January 1, 2022

Pandemic Legacy: November / December (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 won our second attempt at September, reasonably comfortably
  • In October, we found Patient Zero, and discovered the capability to vaccinate against the Faded
  • We acquired a new character, the Immunologist
  • We won October on the first try

November (First Attempt)

We set up for our first attempt at November. The initial spread of disease cubes was fairly yellow-heavy.

Quite a lot of yellow cubes to start this game

A little cluster of Faded here, looking like they’re planning trouble

While choosing our characters, we realised that we’ve been cheating when playing the quarantine specialist, by treating their “quarantine anywhere on the board” ability as a free move, and not spending an action. Oops. Our objectives for this game are as follows:

  • Find a cure for the 3 diseases (mandatory, as usual)
  • Sabotage 2 military bases
  • Build 3 vaccine factories
  • Vaccinate 6 cities

(as usual, only 2 of the 3 optional objectives are required).

We chose to play as the following characters for this game:

  • Jonesy the Generalist (Gammidgy)
  • Van Tam the Immunologist (Susan)
  • Derek the Operations Expert (Pete)
  • Ash the Virologist (Karen)

Our four intrepid pawns, ready to save the world once again

The generalist seemed like they’d be useful as they have a character upgrade that helps sabotaging military bases, and the operations expert would be able to build vaccine factories and travel from them to cities deep in the Faded zone, which also sounded useful. This is the first time we’ve played the Immunologist, and gave them a relationship with the virologist.

An extra action if they start their turn in the same city

Thanks to winning the last couple of games in a row, we had no funded events for this game. We spent a lot of time considering where to place our 3 free roadblocks (from our October win bonus) and eventually decided not to place them, as we thought they do more harm than good. Eventually the game was underway.

We had a fairly early epidemic in Osaka which wasn’t too worrisome, apart from the fact that the card came back up very soon thereafter, causing an outbreak. Osaka is one of the few Faded cities to have not experienced an outbreak before, so it felt like a shame to lose this streak.

Osaka, post-outbreak

The first city to be vaccinated was Los Angeles. We also built a vaccine factory there, as we figured that getting those vaccine factories out early would allow us to start building stockpiles of vaccine.

Derek getting the vaccine project underway

Meanwhile, Asia was starting to look a bit nasty, with another outbreak. Fortunately by now I had accumulated 4 yellow city cards in my hand, plus some induced pluripotent stem cells, so was able to cure the yellow disease.

Wild card!

The situation in the Faded region continued to worsen, with Manila and Bangkok both going particularly badly. It wasn’t all terrible – Karen managed to cure the black disease, and we were able to vaccinate Osaka and build a vaccine factory there, and we managed to sabotage the military base in Shanghai. However, we had to use the nuclear option to stop Bangkok getting out of control. In hindsight, it didn’t really help us all that much, so maybe we wasted that card.

The Nuclear Option

With outbreaks in Milan, Sydney and Buenos Aires, this game utterly kicked our asses. We realised that our choices of characters were not good, and we didn’t really make use of them that much. Also, the Virologist has a scar that means that they can not move more than 2 steps in a turn, which turned out to be much more of a hindrance than we had previously thought. For our game end upgrades, we converted both of our vaccine factories (Los Angeles and Osaka) into starting vaccine factories. Both cities are vaccinated, so the risk of an outbreak occurring in either of these cities and causing the vaccine factory to be destroyed is near-zero. Also, this means that next time we play November, one of our optional objectives is already completed right off the bat, allowing us to focus better on the remaining ones. We stopped here for dinner, and then returned for another try.

November (Second Attempt)

We had a bit of luck with the initial allocation of disease cubes here, as one of the “3 cube” cities was a vaccinated one, meaning that no cubes were placed. Overall, the bias here was again towards yellow cities. Interestingly, there were no Faded in the initial placement at all, which took a bit of the pressure off on that front.

A bit yellowy

We were much less reluctant to place our 3 bonus roadblocks this time, and decided to put them around the worst cities in Asia, which are already roadblocked off from the south.

