Every Night Is Game Night: Pandemic


I’m playing a board game and blogging about it every day this month (I did a similar challenge last year).

Feel free to join me during my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge. And tweet me with what you’re playing these days!


Every Tuesday afternoon for the past six months I’ve volunteered at a local high school as the facilitator of a board games club called Tabletop Tuesday. I bring games for the students to play for an hour and it’s been a lot of fun. There are five regulars and another seven that rotate in and out, depending on their class schedules (it’s an independent studies program, so their free time depends on whether or not they’ve finished their work for the day).

It’s been a privilege to share my passion for board gaming. The students are all sharp young people and it’s cool seeing them dive into some of my favorite games the way I did when I first started playing. Outside of Magic the Gathering (which a few of them play), none of them had played any other games outside of Monopoly, Sorry!, and Life.

It’d been a few months since we played Pandemic, the classic cooperative game of fending off diseases around the world. The club really took to the game when they first played it and I even let one of the students borrow it for a week.

Today I brought back the game for them, but with a little surprise: it was a brand new copy that I donated to the school, thanks to my winning a contest on RGBtv, a youtube channel covering analog and digital games. My wife and I have donated a few games in the past and recently Grant Rodiek sent me a copy of Hocus for the group.

The students were excited to have Pandemic in their small-yet-growing games library. They lost the game today, but it’s nice to know that they have the game so they can work on their disease-fighting skills whenever they want.

As long as they get their work done first, of course.


After watching the students play Pandemic, I went home and dug up my copy for a solo game. I played the Operations Expert and the Dispatcher on Heroic mode. After an early Epidemic, I was able to cure Red and Black when an ill-timed Epidemic card (aren’t they always?) caused a string of Outbreaks that led to my demise.

Pandemic will always have a space in my library. Although I prefer Pandemic: The Cure (the faster dice version), the base game is still a solid co-op game, especially for new gamers. The alpha gamer/quarterback problem won’t ever go away, but as long as players are respectful of each other, then it’s easily resolved.

By the way, here’s the list of games the club has played so far:

  1. Dominion
  2. King of Tokyo
  3. Get Bit!
  4. Splendor
  5. Pandemic
  6. For Sale
  7. Splendor
  8. Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
  9. Takenoko
  10. Sushi Go!
  11. Love Letter
  12. Paris Connection
  13. Qwixx Deluxe
  14. Nexus Ops
  15. Settlers of Catan
  16. Carcassonne
  17. Imhotep
  18. Smash Up
  19. Magic The Gathering
  20. Qwirkle
  21. Rolling America
  22. Red 7
  23. Onitama
  24. Karuba
  25. Patchwork
  26. Hocus
  27. Wits & Wagers: Party
  28. Ascension

GenCant 2016 Day 4: Pandemic: The Cure

Pandemic: The Cure

Pandemic: The Cure

Yesterday was a busy day for me, so I only played one game on GenCant Day 4. And, unfortunately, I only played three of the four games I wanted to solo for #GenCantSoloCon. Still, if I’m able to play a single game on a given day, then it’s been a good day.

Pandemic: The Cure

I love Pandemic and love teaching it to new players. Unfortunately, like other cooperative games, there’s often the problem of the Alpha Gamer, where one person dominates the game, telling others what the best strategy is and generally sucking the fun out of the group experience.

This is why I now prefer Pandemic: The Cure, especially for new gamers. It sets up and plays faster than the original and it’s easier to understand for first timers. While an Alpha Gamer can still tell others what to do, each player has their own dice and can roll or re-roll to their heart’s content. Yes, there may be a preferred play with the dice you’ve rolled, but you almost always have a chance to roll for something better. It gives back more of the decision-making to each player, while the original Pandemic often has one best play that the Alpha Gamer generally sees before everybody else and tells them about it, basically forcing them to do it.

Like Pandemic, players in Pandemic: The Cure try to cure diseases before they spread throughout the world. The diseases are represented by six-sided dice in four colors and they are located in one of six different locations. If there are ever four dice of the same color in one area, then an outbreak occurs.

Each player rolls their own player dice and performs actions based on their rolls (like Pandemic, each player has unique abilities). You can re-roll any of them, but the catch is if you roll a biohazard die, it counts against you (there are some exceptions to this that I won’t get into here). Actions include moving from one area to another, treating diseases, sharing samples with other players, and curing diseases.

Cure all four diseases before you run out of disease dice or suffer too many outbreaks or epidemics and you win.

Just like the original game, it’s a lot easier said than done.

