roads & Boats last year, with Allen, as a 2P game. For a brief overview, follow this link. Recently Jeff suggested playing it (he hadn't tried it before), and we arranged to play on one of the regular Friday gaming nights. This time it was a 4-player game - Jeff, Dith, Boon Khim and I. I was the only one who had played before. Here's how our game went, plus some of my additional thoughts at the end.

The map we picked was suitable for beginners. There were enough resources (especially mountains) so the players didn't really need to compete for space or resources. In Roads & Boats you can set up your own map, but we were beginners so we stuck to the recommended maps. I was green and I started in the lower right quadrant. Jeff was blue, upper right. Boon Khim yellow, upper left. Dith red, lower left. I picked a spot next to a river, with the intention of using the river for transporting goods.

At the start of the game our only mode of transportation was donkeys. On the right, the two geese left alone on a pasture will breed. In the game, geese are needed to discover new technologies. This makes no sense thematically, and even the designers make fun of this in the rulebook. However game mechanism-wise it is very interesting. You need to remember to breed your geese and manage when they get converted to new technologies.

We had started building roads now - the black lines drawn on the transparent plastic sheet on top of the tiles.

My (green) little kingdom. I had now built a raft workshop (light blue square), so I was making use of the river. In the background you can see Jeff (blue) had sent a raft over to raid my goods. He had grabbed one of my tree trunks. Jeff was first to go offensive, and I was the first victim. There was a lake in the middle of the board, and Boon Khim's and my areas had rivers running to the lake, so we were vulnerable. Jeff built a raft workshop at the shore of the lake, and launched a pirate raft against us.

I hurriedly built walls along my coast to prevent further attacks. Jeff could spend wooden boards to destroy my walls and harass me more, but he decided to not spend the effort, and switched to bug Boon Khim instead. He actually managed to steal gold from Boon Khim! That is a big deal, because gold is worth victory points.

In Roads & Boats the bigger square tiles are the factories or production facilities. The smaller square tiles are the goods or resources.

Dith's (red) area didn't have any river, so he operated purely using land transportation.

Jeff (blue) had a river in his area, but he didn't make use of it for transporting goods. In fact he had to spend stones to build a bridge across it to allow him access to both banks.

Boon Khim's (yellow) area. He had a mine now (the brown pillar) on the brown mountain tile.

I found that compared to the others, I built fewer production facilities. I produced less, and had to be very careful with how I spent my resources. The others often produced so much that they had surplus lying around. I didn't build many factories because I wanted to save space for other factories I was planning to build. You can only build one factory per tile, and once built a factory cannot be demolished. I didn't want to build too many factories because it would force me to spread out, and some of my factories would end up being quite far from others. By being compact, I hoped to save on transportation time. I'm not entirely sure whether this is a good idea. High production has its merits. Perhaps it depends on the type of map.

Look at Jeff (blue). Now on the right he had extended his road to the tile right next to my (green) home tile (the one with a green house - as in green-coloured house). Even the blind could see he didn't have good intentions. I quickly walled up this front, and he later decided I wasn't worth the trouble.

Both Boon Khim (yellow) and Jeff (blue) had sent their transporters into Dith's (red) territory. Dith had completely surrounded his home tile with walls, but not before one of Jeff's donkeys sneaked in. Now the donkey was stuck (you can't move through other players' walls) and needed to be rescued by other transporters. Jeff would need to tear down a wall to let the donkey out.

I was third to build a mine. Mines are important in this game because they produce gold, and gold is the base product that can be upgraded to higher valued products. Gold ore is worth 10VP. When turned into coins, it is worth 40VP. When coins are turned into stocks, it is worth 120VP. In our game I was the only one who built two mines. This later gave me a strong advantage.

Boon Khim (yellow) not only trespassed into Dith's (red) land. He also started building his own walls, like he owned the place. Well, strictly speaking, according to the rules, no one owns any land, building, or road. You only own walls, transporters and goods on transporters. Walls are built to block off others, but they can also be built to secure passage for your own transporters.

