November 28, 2021

Pandemic Legacy: September (Part Two) / October

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 found an immunologist
  • We won our first attempt at August
  • The virologist is now a playable character
  • We found the paranoid soldier, which revealed that the military are not our friends, and Pike is no longer playable
  • We lost our first attempt at September

September (Second Attempt)

With the paranoid soldier found, we now only have two optional objectives for September, meaning that they are effectively all mandatory. We will need to quarantine 7 cities in the Faded zone, and sabotage 2 military bases.

Our new objectives for September

The initial distribution of disease cubes gave us very little in the black zone, but quite a few Faded. We decided to start in Atlanta, as there were 3 cubes there that we’d be able to deal with very quickly.

Four intrepid pawns, ready to save the world

We selected the following characters to play as:

  • Jonesy the Generalist (Gammidgy)
  • Colonel K*D (Susan)
  • Ewan the Quarantine Specialist (Pete)
  • Moira Rose the Scientist (Karen)

The rationale here was that Colonel K*D and Ewan would be good at staying on top of the Faded, and doing lots of quarantining (bear in mind that K*D has the character upgrade that allows them to quarantine adjacent cities as long as they are in a region with a military base), and that Jonesy and Moira Rose would be able to handle curing the 3 diseases between them. Sabotaging two military bases would happen as and when the opportunities arose.

We did at this point accidentally cheat in two ways, and realised our mistakes later in this session. Firstly, at the end of last game, Tokyo descended into Rioting state, so the starting research station should have been destroyed. We noticed this until the start of October, so I think that we were only able to exploit this a small number of times. Secondly, one of the new rules introduced in the last game was that one starting military base should be placed when placing the initial infection cubes. We realised this about 3/4 of the way through this playing session.

We started playing. Within a few turns we seemed to be making progress on the optional objectives, with 3 quarantine tokens out and one military base (Bogota) sabotaged, but the number of Faded figures was definitely on the increase.

They’re multiplying alarmingly quickly

The first epidemic came out in Milan, which was a fairly quiet corner of the board, so not too threatening. Within a couple of minutes, the black disease cure was found, as Moira Rose only requires 3 black city cards to find the cure for this one. With very few black cubes left on the board, eradication looked achievable. Another epidemic came soon after, in Hong Kong. The presence of a quarantine marker on this city meant that the only impact was that we lost the marker, however with only four city cards being shuffled back in, there was the potential for chaos. On the plus side, knowing what city cards were about to come up meant that we could be prepared.

Within the next couple of turns we had the black disease eradicated and the Madrid military base destroyed, meaning one of our three objectives was met. Karen was holding a funded event card that would allow her to place two quarantine tokens anywhere, meaning that as long as we could keep 5 or more quarantine tokens active on Faded cities, we’d be able to tick off that objective as soon as the cures were found.

Military base sabotage objective: mission accomplished!

This is what a destroyed military base looks like

At this point, there seems to be an omission in my notes. I’m not sure at exactly what point the yellow disease was cured, but I do know that we were able to get 5 blue city cards into my hand, so a cure was imminent. Still, with lots of Fadeds and yellow cubes on the board, and the quarantine markers continually being destroyed and redeployed, success was far from guaranteed.

Many Fadeds and yellow cubes on the west coast

A lot of Faded over there too

At this point in my notes I’ve written just “Beijing”, which I assume means an epidemic there. Not sure what else it could mean.

Fortunately, all went to plan. With all three cures eventually in place, and 6 quarantine tokens on the board, Karen played her magic card…

A very useful card

…and the game was won. We felt that this was the best game we’d had in a long time – we won quite comfortably, with lots of cards still left in the player deck, and zero outbreaks.

The win bonus for this month was underwhelming – for each game in October, we would have a choice of either advancing a search by one space, or adding an equipment sticker to a city card.

Underwhelming Win Bonus

We struggled to choose our game-end upgrades here, as so many felt inapplicable. While the black disease was eradicated, there were no more positive mutations available for it. We ended up selecting the “Nuclear Option” unfunded event, which first appeared on the scene back at the end of August, and the “Hero” character upgrade for Moira Rose which would allow them to self-sacrifice at any time.

