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.

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Posted in Board Games

Game-A-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 1: Above and Below

Game-A-Day Fortnight is back!

Suz and I have two weeks off so, just like last year, we plan to play a different board game each day and share our thoughts. We hope you see something intriguing and maybe get inspired to try out a new game 🙂 Enjoy!

First up is Above & Below, where you’re all building a new village in a grassy field, while also exploring the dangerous and resource-rich caverns below. And you explore by looking up passages in a spiral-bound book of encounters, adding some light story to the game.

We enjoyed this game. Lovely art, a variety of actions, the combination of building a village and exploring the caverns. It was all very nice. This is also not a cutthroat game. Suz once bought a building I was looking to get, but that’s it. You also can’t really tell who’s winning till the end, which is a big plus in our book.

In Above & Below, 2-4 players will be competing to make the most well-developed village in this gorgeous game. The artwork really stands out with cute unique characters to populate the cool cavern outposts and sunny grassy buildings of your growing village.

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Each turn you can send villagers to:

  • Explore the cavern network below
  • Build a new building above or in a cleared out cavern below
  • Harvest goods from your village buildings and outposts
  • Labour, basically putting your villagers to work for coin
  • Train new villagers, paying coins to have them join your village

Building Above

Building is great, because you can customise your village. Buildings might produce goods, or maybe some healing potions. Perhaps they’re just straight up victory points. Or maybe they make villagers or certain goods worth victory points.

Some just have beds.

Which is actually awesome.

Your villagers are constantly getting exhausted and injured, so beds are great for getting them back on their feet and working for the good of the village.

So, building buildings is great. But you’ll need a builder. Say yours is exhausted. No worries. Just train a new one. Hmm, not enough coins. Okay, send someone to labour for coins. Your last villager is your only trainer… and labouring will exhaust her, so she won’t be able to train the new builder. Hmm, you could sell items to the other players for coins. But that helps them, too. Can you stand to wait a turn?

Decisions, decisions.

Good decisions, though. Nothing too brain-burning.

And once you’ve got a few interesting buildings or skilled villagers, you’ll be able to work toward some slightly longer-term goals, like more expensive buildings, or sending a strong party into the caves for a better chance at succeeding.

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Exploring Below

Some villagers can build, some can train. Everyone can explore!

Sooner or later you’ll want to delve into the caverns.

Another player flips to the passage you rolled on your cavern card and reads out some evocative description of the challenge you face, and how you may overcome it.

Pick an option like “Stand and Fight” or “Run and Hide”, each with a threshold you have to beat for success. Your chances of success depend on which villagers, and how many, you sent exploring. Roll a die per villager. If you succeed, you get some resources, maybe coins, maybe even reputation (which earns victory points). We haven’t seen it yet, but certain successes even let you recruit secret villagers!

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This is all fantastic stuff!

So much so that it feels lacking when there’s no text describing your victory.

You’ve got beautiful art, an atmospheric description of your exploration, then you win and are on the edge of your seat as the other player reads out …5 coins, and a mushroom… Yay?

I mean, it’s obvious why you got those when you selected “Keep Exploring” but it doesn’t feel as awesome as everything leading up to that. It’s not so bad, though, as you now have a sweet empty cavern where you can build an interesting outpost.

Exploration, coupled with managing the interesting building powers, recruiting more skilled new villagers, and deciding what actions to spend your few precious unexhausted villagers on is a great combination, and one with some variety.

In our first game, I had lots of outposts in my caverns, and a building that meant my basic goods were basically double points. Suz had no outposts, but she managed to get her hands on a building that meant all her empty caverns earned her points!

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At the end of our first game, we tied at 48 points each!

So, we compared coins. I had 4. Suz had 5. She won 🙂

A close game is a good game!

And what we like about this is that you’re not bogged down by scoring as you go. It’s not easy to tell if you’re leading or trailing before you reach the very end. So you can instead focus on whatever you’re interested in to build up your own little village.

Suz and I both had a great time playing.

We’re definitely keen to keep exploring Above and Below.