One section of Dith's (red) wall had been destroyed, and replaced by the natural coloured wall piece. Natural wall means no wall, but you still need to place the pieces to remind everyone how many times a wall has been built / rebuilt / destroyed at this border. So the two wall pieces here means a wall had been built and destroyed twice. Each additional time a wall is to be built or destroyed, the resource cost will increase.

I (green) was the only player whose road network did not connect with those of other players. Dith (red) and Boon Khim's (yellow) road networks had pretty much merged into one big network. Boon Khim's network hooked up to Jeff's (blue) via that one road, which later became a key channel of aggression between them.

At the lower edge Dith did have one road extending towards my area, but at this stage he only intended to use it to ship his valuables away from Boon Khim and Jeff, and upgrade them into improved goods. The option to invade my area was there, but eventually he didn't take that path.

At this point I had built my second mine, at the bottom right.

My little kingdom still remained the smallest. Perhaps it was because I produced barely enough for my own consumption, and did not have any tempting surplus lying around, the others didn't perceive me as a threat. They didn't bother me much, but they fought like rabied dogs among themselves. That was of course fine with me. I could peacefully plan my development.

Look at the many transporters belonging to Jeff (blue) running around in Boon Khim's (yellow) area. Jeff had even built walls in this area.

Boon Khim wasn't going to let Jeff get away with this easily, and launched his own offensive against Jeff. Gosh, I am making a complex economic Eurogame sound like an Ameritrash-style wargame. Here Boon Khim had one truck carrying enough boards to destroy a wall, and another truck with enough stones to build his own wall.

Some of Jeff's (blue) gold ore in the top right corner was later stolen by Boon Khim (yellow). Jeff overlooked one avenue of attack, and Boon Khim took advantage of that. Boon Khim had his revenge!

This was Boon Khim's (yellow) home tile, and it had become a battleground. In the background to the left is Jeff's (blue) donkey which had stolen some gold ore from Boon Khim. It still hadn't returned home. Jeff had yet to launch Operation Saving Private Ryan.

Finally Ryan was on his way home. Those two yellow trucks (Boon Khim's) were very tempted to run him down, but rules were rules, no violence allowed.

Notice some of the walls here are up to the third level.

This was the board situation at the end of our game. Only Dith and I managed to build stock exchanges, which produced stocks - the highest valued product. Dith's advancement was overall fastest in our game, but he was only able to produce one stock. Although I was slightly behind, my two mines allowed me to produce two stocks, and this was what won me the game. Towards the late game Dith knew I was racing against time. I needed to produce my second stock to win, so he tried to speed up the game by actively contributing to complete the wonder. Too bad the others were not all that keen on completing the wonder, so eventually I was able to produce my second stock.

My (green) little kingdom was still using its initial donkeys at game end. I never upgraded them to wagons. I did build a truck factory, but I could only afford to produce one truck. It did help tremendously though. My two stocks are on the right (black square tiles with a yellow rectangle on them), next to my donkey.

Near the end of the game, I realised I had taught one rule wrong. A good can only be moved by one transporter within the same turn. Although it can be passed to another transporter at the end of the movement, this next transporter is not allowed to carry it further. During our game we had allowed this back-to-back movement, which was wrong. I know I certainly made use of it. I think the others did too. If we had used the correct rules, we would not have been able to move our goods around as quickly. So possibly I would not have produced stocks, or would not have produced two of them.