The Nuclear Option. Let’s hope we never need it.

Our hero Moira

October

Our first attempt at October brought us a new objective in the form of a new search. This time, we must find patient zero, who was to be found in the city where the Faded first appeared (in our case, Beijing). We suspected that once we found them, we’d have the DNA sample, which would be the final key in unlocking box 7. There seemed to be a lot of value in prioritising this search.

The search for patient zero

The rules on this search were similar to before, in that discarding a red city card would advance us 1 space, whereas discarding the exact city card (Beijing) would advance us 3 spaces. However, having a military base in Beijing would advance us 2 spaces per search, so we decided to use the Beijing card (which fortunately was dealt out to Gammidgy in his initial hand) to build a military base, as that would net us more benefit in the long run. We used our win bonus from September to advance one space immediately.

The initial disease cube allocation was reasonably well spread out, with the only concerning spot being two adjacent cities in the black region at 3 and 2 cubes respectively. We chose the following characters:

  • Wei the Dispatcher (Gammidgy)
  • Colonel K*D (Susan)
  • Ewan the Quarantine Specialist (Pete)
  • Moira Rose the Scientist (Karen)

We felt that the dispatcher could be particularly useful here in moving people around, with a particular emphasis on teleporting players into Beijing for search purposes. Where there’s a Wei, there’s a way. Karen gets credit for that line.

A mildly alarming clump of cubes in the black region. City Zero (Beijing) also helpfully pointed out

We got a really good setup in Beijing nice and early. Gammidgy went to Beijing, build the military base as planned, brought Ewan (me) in, and Ewan (me) then placed down a quarantine token (which would be protected by Ewan’s presence). This made Beijing a good safe haven and we could search in relative peace.

Beijing safe haven

Ewan (me) also had three red city cards in their hand, so on their next turn would be able to get 6 spaces along the search track, putting us within 2 spots of the target (epidemics notwithstanding).

Our first epidemic popped up in Chennai soon after. Not a location that was too troubling, but it did mean that the search target moved one spot further away, and we had disappointingly few red city cards in our hands.

Soon thereafter we found a cure for the black disease. At this stage in the game, it was too early to take a stab at whether we were going to win this or not. The search was going okay, but progress on placing lots of quarantine tokens in the Faded cities, and finding other cures, was very slow.

Another epidemic popped up in Beijing, but thanks to the quarantine token, no Faded were placed. Furthermore, Ewan’s presence meant that the quarantine token wasn’t even removed! We laughed at our good fortune, though the search target lumbered steadily further away. Sadly, with the cards shuffled back into the deck, San Francisco outbreaked, resulting in a Faded spilling into Chicago. We’ve generally done a good job of preventing the spread of Faded beyond the initial zone, and have contained it to Kolkata and two (now three) cities in North America.

On Susan’s next turn, she located patient zero in Beijing. Indeed, this gave us the DNA samples, which, combined with the key to the virus development records which we got when we found the paranoid soldier, and the gene sequence which we got when we found the virologist, allows us to open box 7, the final unopened box.

Box 7, here we come

Box 7 contained a veritable cornucopia of goodies.

What’s in the box?

We can now manufacture vaccines! First, we must build vaccine factories (those four orange building tokens) in a similar way to how research stations are built. With that done, vaccines (those tiny orange nuggets) will be steadily produced at the factories. We need to collect those vaccines and take them to Faded cities. Each nugget can destroy one Faded. When there are no Faded left in a city, another nugget will convert it to a vaccinated city. Once it’s vaccinated, it is Faded no longer, and the only way that it can acquire disease cubes is via an outbreak of one of the three regular diseases.

The rate of vaccine manufacture is potentially quite high

Our objectives for this game were also altered. The “quarantine 7 Faded cities” one was removed, and we now have the following (of which we must perform one) in addition to the regular “find 3 cures” mandatory objective:

  • Sabotage 2 military bases (as before)
  • Have 3 vaccine factories on the board
  • Have 6 vaccinated cities on the board

There was one significant caveat to the vaccination rules, which is that the presence of a military base in a region would make vaccinating harder (ie require more nuggets). We therefore deduced that sabotaging those military bases over in Shanghai and Jakarta would probably be a prerequisite to making any serious inroads into vaccination progress over there.

