Alexander B.
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generalpf wrote:
Randy Cox wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
It is clearly to the players direct incentive (ie assists their victory opportunity) to fully reveal their hands at all times
Isn't that explicitly against the rules?
If so, it's a pretty lame rule that doesn't allow this despite allowing you to recite your entire hand to another player.
It took us exactly 1.0 seconds to place our hands face-up... the rule seems totally lame to us also.

The last thing I want to do is have to remember who has what card in a co-op game that has such a large luck factor.
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Tim K.
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I appreciate your response.

WhiteKong wrote:
I know there are people who love this game. I don't want to ruin your enjoyment of it. If you like it, what I have to say won't matter anyway.
But it does matter because I think maybe you did ruin my enjoyment of it...just a little
(I've gotta stop reading negative reviews of games I like)

To be honest, I was already thinking about how the game will boil down to winning the lotto (as you put it). But I think I'm willing to ignore that for a while to enjoy the co-op play value, and I still think some of the mechanics are cleverly integrated with the theme. And if all else fails I can inhale the fumes from the game for a buzz
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EvilTimmy wrote:

Thanks. I did miss the timing nuance.

I guess my issue with it is that there is a complaint about not knowing anything and then once [presumably] things are revealed there is a complaint that you know everything. Sooooo....would it be better for them if they knew just the right amount of information somewhere between the two? Which bowl of porridge is the correct temperature?
Thank you for the explanation! Now it's more clear what you meant.
 
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Alexander B.
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WhiteKong wrote:
...
I don't even write reviews. The only reason I wrote this one is that none of the other reviews really summed up how this game came across to my group. I am a little disappointed in my purchase, so I thuioght I might let everyone know that this might not be the absolute sure-fire can't-miss hit of the season like I thought it would be when I made my purchase.
As always, for me, reviews that points out flaw, negative qualities, or personal dislikes about games are much more useful to me than reading what might as well be ad copy from fanboys of a given game.

My own favorite kind of review covers both what a person likes and dislikes, but even in those cases, what they disliked will help me more with my purchase in most cases (including sometime making me want to buy a game more!)

So, yes! Thanks for the nice review about what you didn't like: in this case, I had a similar reaction to Pandemic.
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WhiteKong wrote:

You got it. Balloon Cup is like two-player poker. It's really a game about reading your opponent. Does he have enough to take this mountain? Can I force him to react by playing low on his side? The theme is lousy, but the gameplay more than makes up for it. Another one along these lines is Medici vs. Strozzi, or two-player Kingdoms. If Balloon Cup isn't exciting enough for you (it is for me), try playing for money.
Amen, brother! Medici vs Strozzi is as tense as they come. Want more tension? Start the game off with a $30 ante (= your initial 300 points). As you need more money, each player antes $10 more. The winner takes home his remaining funds ... and the bank's holdings!
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Quote:
Translation: I can sacrifice my own opportunity of winning the game by playing a social one-ups-manship metagame instead.
Actually, there's not even any assurance that the more aggressive player has the better ideas.

If you've never played a co-op or team game with players who make it hard for the new or hesitant players to make their own decisions, well, lucky you. I have, it leads to an unpleasant game, and a tiny design feature to help reduce is a good idea. Especially since it also speeds play and helps maintain a feeling of each player having a separate identify in the game.
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StormKnight wrote:
Quote:
Translation: I can sacrifice my own opportunity of winning the game by playing a social one-ups-manship metagame instead.
Actually, there's not even any assurance that the more aggressive player has the better ideas.
If you accept game decisions simply because the voice stating them is loud and not because they are good decisions, then you are playing poorly. Criticising a game design because the players are dumb is not a fair complaint of a game.
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StormKnight wrote:
Quote:
Translation: I can sacrifice my own opportunity of winning the game by playing a social one-ups-manship metagame instead.
Actually, there's not even any assurance that the more aggressive player has the better ideas.
I believe clearclaw was saying not that the loud player has the right idea, but that the best way to win is to pool all the information. Thus, to use the "strategy" of withholding information from the bully player, you're effectively reducing the chances of a team win. You're now playing a social metagame where "winning" is allowing more players to talk and make decisions rather than playing Pandemic, where "winning' means curing the diseases in time. these two are not related.