I mostly played a multiplayer solitaire game, concentrating on my little empire and not bothering others much, only occasionally putting up defenses when I saw threats. I worry whether Roads & Boats will become multiplayer solitaire if everyone plays this way. It would become a long race game and efficiency game with players building their respective ecologies in isolation. However, I was able to play this way only because the map setup allowed me to. On a tighter map, or a map with limited resources, I would have no choice but to fight for land and goods. In fact, I might even need to do some collaboration, constructing buildings together, taking turns to use it etc. Even on a map of abundance, the players can actively engage one another if they choose to (what a nice way of saying "attack"). What Jeff did in our game may be very worthwhile - spending few resources and committing few transporters but being able to disrupt your opponents' progress, and even steal their points.

If you ask Dith, Boon Khim or Jeff, they would say no way this is multiplayer solitaire. They certainly had much "active engagement" during the game.

Now that I have played my second game, I think the development outline in each game will be similar. You will need a sawmill quickly. You will need to breed geese. You will be working towards mines, and aiming for minting coins and creating stocks. You will be making adjustments here and there, depending on the map and your opponents' actions, but the general direction will be similar. It is the differences in the details which make the game interesting. Experienced players will be able to take a look at the map even before the game starts, and already make rough plans on how to tweak their development strategy to make the most of the terrain.

The pacing is an important aspect - whether and when to speed up or slow down the wonder construction. Contributing to the wonder gives you points too. Even if you don't mess with you opponents on the board, manipulating the wonder construction progress can greatly affect the outcome of a game.

Thursday 29 January 2015

family boardgame outing: Meeples Cafe

Chen Rui (8) asked me to bring her to Meeples Cafe to play, so I planned an outing on a Sunday afternoon. We played for almost 5 hours straight, and we had a great time! I think we picked the right games too - all were very engaging. Michelle was initially planning to sit out for a few games, but ended up playing all the way.

18 Jan 2015. Cloud 9, a game about pushing your luck, hoping to score more points while risking what you have gained so far. We have played this before, we had fun revisiting. Chen Rui kept accidentally showing her cards to Michelle, because she sat next to her.

Shee Yun (9) holding donut-shaped cards from Baker's Dozen (a.k.a. Friday the 13th, Poison). You can see these cards are rather small. They are round too. A pain to shuffle.

Alhambra, Spiel des Jahres winner in 2003. On your turn you normally either collect currency cards, or spend them to buy a building to expand your palace. At certain points in the game you score points depending on how many buildings you have compared to other players in each of the six colours. Surprisingly our youngest player Chen Rui won this game. This is not exactly a simplistic or luck-heavy game. I think she won partly due to Michelle guiding her. She was quite lucky too in often having the right amounts to make precise payments, allowing her to take extra actions.

There are currencies in four colours. Vendors only accept specific currencies.

I didn't think much of Alhambra when I first played it many years ago, but this time I quite enjoyed it. It has some long-term strategy because of the area majority competition, but most of the time you make tactical decisions. The board situation (currency cards available, buildings available) keeps changing, and when a good opportunity presents itself, you usually want to grab it. You want to buy buildings while paying the exact price as often as possible, because of the extra action that gives you. Maybe it's because of this tactical nature, I could play in a relaxed manner.

This is Shee Yun's palace. Rather small (she came last), but she did have a very tidy wall almost fully enclosing her palace. She was only competitive in white buildings. She had four.

The final score. Chen Rui was yellow, I was green, Michelle red, Shee Yun white.

Pandemic: The Cure, a cooperative game about fighting diseases. Chen Rui was the one responsible to find the fourth and final cure, and she was relieved when she succeeded. The four infection dice on that card on the right means we have found all four cures and we have won.

Guillotine is a silly card game about chopping people's heads off during the French Revolution. I tried to avoid explaining the story in too much detail. We were just claiming cards worth points, not claiming heads worth points. On your turn you claim the first card in the queue, but before you do that you may play an action card, which usually either changes the order of the cards in the queue or does something for game-end scoring.

This can be a queue of customers waiting to be served too, instead of nobles queuing up to be beheaded.

Two of the characters I had claimed. Only some characters have text on them.