Box 7 also gave us a new “immunologist” playable character, who can vaccinate more efficiently. It’s likely we’ll want to use them in the next game.

Once we’d processed all these new rule changes, and the change in priorities, it took us a while to get back into our rhythm, and the next few turns took a very long time to play. We found a blue cure eventually, but then an epidemic broke out in Washington. We knew that we would be at very great risk of an immediate outbreak once the cards were reshuffled back into the deck, so Moira Rose heroically self-sacrificed and took a scar.

It now takes Moira an additional action to quarantine (not that she ever did it that often anyway)

Our first vaccine factory was built by Susan in Sao Paulo. Another nice benefit of the vaccine factories is that they link into the research station fast-travel network. Since we’re now going to be destroying military bases, we are going to need to build a new network, centred around vaccine factories.

The first vaccine factory

With an outbreak in Lagos, the number of yellow cubes is starting to grow, and we need to do something to address it. We then had an epidemic come out in Ho Chi Minh City, which already contained 3 Faded. At first, we thought this not too much of a problem, as it is already in a Fallen state, so it couldn’t get any worse. But then, it dawned on us that allowing this epidemic to play out would actually have significant ramifications elsewhere, so we allowed ourselves to unwind time, and use our third and final “get out of jail free” card to pretend that the epidemic didn’t happen. The necessary cost is to increase a city’s panic level, so we chose Essen as the victim, and changed it to unstable.

Meanwhile Istanbul had been steadily worsening, and an outbreak there while Moira Rose was in the city caused her to take a second scar. We fear that she is not long for this world, and probably won’t play her again, as one more scar would finish her off entirely. She has paid dearly in this game, and her sacrifices will not be forgotten.

Moira is now also unable to sabotage

By now it was 20 minutes since we’d found the blue cure, nearly an hour since we’d found patient zero, a full hour since we’d found the black cure, nearly 90 minutes since we’d played our first turn, and nearly two hours since we’d started setting up this attempt at October. Finding the final cure was definitely looking doable, as I had four yellow city cards in my hand, though none of our three remaining optional objectives looked within reach. We resigned ourselves to losing this game, and refocused our attentions on damage limitation, and actions that would set us up well for the next attempt. I drew a yellow city card during the “draw cards” phase at the end of my turn. The positive mutations on the yellow disease meant that it did not require an action, nor for me to be in a research station, so we decided that it was allowed for me to do the cure even though we were technically past the action phase of my turn.

There was an outbreak in St Petersburg at this time, and then Susan realised that she had the power to win us the game. With K*D’s ability to do a direct flight or charter flight without using up the card, she could simply fly into any city, use the card to build a vaccine factory, and then do the same a second time. With 3 vaccine factories on the board, that would give us one of our optional objectives! All we needed was for Gammidgy to keep us alive for his turn. He was able to do so, and the victory was ours!

An inspired, game-winning play by Susan

With the game complete, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief, and took a short break before reconvening to talk game-end upgrades. After reviewing the options extensively, we decided that upgrading two of our new vaccine factories to starting vaccine factories was our best plan. It would help to build our fast travel network, give us good vaccine production facilities off the bat, and get us 2/3 of the way towards one of our optional objectives.

