Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pandemic Marathon

On Tuesday night, we played five 2-player games of Pandemic in 3½ hours. The only meta-rule we allow is that no player is required to play the same role twice in a row. This just helps mix things up a bit.

Each game was played with 5 epidemics. We won four of the five games. I'm not sure if this means that we should be playing with 6 epidemics or not. Our previous two games using all 6 epidemics were crazy.

I absolutely love the distribution of the special powers in the various roles. Every time I think that a given role--or combination of roles--is best, another gets its chance to shine. The Researcher/Scientist combo is an obvious one: pass cards easily, cure diseases easily. However, this combo is weak on navigation, so you have to work fast to beat the explosion. The Medic/Dispatcher combo is just pure fun: keep the diseases under control, get to cities where cards can be passed.

Our one loss was using the Dispatcher/Operations Expert combo. These guys have super navigation skills, and little else. They have to use their flexibility both to pass cards, and to keep things under control. In most games I play, it seems there's a point where you think you are close to winning, and you simply decide to stop putting out fires and go for the final cure. This decision is particularly tough to make with this combo.

After 34 games of Pandemic, it's still not getting old.

Some say the decisions are obvious. So far, we have found lots of different creative ideas come up in our discussions of plans. I've rarely felt that there was only one best move.

Some say the game is too random. The setup is random, all the infection cards drawn up until the first epidemic are random (but known not to be any of the already infected cities), and every epidemic city is random. However, the fact that the discard pile is shuffled and placed on top of the draw pile is the brilliant stroke that gives semi-predictability. The one thing I dislike about Arkham Horror is that everything in the game (gates, monsters, encounters, items, events) is random.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out this excellent GoogleTalk given by Matt Leacock, Pandemic's designer.


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