Playing Forbidden Island, a cooperative game too. We have played this before, a few times. This time we tried the normal difficulty, and we barely made it off the island with the four artifacts. If we had played just one notch harder, we would have lost. It was tense watching tile after tile get flooded and disappear beneath the waves, as we raced to collect the artifacts.

The island started with 24 tiles, and by now there were only 9 remaining, and 6 of these had started flooding (the blue ones).

Cartagena, a simple yet clever race game, one of Leo Colovini's best known works.

The objective is to get all six of your pirates (escaping prisoners actually) onto the boat at the end of the tunnel.

Chen Rui moving her pirates.

When you play a card, you move one of your pirates to the next empty spot with the same icon as the card. You don't get to draw cards for free. To draw a card, you need to move a pirate backwards to the nearest occupied spot, and then you draw cards depending on how many other pirates are occupying that spot. A spot can have at most three pirates. If the nearest spot behind a pirate is full, he will have to move further backwards.

The boat is getting crowded.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Dead of Winter

Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

Dead of Winter is the hot and trendy nowadays. It is a semi-cooperative game and a traitor game, and many compare it to Battlestar Galactica. I think it is more like Shadows Over Camelot. In Battlestar Galactica you know for sure there is at least one cylon among the players. In Shadows Over Camelot there may or may not be a traitor.

You are survivors in a post zombie apocalyptic world, living in a small colony. Winter is here. You need to look for food. You need to fight off zombies accumulating at the fences before they reach critical mass and break through. Every game begins with a group objective displayed to all. It sets the scene. Everyone tries to achieve it. In addition, every player also starts with one secret personal objective. To win, you must also achieve your personal objective. If the game ends due to the group objective being achieved, and you have not achieved your secret objective, you lose. There is a chance that one player will draw a traitor objective. His objective will involve forcing everyone else to lose, e.g. dropping the colony morale value to zero. When you suspect a traitor among you, you can vote to exile him. He won't be able to cause trouble to the colony anymore. He will get a new objective though and he may still win as an individual player. An exiled player may not necessarily be a traitor. He may just be a victim of distrust in the group.

Everyone starts the game with two characters, and throughout the game you may gain or lose characters, e.g. encountering other survivors, or getting killed by zombies. In case you lose your last character, you draw a random new one, so you are not eliminated from the game. On your turn you roll some dice depending on how many characters you have, and then you get your characters to perform actions freely. Some actions (fighting zombies, searching for goods) require spending dice of specific values. Some actions consume dice of any value (e.g. building barricades). Some actions require no dice, e.g. moving to a different building. Killing zombies is deterministic. You already commit a die up front and don't need to roll to determine success or failure. However you do have to roll an exposure die, which may have no effect, or you may get injured, or you may even die tragically. Moving about also requires rolling the exposure die (it's winter after all).

These are my two characters. The top right number is the influence level, which determines who dies first when a group is attacked by zombies. It's like a measure of how important a character is in a movie. Naturally the low-valued minor supporting cast members will die first. The second number next to the starburst is the attack value, the lower the better. E.g. for the ninja on the left, a die roll of 2 or more is required to kill a zombie. The third number next to the magnifying glass is the search ability, also the lower the better.

One of the most important things you do is to search. This is basically going to a specific location and drawing cards. Different locations will have different types of cards. You can find guns at the police station, but not at the grocery store. Quite often the secret objectives involve collecting specific types of goods, e.g. food, weapons, fuel.

These are the various locations where you can visit to search for items.

While working on your secret objective and the group objective, and also watching out for a possible traitor, the game system presents a number of challenges. You need to worry about scavenging enough food to feed the colony. You need to trim the zombie build-up at the colony and at the various locations your people are in. Every round there is also a crisis to be managed, usually by spending cards (a little like Battlestar Galactica).

The Play

Boon Khim, Jeff, Dennis and Kareem. Dennis didn't play but accompanied us throughout the game.

