Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 13 – Burger Up

Burger Up is a competitive 2-4 player game about building burgers of epic proportions, made and published by fellow Australians! Burger Up is a game of truly mouth-watering art, engaging pattern matching, and emergent humour in the ridiculous burgers you build.

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Serving suggestion.

Customers place orders and you all race to complete the requested burgers. Orders will sometimes specify the burger size (minimum or maximum number of ingredients), some ingredients (or category of ingredients, like meat or sauces) that must be in the burger, and some that must not be in the burger. You start with four ingredient cards and two bottom buns to build on. Every round a burger top isn’t claimed, it’s worth another coin.

Fictionally, in the game world of Burger Up, I like to think that everyone is so desperate to get their burger order that the longer they wait the more they’re willing to pay to finally just get their bacon and egg roll, especially after seeing four people served before them. Also, there’s just one guy providing ingredients to the group of competing burger artists and that guy’s kind of a jerk. Sometimes he’ll just give you sauce, sauce and more sauce.

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Burgers have cool names and lots have cute toppers. Aww, look at that Meat-A-Saurus Rex!
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Too much cheese? You didn’t say nothin’ ’bout no cheese, buddy. Deal with it.

What’s great about customer orders, is you don’t have to uphold the spirit of the order, as long as you meet the letter of it.

You can add whatever you like as long as you meet the order’s criteria. This rule means you end up with monstrosities like this Mad Max burger, which only calls for three particular ingredients, but doesn’t say not to add to a whole stack of cheese.

Funny moments like this are common, especially in rounds where you have no ingredients that any of the current orders require, so you just stack up whatever you can in the hopes some useful ingredients will show up soon. “You know what this mustard could really use? Tomato sauce”.

Why would you add extra ingredients? Well, the heart of Burger Up is a pattern matching game. Each ingredient card has two ingredients on it, and can be flipped to act as either one before placing it.

But see the icons on the cards? Your next ingredient has to match. So, you might be looking to place some meat, but the only meat you have in your hand needs to be placed on top of a sauce card, so you buy a sauce card, but that may need to be put on cheese. And so on.

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Orders are worth more and more each round, but can you be the first to build those burgers?

There are lots of different combinations of ingredients on the cards (some with the same ingredient type twice, letting you quickly make, say, a super salad burger)

Ingredient icons are also broad enough to allow some flexibility. The ‘meat’ icon is actually a patty icon, and veggie patties exist, so your salad burger’s not necessarily ruined just because you have that icon. And if all else fails, use a handy middle bun, which can be put on anything and have anything put on it. But it doesn’t count to the size of your burger.

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Chicken & Avo. Order up!

Spatulas, which are worth 4 points at the end if you haven’t used them, add another sprinkling of strategy, as they let you discard an ingredient and everything on top of it, or move that stack of ingredients to another bun.

In play I’ve seen a new burger bun come out where another player’s towering burger already had all the required ingredients! Except they had a stack of meat on top. And the burger was a vegan burger. No worries! Spatula that meat stack onto another burger and you’re left with a perfectly serviceable vegan burger 😉

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Perfect ingredients and big burgers give extra coins – if they match anyone’s order!

You’re encouraged to build bigger burgers, as they’re worth more when served up, but some burgers are specifically smaller sizes, so you have to keep your options open – or again use the handy spatula (you can use it twice, but that’s it).

When you build a colossal burger, you can forego the 10 coins you just earned to upgrade your restaurant, letting you place 4 ingredients a round, instead of 3 – it’s handy, but hard to tell how valuable or detrimental this option really is. We have usually had only one person take it, and they’ve trailed behind in score.

Burger Up is a fun time, with drool-worthy art, a fun pattern matching puzzle and player-generated humour through monstrous burgers you’ll be passing off as BLTs. Our main complaint is the the game has run a little longer than we’d like, sometimes. Solution? Just take out a few more top buns at the start to make this game fast food. Easy!