Sao Paulo and Khartoum are now starting vaccine factories

We also spent some time discussing how we’d attack November. We agreed that getting a nice corridor of vaccinated cities through the Faded zone would be useful, with a vaccine factory in a key location (probably Shanghai or Kolkata) as a base of operations. Our options here are limited by the fact that any city with an unrest level of 2 or more can not contain a vaccine factory, which rules out a lot of that side of the board. The three Fallen cities would be particularly hard to get to, but once they were vaccinated, we wouldn’t have to worry about them again. We find ourselves feeling very ambivalent about the military bases – on the one hand, they grant useful abilities to some of our characters, in terms of providing fast travel, and K*D’s capability to quarantine adjacent cities, and their presence allows us to attach equipment stickers to city cards, and makes the “sabotage 2 military bases” objective easier. But on the other hand, their existence in the Faded zone will slow down vaccination efforts, so they’ve got to go. November is going to be interesting. We have a suspicion that one of the December objectives will be to vaccinate all Faded cities – it may even be the mandatory objective, replacing the “find 3 cures” that we’ve lived with for so long – so if we’re right, there’s a lot to be said for making as much headway as possible on the vaccination project as soon as possible, and perhaps even intentionally losing our first attempt at November so that we can get twice as many cities vaccinated before we go into December. One thing’s for sure – after this successful playing session, we’re very eagerly looking forward to our next meetup!

Pete
November 11, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Thirty-Nine)

(View previous instalments here)

Nøgne – Julefri

This is a very dark, Christmas-themed beer. Now, on the plus side, I’ve tried one other beer from this brewery and it’s possible the greatest alcohol-free dark beer that I’ve ever tasted. So, that’s promising. On the negative side, I’m terrified by Christmas-themed variations on drinks. They are, in my experience, abominations that should not be allowed.

The pour is as dark and viscous as I had anticipated, which makes sense as I imagine that the Svart/Hvit was used as a base for this concoction. The smell does certainly make you think “yep, stereotypical Christmas shite right there” with ginger, cinnamon and cloves. As is so often the case, Karen gets a sip in before me, and she remarked that it smells better than it tastes. However, I think I disagree. While the smell is a tacky assault of Christmas spices, the flavour is actually much better balanced, and the spices don’t dominate quite as much. That said, you know what would be even better? If they weren’t there at all.

While it’s not as bad as I had braced for, this is very much a novelty beer and I don’t see a reason why I’d buy it again.

Mash Gang – Transcendence

This is a pale, cloudy IPA with a pleasing head. The aroma is very hoppy but with a lot of sweet fruitiness to it as well. The flavour has a sharpness, but perhaps a bit on the watery side – the overall levels are good, but just at a much lower intensity across the board than ideal. Karen observes citrus and grapefruit.

Lowtide – West Coast Hop Lock

To round out this batch, we have a clear medium-golden coloured IPA. The smell is enticing – there’s hoppiness there, but it’s delicate and restrained. The flavour is, in my opinion, absolute perfection. Stimulating but not upsetting, sharp but invigoratingly so.

Pete
November 7, 2021

Pandemic Legacy: August / September (Part One)

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 found a virologist
  • We won our first attempt at July

The title of this post probably gives a little something away about how our games during this session went, but I’ll gloss over that.

August

We opened the missing briefing for August – we have been given an optional objective to search for an immunologist. The process is similar for the search for the virologist, but the search must now take place in rioting (unrest level 2 or 3) cities in the Faded zone.

The search for the immunologist

We also have a new rule called “Self-Sacrifice”, that allows you to skip the infect step of your turn, at the cost of taking a scar. This felt very unappealing to us, as it’s such a permanent handicap, though I can see that in later games we might be prepared to take this exchange.

The new self-sacrifice rule

The optional objective to eradicate one disease entirely has now been removed, meaning we now have the following optional objectives, of which we must complete two:

  • Find the immunologist
  • Quarantine 7 Faded cities
  • Build military bases in all 6 regions

The initial disease distribution for August was very heavily balanced towards the Faded cities – exactly like in July, 11 of the 18 disease tokens in that area. Of the two starting city cards I was dealt, one was a grenade belt, so it seemed a no-brainer that I would continue playing as Pike, the soldier. The full set of characters we played for this game were:

  • Jonesy the Generalist (Gammidgy)
  • Derek the Operations Expert (Karen)
  • Pike the Soldier (Pete)
  • Colonel K*D (Susan)

Basically the same as last time, but with Derek swapped in for the Quarantine Specialist. We reasoned that this would help us to fulfil the optional objective of getting 6 military bases, but in hindsight, given that we already have 3 starting military bases, we perhaps overestimated the challenge of this particular objective. Especially as the win bonus from July allows us to place one new starting military base (which we put in Bogota) and one regular one (Khartoum), which meant that we now only needed to build one more to achieve the optional objective for this game.