I did a 4-player game. The moment I drew my secret objective card, I thought oh no... I was a traitor. That meant one more thing to worry about. I had to hide my identity, and I had to secretly nudge the colony towards disaster, working against the other players. The group objective in our game required us to kill zombies and collect samples. Killing zombies is deterministic in this game, but collecting samples requires a die roll. The success rate is 50%. At the start of the game I decided I must do my best to pretend to be a good guy. My secret objective required that I collect some fuel, food and weapons, before I ruin the morale of the colony. I decided to play the hardworking guy while gathering the stuff I needed. When I was ready, I would start jeopardizing the group's effort. I took the acting so seriously that I ended up being one of the major contributors to the common cause. It was partly because one of my characters was a ninja (seriously, his job description was "ninja"). He fought well and did not need to roll the exposure die when fighting, so I didn't need to worry about committing him to fight zombie after zombie. We worked so well as a group that I found that we were near fulfilling the group objective, while I was still short of my personal objective. It was then I realised that I should not have play acted so convincingly. I pleaded to the others to wait for me while I just collected a few more items, and that was when they either laughed knowingly or smiled apologetically. I realised this was not a cooperative game! Yes, you do need to work towards the group objective (unless you are the traitor), but you probably should think of it more as a countdown timer you have to manipulate. Your secret personal objective is your real goal.

These were our starting characters. They all started in the colony itself, but would soon venture out to scavenge.

One fun mechanism is the Crossroads cards. At the start of your turn, the player to your right draws a Crossroads card and reads it without showing you. It is an event card, and it triggers if certain conditions are met on the board, or when you perform a specific action on your turn. It may or may not trigger, it may be a good or a bad thing, and you are kept in suspense throughout your turn. It's a simple yet effective way to pull you into the story. If the event does occur, you will get to hear a short narrative, and at the end of it you get to choose how your character reacts. What you pick affects the game. You may gain characters, or resources, or you may get hurt, and so on. During our game Jeff encountered an old lady and her family. They had food with them, which would be useful to the colony, but they were all either too old or too young to contribute much. He killed them and grabbed all their food! How horrible!

At this point only three characters stayed in the colony. The guy with a gun was good at killing zombies so he was assigned the task of trimming the zombie build-up at the colony.

All the zombies at the police station (first location) had been killed by my ninja (guy in black).

When the game ended, we were surprised to find that not only I was a traitor, Kareem was one too! We had made a mistake during setup. Normally a game will have at most one traitor. I don't know how that extra traitor card got mixed in. It is disgraceful that we had two traitors, and yet the colony survived. What were we (the traitors) doing?! I guess as the traitors both Kareem and I were conservative and didn't do anything that might arouse suspicion. The colony surviving meant both of us losing. Among the good people, I was surprised that Jeff didn't win. He was the one grinning at me when I pleaded to hold off a little longer, and he pushed the game to finish. His secret objective was to hold the most cards. Unfortunately he had fewer than Kareem, whose objective was to hoard food. I guess he knew it was risky, but he decided to take the risk sooner, lest Kareem accumulated even more cards. In the end, silent and deadly Boon Khim was the sole winner. His objective was to build barricades, and he had indeed built quite many.

In hindsight, one big strategic mistake I made was picking the ninja character. This guy was very good at killing zombies, which the group objective required. Since I was the traitor, I should not have picked any character that would help the group objective. If I had such a character, it would be hard to wriggle out of helping the colony. It would be downright suspicious. If I had no useful character, I could claim my starting picks were all lousy. I should have picked characters which helped my secret objective. Even if there weren't any such characters, my second choice should have been characters that didn't help the group objective.

This is NOT a cooperative game!

The Thoughts

Dead of Winter is fun! I would say that all of the mechanisms are quite simple, which frees you up to focus on the people aspect of the game. It's a player-against-player game, and not a player-against-game-system game. The core mechanism of a common objective plus a secret personal objective plus the possibility of a traitor is something new, or at least I have not see this before. It's clever. There are many objective cards and Crossroads cards, which should provide much replayability.