Or if you still haven’t had your fill there’s the Burgers of the World expansion with more top buns and ingredients like tofu patties, brie and beetroot. It doesn’t make the game longer – unless you want it to – but variety is the spice of life.

Had enough now and looking for a new flavour? How about Sushi Go, Hanabi, Between Two Cities or Galaxy Trucker? Along with an actual burger recipe, the Burger Up Game Recipe Book includes variants inspired by these great games. It even has rules for a solo mode and a 5-6 player version of Burger Up. A tempting buffet of gaming options indeed!

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Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 11 – Samurai Spirit

Samurai Spirit is based on the film Seven Samurai, and sees 1-7 samurai cooperatively defending a Japanese village against raiders by engaging in the ancient art of battle blackjack!

In real-world feudal Japan there were no women samurai and when a you took two wounds you transformed into an humanoid animal warrior. It’s the same in Samurai Spirit, which even has a note about it in the back of the manual explaining but not apologising for its staunch adherence to historical accuracy.

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In this game you’ll Fight by drawing raider cards numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4, Confronting them by adding them to your Combat Line (the right side of your samurai board) trying to reach your kiai number. Think of it like 21 in blackjack. You want to hit it exactly, and not go over, or you’re out of the round and raiders burn down a village barricade.

Below, Kikuchiyo has a 3, 2, 1, 2, 2, which equals exactly 10, his kiai number. So, he gets to remove the first card (the 3) from his Combat Line, to stay in the round and give him another chance to reach his kiai number again. His special kiai ability also activates.

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Any time a samurai reaches his kiai exactly, he discards the top card from his Combat Line.
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Kikuchiyo’s kiai ability also lets him discard the most recent card in his Combat Line.

When you Fight, you can Defend instead of Confronting, which lets you place the raider to the left of your board instead, not suffering any ill effects of the card – but you only have three slots on the left, one for a card with each of these icons: hat, farm, family (doll).

Ideally, you’ll want to fill up the left side, to uphold the samurai code of honour and – more importantly – to avoid penalties at the end of the round. Without a hat, you’ll get a wound; lacking a farm or family icon means a farmstead burns down (flipping over to reveal yet another penalty) or a village family is killed (removing a round end bonus).

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Our village is under attack! Call on the 1-7 Samurai!

To help you deal with all these raiders, in addition to their kiai abilities, each samurai has unique talent, which can be used each round. Talents let you do things like put the next raider onto the bottom of the deck, pass certain value raider cards to a neighbour. Instead of choosing to Fight, each round, sometimes you may want to Support, which grants an ally access to your talent once their turn rolls around.

Raiders often have icons in their lower left, which are known as ‘battle penalties’ – basically the damage the raiders inflict to you and the village. Each turn, you apply the penalty in the lower left of the most recent card in your Combat Line. It might burn a barricade, prevent you supporting other samurai or let intruders sneak into the village (which also happens whenever you Support). Raiders, of course, can also wound you.

 

Wounds are really interesting in this game. You can handle 1 wound, but take a second one and your animal spirit is unleashed! You flip your board, which makes your kiai ability more powerful and increases your kiai number. Take another wound, and it’s fine. Take one more after that, and you die, the group loses morale and you all lose.

Sometimes, taking a wound is a good idea, to unleash your animal spirit and give you more wiggle room if you’re getting close to your kiai number and know there are lots of high cards coming out soon.

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Finally, this tiger has had more than he can handle.

After each round, any intruders that got past your samurai are flipped over. If they have flames in their lower right-hand corner they burn barricades (or farms, if the barricades are all gone). You win the game if you have at least one farm and family by the end.

But! Round 1 isn’t the end.

You play again, without healing wounds or caging your animal spirit. Instead, you add lieutenants (value-5 cards), shuffle the deck and go again. After that, you play a final round with the addition of value-6 boss cards, each of which has unique art and powerful battle penalties.