Initial disease spread (Khartoum military base not yet added)

We decided to initially focus our resources on the search for the immunologist. Since the search gets harder with each epidemic, it’s worth polishing off quickly. We accidentally cheated a bit here, and forgot about the requirement to discard a city card for each search.

The first epidemic was drawn very early. We agreed to take this opportunity to play one of the 3 cards we obtained in the fabled “box 8”, allowing us to skip the epidemic entirely, at the cost of increasing the panic level in any one city. We selected Santiago as the victim here, as so far that corner of the board has been very quiet, and it only has two connections so is less likely to be involved in an outbreak cascade.

Poor Santiago

Our search for the immunologist was concluded nice and quickly, partly thanks to accidentally cheating, and also due to skipping that early epidemic, and we had that objective polished off in 5 turns total. With that dealt with, we then turned our attention towards getting lots of yellow city cards into Gammidgy’s hand so that he could find that cure. The number of Faded was dropping, thanks to our abilities in combatting that threat, though the other three diseases were growing slightly. The infection discard pile was now getting very thick indeed, and the majority of cities had at least one disease cube on them. Time would tell whether this turned out to be a wise strategy or not.

Disease everywhere

We found the cure for yellow before the second epidemic came out. This one landed in Washington. Soon thereafter we found the cure for the black disease. On this occasion, we were very thankful that it had the positive mutation that meant that it could be cured anywhere (not just in a research station) and without an action, as otherwise it would have had to wait until the next turn. At this stage we were now thinking of how to get us all into Europe so that we can consolidate our blue city cards into Gammidgy’s hand.

The next epidemic landed in Seoul, which caused a single outbreak, but thankfully no cascade. Pike and his magic grenade belt are able to stay on top the Faded quite nicely now. However, the pace of the game is now increasing, and the player deck is shrinking, and we’re all getting a little anxious.

Another epidemic landed, this time in Ho Chi Minh City. This is very unfortunate, as the city is in Fallen state so we are effectively unable to get into it. With the epidemics coming thick and fast, very few infection cards are being reshuffled back into the deck, so we’re seeing the same ones over and over.

Ho Chi Minh City epidemic

An outbreak in Paris while Jonesy was in the city resulted in her gaining a scar, and can now no longer have more than 2 equipment cards in her hand at a time. Let’s see if we remember to adhere to that one, eh?

Jonesy’s new scar

Another epidemic landed in Johannesburg, which caused an outbreak. Things are definitely unpeeling, but we’re so close to a blue cure. The question is: can we hold out?

Another epidemic card came out, which had the potential to really scupper our fun. We decided to once again play one of the “get out of jail free” cards, so that the epidemic was skipped entirely, its only trace being that another city would have to have its panic level increased. We chose Buenos Aires as the victim, this time.

Sorry, Buenos Aires

We managed to find the blue cure by the very skin of our teeth, with the player deck all but empty at the end. Bearing in mind that we needed to burn two of those epidemic-nullifying cards (leaving us with only one left for the rest of the campaign), and we were cheating in the search for the virologist, and it’s a hollow victory.

Our win bonus for August grants us some bonuses to search in September – for each game, we have the choice to either advance one search by two places, or all searches by one each. We also have some new available unfunded event cards, including the “nuclear option” which would allow us to clear out a single city entirely, at the cost of raising its panic level immediately to “Fallen”. We decided not to add this specific one to the game yet, instead choosing the following two game end upgrades:

  • I’m growing very attached to Pike. We haven’t lost a game since we started using him, and his magic respawning grenade belt trick is excellent for managing the Faded. So we gave him the very nifty new “Paramilitary Escort” upgrade, so that every time he leaves a city, 1 Faded will be automatically removed.
  • We also applied an unfunded event upgrade that could be used to place 3 roadblocks on demand.