One interesting thing about the game is it may tease out what kind of a person you and your fellow players are. In our game, Jeff did not hesitate to kill the hag and grab her food, because he's a seasoned gamer and he knew this "evil" course of action was probably best considering his objectives in the game. However I wouldn't be surprised if under similar situations other people pick the other option. It is not obviously bad, and picking it may not necessarily be the wrong decision. It depends on the situation. I can also imagine a situation where players actually work together to get as many people to win as possible. Some who have achieved their personal goals wait for others to achieve theirs, before making the last push to complete the group objective together. The rules don't require or even encourage this, but they don't forbid it either. Dead of Winter is all about group dynamics. Most of the mechanisms are simple and simply provide a framework for the player-vs-player interaction and psychological battle.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Pandemic: The Cure

Plays: 5Px1, 4Px1.

The Game

Pandemic: The Cure is the dice game version of Pandemic. It is also a cooperative game. The world is being ravaged by four deadly diseases, and your objective is to find cures for all four diseases. You need to do this before three possible (bad) end game conditions occur - when there are too many infected people, when the infection intensity level becomes too high, or when there are too many outbreaks. These all sound exactly like the boardgame version, but in The Cure they are implemented using very different mechanisms.

On your turn, you don't get to decide freely what to do. You need to roll dice, and the die faces will tell you what you can do. You spend your dice to execute actions. You can reroll as many of the unused dice as often as you like, but if you roll a biohazard icon, that die is locked for the rest of your turn, and the infection level will increase. So when you decide to keep rerolling to get a specific action type, you are gambling on whether you'll get what you want first, or a biohazard. The basic actions include treating a disease, flying, sailing and bottling samples. Players each play a different character, and each character has a different set of dice with different die face distributions and sometimes unique die faces. A unique die face gives the character special actions unique for him.

The middle ring has two tracks. The longer green track is the infection track. The intensity level on this track determines how many infection dice needs to be rolled at the end of every turn, i.e. how quickly the diseases are making people sick. The blue track is the outbreak track, which marks how many times you've had outbreaks, i.e. one continent having more than three dice of a disease and thus spreading it to the next continent. If the markers (green syringe) on either track reaches the red area, everyone loses.

The six coasters around the ring are the continents. The dice on them are the sick people. The bigger disc on the left is the CDC (Centre for Disease Control). When you roll the plus sign on an infection die, instead of getting more sick people on a continent, you put the die here as a form of currency. You can spend these to trigger event cards - those on the right. There are always three available. When one is used, a new one is drawn to replace it.

This was the character I played. The character card shows the breakdown of the die faces, and also explains any unique action or ability the character has.

Bottling samples is an interesting action. You need to have treated a disease first, which means moving a die from the continent you're in to the treatment centre (i.e. the centre of the play area). You then place you die with the bottle icon on top of the infection die, and you move the stack to your character card. This represents you carrying a sample with you. Bottling a sample means you now have one less die to roll, because it is temporarily tied up with the infection die. It will only be released when someone finds a cure for that particular disease.

This is how you collect samples, you attach your player dice to the infection dice, and carry them on your character card.

After you are done with your actions, you may pass disease sample bottles to another player at the same location as you. Samples are needed to attempt to discover a cure. The more samples the better the chances of success. On your turn you get one chance to discover the cure for one disease, and you do this by rolling all the samples (i.e. the infection dice). You succeed by rolling 13 or higher.

The last thing you do on your turn is to spread infection. Depending on the current infection intensity level, you draw a number of infection dice from the bag and roll them, and place them on the continents accordingly. Everyone needs to do the infection step, which means every turn there will be people falling sick.