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Kikuchiyo’s filled up the left side, then encountered a boss. Luckily, he’s reached his kiai!

Samurai Spirit has a lot of gaming goodness packed into a box about half the size of most other modern board games. I only have two main criticisms with Samurai Spirit. One, I’ve mentioned: the lack of women, the ‘sorry if you feel that way’ non-excuse pseudo-apology in the manual.

The other criticism is a fairly significant rules oversight I’ll warn you about right now.

If you’re playing the 2-player variant, it’s very important you ensure you have enough family icons on the cards that form your raider deck. If there’s only one icon, the game is literally unwinnable (at least one of the three families will die each round). If there’s two, it’s very likely unwinnable.

I’d recommend checking your cards and ensuring you have more than 2 icons. 4 or more, perhaps? The game’s designer and updated rules PDF agree, but if the physical manual in the game box may not mention this critical, but easily-overlooked rule.

Samurai Spirit is a great game! For a relatively cheap price, the game packs a lot into a little box – basic mechanics are simple enough to grasp quickly, but the co-op powers make for interesting interaction and combos, the player count is great, and the three-round structure ratchets up the tension as the game progresses. It’s even short enough that, win or lose, if you’re anything like me you’ll be keen to dive right back into the fray!

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 10 – The Big Book of Madness

gYou’re first year magicians impatient to learn proper spells. So you break into a chamber of secrets to read the Big Book of Madness, that your teachers have explicitly told you is off limits – of course, they’re only saying that because it’s filled with awesome spells!

Oh, wait… no. It’s filled with madness.

Madness and monsters, bursting out of the pages.

Now you and your classmates have to gather the elements and quickly learn spells from the other, less dangerous books around the chamber, in this co-op deckbuilder

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You’ll need to quickly improve your magic skills to defeat the monster at the end of the book. If you survive the madness long enough to reach that particular battle.

2-5 players select a magician to play as: big earth guy, thin air guy, medium water guy, medium-big fire guy, or sexy earth girl, sexy air girl, sexy water girl, sexy fire girl.

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Small spindly guy or big thick guy. Sexy girl or sexy girl.

I love almost everything about the game’s amazing, colourful art. It’s reminiscent of a Disney or Pixar and draws you into the world, making you want to see an animated film about these magicians – except the game takes the same approach to female body diversity as those studios. Which is, basically none.

Nevertheless, props to fire girl – she’s pretty badass (and note the burning desks).

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Each magician has a unique power that really mixes up how they play.

Once you’ve chosen your magician – each with a different set of starting elements and a unique special ability – the madness begins.

You open the book to unleash the first monster, and curses along with it. The book’s really cool. It’s made of cards that look like pages with monsters bursting out! Monsters will be on the left, and immediately attack, for some effect like forcing players to discard cards or giving them madness (junk cards that clog up your deck).

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Next time we see this blob, the win bonus and loss penalties will be different.

Bonuses and penalties for winning and losing on the right card combine with the monster on the left hand to create a lot of variability each time you play. You also don’t use all the monsters, spells, or magicians each game – so replayability is fairly high.

You all start with four basic spells, but can learn new ones, which let you do more complex actions, like reshuffling your deck, or curing madness cards while drawing extra cards.

Madness is in the title for a reason. You get 6 cards in your hand each round, which you can spend on buying or casting spells, or destroying curses (which require four element cards to resolve). If you destroy all the monster’s curses within 5 rounds, you get a win bonus. If not, you get a penalty, and the page flips, revealing the next monster.

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The Big Book of Madness fits our new a coffee table, with two players.

Madness cards clog up your 6-card hand, and if you get to the bottom of the madness deck, you all lose. If a player ever ends up with a hand full of madness, they’re eliminated! There is player elimination in this game. And some powers that basically skip your turn. Seems like both are fairly rare, though, and the communication between players means eliminated players can still help strategise.

