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

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