Pike, now with Paramilitary Escort

3 free roadblocks? Seems useful

September (First Attempt)

With the dawning of September, we can now play as the virologist, the person we found back in July. She has some potentially useful powers when it comes to tackling the Faded, which could be handy. We named her Ash, and gave her a relationship with Pike, which would grant them the power to look at the top two cards of the player deck (which is where the epidemic cards lurk) if they start in the same city.

Our new resident virologist

We had a new optional objective for this month – to find the paranoid soldier. Similar principle to before, though this time the searches must take places in military bases in Faded cities, and the search track is slightly longer.

How to find a paranoid soldier

The initial disease distribution for September was generally towards the western side of the board this time, which makes a nice change to all those times when it’s been heavily biased to the Faded zone.

Not too many Faded to start this time

We chose the following characters for September:

  • Jonesy the Generalist (Gammidgy)
  • Ash the Virologist (Karen)
  • Pike the Soldier (Pete)
  • Ewan the Quarantine Specialist (Susan)

We wanted to bring the Quarantine Specialist back in as we felt that we didn’t get much out of Colonel K*D last time. And, of course, I’m playing Pike again, because Pike rules. In terms of optional objectives, as before we will be focusing on the search for the paranoid soldier, and getting up to 6 military bases.

Here’s a picture of a cat in the game box lid

With the initial distribution of city cards, we found ourselves with a lot of blue city cards clustered in North America, which made us feel optimistic that we could get them into one person’s hand and find a cure nice and quickly. Another early epidemic came out – we decided not to burn our final “get out of jail free” card, but we did play an unfunded event to skip the infect step, as with so few cards being shuffled back into the deck, there was an uncomfortably high chance of an outbreak.

In the next few minutes, we suffered an outbreak in Algiers, but discovered the blue cure shortly afterwards. A lot of cities were showing 3 cubes, which meant that the risk of outbreak was high, but they weren’t contiguous, so the risk of a cascading outbreak was relatively low.

We saw the opportunity to eliminate blue entirely, and took it. It would delay Pike’s journey to the Faded zone, and his contribution to the search for the paranoid soldier, but we felt that not having to worry about blue cubes whatsoever would be worth it. Meanwhile, other players got busy on cleaning up the black cubes, which were getting quite numerous.

The next epidemic came out in Riyadh, which didn’t worry us too much. There were still a few cities showing 3 cubes, but nothing we felt we couldn’t handle.

A bit of chaos on the west coast, but it’s all under control

Some messiness here in Asia, but nothing we can’t handle

Yeah there’s a few Faded here and there, but that white pawn is Pike and he’s about to kick their asses

So far I had not had the opportunity to make use of Pike’s Paramilitary Escort, and was rubbing my hands with glee at delight of my next turn, when I’d be able to scoop through Faded cities leaving a trail of glory in my wake.

A little Riyadh outbreak has left the black disease in a troubling state. Susan’s next turn enabled her to find the paranoid soldier in Jakarta. The good news is that he holds the key to the virus development records, which means that, in combination with the gene sequence for COdA that we found in July, we now have 2 of the 3 components required to find a vaccine. The bad news is that the disease was created in a lab, and the military are no longer our friends. Our optional objective to build 6 military bases is now gone, to be replaced with a mission to sabotage 2 military bases. But, what’s worse, a traitor has been revealed in our midst, and it’s Pike. That Paramilitary Escort upgrade I gave him? The one I never actually got to use? Yeah, in hindsight, that was a bad choice. Pike is now out of the game forever, and I would have to play the rest of this game as a weak and weedy civilian.

This revelation had a bit of a “WTF” effect on us. Any confidence we had in winning this month evaporated in an instant. We tried to stay optimistic, but it was an uphill battle. Outbreaks occurred in Toyko, in Kinshasa, in Tehran. We found a cure for the black disease, but soon thereafter an outbreak occurred in Beijing. One more outbreak would end us. I was able to destroy one military base, but a final outbreak in Hong Kong spelled disaster.

For our game end upgrades, we applied a positive mutation to the eradicated blue disease so that we no longer needed to be in a research station to cure it (similar to what we already have on the yellow and black ones), and gave a character upgrade to Jonesy that would assist in sabotaging military bases.