Some roadblocks

With the “3 vaccine factories” optional objective already completed, we decided to focus on the “vaccinate 6 cities” optional objective and ignore sabotaging military bases. We chose the following characters to help us achieve this:

  • Eric the Medic (Gammidgy)
  • Van Tam the Immunologist (Susan)
  • Derek the Operations Expert (Pete)
  • Wei the Dispatcher (Karen)

We took the Generalist out (as sabotaging military bases was no longer a priority) and the Virologist (owing to their movement-limiting scar). We brought back the Medic, who we haven’t played for a while, and the Dispatcher, as their ability to move other players is something that we’ve always been able to make a lot of use of in the past. We kept the Operations Expert in, as though we didn’t make much use of their abilities in the last game, they still seemed like a more useful character than the other options.

The first epidemic card was unfortunately right at the top of the player deck. It occurred in Montreal, and with the very small collection of cards being shuffled back in, it meant that Montreal came up again very soon thereafter, resulting in an outbreak that we couldn’t really have done anything about. A similar thing happened 15 minutes later, with an epidemic and subsequent outbreak in Sydney.

The state of Sydney, eh?

That said, things seemed to be going fairly well in this game. There were some concerns here and there, but mostly things seemed to be going to plan, with all players pulling their weight and doing good work. We managed to cure and eradicate the black disease, and then things started to get away from us. An epidemic in Beijing, followed by an outbreak in Beijing, followed by a double outbreak in Beijing and the adjacent Seoul had us against the ropes. Cures for the blue and yellow diseases were both very close, and we’d also managed to vaccinate 5 cities, so that objective was near completion too. We were then finished off by an epidemic and ensuing outbreak in Washington, followed by an outbreak in New York.

Eventually, the blue did us in

For our game end upgrades, none of the options felt terribly compelling. We decided to give a hand limit character upgrade to Wei, to cancel out their scar.

Wei’s descarification

We also chose to convert three roadblocks to permanent roadblocks, as the Immunologist’s abilities meant that we’d be able to vaccinate the worst cities without needing to actually go into them, so we might as well contain them.

No-one’s ever going into these cities again

December (First Attempt)

We’d never done more than 2 games in a session, but it was 9pm on New Years Eve, and I felt that we had a decent chance at winning, which would be a great way to end 2021, so I pushed for us to play a third.

The mission briefing for December brought a big upset. All previous objectives were gone, including the long-standing mandatory objective to cure 3 diseases. We now just had two mandatory objectives – to vaccinate every Faded city (as I had suspected), and to find and destroy a secret stockpile of COdA in Atlanta.

Our new objectives

The search mechanism here required a player to be in Atlanta and to “pay” a number of city cards of the appropriate colour in order to advance the search track. The starting distribution of cubes wasn’t too bad – mostly biased towards yellow and blue, without many unfortunate adjacent positionings.

Initial cubes in yellow and blue

A small cluster of ruffians

At this point we also noticed another couple of rules that we’d overlooked in the previous game. Given how close the previous game was, these might have been the difference between winning and losing. The first is that, when placing a Faded figure as a result of drawing a red player card, you should not do this if it would cause an outbreak.

“Accelerated Incubation” rules should never cause an outbreak

The second is that we’d forgotten about Eric’s ability to treat adjacent cities without having to actually go into them. The action points that this would have saved us could have been enough to tip the balance.

Eric only has one upgrade, but we haven’t played him for a while, so we forgot about it

We played the same characters as in the previous game, as it felt like the objectives weren’t sufficiently different to demand a change. Many of our characters have now very much fallen by the wayside, as their skills don’t really square with what we’re trying to do these days.

The game got off to a decent start, with lots of searching in Atlanta, while other characters made their way across to the Faded regions to do some vaccinating there. We realised that of the two objectives, if we could only complete one then we should prioritise the vaccination efforts, as progress on that is cumulative, whereas the search would reset if we had to replay December.

There was a very early epidemic in Santiago, and as usual Hong Kong was starting to fill up with Faded. The medic’s abilities were very useful, and while progress felt slow at first, we did at least feel like we were staying on top of the diseases.

Madrid, one of our initial three-cubers, had an outbreak before we could get to it. We then experienced an epidemic in Karachi followed by an outbreak a few minutes later, so the situation in that part of the world started to look a little concerning.

Karachi, post-outbreak

On the plus side, vaccination efforts in Asia were going well, with about half of the Faded cities in that region now vaccinated.

Look at all those vaccinated cities at the top!

An epidemic in Manila was averted, as the city was already vaccinated. As the number of vaccinated cities goes up, we are starting to actually look forward to seeing red cards coming up, as they are potentially less damaging than cards of the other colours. At this point we now had a mere 4 cities left to vaccinate, and only 5 steps on the search tracker.