So which game did you set out to play?
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clearclaw wrote:
If you accept game decisions simply because the voice stating them is loud and not because they are good decisions, then you are playing poorly. Criticising a game design because the players are dumb is not a fair complaint of a game.
Ah, but if the game design makes a choice that mitigates the reality of play, where people are sub-optimal deciders, and mostly play a game to have a good time anyway (of which winning is only a part) then the mechanic deserves praise. In this case, the mechanic is designed to short-circuit power-gamers who would interfere with the enjoyment of others, not by virtue of some player "witholding" information from them, but rather simply by ensuring that they can't know everything, all at once, at a glance.

The proper response when such a gamer demands "Do you have a blue card?" isn't to lie, but to say "why?" and insist that he defend his plan, or give you the opportunity to propose another. It's much, much easier to do that when he has to start by asking things, rather than by simply pointing at the cards face up in front of you and barking commands. It's an equalizer.

If you're lucky enough to play without a power-gamer in your group, then so much the better. But even still, I would encourage you to look at the Closed Hand / Open Communication mechanic in the same as the way that you might look at the treatment mechanic, say, or the direct-flight mechanic: a metagame. It adds a layer to the ACTUAL game, which is, as you recognize, finding four sets of five like-colored cards. The metagame is how to communicate effectively, efficiently, and in a timely manner, and it's part of the fun of playing.

All in all, I'm very appreciative of the OP, who has waded into some very choppy water here. I disagree with much of what he's said, but no game is perfect (Pandemic included) and everyone deserves to read the negatives before buying.
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Quote:
This game is a series of obvious choices punctuated by bits of uncontrolled chaos, followed by more obvious choices.
Ah, funny stuff.

I've played Pandemic only once so far, and it's short enough that I'll have no objections to playing it again as a filler game, but I sure can't understand why so many people like it so much. It's very random, and there's not much to it. I guess there was a big gap in the game market at the intersection of "co-operative play" and "20-minute game," and Pandemic is taking advantage of it. In the time it would take to play one game of Arkham Horror, I could play more games of Pandemic than I will probably ever want to.
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J C Lawrence
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ilta wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
If you accept game decisions simply because the voice stating them is loud and not because they are good decisions, then you are playing poorly. Criticising a game design because the players are dumb is not a fair complaint of a game.
Ah, but if the game design makes a choice that mitigates the reality of play, where people are sub-optimal deciders, and mostly play a game to have a good time anyway (of which winning is only a part) then the mechanic deserves praise.
Why? In order to play the social metagame effectively the player must sacrifice the entire team's ability to win. This puts the players in direct conflict not only with their own interest (winning the game and pleasant shared social experience), but with the matching shared goals of the entire play group as they have to sacrifice their socialising and their victory opportunity in order to withhold data/support from the bully. I don't see much praiseworthy about a mechanism which relies for its success on players betraying both their own interests and the play group's interest.

Quote:
In this case, the mechanic is designed to short-circuit power-gamers who would interfere with the enjoyment of others, not by virtue of some player "witholding" information from them, but rather simply by ensuring that they can't know everything, all at once, at a glance.
Right, and in order to short-circuit them the players have to sacrifice not only their potential victory but their social cooperation with the larger group. Why is this good?

Quote:
The proper response when such a gamer demands "Do you have a blue card?" isn't to lie, but to say "why?" and insist that he defend his plan, or give you the opportunity to propose another. It's much, much easier to do that when he has to start by asking things, rather than by simply pointing at the cards face up in front of you and barking commands. It's an equalizer.
I view the proper response is much simpler: listening freely, keeping your own counsel, making your own decisions for your own reasons and thereby taking the actions that you think are correct. Bullies are irrelevant to correct action.

