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“If you haven’t opened Box 67, scratch the first box below.”
I felt a sense of dread on reading those words. We knew what they meant even before scratching: we were going to be in trouble for not doing enough recon, even though the extra recon had been an optional objective in our successful February attempt. I remembered angry people complaining about the big penalty for slow searches in PL 1, even when they had met all the game’s stated objectives.
Well, this one turned out not to be so bad, at least at first sight. No one sent in a team to do the recon for us; we were just warned that we had to do it soon. Of course, that could have been accomplished by setting it as a mandatory objective rather than giving the impression that we’re already behind, but at least there don’t seem to be any gameplay consequences at this point.
And so the game began.
The board before setup
The usual team; poor Ilya has been left at home the whole time.
Things quickly started to go downhill, and we realized in the second round that we’d forgotten about Johnny’s new Helmsman ability on his first turn—he should have received a free move action. Oops. Meanwhile, the Samson the Laborer kept drawing Produce Supply cards, which really hindered our building of Supply Centers.
Ultimately, we built the permanent research station in Sao Paolo; other than that the game was a disaster. I think having multiple copies of each city might make the game a bit more chaotic; it can easily go very badly and there’s less we can do to mitigate sudden disasters.
Population declined in Cairo, LA, Denver, and London: all down from 2 to 1. We used one of our four Production Units to bring London back up to 2, but we felt that the remaining production units really needed to go towards making the Sao Paolo research station permanent. The populations of Atlanta and Sao Paolo increased thanks to their supply centers, to 3 and 4 respectively.
So, we lost pretty badly. On the other hand, I feel like we weren’t supposed to win this game. We were told to focus on doing recon in South America, while it would have been much easier to build three research stations, connect SF and Mexico City to the grid, and search in Chicago and LA. So we had to prioritize building that supply center and accumulating yellow cards over all else, and we still ended up being one action short of actually doing the recon. So it was pretty disappointing overall. I’ve concluded that not getting to choose either starting locations or starting character is really brutal. And now we’ll get an extra epidemic to make it even harder going forward….
There was an outbreak of plague in New York during initial setup.
We had been told to prioritize recon in South America, but there were no yellow cards among our first eight.
On Turn 1, Samson the Laborer searched in Denver and encountered a logistics expert. Then there was a turn-one epidemic. On Samson’s second turn (Turn 5 overall), the logistics expert helped him establish a supply line from Denver to SF—a new city on our grid—and also from Denver to LA for easier movement. I wondered a bit about why this logistics expert had let Denver fall off the grid in the first place, but I guess he was lacking in supplies. I don’t understand what exactly these supplies consist of. At some point we connected Mexico City as well.
The second epidemic was also pretty early, but then we had a long gap until the third, which meant we had more turns than average with only two infection cards. That gave us time to get things somewhat under control. The game felt overly scripted here: we really didn’t have many yellow cards, but we were forced to prioritize exploring South America rather than Europe, and the actual win conditions seemed almost like afterthoughts.
But in the end, the game was a success even though we had seven incidents. We explored twice in Los Angeles, getting a preliminary glimpse of the Pacific haven location. We had so many black cards that we built a research station in Cairo (and made it permanent at the end), even though recon is a ways off since we only have three black cities in the deck right now. And we did ultimately manage to recon South America immediately before building our game-winning Supply Center in Washington (we had built an early Supply Center in Denver as well).
So, I think we may be back on track now. I hope in future months we’ll have a bit more flexibility in terms of which priorities to focus on. But I’m sure we’ll prioritize exploring the new haven in any case.
End of game, before population adjustments
After population adjustments and improvements
In terms of population, we saw increases in Cairo, Sao Paolo, and Washington, but declines in New York and Chicago. We used our five Production Units (just one city short of six!) to make Cairo’s research station permanent and give Samson the Laborer an additional Facilitator ability. He’s looking pretty powerful now:
There was another moment in the middle where we left Sara Swift the Administrator alone in a city without cubes, but this time we got lucky and she didn’t suffer any more exposure. And I think it was worth the risk in any case, since we were able to win the game, accomplish the crucial task of conducting recon in South America, and build a permanent research station in Cairo. We’ve been focusing most of our character upgrades on the Farmer and Laborer anyway; Sara Swift is already weakened with a scar and two exposure, so she’ll probably be one of the first to go when we eventually move on to other characters (if she even lives that long!). But her movement ability was certainly helpful in the course of this particular game.
I think in the future we'll need to be even more willing to sacrifice individual cities or characters to plague in order to move forward with our main objectives. That said, we found in this most recent game that it was sometimes okay to delay a planned action by one round in order to deliver supplies. It's all about that balance and tension.