September 12, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Thirty-Five)

(View previous instalments here)

Ceria Grainwave

This is a medium orange colour, and quite cloudy. There was some head when poured, but this dissipated quickly. The smell is very tangy with a hint of orange. I found the flavour to be a little disappointing, as it was quite watery. There was a hint of that oranginess in the flavour, and a bit of beerishness, but really not enough of either. Karen had a sip, and didn’t really know what to make of it.

Rok Soba Lucky

This has a deep brown colour, almost ruby. The head on this is fantastic, and hung around for a decent while. It smells fruity and a bit pungent, like a beer festival. The flavour is equally robust, with a hint of banana. Karen said “this just tastes like beer” but didn’t pull The Face. I could very happily go for this again.

Ceria Indiewave

This has a deep orange colour and is very cloudy. The head is nice, and persisted for a good few minutes. The smell is very strongly of rose, like granny’s bathwater. The flavour is also very floral but also with quite a lot of bitterness. It’s still pretty refreshing though, and hits the spot nicely on a searing hot day.

Rok Soba Voyager

This IPA is a dark amber colour, and is clear with a satisfactory head. The smell is intriguing but well balanced, with a mix of sharp hoppiness and smooth malt. The flavour is surprising and unconventional, like a mixture of citrus fruit with something deep and cereal. Very intriguing stuff.

Pico Nova

This is a West Coast IPA, very clear with a deep colour. The smell is a bit bitter with a striking roasted quality. Karen had a try, and pulled The Face (first time I’ve seen her do that in a long time). She says it’s way too bitter, and yes it is fairly bitter, but my personal experience of drinking this was that it was comforting and quite nicely fruity.

Pete
September 5, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Thirty-Four)

(View previous instalments here)

Nirvana – Elderflower Lager

This is an insanely lively beer, as you can probably tell by the photo. When I removed the cap, it erupted like a silly geyser, and I managed to fill this pint glass up with 1cm of liquid and the rest of it froth. I took this photo once it had settled down to a slightly more sensible level. The head didn’t take too long to dissipate and vanish entirely.

The beer is pale and slightly cloudy. It smells sour, with a fustiness like a cupboard that hasn’t been opened for a while. Karen says “light and crisp, like a sauvignon blanc. Maybe I’m a beer drinker.” Seems to me that that’s the kind of thing that a wine drinker would say, no?

But yeah, it’s sour and winey. There isn’t an awful lot of elderflower in it, but to be honest there doesn’t seem to be much of anything else either.

Hoegaarden 0.0

This is thick and creamy, pale and cloudy, with that recognisable medicinal Hoegaarden smell and flavour, a bit orangey and weird. It’s slightly less dense and intense than the regular Hoegaarden, but you know maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

On the whole, it’s a decent choice and I’d have it again, but there are other superior options in this space.

Insel-Brauerei Skippers

This beer has a dark, orangey colour, and is cloudy with a creamy pour. As you can see, it has slightly novel packaging in that the bottle is wrapped in paper. The smell is fabulous – really malty and warming. The flavour is also a grand experience, though perhaps a little more bitter than I’d like. It’s certainly not lacking for impact.

Brussels Beer Project – Pico Bello

This is a hazy IPA with a pale colour and a reasonable head. It smells suitably fruity and sour, as you would expect from this sort of drink. However, the flavour is far, far sourer than the smell would set you up to expect. Karen is a big fan, and said “if beer was pleasant, that would be a pleasant beer.” It’s great, but for me, it’s not one of my favourites.

Encoder – Doppler

This beer has quite a deep amber colour and is clear with a head that is decent on pouring, but quickly fading. The smell is floral, but also with a dense darkness. The flavour is absolutely fantastic. I’ve remarked before in these reviews that there are loads of great alcohol-free wheat beers and light IPAs, and some decent lagers too, but the offerings for dark, autumnal beers are generally quite disappointing. This one, however, is a real winner in that category, and I can definitely see myself putting a handful of these in with my next order.

Pete
August 26, 2021

Pandemic Legacy: July

WARNING: This blog post contains shameless spoilers for Pandemic Legacy. Reading this blog post if you have not yet played the game will impair your enjoyment should you decide to play it in the future.