After vaccinating a couple more cities, we realised that after the averted Manila epidemic, we had forgotten to reshuffle the discard pile onto the top of the deck. We did this at the point at which we realised, but then another epidemic came out immediately afterwards, so things were a bit confused.

We realised that it was inevitable that we’d run out of time. While we had enough city cards between us to complete the search, there weren’t enough cards left in the player deck to get around to being able to use them. In good news, we did manage to vaccinate every last Faded city. We shifted into damage limitation mode, but unfortunately the game fell apart a bit at the end – on the last few turns we had double outbreaks in Cairo and Istanbul, and Montreal and New York. Derek and Eric both used the “self-sacrifice” actions to skip the infect step by taking a scar, because we judged that there wouldn’t be much need to build roadblocks or vaccinate any further.

Chaos in North America to end the game. Montreal went downhill badly during this game

Lots of outbreaks in the black disease area this game too

Derek can no longer build roadblocks. Not that he ever did, anyway

Eric can no longer vaccinate. Not that he ever did, anyway

At this point, we decided to call it a night. With every single Faded city now vaccinated, the second attempt at December will hopefully go much better, as we will be able to properly focus on the search for the stockpile, which is effectively now our singular objective.

December 28, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Forty-Two)

(View previous instalments here)

It must be the magic of the season, but something very mysterious happened with this month’s AFBeerClub box. It arrived a couple of days before we were due to depart on holiday, which struck me as a good arrangement because I’d then be able to drink them and write my reviews while I was away. As always, I opened the box to briefly check out the contents, to ascertain how many were beers that I’ve tried before, and how many were not really beer at all. My previous experience has been that, in a box of 8, I can expect for there to be a couple that I’ve had before, and a couple that are actually a sour fruity drink that bears little or no resemblance to beer.

This is where we get to the magic. Each time I looked in this month’s box, the number of new beers was less and less. Upon my first (very quick) inspection, I established that there were 4 new ones. Next time I checked, it was down to 3. And by the time I came to unpacking the box at our holiday apartment, I came to the conclusion that there were only 2 new beers in this box. How did this happen? I have no idea. But all I do know is that in this box there are only these two new beers.

Athletic All Out

The label doesn’t lie, this is indeed extra dark, and has a lovely little head that sat there patiently waiting for me to take my first sip. The smell is absolutely divine, with coffee and toffee and chocolate. The taste is just as good, lovely and rich and syrupy. I passed it to Karen, expecting her to make The Face (because that’s the mark of a good beer) and indeed she did – three times in a row, all from the one sip! One of these days, I must record a video of her making The Face.

To ØL – Driving Home From Xmas

I saved this one for the evening of December 25th, naturally. It’s very cloudy with a smell of bananas. The flavour is funky and fusty, while also sour and tangy. Karen had a sip, of course, and remarked upon an elusive floral flavour that she couldn’t quite place. She quite liked it. I, conversely, did not.

Since there’s so little to review this month, I thought I’d take an opportunity to have a bit of a retrospective on this whole project, since we’re now at the all-import 42nd instalment. Looking back, I see that this project has gone through three distinct “ages”.

The First Age

(broadly corresponds to posts from 2019, posts 1 to 10)

The first age was when I was mostly trying alcohol-free beers from pubs and supermarkets. Looking back, this is still the most useful set of posts, as these are the sorts of beers that the average consumer is likely to get the opportunity to try.

The Second Age

(broadly corresponds to posts from 2020, posts 11 to 16)

The second age was when I had exhausted the range carried by most pubs and supermarkets, and started looking to more specialist retailers.

The Third Age

(broadly corresponds to posts from 2021, posts 17 to 42)

With the introduction of the AFBeerClub box to my life, this hugely increased the number of beers available for me to try, which meant I was now writing far more reviews. However, it’s also yet another step away from the mainstream, as these tend to be yet more obscure beers that you won’t see in pubs or supermarkets. There have been times where keeping up with my reviewing duties has felt like a chore, and also times where I’ve questioned the value of doing so at all. Early alcohol-free beers gave a bad reputation to AF beer in general, and one of the things I discovered during my early forays was that while there were still some really undrinkable options out there, there were also some real gems. So I started this series to help people know which to avoid, and which were worth a try. I feel like I’ve drifted away from that, and now this project feels like something that I only continue doing because I’ve established the habit.