Quote:
If you're lucky enough to play without a power-gamer in your group, then so much the better. But even still, I would encourage you to look at the Closed Hand / Open Communication mechanic in the same as the way that you might look at the treatment mechanic, say, or the direct-flight mechanic: a metagame. It adds a layer to the ACTUAL game, which is, as you recognize, finding four sets of five like-colored cards. The metagame is how to communicate effectively, efficiently, and in a timely manner, and it's part of the fun of playing.
Arguably the most effective efficient and timely manner to communicate hand contents to the other players is to simply lay your cards face up on the table. 100% parallelisation, extremely low opportunity for error, highest possible error-correction and self-correction. From an information science vantage it is near perfect.
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Mark Crane
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clearclaw wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
Quote:
Translation: I can sacrifice my own opportunity of winning the game by playing a social one-ups-manship metagame instead.
Actually, there's not even any assurance that the more aggressive player has the better ideas.
If you accept game decisions simply because the voice stating them is loud and not because they are good decisions, then you are playing poorly. Criticising a game design because the players are dumb is not a fair complaint of a game.
I played this game today, only it was called "trapped for 2.5 hours in an academic committee that didn't accomplish anything."
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Bren Mayhugh
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This has been an interesting discussion that I didn't really read all that closely. I bought the game since the game looked good and my wife who is into 'epidemic fiction' (look ma, I made a book genre) told me I had to buy it. So far, I have played 2 games of it and really enjoyed myself...

I think that every Co-op game has a small measure of predictablity due to the intellence of the players against the 'luck' of the game. I assume that anytime I bring out a Co-Op game. I also assume that the players are going to 'immense' themselves in the theme (note the pictures of the characters in Arkham Horror).

All that aside in the realm of Co-Op play, Pandemic truly has a niche that I think will work for it.

-B
PS. Thanks for the review...
 
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Isaiah Tanenbaum
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Quote:
Arguably the most effective efficient and timely manner to communicate hand contents to the other players is to simply lay your cards face up on the table. 100% parallelisation, extremely low opportunity for error, highest possible error-correction and self-correction. From an information science vantage it is near perfect.
Yes, and the most "efficient" way to play Bridge would be the same. Lay your cards out on the table (you could use screens, or whatever, to keep opposing teams out of eachother's business) and then you have perfect communication between partners at all times. But the "inefficiency" of partner communication is the point of the game. True, it's a stricter, more formal mechanic (the allowable words and bidding structure hemming in communication) but again, that's the point of the "no tabletalk" metagame layered over the "trick-taking" game, which is itself layered back on top of the communication by making the ACTUAL game about predicting how many tricks you'll take in a given hand, which requires information on what your partner is holding.

I could talk about Bridge all day, but the point is this: part of the fun there, as here, is figuring out ways to distill your information into what is needed, right now, and present that without wasting everyone's time; likewise part of the fun is asking the right questions. A Bridge game where you could just list the cards in your hand, effortlessly and with 100% efficiency and error control, simply wouldn't be as fun. Nor is a Pandemic game where everyone just lists their hands each turn; again, the signal-to-noise makes a full list useless; finding workarounds is part of the fun.

As to the "bully" discussion, which is a separate, but related topic, you continue to assume that all people are rational computers, but they aren't. The person yelling loudest doesn't necessarily have the best plan, and still might not even if he knew everyone's cards at all times, but laying your cards on the table empowers him to yell the louder, because he can point while he does it. Recognizing this, the game puts him at a social disadvantage by requiring him to ask others about the contents of their hands; likewise, it engages the turtle-gamers who would just lay their hands out on the table and let others tell them what to do: the mechanic forces them to volunteer, share, and respond to the plan rather than sit back and let others figure out what to do.