Previously, on Pandemic Legacy…

  • We lost our second attempt at May, giving us a losing streak of 4 games
  • We have a new character, Pike, whose character class is Soldier and has some useful skills which lend well to combatting the Faded
  • We won our first attempt at June, by a hair’s breadth

On to July! The first thing we did was to open box 8, which we should have done as soon as we lost our second attempt at May. This gave us 3 cards, similar to unfunded events, which would be shuffled into the player deck, and could be played against an epidemic to neutralise it (almost) entirely. There is, however, a cost to playing one of these. For one thing, you have to increase the panic level of a city. For another thing, each of these cards can only be used once, and must be destroyed immediately thereafter. I can envisage a situation where one of these could potentially save us from a late-game outbreak cascade.

Our win bonus for June granted us the choice of either adding some equipment stickers to city cards, or placing some roadblocks. We figured we’d probably go for the latter option, but since we didn’t have to decide until after setup is completed, we set this card to one side for now.

June win bonus

We then unveiled our mission for July. A virologist has gone missing, and we need to search for them in research stations in faded cities. The instructions on the cards here seemed to be incorrect, as we didn’t have all the tokens we were supposed to have. After some online research, we discovered that we were also supposed to open box 5, and indeed the necessary tokens were in there.

The search for the virologist

One thing to note about this is that with each epidemic, the goal token for the search moved on by one. Therefore, it would make strategic sense to try to do this as early as possible. We now had the following objectives, of which we needed to do three in total:

  • Find cures for all 3 diseases (mandatory)
  • Eradicate 1 disease
  • Find the virologist
  • Finish the game with 7 quarantined faded cities
  • Build a military base in each of the 6 regions

We felt that it made sense to prioritise the search for the virologist as we reasoned that this might give us other benefits in future games.

The setup for this game was so bad that we laughed. There was a huge, huge bias towards the Faded cities, with 11 of the 18 initial disease tokens landing in this region.

Lots of starting tokens in the Faded cities

This made choosing our win bonus a no-brainer. We deployed some roadblocks to try to contain the worst of the mess. We isolated Beijing entirely, and also placed a roadblock between Tokyo and San Francisco. While San Francisco is already Faded, we definitely did not like the prospect of Tokyo spilling over and turning North America into a crisis zone.

Initial roadblocks

We played the same characters as last time, but swapped the players:

  • Jonesy the Generalist (Susan)
  • Ewan the Quarantine Specialist (Karen)
  • Pike the Soldier (Pete)
  • Colonel K*D (Gammidgy)

We began the game, and naturally our initial priority was to contain the situation in the Faded region. The first epidemic card came up and was for Mumbai. We were happy with this – it was well away from any other hotspots, and quite close to a research station, so wouldn’t be too tricky to handle. An infection occured in Shanghai, where Colonel K*D had ended their previous turn, so unless we could do something about that, they would pick up a scar at the start of their next turn.

The soldier quickly made their way to the military base in Shanghai, in order to put a grenade belt sticker on one of their city cards. This is an invaluable tool in fighting the Faded, though it’s not going to be so easy next time round, as now there are no free grenade belt equipment stickers left, we’re going to have to wait for one of the the grenade belt equipment cards to come up in the deck. With this grenade belt, they were able to ensure that Colonel K*D would be safe at the start of their next turn.

Ewan made good use of their character upgrade to check the top cards in the infection deck at the start of their turn. We gave them this upgrade back in March, but because of the 15 month interim period between games, we had forgotten entirely about it. It turned out to be very useful – they were able to predict when both Tokyo and Kinshasha were due up next, and both were on the cusp of outbreak already. With this knowledge, they placed quarantine tokens on both cities and averted a double crisis.

The search for the virologist proceeded extremely well, with both the Soldier and the Colonel contributing. We had a research station in Tokyo, so this was the location where it happened, and the presence of a quarantine token there also contributed an additional bonus to searching. Within a matter of minutes we were within one spot of our target. An epidemic occurred in Miami (again, this was a fairly lucky draw, as this wasn’t close to any existing danger areas) which pushed the search target back out one square, but as long as the quarantine in Tokyo held, it was still achievable on the soldier’s next turn.

