Pandemic: Contagion review

The rest of the world might be playing Pandemic: Legacy, we’re just catching up to Contagion, the one where you play as the disease.

The game is neat inverse of the original Pandemic. You have stats that determine your diseases strengths, you have cards that you use to either infect cities or improve your disease, and each turn a new event card is flipped that you have to deal with.

Pandemic: Contagion. The Pandemic for those of us who prefer the eschaton
Pandemic: Contagion. The Pandemic for those of us who prefer the eschaton

The depth of the game comes from the powers on the cities that trigger for the player who finishes them (usually card draw, so tempo basically), from the fact that you can use double the cards to account for ones you’re missing (also tempo), and from the details of the event which add a bit of helpful randomness and favor those who think ahead to prepare.

We played the 2 player variant which includes rules for a ‘bot’ who plays along with the players. I’m not embarrassed to say that the bot managed to beat me by 10 points, though Angelica crushed it. Well, maybe somewhat embarrassed I suppose.

If it’s not obvious, this is not a deep game, though decently clever for a 30 minute play. It’s fun, but I do want to say that it comes with one caveat: the manual is not super great. We ended up with a false-start game based on us misunderstanding rules, and then finished the game with a laptop open to the “FAQ and Errata” page. After you get the details though, the game flows pretty easily afterwards, it’s just learning that first time that’s a bit of a challenge.

Also, the little petri dishes are very cute.

Abyss + Abyss: Kraken review

Abyss was something we checked out at GenCon after seeing the amazingly good box art in our local store a few times, and it was the right sort of middle-weight euro-ish game that Angelica likes best. We re-checked it out last weekend, this time with the Kraken expansion, and definitely still liked it though I’m not sure how much more with the Krakens.

First things first about this game: the art is amazing. Every Leader is different and each one is absolutely beautiful. The theme is consistent and it’s a joy to look at.

Unintentional action shot of "where will the next location go"
Unintentional action shot of “where will the next location go”

The goal is the euro-style “collect victory points”. The main flow of the game is revealing little ally cards of various ocean themed suits. Everyone else has a chance to buy it off you before you get a chance to take it. If they don’t you can take it or keep exploring for new cards. Any cards you don’t keep are added to little piles of unwanted allies. On future turns people can take one of those piles instead of drawing new cards.

The cards are then spent to buy Leaders. Leaders come with various powers that alter game rules. You see where this is going.

There’s also an added complexity of Locations that alter scoring and remove powers from leaders. It adds a bit of (pardon) depth to this ocean abyss themed game.

Full board + various other bits
Full board + various other bits

The game’s hook is mostly tied to the great art, very solid design of all leader cards, and in the clever “pearl economy” manipulation. Pearls let you break the rules slightly by buying cards on other people’s turns or not paying the full price for leaders. Flip side, if you use it to buy allies out of turn you give them directly to your opponent and now they can use it right back against you.

The above is for the base game. This time we played with the Kraken as well and this adds some interesting dynamics. The big one is a new wildcard Kraken race that when used provide you with Black Pearls that count for negative points. Possibly quite a lot of negative points. This mechanic is a lot like the corruption track in the Scoundrels expansion of Lords of Waterdeep: not so bad if you have a  couple, but very bad if you’re the one with the most.

It also adds some other less interesting mechanics like “reserve this spot” Leader tokens and treasure matching Push-Your-Luck locations that we never managed to draw. And while interesting, it doesn’t really fit with the game at all, almost feeling like a mini-game in an RPG.

So overall, Abyss is still a great game if you like the genre, and especially if you’re someone who appreciates good art design. Plays quickly and is quite fun. As far as Kraken: if you find yourself bored with the base game and want it to be a bit more competitive, then give it a shot, but it’s not nearly as imperative as Scoundrels is for Lords of Waterdeep.

GenCon: Village + Inn review

We did a session playthrough of Village with the Inn expansion.

Village
Village

While the inn adds a lot of new mechanics, it also makes the game feel really arbitrary. I can see it being popular with people who want to add some randomness to it, but I think I prefer it without.

Angelica was interested in the sea expansion though, seeing as traveling is her favorite part of the game.

Ghooost!

Lunch game of the day, Ghooost! from some little known Richard Garfield fellow

Ghooost! hand. Still lost. By a lot.
Great Ghooost! hand. Still lost. By a lot.

Good lunch game for here cause it runs like 20m after everyone is caught up. Rules take surprisingly long to teach for how simple they are: there’s a lot of special cases.

The above hand should in theory have guaranteed me, if not a win, then a “not-win” by the person playing after me, but his ghost house ended up playing a 13 on my 13, a 14 on my 14, and when I attempted to play my ghost house to stop him, I drew a Skeletor GG.

Tabletop Commons trip: 51st State + Splendor

Did a playthrough of 51st State and TC again.

It’s one my favorites, a very good balance between lightweight deckbuilding and combo-rewarding, and the New Era ‘expansion’ adds very needed wooden tokens and better quality tokens.

51st State
51st State

Started game with 2 Heavy Gears and a Police Patrol, which gave me enough of a solid start that I just cruised ahead always up by a steady 5 points or so.

Did Splendor after. I like that the second photo looks so much later despite being maybe 1 hour or so.

Splendor
Splendor

Still a very clever minimalist game.

Ginkgopolis

z-man’s ginkgopolis at tabletop commons

ginkgpolis
ginkgopolis
ginkgpolis
ginkgopolis

good game, though you really have to mentally click over to how scoring is based on districts, not anything else that you might think it’s based on