Monday, March 23, 2009

Pandemic - 2 Player Session Report

The meetup on Saturday was a bit of a letdown. 6 people showed up, not a bad turnout, but everyone left after 2 hours. All we had time for was one game of Apples to Apples and two of Scattergories. I don't consider either of those games to be worth a post.

My wife, Mandi, came to the rescue, though. She pretty much hates gaming, but, when she learned that I didn't get to play any games that I consider to be fun, she agreed to play one with me. I chose Pandemic because I figured she'd like the cooperative aspect of it.

This session was only the second time that I had played it. The first time, Manny led us through the game, so I didn't feel the need to do a thorough review of the rules since I had that prior experience. Oops!

The session at Manny's ended with us being overwhelmed by breakouts, and I was determined to not let that happen this time. Instead of choosing random roles, I assigned Mandi to be the Operations Specialist to build research stations, and I played the Medic to more easily clean out infected cities. Together, we concentrated, in order, on wiping disease out of cities that threatened to outbreak, curing diseases, and eradicating diseases.

We were doing really well, too. We had cured and eliminated all the yellow cubes and had cured the red disease. I noticed that we were getting near the end of the stack of player draw cards and read through the rules to see if we shuffle them and start over or what. Turns out, reaching the end of the draw stack is one of the loss conditions. At that point, there was no way for us to cure the remaining two diseases to win the game.

Lessons Learned:

  • Curing diseases is the priority. Though eradicating them gives you a benefit, you just don't have time to do it.
  • I think that two player is much tougher than playing with three or four. You have the benefit of moving each of specialist more, but you have less specialists, meaning less abilities and less cards.
  • If you're going to play two player, I wouldn't use the Operations Specialist. Because you can only hold 7 cards, you're getting rid of cards all the time anyway. Use the extra cards to build research stations.
  • The Scientist might be absolutely crucial. Needing only four cards instead of five may be the only way to get all four cured.
  • The Medic is useful but, again, with two players, may be a luxury that you can't afford. The Researcher's ability to transfer cards may be too essential to leave him out of the game.

For next game:

My plan is to concentrate solely on getting the 4 diseases cured and manage outbreaks only enough to keep from getting hoses.

BTW, Mandi did like the game better than most that I've forced her to play. No word yet on if she'll ever play again, though.


Nathaniel Todd said...

Pandemic has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time. I've played it over 20 times now and don't think there is a major victory imbalance between 2 and 4 players. Many on BGG feel the game is easier with 2, actually, but I'm not sure I agree.

I agree that the operations expert is better with more players, as is the dispatcher. I think the Medic is one of the better 2 player roles, though, since he can treat a lot of disease without having to move about the board very much. In 4-player, it gets easier to move with higher likeliness of getting ops expert or dispatcher, thus the medic's treating efficiency may not be quite as crucial.

Keep playing, it's a great game!

Chris Norwood said...

Yeah, I just love Pandemic (I've up to 56 plays now, half or more being just with my wife)!

I agree that eradicating diseases can be a big distraction that rarely is worth the time. Unless it pretty much falls in your lap, don't even bother. And in general, remember that board control, while it will keep you from losing, is not how you win the game. Building sets of cards to cure the diseases is how you win, and even if the board gets ugly, you need to keep a focus on how you're working together to share cards and develop cures.

But I've written a lot about Pandemic, and I don't need to keep going on about it now...