It feels like time for a change. What form that change might take, I don’t yet know. There are many factors at play. If I decide that the AFBeerClub subscription is no longer giving me good value, and choose to cancel it, then that will obviously have a huge influence. Maybe I’ll even decide that it’s time for me to settle down and stop chasing novelty, like some kind of old man who has one type of beer he drinks, and that’s it. Maybe I’ll keep getting the subscription box, but leave the reviewing to others who are far better at identifying and conveying subtle nuances. Or maybe I’ll just keep doing this thing, because I am a creature of habit. So what I’m basically trying to say is that next year, this series will either:

  1. stop,
  2. continue, or,
  3. continue, but at a reduced rate

There you go, some clarity for ya. Hope this helps.

Happy holidays!

December 10, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Forty-One)

(View previous instalments here)

In the previous instalment, I drank all the less-promising stuff from this month’s AFBeerClub box. Which therefore means that this instalment should have all the good stuff!

Vandestreek Playground IPA

This beer is cloudy and a medium orange colour. It’s fairly thin and watery with a quite small head. The smell is a grand invigorating hit – a clear and bold hoppiness. The flavour also carries through, sharp and strongly hopped, with a little bit of fruity mangoness.

Big Drop Leafkicker

I had to save this one for a lunchtime sesh, because it’s got caffeine in it. The colour is a very dark amber, and it’s got a decent thick head that lingers nicely. The smell is rich and malty, and the coffee is noticeable, which means that if you close your eyes you feel like you are inhaling a coffee stout. I passed it to Karen for a sip before I tried it, and she made The Face, which is always a sign that I’m in for something good.

The coffee is definitely present in the taste, as well as a tiny trace of that unfermented worty flavour, though in these tiny proportions it’s palatable. I found it to be a little effervescent on the tongue, it didn’t really slip down very easily. That said, I could have seen myself buying it again in future, were it not for the presence of the caffeine. If I’m going to be drinking a beer with caffeine in it, then you know it’s gonna be Space Cake.

Nirvana London Porter

My experiences with Nirvana have generally been good, and I’m not averse to their stout. This one pours very similar in the glass – quite thin and flat. The coffee smell is good – strong and rich – but I found the flavour to be a bit disappointing. I could taste some appealing notes, but they were very much in the background, and on the whole it was a very fizzy experience, like drinking 1 part Guinness diluted in 3 parts sparkling mineral water.

December 2, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Forty)

(View previous instalments here)

Another monthly box from AFBeerClub has arrived, and I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m not terribly excited about the contents. There are a lot of things in there that are very much not beer, and only two that I’d say I’m actively looking forward to trying. Hopefully it’s just a bad month, and next month will be better. Either way, I’m going to get the crap out of the way first, so expect low scores here, and hopefully higher scores in the next post.

Brulo Mango Guava IPA

The colour of this one definitely screams “mango”. It’s a thin and watery drink, apparently with some floating particulates. The mango is very much present both in the smell and the taste – not a subtle mangoification process here, not at all. It’s very sour, and I found it to be quite offputting. This is neither a good beer, nor a good mango drink.

Maltgarden Free Sunset Red

This is one of the most uninvitingly-coloured drinks I’ve ever seen. It looks like rust-discoloured creek water. The smell, however, is strangely good, a bit like rhubarb yoghurt. The taste is also not too unpleasant, it’s very sweet but with lots of summer fruit aspect to it. While it’s not a bad drink, it’s again not at all what I am hoping for in a self-proclaimed  box of beers.

Kaiserdom Pink Grapefruit

Continuing to work our way through things that claim to be beer, this is basically Lilt. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like Lilt, but this blog post is titled “alcohol-free beers”, so if I review it as a beer:

Tempest Sleight Of Hand

Not sure what Tempest are playing at here, but they’ve released a stout with exactly the same name as their alcohol-free IPA, making it hard to differentiate. This is a spiced milk stout, and my initial concerns were that it would be a silly overflavoured Christmas cash-in. Thankfully, the spices in the smell are very subtle indeed – it does have a somewhat interesting medicinal aroma. In the flavour, again the spiciness is delicate, with just a little hint of weirdness, not an all-out war on your tastebuds. This is a tricky one to rate, and far far better than I was bracing myself for, but ultimately I can’t see myself purchasing this one again, which means that it must be:


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


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!

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.

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.


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.

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?