Jonesy can now sabotage a military base with any colour-matching card, not necessarily the specific city

Ash also picked up a scar at one point during the closing stages, from being in a city when an outbreak occurred.

Ash may now no longer move more than 2 spaces per turn

The last twenty minutes of this game utterly crushed us. To be fair, it was going pretty badly anyway, but with the new revelations, we’re going to need to rethink our strategy fairly significantly for the next game. I fear that it might be a while before we win a game again.

Pete
November 3, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Thirty-Eight)

(View previous instalments here)

Jump Ship – Goosewing

This beer has a deep honey colour, with a small amount of head that disappeared very quickly. It has a smooth and inviting hoppy aroma, and I was feeling refreshed before even taking a sip. The flavour does fall a bit short, sadly – it’s a little on the sharp, metallic side. Karen’s assessment was firstly “Tangy. Sour.” and then she said “Bitter” exactly four times.

Butcombe – Goram IPA Zero

This is a clear and dark golden beer with little to no head. The smell is a nice balance of malt and hops, with neither of them overpowering. I passed it to Karen for a sip, and she made The Face and said “Yeah. Beer.” She’s getting less and less prone to excessive loquaciousness in these reviews, isn’t she? I loved this beer – a really dependable sort of IPA that goes down very easily and will please most drinkers.

Stiegl 0.0

As you can see, this is a pale beer. Karen helpfully pointed out that it looked like a really healthy piss, to which my reaction is (a) if that’s what her piss looks like, then she should see a specialist, and (b) maybe her role in these reviews has ceased to be helpful.

This is a lovely-looking beer anyway, with a nice creamy head that stops short of being silly. It’s got a bit of a wheatbeery smell, and the flavour is a little sour, with elements of wheatbeeritude crossed with a pilsner. Karen remarked that she can indeed taste the sourness, but didn’t find it as unpleasant as she often does. All in all, a pretty decent beer!

Basic Booch

This is NOT beer, it’s a mix of kombucha and tea and I could have saved us all a bunch of time by just pouring it directly down the sink. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the appeal of kombucha. Why would I buy a can of kombucha for a couple of quid when I can buy a large bottle of vinegar for far, far less?

Pete
October 18, 2021

The MCU Project: Black Widow (2021)

It was some two years ago that we thought we had completed The MCU Project, never to have to return to its often-incomprehensible kablam kapow blah de blah storytelling. We should have known better; even a global pandemic couldn’t save the world from More Marvel.

And so on Saturday night we gathered with some excellent takeaway Indian streetfood, to watch Black Widow, one of only two Marvel movies to centre a female character. The approach we had originally decided on was to watch the movies in chronological order of the story, however this is now impossible, as back-stories and prequels are going to be churned out as long as people keep paying to watch them. About 10 minutes in, it was established that Black Widow is set somewhere in the middle of the chronology, and tells the origin story of Natasha Romanov through the media of various incomprehensible action sequences and some sort of timelapse/montage to the eerie strains of an acoustic cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit.

For me the star of the show was a decent appearance from the city of Budapest, as itself [noteable because Budapest so often stands in for other cities in movies, including Beijing in The Martian, and Buenos Aires in Evita]. I happily stopped trying to follow the “plot” and tried to figure out at what point the car/tank chase would take them past Doctor Pockless’ old flat. In fact they took a right around Parliament Square and never quite reached that end of the No 2 tramline.

Eventually the movie coheres into some sort of plot, wherein it turns out that Drakov (some sort of baddie whose megalomania is facilitated by the exploitation of women, just like a real life baddie), is not dead, having died offscreen in an event that was never actually on screen to the best of my recollection. Various family reunions occur amid the general fightiness and a lot of explosions. Drakov dies offscreen again, so that this movie thread can continue indefinitely (or possibly escapes, I wasn’t really paying attention).

Star of the show, other than Budapest, is Florence Pugh, who enjoys some excellent Jodie Comer-like russian accented sarcastic mutterings about the sexist poses struck by her character’s sister Natasha. She also has the best plaits, in a movie featuring generally very good hair, which is what really sets it apart from the rest of the MCU body.

