Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Board Games: Pandemic and Castle Panic

A couple of weeks ago, I went over to Ipswich for a barbecue (turned grill, due to rain) and board games party. Since Hannah has a strong preference for and no-one had a preference against, we went with two co-op games: Pandemic - In the Lab and Castle Panic.

This is us, one turn and one action from victory, and with
only one turn left of play.
Pandemic is a slickly-designed game of world-saving virology, in which up to four players take on different roles to battle four deadly plagues threatening humanity. Two decks of cards determine the fate of the world. One is used to determine where infection spreads, the other to provide the cards needed to fight it. Just to screw with you, it's the 'good' deck that contains the Epidemic cards that screw you over just when you think you're doing well.

The original version was brilliantly balanced so that victory would be assured with a fifth player, but with the maximum four a win was a rare, rare treat. This, however, was In the Lab, an expansion with a cure-finding mini-game which makes it easier to split the burden of cure-finding, and also adds a whole load of new roles to the game. It also supports five-player play.

We lost, infuriatingly running out of time with pretty much one action left to secure victory. Interestingly, we essentially lost not because there was too much disease, but because there was too little. With the In the Lab expansion, you need to collect disease samples in order to cure them, and the damned red disease - I think we dubbed it a particularly virulent strain of scarlet fever - refused to turn up. We had Andy's engineer parked in Taipei praying for sick people.

Damn you, global viral armageddon; you win this round.

Castle Panic is a castle defence game. Each turn, players play cards to attack monsters in particular zones, trying to take them down before they reach the walls and towers of the castle. Each turn, monsters move forwards and new ones appear in the forest.

The first game we played really failed to live up to its name. There was never much panic, just a little casual slaughter, largely because the last two chips in the box ended up being 'draw three more monsters' and 'draw four more monsters', so we never got rushed.

This made us cocky, and in the second game we were all 'let's play the variation where you start without walls and have to build them all from scratch'. That was the game where draw three and draw four turned up earlier, and while we won it was largely thanks to a couple of very lucky boulders.