In the real world, people play less than optimally with imperfect information, but they play less than optimally with perfect information, too. By disempowering the bully and empowering the turtle, the game design recognizes and compensates for that, and that is worthy of praise.
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I played my first 3 games (in a row) yesterday. Perhaps it's just inexperience, but I didn't really see that there was only 1 "perfect" move for every given circumstance. Players were often suggesting many interesting ideas. I think there's some room for style. Also, we didn't feel the need to call out every specific card we had all the time. We'd say stuff like, "Who's collecting blue?" and only get more specific if the circumstances required. I really enjoy it. I'm getting a free copy, and I'm still considering buying one anyways so I don't have to wait.
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WhiteKong wrote:
craniac wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
Quote:
Translation: I can sacrifice my own opportunity of winning the game by playing a social one-ups-manship metagame instead.
Actually, there's not even any assurance that the more aggressive player has the better ideas.
If you accept game decisions simply because the voice stating them is loud and not because they are good decisions, then you are playing poorly. Criticising a game design because the players are dumb is not a fair complaint of a game.
I played this game today, only it was called "trapped for 2.5 hours in an academic committee that didn't accomplish anything."
Remember the part in the review where I said, "If you like office meetings, this game might be for you..."?
I think that Mark was referring to his job (professor) and the quoted comment rather than Pandemic. I could be wrong though.
 
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Quote:
I wrote the review to bring a tad of balance to literally a ton of positive reviews.
I literally put the positive reviews on a scale and they literally weighed hundreds of pounds each.
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Garcian Smith
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Perhaps Pandemic is the co-op game for new-light gamers, while the hardcore gamers can go bite a piece of Arkham Horror.
 
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J C Lawrence
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ilta wrote:
Nor is a Pandemic game where everyone just lists their hands each turn; again, the signal-to-noise makes a full list useless; finding workarounds is part of the fun.
If a player forgoes their ability to win in order to have more fun then to that extent they are no longer playing for the win. They are doing something else instead of trying to win the game.
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clearclaw wrote:
ilta wrote:
Nor is a Pandemic game where everyone just lists their hands each turn; again, the signal-to-noise makes a full list useless; finding workarounds is part of the fun.
If a player forgoes their ability to win in order to have more fun then to that extent they are no longer playing for the win. They are doing something else instead of trying to win the game.
In my Bridge example, I proposed an "open-hands" variant; the teams who took advantage of it would be "playing to win," but part of the essential game of Bridge -- namely, the limited communication aspect -- would be lost, to the detriment of all. Likewise with Pandemic. Playing to Win doesn't mean subverting the game's rules just to make life easier! You might as well eliminate a disease, or cure with three cards, or skip Infecter phases. You'd be playing to win, but what's the point of playing to win Pandemic-Lite?

Moreover, you continue to assume that, if one doesn't break the closed-hand rule, fully listing hand contents each turn is a winning strategy, is in fact the best winning strategy. It is neither. As I -- and others -- have repeatedly said, doing so generates an unacceptably low signal-to-noise ratio. As with Bridge, one of the metagames in Pandemic is effective communication. The challenges are different (obviously, in Bridge you want to communicate effectively only with one of your three fellow players), but the general strategic/tactical question is the same: how do I tell my team-mate what he needs to know, without overwhelming him with unnecessary information?

I would assert that Pandemic teams who are good at the communication metagame will win more often than teams who are not, including teams who routinely list everything every round. Whether they would win over teams that lay their cards out on the table (probably not) is not a relevant question -- as I said, that's Pandemic-Lite.
 
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Mike Watkins
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Brad,

Thanks for a dissenting view. I can always better tell if I'm going to like a game based on the negative reviews or the positive reviews. Not sure why but it always seems to work that way.

I personally don't like games that have a high degree of scripting or predicability. There are definitely games that can appear deep and involved but with multiple plays can become quite shallow and easily known. Usually in competive games of this type it boils down to one or two simple occurances determining the rest of the game flow - in co-op it's as you state, mearly a matter of getting all players on board to beat the mechanics.

My guess is that many of the fans of this game simply haven't caught on to the underlying mechanics as quickly as you and your group have. Perhaps once given more time to distill the game down they too will find themselves playing less.

Then again there are hoards of people who will probably derive enjoyment from continually beating the same mechanic over and over even if the only change is a reording of the cards.

Your review of this game reminds me of my feelings towards Sudoku - it was cool the first 5 or so times but once you have the logic down its really only a matter of exapanding the time it takes to solve a harder puzzle - the "gameplay" never really changes.