Found the virologist!

And indeed, we found them. We now have the gene sequence of COdA! We are utterly baffled as to the implications of this, but surely it will all become apparent at some point in the near future.

Meanwhile, we’d been gradually funnelling city cards into the hands of those who could make use of them. The Soldier can’t cure diseases at all, and the Colonel requires 2 extra cards, so it fell down to Jonesy the Generalist and Ewan the Quarantine Specialist. The yellow disease was the first to be cured, and at this point we had a general feeling that the board was mostly under control.

It’s not as bad as it looks

Yes, it’s true that LA looks a bit shaky. But that pink pawn is a soldier, and they’re about to swoop in with the grenade belt and clear out that city in one turn

At this point the time taken for us to take each turn increased significantly. We could sense that we were at a sort of tipping point, where victory was within our grasp, but we had to play smart and weigh up the options. By working together, we eradicated yellow entirely, giving us a second optional objective completed.

The next epidemic card came out two minutes later, and it was for the yellow disease, the one we’d just eradicated! Gammidgy was heard to utter “I think we’re gonna win”, as the blue cure dropped into place.

In the closing stages of the game, an epidemic in Delhi occurred, followed by the Delhi card coming up immediately thereafter. This was pretty bad as neighbouring Karachi already had 3 cubes in it, causing a double outbreak in these two cities. Their panic levels have increased accordingly.

Double outbreak

Had we been able to cure the black a turn or two earlier, this could have been avoided, but to be honest it’s tolerable. The state of the board, on a whole, looks okay. We’ve done a decent job of constraining the spread of the Faded, and there are only 3 Faded cities beyond the original ones. We feel like this is a pretty good showing. And while there are a few Faded cities that are now in a state of rioting, most of the cities don’t seem to have degenerated too much.

For our game-end actions, we did the following:

  • Applied a positive mutation to the (eradicated) yellow disease, so we no longer need to spend an action to cure it.
  • Gave a character upgrade to the Generalist. They now have “Veteran” which allows them to use the military shuttles. We’ve decided to start flinging more character upgrades at the Generalist, as they have space for 4 (whereas most characters only have space for 2)

The Generalist is now a veteran

Which rules have we been getting wrong this time?

This seems to happen every time, so I’ve decided to make a dedicated section at the bottom of each blog post. Back at the start of May, a new rule was introduced. I wrote about it at the time:

There is a small increase in the infection rate of the Faded – now, whenever a player draws a city card that corresponds to a Faded city, one Faded figure gets added to the relevant city.

It’s a long time since we’ve remembered about that rule, if indeed we ever have. Oops. Next game’s gonna be a bit tougher, I guess.

 

Pete
August 25, 2021

Deep immersion

I have a tendency to take up a hobby, and take it up hard. I buy all the stuff. I read all the websites, and any books available. I find like-minded people on the internet, or in real life if I’m lucky. I buy more stuff. This is fine when it’s a cheap and not particularly time-consuming hobby like learning to draw, or something that I will continue to do for a long time, like running. Fortunately I have not yet taken up driving sports cars or anything too mid-life crisisy. But there is some evidence that open water swimming is my Next Big Thing. Look how ridiculously pleased with myself I am:
Me in the sea, looking really pleased with myself

Swimming is not so much like running. To run, you need a good pair of shoes, a sports bra, and comfortable clothing that you don’t mind being seen in. You leave the house, you start running, you run as much as you feel like, then you return to the house and get a shower. You feel smug for the rest of the day.

To swim, you need a swimming costume you don’t mind being seen in, a brightly coloured hat and a tow float to ensure that you definitely can be seen, a pair of water shoes if you don’t know what it will be like underfoot, a towel and preferably a massive changing robe, something to wear afterwards, access to a hot drink, some means of carrying your valuables while in the water, and in my case, a change of glasses so that you can see where you’re going without risking not being able to drive home. Unless you’re very lucky, you need to travel to the water, rearrange your clothing, and talk yourself past the initial cold shock when you think it’s all a terrible idea. If in the sea, you can bimble around a bit and get splashed in the face, which is fun. If in a river, you have to swim up to the point that you have decided is halfway, and then swim all the way back (which is easier because part 2 is downstream, but if you’re already cold, you still have to keep going). If in a lake you have to book and pay money and swim around a course, but the upside is there are grebes and swans and coots and grey wagtails, which are all excellent. Then you have to get out and it’s cold and you have to take off wet things and put dry clothes on your damp body and drink your hot drink and put your wet things in a waterproof bag and drive home and have a shower. Then you can feel smug for the rest of the day.