Whenever the marker on the infection track hits specific spots, an epidemic occurs. The active player takes all dice in the treatment centre plus a number of dice depending on the infection intensity level, and roll them all. They are then distributed to the continents accordingly. Epidemics represent a spurt of growth for the diseases. Whenever a continent has more than 3 dice of a specific disease, an outbreak occurs. All dice beyond the third spreads to the next continent. This may trigger a chain reaction if the next continent ends up with more than 3 dice. Outbreaks can be quite dangerous. Also you lose upon the eighth outbreak.

The infection dice are not numbered 1 - 6 like normal dice. There is always a plus sign die face, and the numbered faces have different distributions depending on which disease (colour) it is. For each continent, only certain diseases will appear, and this is indicated by the bars on the continent cards.

The green infection track is divided into sections, and each section shows how many dice need to be rolled when performing the infection action. Whenever you enter a new section (i.e. the explosion) you suffer an epidemic, which is a super infection roll. You not only have to grab some dice from the bag to roll, you also need to roll all the dice at the treatment centre, i.e. inside the ring.

The Play

My first play was a 5-player game, with four other regular gamers. We played the normal difficulty. We won. Dice-rolling was fun. There is always the anxiety of rolling biohazards. Rolling for cures was exciting too. It is no longer a sure-fire thing like in the boardgame where you need to collect 4 cards of the same colour. We had one or two hilarious failed attempts. We never quite approached the verge of losing. Maybe we were lucky. Or maybe we were smart. We did see danger approaching - infection rate increasing, dice in the bag dwindling, outbreaks happening, but we did not come to a point of it's-this-turn-or-never.

Two other players have passed samples to me - the blue player and the orange player. My own dice are grey. .

I bottled a sixth sample before I attempted to find a cure. Thankfully I did so. One die short and I would have failed. I needed 13. The plus sign counts as zero.

Due to the easy win (at least it felt so to me), the game doesn't excite me enough. I soon had an opportunity to teach it to my wife and my daughters (8 and 9). We played the easy difficulty, and we won too. What surprised me was how much all of them enjoyed the game. Shee Yun (9) even went about giving the rest of us high fives after we cured the last disease. Throughout the game she was quite concerned with each biohazard icon that we rolled. She was quite absorbed in the game. There were always threats of outbreaks. We were firefighting all the time, often being forced to pick one to save between two (or even three) equally risky areas. Amidst this constant pressure, each cure found was a call for celebration. I think the children also liked that we were working together. Anyway, she's happy, I'm happy.

Chen Rui was exhausted when we finally cured the last disease.

The Thoughts

Like Pandemic, the boardgame, Pandemic: The Cure is also a race against time to find all cures. The disease situation will keep worsening. You need to balance between the short-term need to treat patients and prevent outbreaks, and the long-term goal of discovering cures. You are constantly threatened by immediate dangers, and quite often you are forced to make tactical decisions. However you must never lose sight of your ultimate objective.

The Cure feels very familiar. The strategic landscape is almost the same as the boardgame version. It is the execution layer that is very different. I am very impressed with how the designer managed to pull this off using such different tools. Feeling similar to the original game can be a good or a bad thing. For a person like me who likes the original but is not a particularly big fan, the familiarity made me feel I don't need to own both games. However for a big fan of the original, there is probably no question about buying the dice version.

It occurred to me that cooperative games probably tend to work well as family games, in particular when there is a skill gap, e.g. parents playing with young children. Some say that a good family game needs a healthy dose of luck so that the parents won't win every time. If you are playing a cooperative game, you don't have this problem of the parents winning every time in the first place. You don't need luck for the purpose of compensating for the skill difference. You'll likely still need some randomness for variability though. One danger with cooperative games is the parents may end up dictating what the children are to do. Try to avoid that and let the children think and decide for themselves. Guide them when they are making obviously bad choices (and explain too). Give suggestions when they ask for help. Just don't play for them. When I played with my family, sometimes I even had to remind Shee Yun (the older child) not to tell Chen Rui (her younger sister) what to do.