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Multi-element curses show up later. Each curse has powers that activate on its round.

Curses can mess you up, but sometimes they’re not so bad. Coordinating with your fellow wizarding delinquents is important, as that awesome wooden book token moves and activates the next card (or two cards in Round 3) each turn. So, while you might be able to resolve that Water Curse now, fixing the Earth Curse that’s coming up next round may make more sense.

On the right-hand page of the book, you can see the three elements that the next monster will curse you with. So sometimes it’s better to prepare for the next monster, especially when you realise this one’s curses aren’t going to get resolved.

Losing to a monster isn’t always that bad. And you only need to defeat the final monster to win. Which is great, and terrible. It means that failure or sacrifices early on are okay. But it also means that the entire game hinges on the final battle. So you need to use those earlier rounds to build up a better deck and spells to help you, but luck of the draw will still play a factor.

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Specialising in an element or two can really beef up your spellcasting.

Oh, also make sure you remember this key rule – when you destroy a curse, you add a free 2-value element card of your choice to your discard. It’s very easy to miss this rule, and it isn’t in the player aid. Playing without it will really drive you mad, and make the game much harder, even on the lowest of its three difficulty settings.

So, you’ve got really beautiful and detailed – if not entirely unproblematic – art, a co-op deckbuilder with lots of variability and replayability, all wrapped up in easy-to-understand mechanics. All in all, a great game. Hopefully someday we’ll win.

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Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 8 – Sultaniya

IMAG5194The Sultan has decreed that whoever builds him the most amazing palace will be named Grand Vizier.

Sultaniya is a game for 1-4 players. Everyone starts with a different palace base displaying large, gorgeous character art, with an equal gender spread, which is a big plus.

Each palace base also has a few different rooms already placed and different ways listed to get points. Perhaps you get points by planting palm trees in your palace, where someone else scores towers or domes.

But all palaces need good security – so everyone competes to have the most guards.

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You also have two secret goals each. These might be having a certain feature aligned on as many floors as you can, or having lots of a certain type of feature on a single floor.

Some tiles have sapphires on them. As well as these symbols being involved in some of the secret goals, whenever you place a tile with sapphires on it, you get to grab that many big plastic sapphires from the sparkling pile of wonders.

Sapphires are the only currency the Djinn Union accepts. You can hire these beings of phenomenal cosmic power for such menial jobs as: revealing new tiles, removing a room and replacing it with another one, building two rooms at once, looking though all possible rooms for a single floor and building one.

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The more tiles you add to your palace the harder it is to place new tiles. You see, the art has to match up, adding a puzzle-like element. So Djinn powers are very helpful to deal with this.

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Sultaniya plays pretty quickly, decisions each turn are easy to understand but meaningful. And while competitive, it’s not cutthroat – there’s not much direct interaction with the other players, aside from taking tiles they may want. You only score at the end of the game, and scores can be pretty close – our latest game had only 1 point difference.

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Each of the tiles is beautiful, and details on the rooms are varied, with nice little touches like parrots, monkeys and fountains – there’s some especially flashy stuff on some of the roof tiles. As you build your palace, it’s just a nice time where you’ve got the fun of tackling your own little puzzle, while enjoying the art and the other players’ company.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 6: The Networks

Ever had a favourite show cancelled on you? Or a main character removed or recast between seasons? When you play The Networks you’ll be the one doing all that over five seasons, to gain and maintain viewers to make your new TV network the most popular of the new channels.IMAG5169

Every player runs a different network and you all start with shows like “Let’s Pickle” and “Emergency Broadcast Test Hour” that are so bad they have literally no viewers. You play the game by hiring stars to feature in your shows (gaining more viewers, but often needing salaries), landing ads (which give you cash to develop shows or pay stars), developing shows by adding them to your network (and attaching stars and ads to them).

Importantly, the number of viewers a show will have depends on which time slot you air it in, which stars are on the show and which season it’s in. Some shows start off strong and lose viewers the longer they stay on the air, but others get better with age.