In the lake you will also encounter the people that Susan and I refer to as The Triathletes. You can tell these people by the fact that they wear wetsuits when the water is over 20 degrees, and goggles, and they do the crawl, and they don’t notice the grebes or swans or coots or grey wagtails. They render the water choppy as they zoom past. They have very expensive changing robes with zips. They have to make a lot more effort to get the smug feeling. We are hoping not to succumb to any of this.

If you have a nice place to swim nearby, I will come and visit you.

Karen
August 22, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Thirty-Three)

(View previous instalments here)

Binary Botanical

I dropped into a new shop in town and picked this up on a whim as it was their only alcohol-free beer. I talked to the guy behind the counter, and to be honest it didn’t really sound like my thing, but in the interests of satisfying my own curiosity, I bought it anyway.

This has a deep golden colour and is thin, clear and bubbly. On the bottle it claims to be “the wine lover’s beer” and it does smell very much like white wine, with a grapefruity aspect too. I wasn’t terribly enamoured of the taste either – to be honest it tastes like a fairly musty and cheap white wine, with perhaps a slight beerishness mixed in there, albeit very subtly.

Leffe Blond

Heading over for our regular Pandemic Legacy sesh, I stopped off at the supermarket to stock up. I saw this on the shelves, which I’ve never had before! I was fairly optimistic that this would be a good beer, because it’s Leffe.

It has a deep colour and the slightest of slight heads. The smell is good, very well balanced, with hops and malt and a bit of biscuitiness. Karen had a little sip of this one and remarked that it “tastes like a haystack” and I’m not sure what to make of that. For me, I was very pleased with this beer, it has a nice full flavour and a good mouthfeel.

Lowtide “Are Wheat There Yet”

This (and the next two beers) were purchased from the Twelve Ounce Bottle Shop in Crouch End, and consumed in a Best Western hotel in Suffolk.

This beer is clear and pale, with a nice head plus a steady bubbling in the glass. The smell is fairly sour and hoppy, and the flavour had a somewhat surprising savoury nature to it. Karen took a sip, as she so often does, and said pretty much exactly the same thing, so we were both pleased about that. There is some coriander in it, which could be a large contributing factor.

Big Drop “Rush Rider” Pastry Sour

This has a pinkish colour and very little head. The smell is of raspberry and vanilla, which ironically enough matches the shower gel that I’m using at the moment. This could get confusing if I don’t keep my wits about me. Karen was very enamoured of this drink – she said “that is a fruity taste – peaches or strawberries – and I would drink that!” For me, sadly it falls into the category of something that’s fairly nice as a soft drink, but doesn’t satisfy my desire for a beer.

Lowtide “Atomic Blonde”

By now it was getting late in the evening and the light was poor, so I was worried that the photo wouldn’t come out very well. The head on this one faded very quickly. Karen took a sip of this one and exclaimed “Basil!” which I couldn’t tell whether it was a reference to the flavour of the drink, or a cutting remark upon the nature of the hotel that we were staying in.

This is an apricot beer, and to me, the flavour combination just didn’t work. Sometimes you throw together two things that shouldn’t work, and they do, but sometimes you throw together two things that shouldn’t work, and surprise surprise, they don’t work.

Pete
August 16, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Thirty-Two)

(View previous instalments here)

All of these beers are from this month’s AFBeerClub box, which had a very lagery focus. As before, I’m failing to completely keep up, so I am not expecting to have tried (and reviewed) everything in the backlog before the next box arrives. That said, I do have a short holiday coming up soon, so perhaps this time if I’m brave and take all of them with me, I might be able to get somewhere.

