Was preparing my games for Unpub 6 next week when I came up with an awesome supply-demand clearing mechanism for Captains of Industry. It's so good and so elegant I had to bang my head in the corner for two minutes as punishment for not thinking of it 5 years ago.
I'll be able to put it in the expansion (if it ever gets printed), but it solves so many problems better than the solutions I ended up with. This could have shaved years off of development and ended up with a better game as a result.
Spoilers for Pandemic Legacy, March
For our February night we resolved to play two games that night to make up for having lost our first swing at January. It turns out something interesting does come in February, in the form of a new character and new action, Quarantines. That really should have been the end-of-January revelation.
We immediately had someone play as Beyonce, the Quarantine Specialist. Unfortunately, we ended up cheating accidentally with this character and won February all too easily. It was the inverse of the first January game. Discovering this mid-game, we tried to adjust the gamestate as best we could because the group did not want to restart the month.
At the end of the month, we got yet another new action and matching character. We also got two additional win conditions and the requirement to meet two of the three to actually win. I found this to be the most interesting change. Pandemic often feels like the game is playing you. You just keep spinning the tops hoping to inch your way to the finish line before any one of them drops. The ability to choose which win condition you want to go for felt like genuine long-term planning, which is something sorely lacking from standard Pandemic.
We also had the relationships mechanic introduced. At first this seemed interesting, and it incentivized us to use the new characters instead of continuing to max out our existing characters with upgrades. However, during gameplay, I don't think we ever actually made a decision because of the relationships. It was too important to keep the plates spinning to waste actions staying in the same location.
We won that game as well, so for April we'll end up with zero funded event cards. That will prove to be challenging, depending on what we open up at the start of the next game.
Spoilers for Pandemic Legacy, Late January
Our second swing at January was far easier than the last game. Part of this was we were drowning in funded event cards. Mostly though it was that instead of the first epidemic appearing before I had taken my first turn, we all got three turns before the first one appeared. This means that the discard pile was nice and diluted before being shuffled on top. That plus our decision to put a research station in Delhi as an upgrade after our loss so we could start the game next to the problematic black cities sealed it for us.
From there, the game proceeded quite easily and quickly. We cured all three diseases before we even had time to eradicate the first, so we have yet to do that. Medic Luke Skywalker's remote treatment (delivered through late-night infomercials) was key to our easy path to victory. Researcher Marie Curie replaced our generalist on the advice of a friend. That advice proved wise. The extra action isn't a big deal.
A few outbreaks happened at the tail end of the game, but we were so close to victory we didn't care. So, this game was as quick as the last, but for the opposite reason. We continued to buff the Medic and put a research station in Africa for the game-end upgrades.
I was looking forward to winning this game because of the scratch-off card, which you only get to scratch off if you win a game in January. This was our last chance and we pulled it off, so I was expacting some awesomeness.
It said for the next month, we get to remove one cube before the first turn. Meh.
After that letdown, no one felt like playing another game that night. I've been told by a friend that February is "crazy in a good way", so I was expecting something really cool on that scratch-off card. Something at least as interesting as the "there's now an uncurable virus" of January. Yes, removing that cube is powerful. But it is not interesting. That scratch-off card should have made us want to set up the next game right there and then.
If there is crazy stuff revealed at the start of the next game, then they should have revealed the crazy stuff at the end of January, and saved the lame cube thing for the start of February. There should be an enticement to keep going. This is a valuable lesson for anyone considering designing a Legacy-style game. Put the teaser at the end of a game, not at the start of the next one.
This is also a lesson you could learn from any soap opera.
Spoilers for Pandemic Legacy, Early January
I was advised by a friend that I needed to play Pandemic Legacy. This was not for purposes of fun, but my friend felt that, as a game designer, I needed to understand what this game does. Tonight was the first game.
I've played regular Pandemic twice before this. Two of the other three players had played it once.
The rulebook is extremely unhelpful in guiding you for your first game (more on this later). There's a lot of pieces and I was scared that I was going to look at something I shouldn't. I figured out I was supposed to look at the first card of the legacy deck, but only indirectly. I could find nothing that actually told me to look at that card before the start of the first game.
The initial seeding was all red/black/blue viruses, all about evenly distributed. No yellow. I thought that would make treating the viruses convenient travel-wise, but it ended up being very bad.
I was the scientist Farnsworth and started with two black cards, but went fourth in turn order (after generalist George Clooney, medic Luke Skywalker, and dispatcher Morpheus). Was handed a third black card by someone before my turn, and would draw the fourth at the end of my first turn. However, right before my second turn, we had our second epidemic. There was a massive amount of black cubes on the board, which made black uncurable literally right before I would have cured it.
At that point we were waiting for death. Black was uncurable and difficult to treat. I (the scientist) had a hand full of useless black cards. A third epidemic showed up shortly and we got a bunch of cascading outbreaks. Game was over just before I would have taken my third turn because of 8 outbreaks. The medic got scarred(!) in the process and now doesn't like flying. One city is at level 3, one at level 2, and three at level 1 (all black cities). So, I can't imagine a setup more perfectly designed to make the game unwinnable from now on. Most of the black cities have had outbreaks, and the black virus is forever uncurable.
For our upgrades, we put a research station in Delhi (something tells me we'll need to send people there from time to time) and game the medic the ability to treat from next door.
At least everyone went home in time for an early dinner.
The rulebook is also bad at telling me what to do between games 1 and 2. Since we lost, do I still use the January legacy cards? All of them? Or just the last objective? Or will a second disease become uncurable?
Also, holy hell did this game not meet difficulty expectations. I expected game 1 in the series to be relatively easy, but we got trashed. This was way harder than regular Pandemic.
Has anyone else had a game 1 that made the series completely unwinnable? I seriously could not think of a way to construct the post-game 1 state to make things worse. Black cities rioting and the black virus mutated to ensure that it will be impossible to keep off the board. Every game from now on is going to be lost to chained outbreaks in black cities.
Part of me thinks we played wrong, but I can't look at an FAQ for fear of spoilers. Can anyone answer these questions without spoiling anything past the first game?
If an epidemic card is drawn, does the infection still happen for that same turn with the shuffled cards on top? (we played yes)
Do chained outbreaks each move the outbreak counter up one? (we played yes)
Anyway, not the most positive first experience for any of us with the legacy mechanic.
Not as long as Monopoly, but almost as painful.
Copyright © 2015-2017 Michael R. Keller
archive by Andres Gleixner from the Noun Project
archive by Andres Gleixner from the Noun Project