The good news for fans of this game and the publisher is that for some reason (well beyond me) tons of people seem to love Sudoko!!
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J C Lawrence
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ilta wrote:
In my Bridge example, I proposed an "open-hands" variant; the teams who took advantage of it would be "playing to win," but part of the essential game of Bridge -- namely, the limited communication aspect -- would be lost, to the detriment of all.
Bridge has established a very formal communication protocol and requires that all players limit themselves to that protocol (the serialisation method may vary, but must be disclosed). Pandemic has merely stated that hands are secret, not that hands may not be revealed. It has not established a protocol or any other notable constraints.

Quote:
Moreover, you continue to assume that, if one doesn't break the closed-hand rule, fully listing hand contents each turn is a winning strategy, is in fact the best winning strategy.
No. I assume that the best strategies are strongly correlated with the best information about the game state being held by the formulator of the strategy. ergo it is in the player's interest to ensure that the decision makers have all the possible data they may need.

Quote:
It is neither. As I -- and others -- have repeatedly said, doing so generates an unacceptably low signal-to-noise ratio. As with Bridge, one of the metagames in Pandemic is effective communication.
Player hands are not that large. There are not that many card types. Concisely communicating hand contents need not be noisy. There really isn't that much to wrap your head around in terms of player's hand contents.

Quote:
...how do I tell my team-mate what he needs to know, without overwhelming him with unnecessary information?
Of, more simply, how do I tell him everything, but in a way he can assimilate? By this argument, once that question is answered there's nothing left to the game for the other players except finding out which side won.

Quote:
I would assert that Pandemic teams who are good at the communication metagame will win more often than teams who are not, including teams who routinely list everything every round. Whether they would win over teams that lay their cards out on the table (probably not) is not a relevant question -- as I said, that's Pandemic-Lite.
A team that lays their hands out and a team that communicates their hand contents in perfectly assimilatable form are functionally indistinguishable.
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While I can see why people wouldn't like it, I'm in love. For me, the mechanic of recycling the cities that recently got hit isn't boring or in any way negative; knowing that the hotspots are going to be hit again creates a palpable sense of dread.

There's one main reason I love this game; my wife loves it. While she appreciates games and is willing to play them, they're not a first-choice activity. She also has a 90 minute threshold for game playing. Any game or session that runs longer than that and she's twiddling her thumbs, looking to bail. After our first game of Pandemic, she wanted to play again. Then a third time, back to back! The next night, she wanted to break out the game and try again.

In the ten years I've known her, this has never happened. I'm so happy!
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I played this for the first time a few days back. I had been very keen to give it a whirl and finally got the chance on Friday night.
I can agree with some of the criticisms that were raised. I did find that the choices you need to make are fairly obvious and you definitely knew where the worst of the outbreaks were going to be.
However, the criticism regarding the fact that the same cities get hit again is a little unfair. I thought this mechanic was quite realistic and thematic. You go to a city and rid it of a disease, then move on to another city only to find that the infection springs back up again. I liked that detail.
I also like the mechanic of the infections spreading out from a high infection area (ie if a city has 3 cubes of a disease and gets another, then all connecting cities receive another disease cube of that colour), I thought that was really thematic as well.
After 3 games I can say that, yes, I do like it, but, I can also say that I don't love it.
 
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Larry Welborn wrote:
Brad,

Thanks for the review. Although I disagree with much of it, opinions differ, and I think you stated your position well.

The only quibble I have is that you played 5 or 6 times but don't feel you got your money's worth. Usually, if I get that many plays out of a game, I consider it a good value, even if I ultimately sell or trade it.


edit: fixed a typo.
I played Arkham Horror 4 times (defeated Cthulu on the fourth time), glimpsed what was "under the hood," and traded it for Notre Dame, which I've played about a dozen times since

Even without the continuing value post-trade, I got 16-20 hours out of Arkham. How much do you get out of six plays through Pandemic?

Also, even though I think Arkham Horror falls short, playing it convinced me that good co-op games are possible (I just haven't found any yet). For me the closest thing is the rare 1980s adventure board game Tales of the Arabian Nights..., which could almost be called a "community game" - hardly competitive (despite having a winner), but not collaborative either.

Oh, and big thumbs up to the original review. Pandemic just fell a lot further down on "games to take a look at down the road" list.
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