Kaiserdom Lager Beer

This beer has an absolutely gorgeous head, and a classic deep golden lager colour, and a classic Bavarian-style lagery smell. Likewise the flavour is superb, an absolutely faultless example of its genre. I defy any lager fan to not love this beer.

Sheep In Wolfs Clothing – Lager Day Saints

Very cute packaging, an immense head, this is a clear beer with a medium pale colour. The smell is crisp, and a tiny bit medicinal. The flavour was a bit disappointing – sour, and a bit watery. I would have liked something with a bit more oomph. Karen tried this one and said “it’s a bit sour and lagery, isn’t it?” which is a very accurate assessment, and I assure you that she was not coached in any way. Scoring this one is a bit borderline, but according to my rigorous chart, it will be…

Good Karma – Happy Pils

This beer is thin and clear with a slightly pinkish hue. And yes, I know that the photo doesn’t look pink exactly, but trust me, when you’re looking at it then you do think “yes, that’s pink. For a beer.”

I felt that this one smelled a lot like apple juice, and tasted like… well, very little altogether.

Stiegl Freibier

This one is medium pale with a very very small head. It smells a little wheatbeery, and the whole very pleasant. The flavour is sharp but refreshing and a little fruity. This disappeared down my throat in very little time at all. It’s incredibly moreish.

Pete
August 15, 2021

Pandemic Legacy: May (Part Two) / June

WARNING: This blog post contains shameless spoilers for Pandemic Legacy. Reading this blog post if you have not yet played the game will impair your enjoyment should you decide to play it in the future.

Previously, on Pandemic Legacy…

  • We lost our first attempt at May, giving us a losing streak of 3 games
  • We can now set up roadblocks to prevent the spread of disease when outbreaks occur
  • We have a new character, Colonel K*D, who can remove the Faded

May (Second Attempt)

It took us a while to set up the game, as Gammidgy and Susan have two new kittens, who are incredibly cute but distracting. Eventually we managed to gather our focus, and things could start happening.

We decided to start using the Generalist. Their special skill is that they can take 5 actions per turn instead of 4, which sounds a bit unglamourous, but once we start adding character upgrades and relationships to this character they could potentially become very powerful. We named them Jonesy, after the cat in Alien, and completely forgot that we could give them a relationship with an existing character. We addressed this at the end of the game. Our character selections were:

  • Jonesy the Generalist (Susan)
  • Ewan the Quarantine Specialist (Gammidgy)
  • Wei the Dispatcher (Pete)
  • Colonel K*D (Karen)

The initial allocation of disease cubes was a bit wonky, with not a single blue cube out. For the first few turns we felt like we were staying nicely on top of everything, though we weren’t making much headway in terms of getting colour groups of city cards into players’ hands.

The first epidemic occurred in Montreal, which suited us well, as it looked like the most threatening region was probably the Faded cities. That said, the quarantine tokens were doing their job nicely over there, so we weren’t too stressed.

After the first epidemic

With black well under control, we narrowly dodged an outbreak when Susan cleared the blue cubes from Montreal on her turn and then immediately drew Montreal from the infection deck. With four black cards in my hand (enough to cure the disease) the Faded cities were starting to become a cause for some concern.

The next epidemic occurred in New York, a blue city. Handily, the blue disease has the mutation that allows us to remove all cubes from a city in one action, so it was barely an annoyance.

Thanks to a positive mutation, Susan was able to clear all these blue cubes in one turn, leaving not one single blue cube on the board

Colonel K*D was over in East Asia single-handedly trying (and struggling) to stay on top of the Faded cities. One of our optional objectives is to have quarantine tokens on 7 Faded cities, which nicely aligns with our need to keep those cities quarantined for our own safety anyway.

This doesn’t look good, does it?

We found the cure for the black disease, but those Faded cities were still a problem. We managed to achieve one of the optional objectives, which is to have a military base in each of the 6 regions, which means that the optional objective to have 7 quarantined Faded cities was no longer so pressing. The third epidemic card came out but it was another fairly inconsequential location (Sao Paulo) so we were all feeling quite positive. This was one of the best games we’d had in a long time!

