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Subject: Are we doing something wrong or is this game just inherently "hard"? rss

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Jeff Knapp
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So I posted a while back about a 2-player game between my wife and I in which we lost due to a sudden triple outbreak.

Well this past weekend we had 2 friends over and they were actually anxious to try out the game, having heard of it through their own social circles.

After a somewhat stressful game-teach (let's just say they were young, dating, and alcohol was involved, so I got interrupted a lot!) we finally setup the board, infected the first nine cities, and were off to the races. Sidebar - I was very thankful to have blindly drawn the Medic role.

The first nine cards infected Asia HARD with red cubes, and I knew right away that we should focus hard in that area. Two players went there quickly. I focused on south America and an also-scary outbreak of yellow, but with my medic role, knew I alone could keep it under control. The fourth player spent time across blue and blue areas, keeping those mostly disease free until St. Petersburg suddenly became a s**t show...

Anyways, I felt that the game started off fairly well - I was quickly building a collection of blue cards, another player had a good collection of yellow cards, my wife was working on a black card collection, and we were managing the epidemics fairly well. Problem was, I could tell that we were burning through our deck of cards very fast, and while we only "wasted" 2 turns across 2 players to exchange a card to cure a disease, we only managed to do so without 5 player turns left in the game. And in fact, we never managed to do so, because before that player could move three spaces to the nearest research center to cure yellow, the player before her triggered a triple-outbreak of reds that shot us to "game over" faster than we could collectively blink. It didn't matter though, because as I slid the outbreak marker to the skull-and-crossbones, we only had 2 player cards left to draw. In otherwords, had we not lost in that turn, we'd have lost in 2 more turns anyways.

Now, we played with these general "strategies":
A) Don't waste too many cards on travel, because those cards cure disease.
B) Don't worry too much about getting cards from other players unless you're already close and it's convenient - just build up your own colors.
C) Utilize your roles as much as possible - they often save cards and/or turns.
D) Build research centers early - and since we had the Operations Specialist on-hand, we utilized them to make several in order to save city cards.

And YET, we still ran out of cards LONG before we came anywhere close to curing two, let alone FOUR diseases...

I just don't get it. I don't see where we could have maximized our efforts substantially enough to effectively quadruple our outcome and have the 20 (technically 19 - we had a Scientist) cards needed to cure the diseases.

Now, as far as the red disease getting out of hand, we tried, and I think we did a good job keeping it at bay as long as we did. Like I said, it only beat the draw deck by 2 turns to end the game.

So, what did we do wrong?!

Also, sidebar conversation. Literally 2 hours before this playthrough I bought the "Lab" expansion which comes with a solo variant (I later learned it basically provides one decoration card and a few sentences of rules...) Has anyone played that solo variant, what are your opinions/strategies, and is the lab component any more/less fun/challenging?

Thanks and cheers!
 
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Julien K
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I can't say for sure, because I was not in the game. But I'll comment on your strategies. For information, we usually play with two players, but four characters, so close to what you do.

ViperMan wrote:
Now, we played with these general "strategies":
A) Don't waste too many cards on travel, because those cards cure disease.

It's good, except during the first few turns. You want to be fast where cures are the most needed, that is where there are three, and two cubes. You also want to quickly build research centers in this area. We usually spend our first few turns trashing cards to move quickly and build centers, and that usually pays of. Once the situation seems easier to manage because characters are well placed and infrastructure built, we can go to your next point:
ViperMan wrote:
B) Don't worry too much about getting cards from other players unless you're already close and it's convenient - just build up your own colors.

Good, that's the next step. Though you should not only wait for the right cards to come to your hand. If a character has, let's say, three cards of a color, look for opportunities to get the fourth and fifth to its hand. You could just wait for the right cards with two characters, since each character will see twice as much cards, but with four that will usually not happen and you will have trading to do. That may be one of the reason why you ran out of time.

ViperMan wrote:
C) Utilize your roles as much as possible - they often save cards and/or turns.

Yes, yes, and yes. In your case you may have made a mistake though. From your description, I believe that sending the medic to Asia would have been the smart move. He may have been able to fend the red infestation alone. If you could not get there by flying or shuttle, maybe you should have just walked through Tokyo.

ViperMan wrote:
D) Build research centers early - and since we had the Operations Specialist on-hand, we utilized them to make several in order to save city cards.

In a way linked to my comments on points A and C.

Also, don't feel the need to clean everything up. A city which is quite isolated might outbreak once or twice and you don't care. Or if a city has two cubes but its cards will only come back at maximum once (because it's already in the discard and you have only one more epidemic for example), you can forget about it. It should never outbreak. I'm not sure if that was discussed in your previous thread, but that's an easy to make mistake.
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Damo
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I'll add:

Keep an eye on what cities are going to out break next and have at least one player knocking the tops of the 3 cube piles.

All of the cubes don't have to be removed, but just keep it under control.
 
