I wear my Halloween costume all year round!
Before the setup
Setting up this game, we realized for the first time that it would be advantageous to start with supply cubes in the havens, so that we could easily pick them up and take them where they were needed. That, combined with the nice abilities that a couple of characters picked up in January, and probably some lucky draws, led to a fairly smooth game with just a bit of drama.
A few rounds in, we came to Samson the Laborer’s turn. He was prepared to build a Supply Center in Lagos, something that we’d been building up to for a while. But in the infect step just preceding his turn, we had removed the last supply cube from the location of Sara Swift the Administrator. She was up next. Should Samson drop everything to rush over to her location and put down a single cube, or should he move forward in building the Supply Center that would actually help win us the game? We decided the Administrator could survive one turn in danger, in part because we had seen in Early January that we could easily devote all our efforts to addressing minor crises while leaving no time to accomplish our larger goals. So Samson built his Supply Center, and we promptly drew a card for the Administrator’s city, leaving her with a plague cube. That was her second exposure (the first came in Early January). I had guessed correctly that since her first one led to a scar, the second one would have no effect, but I’m still getting the feeling that she doesn’t have long for this world. We’ll see what the future brings.
The rest of the game progressed pretty smoothly: we didn’t get around to doing any new recon, but we connected a couple more cities to the grid and we built our three Supply Centers. We also completed a search in Atlanta, which was pretty underwhelming. It gave a nice one-time effect (we could remove a card from the infection discard pile), but it didn’t contribute anything to the overarching storyline. We learned nothing about why the city had fallen off the grid in the first place. These aren’t the dramatic searches of PL 1! At the end of the game, one of our characters was actually in Chicago holding the unscratched Chicago card, but we decided to hold off on the search because any single-use effect would be wasted when we were on the verge of victory already. Hopefully we won’t regret the delay later on.
At the end of the game, we gained the ability to establish permanent Supply Centers, and it was very tempting to keep our Supply Center in Lagos (which had come at great personal cost to the Administrator). We knew we’d need to do recon there in the future, and building Supply Centers takes time and effort. But we also knew that we couldn’t do that recon in our very next game: it requires five different yellow cards, and we only had four yellow cities on the grid. Disappointing, especially since we probably could have established a supply line to Mexico City if we hadn’t been distracted by our imminent victory. At the same time, having just five yellow cities wouldn’t have given us a great chance of doing that recon, and in any case, there were other game-end upgrades that would provide guaranteed and immediate benefits. We ultimately chose to add the Helmsman ability to Johnny Lee, our Farmer, who had recently become a Courier as well. So he’ll now get a free Drive/Ferry action each turn, which should help keep our cities supplied. We also increased the population of two havens so that we could more efficiently produce supplies there.
Board state at the end of February
After end-of-February adjustments
At the end of the game, it almost felt like we were flourishing. Sure, population had declined from 3 to 2 in Cairo, but it had increased in three other locations (Lagos, Chicago, and Los Angeles) due to Supply Centers, and it had increased in the havens of Atlantis and Xanadu thanks to Production Units. Denver and LA had been reconnected to the grid, and Johnny Lee the Farmer had become pretty powerful. I feel optimistic going into the next game. But we haven’t really felt the impact of our dwindling supplies yet, and I know that will start to affect us soon….
I continue to love the gameplay while being disappointed in the storyline. Exploring the world is fun, and I can see the potential for this exploration/supply system to be rethemed in interesting ways in the future: the historical discovery of North America, space colonization, etc. But I’m not seeing much connection to the post-apocalyptic mystery that I expected would be guiding this game. Despite spending a significant amount of time in Chicago and Atlanta, constructing a Supply Center in one and conducting a search in the other, I have no idea why these cities had previously fallen off the grid. It’s nice that they’re back, but—is that it? How have we failed to communicate with any of the inhabitants over the course of the month? In PL 1, I always had a strong sense of the overarching storyline and its connection to the gameplay: we had to fight off the diseases and save the world. In PL 2, I feel like the initial storyline was overstated and the gameplay doesn’t quite live up to it. The loss of cities from the grid (and disappearance of leaders/soldiers) was presented as a sudden crisis, but the gameplay so far doesn’t fit with that at all. What we’ve seen to this point would make more sense if we had been told that the outer cities had gradually become disconnected over the years, and now, as we’re feeling good and comfortable in the havens, we’re branching out farther in a spirit of optimism. I hope the storyline will come together more as the game progresses.