We knew that a double outbreak in East Asia couldn’t be avoided for long, and indeed it eventually came. Managing this area was seeming like an increasingly doomed endeavour. We had another lucky epidemic draw – this time Cairo, and since the black disease had by now been totally eradicated, no cubes needed to be placed. The black disease being eradicated also meant that we had ticked off two optional objectives, leaving only the mandatory objective to find cures for blue and yellow. However, as a consequence of the epidemic, you also reshuffle the discard pile back onto the top of the deck, and this resulted in more outbreaks. Our chances of winning this game were looking vanishingly small. Ho Chi Minh City now joins Manila and Hong Kong as being fully fallen cities.

Fallen cities in East Asia

At this point, we knew that the game was pretty much unwinnable, so we started to focus our efforts on damage control, basically making sure that the Faded didn’t spread to any new cities, and that no cities degraded further, as these losses would be permanent. We got another lucky epidemic draw in a black city, but that wasn’t enough to save us.

For our game-end actions, we did the following:

  • Gave Jonesy a belated relationship of “Co-worker” with Colonel K*D, which aids sharing of city cards between the two. We did this because we noticed that Colonel K*D has a tendency to accumulate city cards in their hand that they can’t use, as they can’t leave East Asia for long enough to do any card trading, and they also can’t really do any disease-curing of their own.
  • Also gave Colonel K*D a character upgrade “Local Pressure”, allowing them to quarantine adjacent cities as long as they are in a military base. This would allow them (for example) to stand in the relatively-safe Jakarta or Shanghai and keep slapping quarantine tokens on the perilous Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Converted 3 of the roadblocks in the Faded region to be permanent.

Co-workers forever (photo taken before the Colonel’s character upgrade sticker was added)

June

Now at this point we had lost 4 games in a row, so should have opened box 8, but we entirely forgot. We might do that at the start of the next game.

The missing briefing for June brought only good news – we have access to new equipment, which takes the form of little stickers that you can apply to city cards in your hand when you’re in a research station or military base, which then give the city card a permanent second purpose – more about them when we get to them. We also have a new player, the Soldier. He has a couple of useful abilities for fighting the Faded, but the disadvantage that he can not discover cures at all. We named him Pike and gave him the relationship of “Rivals” with Ewan, as it felt like he would be liable to end up with a handful of city cards that he can’t use (as he can’t discover cures, and might struggle to meet up with other characters to trade cards) so this seemed like a good way of getting those cards into Ewan’s hand.

Don’t tell him your name

The initial allocation of cubes was an odd one, with a cluster of blues in North America and a few Faded outside of the usual danger zone. This was potentially good news, as the blues could be removed easily in a single turn (thanks to the positive mutation on that disease). The Fadeds were a bit more of an unknown quantity – on the plus side, they were all in cities that we could get into easily, making them easy to manage. On the minus side, if outbreaks started occurring up there, then we’d find ourselves with more unmanageable Faded cities on our plate.

Blue cluster

Some cheeky Fadeds

Our character choices were:

  • Jonesy the Generalist (Gammidgy)
  • Ewan the Quarantine Specialist (Susan)
  • Pike the Soldier (Pete)
  • Colonel K*D (Karen)

The overall plan here was to put a bit more resources into managing the Faded cities, as that was basically what tripped us up last time. We were playing without the Dispatcher for the first time in a long time, perhaps even ever, which made us a bit hesitant, as they’ve been a really useful character. However, the four above seemed the most sensible team right now.

Early game I leaned hard into exploiting the new equipment options. I upgraded one of my red city cards to have a “Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells” capability, so that it could be used as a wild card (ie any colour) when finding a disease cure. I used this card as the necessary “payment” to get through the roadblock from Shanghai to Beijing (which K*D had created) and Ewan was able to then pick it up by discarding two city cards. I also upgraded one city card with the “Grenade Belt” option as this seemed to have huge potential for my character.

Grenade Belt FTW

With the Soldier’s ability to pick up any equipment from the discard pile as an action, I could keep playing this card for its effect, and then picking it back up until I ran out of actions for my turn. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pandemic Legacy game without a misreading of the rules, and I played through the entire game without registering the “Not an action” note, so as a result using two actions per usage (one to use, one to pick back up) when I should have been using just one.