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col_w
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Four players is more difficult than 2 in some ways (card distributed more evenly so trading needed more often; less turns per player so less use of special abilities; less agreement on the best course of action; less starting cards per player) and easier in others (easier to cover more of the planet; easier to build a network of stations; greater variety in special abilities).

You didn't say how many epidemics you were using, but 6 is hard - don't expect to win too often. Even with four, things can occaisionally spiral out of control.

Quote:
Don't waste too many cards on travel, because those cards cure disease.

This is perhaps where you went wrong. There are 12 of each colour, so you can afford to use some for travel. If you ever have to discard cards because you hit your hand limit, then that's a card you could have used earlier on to travel. Travelling early to get into hot spots quicker can really pay off.

One thing you could do is keep track of how many times you lose to each condition (player deck runs out, cubes run out, outbreak track reaches end). If one of these is dominating it might indicate there's something 'wrong' with your play style (possible group think).

But finally, don't worry about losing a lot. Half the fun is the tension of a near-miss. If you could consistently beat it easily there'd be no challenge and no fun.
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Ken Kmak
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I love the solo variant and yes, In the Lab is fun too.
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Ken
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Often, mostly, it is just my wife and I playing Pandemic; we use one role each. We have a fairly mixed win rate. Sometimes you can just see it spiraling out of control, such as when the game starts with most of the epidemics in one place like Asia. Other times we do well.

But we played a four player game with 6 Epidemic cards the other night and came within 1 turn of winning. laugh There are some things that are just beyond our control in the game.


Two roles is easier, as people noted above. Also to starter and get used to the game I would always take the Medic and Scientist. Then once you're winning more often then loosing, ether add an Epidemic card or stater taking random roles.
 
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Point your friends to "Games for Lovers", or "How to not slobber all over your friends games when dating during game night".

Did they infect each other?

Did you find the cure?

Were vegetables involved?

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Dr Neau
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Build research stations around the world for easier travel.
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Jeff Knapp
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Yeah the Medic to Asia may have been a better move. The two players working the area did well until they tried to meet up to exchange a card, and it fell apart 1 set of turns later.

I'm going to try a solo game this week. Also I was reading that basically "On the Brink" is needed to play "In the Lab", and OTB is impossible to find (at a reasonable price) right now... Anyone know if a reprint is planned?
 
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ViperMan wrote:
Yeah the Medic to Asia may have been a better move. The two players working the area did well until they tried to meet up to exchange a card, and it fell apart 1 set of turns later.

I'm going to try a solo game this week. Also I was reading that basically "On the Brink" is needed to play "In the Lab", and OTB is impossible to find (at a reasonable price) right now... Anyone know if a reprint is planned?


In the world of Pandemic, just about everything will be reprinted. The only exceptions are Pandemic: Iberia and Pandemic: Rising Tide, which are one print-run only games. And other than the Legacy games, Iberia may be my favorite Pandemic experience.
 
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Theorel Masheriel
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First Question:
-Is this with 4 epidemics? If you're having trouble getting 2 cures, you should definitely be playing with 4 epidemics. Once you get better, up the epidemic count.

I strongly recommend looking over this thread: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/300287/common-mistakes

In a 4-player game you only get ~5 turns each. That's 10 total drawn cards, If you're expecting to cure a disease with that, they'd have to half be the same color. That's unlikely at best...in 4-player you absolutely have to trade cards. You also need to travel, and have research stations nearby to discover cures at. Generally, in my experience, the Scientist discovers 2 cures, and the other players discover one each. You should constantly trade cards to the scientist, if they have even 2 of the same color. Other players should get cards if they have 3 of the same color. Researcher should give cards to the player with the most of that color, and should never expect to discover cures.
You should be planning out how you're going to trade cards, and be ready to do so at the end of your turn.

With 4 epidemics, outbreaks should not be your main concern...but you should treat any cities with 3 cubes, with high priority. 1-cube cities are not a concern...they will not hit 3 cubes until half-way through the game. If you treat a city down to 0-1 cubes then it will not be a concern for a while. Medic should concentrate on 3-cube cities, and should go where they are.

You should generally expect to discover your first cure by your third turn. Generally game flows like this: (Note: This is what the team is doing, not each individual player)
Turn 1: treat 3-cube cities, build research station(s).
Turn 2: deal with new 3-cube cities, trade cards, build research stations.
Turn 3: discover cure, deal with new 3-cube cities, trade cards.
Turn 4: discover cure, deal with new 3-cube cities, trade cards.
Turn 5-6: discover cures, deal with major danger areas (multiple adjacent 3-cubes), trade cards.