After a few seasons, you’ll find yourself callously (or regretfully) cancelling your sci-fi blockbuster for a more lucrative, ad-ridden sportscast. Or you’ll get some lucky Network Cards that give you bonuses and special abilities.

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I ran the U62 network and one of our launch shows was Chainmail Bikini Warrior, laughably staring a xylophone talent contest winner. It gets better in season 2, then really goes downhill. But I got the “Showrunner” Network Card two seasons in a row, which let me prevent the viewership from degrading, giving Chainmail Bikini Warrior a healthy 4 seasons before it was replaced when viewers finally jumped ship.

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Quirky art and funny shows, often plays on real favourites – like Person of Disinterest, Dextrous, Cringe and Communist-y – give the game a great sense of humour. Players inject funny moments into the game, too, through strange pairings of stars and shows, like a Celebrity Chef in an action series.

There’s real strategy involved, in deciding when to go for stars, when to focus on ads, and which shows you should be aiming to air. If you’ve ever aired 3 shows of the same genre you get a viewer boost and some other immediate bonuses (and again with 5 same genre shows). So, it’s great to focus on similar genres, but sometimes you can’t, and just need to cast that sports show on your otherwise dedicated sci-fi network.

Because shows do better in their first season when aired in the appropriate time slot, there are also decisions to make about whether to cancel a show while it’s still doing well to open it’s time slot up to a show with an even higher viewership, or air that new show in a different time slot for a few less viewers.

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Even when to stop playing in a season is a decision you’ll need to consider. Once you feel you’ve done all you can do, you can choose to drop out of getting new cards this season, and instead take a bigger cash or viewer bonus. The later you do this, the smaller the bonus, but the more cards you can acquire now.

Then you start the next season, with new stars, ads, shows and network cards.

Some may find all the decisions a bit tricky to weigh up, but for others that’s half the fun – deciding how you want to tackle the challenge of increasing those precious viewer numbers.

With a great theme I haven’t seen in board games, interesting decisions, great art, lots of nods to real television in the art and certain rules, and the 1-5 player count, The Networks is sure to find a loyal audience.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 5: Council of Verona

Council of Veronaas seen on Tabletop – is a quick, light filler card game where you’re all nobles who’ve noticed how the citizens of Verona are all so sick of that whole Montague vs. Capulet thing, so you’re making a council in the hopes that’ll help keep everything under control. Really though, you’re just leveraging the feud, your noble rivals, and the council, to increase your influence in the city. It’s fun and takes only a few minutes to play.

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You draft some cards, keeping some for yourself and passing others to your opponents.

At least one card will be removed from play without anyone seeing it.

Play couldn’t be simpler. Place one of your cards (there’s only 17 in the game) in the Council or Exile, use that card’s ability if you like, then decide if you’d like to place an influence token (numbered 0, 3, 5 – plus an 4 in the 2-player game). That’s it.

The key, though, is that the influence tokens you’re placing are face down, and can be on any card that’s been played. Romeo and Juliet don’t care if they’re on the Council or Exiled, as long as they’re together. Aww. Heads of the Capulet and Montague households want more of their people on the Council than the house. And the neutral Prince just wants an even Council or several Neutral people on the Council. Poor guy. He’s just trying to run the city. Meanwhile, Mercutio’s sick of everything and just wants more people Exiled than on the Council.

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You can throw your lot in with any one (or several) of these people and their agendas. You play your influence tokens face down, so it may look like you’re rooting for the lovers, but you’ve really given Romeo your 0 token, and don’t want them to get together. Doing this could fool others to add their more valuable influence tokens to that card, thinking they’ll be riding your coattails.

So there’s a bit of guess work to suss out whether your opponents actually want to see the agenda succeed, for the card they’ve just placed a token on, or if it’s misdirection.