The first epidemic came out, and it was in Taipei. We immediately played a funded event card (of which we have 8 in the deck now, thanks to our losing streak of 4 games) to remove Taipei from the deck for the remainder of the game. This would mean that we could stop worrying about Taipei entirely (unless nearby cities started to outbreak, of course).

Other examples of some of the fantastic new equipment available to us are the Drone Escort (which acts as a wild card for entering collapsing and fallen cities) and the Hazmat Suit (which allows you to start a turn in a city with a Faded without gaining a scar).

Look at all this lovely equipment! We were really digging this latest addition

The second epidemic came out, this time in San Francisco, which we could have done without. Pike immediately shifted their focus to managing this threat, and things were back under control. The black disease was cured soon after.

Epidemic in San Francisco

While there were a few Fadeds on the board, it felt like everything was fairly manageable at the moment. We had a slightly annoying moment where an epidemic came out for Istanbul, and there were only 2 black cubes on the board. If we’d eradicated it a little sooner, then the epidemic would have been a non-event.

Not as bad as it looks

The same thing happened again, in Chennai. Annoying, but again, manageable. Eventually we managed to eradicate black, and having also built the requisite 6 military bases, our requirement for optional objectives was complete. Victory would now depend upon whether we could get useful city cards out of the hands of the Colonel and the Soldier, and into the hands of the other two players. The danger now was not one of outbreaks, but running out of cards in the player deck! Adding up the cards, we knew that we could afford one turn each. We took a few minutes to look at our options. It seemed hopeless, until we realised that with a bit of thought, this could possibly work. The Generalist was already in Miami with 4 yellow city cards, and even though the Colonel was currently in South-East Asia, their co-worker relationship meant that proximity was no object to getting the Miami card from the Colonel to the General. So yellow was sorted. Blue was also doable – the Quarantine Specialist already held 4, and the Soldier held the New York card. If the Soldier finished their turn in New York, the Quarantine Specialist could meet them there on their turn, take the card, find the cure, and the game would be ours! We played out our final turns with bated breath, until we realised at the final second that we’d miscalculated, and the Quarantine Specialist had run out of actions before they could actually find the cure! Shocked and dejected, we cursed our luck, until we realised that the “Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells” that I’d given to Ewan way back at the start of the game meant that Ewan didn’t actually need New York at all! We had won by a hair’s breadth!

Life saver

As our bonus for winning a game, we were given a new optional game-end upgrade that granted us the capability to add three equipment stickers to any city cards, if we so desired. We chose not to, and instead chose the following two upgrades:

  • We still felt bad about selecting positive mutations out of order (which we had realised during the April game), so we did another gap-filling on black. Not a very useful upgrade, it only means we don’t need to spend an action point to discover the cure, but it assuaged our guilt
  • We decided to place a starting military base in Jakarta, as it’s a really useful location for managing the fallen Faded cities, and the fast travel network is especially useful to the Colonel.

We were buoyed up by our victory, but also aware that it was the narrowest of narrow victories, and unless July brings more good news, we’re going to be in trouble again.

Pete
August 11, 2021

Cooking alphabetically around the world Part 4

You last heard from this project back in June, when I was steaming through it and expecting to finish it by half way through the year, at which point I would roll back to A and do it all again by Christmas. It has after all been a great deal of fun. Then life happened all over the place, and here we are in the middle of August, having finally reached Z. Just finding the notes for the dishes I have cooked since June is going to be quite the challenge; here goes…

J: Jordanian Mansaf
This was not one of the successes of the project, and the recipe did not make it into the ring binder. In theory, it is a layered dish starting with a flour tortilla, rice, lamb which has been boiled, and a yoghurty sauce with toasted nuts on top, all of which sounds good on paper. As you can see, it did not look so attractive off the page:

Pete was not terribly enamoured of it, mainly liking the bottom and top layers but nothing in the middle. Bernard thought it was okay. I thought it was a rigmarole to cook and an unpleasant dish to eat, and rather wish we’d opted for Japan instead.
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Karen