2-player is very different, you almost never need to trade, you will almost always draw into a cure. You often need to discard to fly to a city in order to treat it.

edit to add:
How many cards are you discarding to hand limits?...Every single one of those cards could have been a "free" travel or research station. This should give you a feel of if you are over or under-discarding for actions.
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Ramon Mercado
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ViperMan wrote:
Now, we played with these general "strategies":
A) Don't waste too many cards on travel, because those cards cure disease.
B) Don't worry too much about getting cards from other players unless you're already close and it's convenient - just build up your own colors.
C) Utilize your roles as much as possible - they often save cards and/or turns.
D) Build research centers early - and since we had the Operations Specialist on-hand, we utilized them to make several in order to save city cards.


This sounds about right to me. When we play we usually try to always remove coves while moving. It may take a bit longer to get where you need (an extra turn usually); but it's worth it on the long turn. Also, build research stations, at least two depending on the outbreak hot spots. Another thing that I recommend is not to exchange information right away; wait a few turns to see what you get.

Are you playing on the highest difficulty level?

There is an element of luck in this game too. While I think we win most of our games, we have lost many times too. Sometimes you just don't get the cards; or get too many hot spots.

Finally, don't forget that winning is about getting those cures. So, sometimes it's ok to let those outbreaks go and focus on getting the cards you need, or getting to the research station, to finish those cures.
 
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Simon Kamber
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ViperMan wrote:

B) Don't worry too much about getting cards from other players unless you're already close and it's convenient - just build up your own colors.


In a two-player game, this can often work. In a four-player game, this strategy is likely to give you trouble.

There are 12 cards of each color. It is really unlikely for 5 of them to end up with the same player. So trading cards to make cures has to be part of your strategy.
 
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Andrew Kapish
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ViperMan wrote:
So, what did we do wrong?!
I’m just confused how “I had the medic”, “Asia was really bad”, and “I went to South America” all ended up in the same couple paragraphs.

ViperMan wrote:
A) Don't waste too many cards on travel, because those cards cure disease.
Key strategy here is too many. Using cards for travel when possible is important, especially in the early game. This is a particularly good use of cards for the Op Expert at that research station they’ve just built.
In any game of Pandemic, round 1: step 1, is “Get to the 3-cube cities, NOW!”. There’s 12 cards of each color and you only NEED 5. Using cards as tickets is better than discarding for exceeding hand-limit. You can, and should, check the player discard pile to get an idea of how many city cards are left of each color.

ViperMan wrote:
Also, sidebar conversation. Literally 2 hours before this playthrough I bought the "Lab" expansion which comes with a solo variant (I later learned it basically provides one decoration card and a few sentences of rules...) Has anyone played that solo variant, what are your opinions/strategies, and is the lab component any more/less fun/challenging?
I’m no sologamer, but I’ve heard multiple sources say that they would rather play solo Pandemic simply controlling multiple roles and hands than play using the In the Lab solo ruleset.
 
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Jeff Knapp
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andrewkapish wrote:
ViperMan wrote:
So, what did we do wrong?!
I’m just confused how “I had the medic”, “Asia was really bad”, and “I went to South America” all ended up in the same couple paragraphs.


Haha! Alright, touche, touche...

Still though, it didn't matter, as we were going to run out of cards 1 turn over Asia folded to the red disease.

By the way, we were only paying with 4 epidemics. I don't see 6 happening any time soon...
 
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Andrew Kapish
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ViperMan wrote:
andrewkapish wrote:
ViperMan wrote:
So, what did we do wrong?!
I’m just confused how “I had the medic”, “Asia was really bad”, and “I went to South America” all ended up in the same couple paragraphs.

Haha! Alright, touche, touche...

Still though, it didn't matter, as we were going to run out of cards 1 turn over Asia folded to the red disease.

By the way, we were only paying with 4 epidemics. I don't see 6 happening any time soon...
Haha. Well if you're ever in the Cleveland area, shoot me a geekmail. We'll show you how to play Pandemic, man.
 
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When we first started playing Pandemic (with 4 epidemic cards), our win/loss ratio was about 1:1. Wins or losses were always close. Once we had worked out the 'puzzle', and had general strategies and had a consistent winning streak, we increased the number of epidemic cards to 5, and then eventually to 6. Throwing in the expansion modules from OTB, ITL and SOE just provides a bit of a shakeup on the challenges.

Everyone in this thread has given good advice - don't forget you've got both direct and charter flights, so using city cards for travel can be good when the card matches either the end *or* the starting point of your journey.

The Researcher is also a great role to use for exchanging (or rather, giving) cards away. Having the Researcher and Scientist working in tandem is a good way to collect cards for cures, where the Medic can work on keeping the diseases under control. Pandemic is also one of those games where you have to balance the long term goal (curing) with the short term problems (preventing outbreaks/running out of cubes) - and the great part is that you can discuss, as a team, what the best moves should be for each player.
 
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Lots of advice here. You don't need anymore. I often think it's worth repeating this.

col_w wrote:

But finally, don't worry about losing a lot. Half the fun is the tension of a near-miss. If you could consistently beat it easily there'd be no challenge and no fun.


I love In the Lab, but it does require a special kind of card management. I wouldn't recommend it until you've got a fairly good handle on the original game.

 
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