So again, we have watched a Marvel movie so that you don’t have to. You can thank us when you pop in to cocktail hour on Friday – yes, it’s still going, live on zoom, every week.

Karen
October 13, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Thirty-Seven)

(View previous instalments here)

Insel-Brauerei – Snorkelers

This is a sea salt IPA which smells nice and fresh, and fairly delicately hopped. It has an intersesting appearance – very cloudy, with many large white floating particles. They didn’t sink to the bottom like sediment, but seemed to be a deliberate feature. The beer has some head, but this dropped away quite quickly. The flavour is very bitter, and caused Karen to make The Face, which is something that we see less and less of these days. She complained for a protracted period of time afterwards – ah, it’s just like the old days. The saltiness is definitely present, but it’s a coarse sort of saltiness. I felt like I was drinking a fishing village. Borderline on the scoring for this one, but I’m feeling generous.

Guinness 0.0

I’ve been waiting for a long time for this one. This absolutely looks and smells the part. The colour and consistency are an exact match for the alcoholic version. As far as flavour is concerned, it’s very close but not quite identical. Compared to the alcoholic version, I detected a very slight sour quality. On the whole though, I declare this a huge success.

Nittenauer Lola

This is a coffee porter, and is a type of beer that always gets my hopes up, because when done well, it can result in a really complex and hearty flavour. The previous beer I tried from this brewery contained a lot of sediment, so I was prepared for that this time, and poured it slowly and carefully, and left the last little dribble in the bottle as it did look like there might be some sediment coming through with this one too. It pours with very little head, but it has a promising consistency – not watery at all. The smell is dark and rich, and the flavour is equally superb – dense and invigorating, with perhaps a faint whisper of something sour. It’s nearly, but not quite, on a par with the Svart/Hvit, which as you know, is an absolutely gem and one of my favourite alcohol-free beers ever.

Pete
October 4, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Thirty-Six)

(View previous instalments here)

Flensburger Radler

I can’t read much of this can, as it’s all in German, but I can recognise a picture of a lemon when I see one. There was a big hit of lemon smell when cracking open this can, and a very voluminant head which settled down fairly quickly. I passed it to Karen for her thoughts, and she thought that the lemoniness was subtle, but I disagree. It’s very lemony, but with enough beeriness that it manages to stay just short of the bounding line where I feel like I’m just drinking lemonade.

Pohjala Prenzlauer

This is a raspberry Berliner Weisse, and is unsurprisingly very pink. The head dropped away very quickly. It’s a very tangy and raspberry-forward drink, without much beery quality at all really. Not bad, for what it is, I suppose.

Nirvana Bavarian Helles Lager

You can see the thick head in the photo here. This one smells very pungent and malty. It has a good flavour too – a bit sweet, but not so far as to be sickly. I offered it to Karen for a sip but she declined, as she was carrying a stinking cold at the time and didn’t want to share it with me. I ended up getting it anyway, of course.

Nittenauer – The Wit

I took a few days off of drinking beer to nurse my cold. I often find that when I have a cold, my sense of smell is dulled, which also impacts on my ability to enjoy food and drink. So, it seemed like a waste of time to attempt to review beers when I couldn’t really appreciate them. As my cold receded, I picked back up with this. This is an odd little beer with some orange and coriander in it. The head faded very quickly indeed, and by the time I was ready to take a photo there was basically none left. As I poured the beer, dollops of sediment tumbled out – there had been nothing on the label to warn me about this, so I was stuck with it.

This is a very sour beer. Karen says it tastes a bit like perfumey beer. It reminded me a bit of the Atomic Blonde – it’s sour, but in a sort of undignified way, like stomach acid. As I got further down the glass, it was harder and harder to avoid the whirling sediment, so I ended up tipping the tail end away, but to be honest this was no huge loss.

Coming up in the next instalment of this series will be a beer that I’ve been particularly looking forward to – Guinness 0.0!

Pete
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  • OK, I'm late to this party, but just wanted to point out that Radler traditionally is a 1:... - Brigade
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