Add into that a few cards that let you look at our even swap placed influence tokens, and suddenly that tricksey 0 you placed gets swapped with your 5 and your whole game plan changes.

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It’s a very quick game, nice card art – though that box cover is a bit weird – and the second edition comes with the Poison Expansion, which – very thematically – gives every player a Poison and an Antidote token that look just like the influence tokens. Any character with more Poison than Antidote at the end, is killed an their influence along with them.

This game’s great for when you want to play something, but don’t have too much time. Interesting decisions, but nothing too complicated. While they play very differently, and there’s certainly room in your game library for both, Council of Verona reminds me a bit of Love Letter, with the noble theme, deduction, some cards being removed, and trying to outfox your opponents. And it plays so quickly you may find yourself playing it several times in a row, like we did.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 3: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (Spoiler Free)

Pandemic Legacy is currently the #1 game of all time on Board Game Geek and Shut Up & Sit Down. Is Pandemic Legacy truly the best game ever? Probably! It’s certainly an incredible game, unlike almost anything you’ve played before.

It’s the worst year humanity has ever faced. Diseases run rampant, and one looks ready to dangerously mutate. You and one to three friends will band together to combat the worst pandemic the world has ever seen. And you’ll be permanently altering the game as you play. You get to name the diseases if you eradicate them! You write their names on the board!!

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There’s a reason for the “Spoiler Free” tag in the title. Anything I show or say here is something you’ll see when you first open the game. This is a board game, yes, but I can’t show you much of our board without spoiling later sessions of the game. That’s because you play in a campaign, of 12-24 sessions (a fortnight or two each month, in the game world), slowly uncovering more story and mechanics as you progress. You’ll be writing on the board, adding stickers, and even tearing up cards! 

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And the legacy parts aren’t just tacked on. They’re important and well-integrated. One instance we thankfully haven’t encountered is if characters die (or become “lost”). Yep, that beloved character you’ve named, upgraded, and whose established relationships with other characters, when they’re lost, you tear them up, losing all that, along with their unique powers.

Suz and I get into roleplaying the characters, which makes games more fun and will make any loss of a character more tragic. I really don’t know how we’ll handle it if we ever lose Bruce 😦

We absolutely love the changes that you make in the legacy format. Writing on the board, adding stickers – this level of customisation is fantastic, and it’s not random, it’s based on the choices you’ve made. One particular city may be rioting or collapsing because you chose to help another in a time of need. From then on, you’ll have to work around these changes, altering your strategy. Changes like these affect all your future games, and make your particular copy of Pandemic Legacy feel special and your own.

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As for what you’ll actually be doing in the game: you’re travelling the world, treating and removing disease cubes from cities, drawing cards to gather research data to cure the diseases, and trying to hang on for just one more turn, against the constant threat of disease outbreaks and deadly epidemics. If you’ve played Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, Flashpoint: Fire Rescue, or any of the other Pandemics you know the basic mechanic. Water rises. Sun beats down. Fire spreads. Epidemics occur.

If you’ve never played Pandemic before, you can play a few sessions using this board before diving into the campaign. It worked for Suz and I. We lost our 3 practice games, then jumped in and won several games in a row, but not without a decent challenge!

Suz and I can’t recommend Pandemic Legacy enough. It’s a must-play, in our book. And it works great with 2. We sometimes wish we had more active characters to give us access to more powers, but that also means more infections and potential epidemics before it gets back around to your turn – also less cards per player to start. It seems well-balanced to us.

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When you open up Pandemic Legacy you’ll see 8 sealed boxes and lots of sealed sheets of stickers and cards. You only open these when the game tells you to, and what’s inside always gives more options or changes how the game works from that point on, often drastically. During your very first session the legacy mechanics will come into play.

Having played through June, we’ve still got half the campaign left. Things have gotten crazy, and we can’t wait to see where the game goes next. Pandemic Legacy is a great, solid game in an incredibly engaging package that’s definitely worth the price of admission.