What I Played During GenCant 2016:

  1. Ca$h ‘n Guns
  2. Rome: Rise to Power
  3. Pandemic
  4. Valley of the Kings (solo)
  5. Dead Men Tell No Tales (solo)
  6. Ca$h ‘n Guns
  7. Bohnanza
  8. Between Two Cities
  9. KLASK
  10. Splendor
  11. Pandemic: The Cure (solo)

Not a bad four days of gaming! For me, though, one of the highlights of this year’s GenCant (besides finally beating Dead Men Tell No Tales) was volunteering to manage the official GenCant Facebook page. It was a treat seeing how people responded to the idea of a digital get-together. I’m proud to be part of this terrific community of board gamers and if you weren’t able to attend, I highly recommend joining us for next year’s GenCant.

GenCant 2016 Day 2: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Dead Men Tell No Tales

A mellow Day 2 of GenCant for me last night: watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and played one board game.

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Back in April I played Dead Men Tell No Tales with my weekly gaming group. I’d never heard of it before, but the box cover art was gorgeous and since I like cooperative games, I was interested. The guy who brought it had just received it from Amazon, so we opened it up and jumped right in.

I loved the theme: you and your fellow pirates have conquered the Skelit’s Revenge, a burning ship full of treasures to be looted before it sinks. Of course, nothing says pirates like having to defeat guards to gain the treasures or battle one of the many undead skeleton crew or deckhands trying to stop your crew.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is a mix of Flash Point and Pandemic and it’s much tougher than both. In addition to making the best use of your actions every turn, you have to keep an eye on all of the hot spots on the ship or else a room will blow up and be inaccessible for the rest of the game. I loved the combat against the skeletons and guards; it’s something that sets it apart from other co-ops (it’s easier than Dead of Winter’s combat, though).

Our group quickly found out how tough DMTNT was; before we knew it, we’d reached the maximum number of explosions and our game was done.

So, thanks to a screw-up by Amazon, my gaming buddy’s copy was one of two that he’d received. Amazon told him to just keep the second one free of charge so after we were done he asked if anyone wanted to buy it for $20, which would pay for half of his copy.

I’m a sucker for a good deal and couldn’t resist a 50-percent-off copy of a game that’d just been played once. Just like that, I had my very own DMTNT.

Last night I solo-played it on the Scurvy Dog (easiest) level with three characters. This was my fourth time playing it solo, but the first since April so I was pretty rusty with the rules. I had to stop a few times to consult the rulebook and even reviewed the notes I’d taken after I’d played it the first few times. More than once I had to re-trace my steps to correct improper moves.

I’d never beaten the game and as things started getting hectic, I found myself re-living those previous losses. Would I have enough deckhands left? (Like Pandemic, if you go to the supply and can’t put any out on the board, you lose.) Or would I suffer from too many explosions, which is how most of my other solo games ended?

Thankfully, neither happened and I won right after I pulled the last tile for the ship.

Even if I’d lost, I’d still feel that DMTNT is an underrated cooperative game that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Copies aren’t as easy to track down as Pandemic or Flash Point, but it’s well worth the effort.

Day 261: Four for Friday

Love Letter

Love Letter

Four random thoughts on this Friday.

  1. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the board game Pandemic. I’ve played countless solo and group games and I love teaching it to new players. The newest version, Pandemic Legacy, will be released at next month’s Spiel in Essen, Germany. The Dice Tower crew did a spoiler-free review and their enthusiasm was apparent; they’re predicting it will be in the running for game of the year.
  2. I eeked out a narrow (7-6) Love Letter victory against my wife tonight. I’ve said this many times and so have others, but it’s worth repeating: it’s the best $7 I’ve ever spent on a game. Quick, fun, and easy to learn.
  3. I hate to say this, but the Tiger Woods era looks to be over. I don’t doubt his drive and hunger for winning more majors, but his body won’t let him. Shame, too, because the haters will always say he didn’t break Jack’s record. I always say, did they Jack-proof courses for Nicklaus back in his day? No? Well, they did it to Tiger and he still won. When you can still win when the game is being made more difficult, I say you’re the greatest of all time.
  4. I set up my fantasy basketball league, which always throws me off because it’s done a week after the start of the fantasy football season. The NBA and fantasy season doesn’t start until the end of October, but it usually takes a month for us to set a date and iron out all of the details. Plus, it takes me about that long to digest all of the food from our fantasy football draft day’s foodapalooza.


Day 251: Organized


This weekend I had a chance to organize my 7 Wonders game: I was tired of sifting through the box whenever I needed to use the military tokens or coins. I went to the Dollar Tree to pick up some small plastic containers when I realized that I had the perfect thing back at home: my extra petri dishes that I bought for Pandemic!

I bought the plastic containers anyways and when I got home I found my petri dishes. They were the right size for each of the military points (1, 3, 5, and -1) and fit in the box. Unfortunately, the plastic containers were too big and they’ll be returned to the store soon.

However, in another bit of good fortune, I found myself at Daiso Japan in Rowland Heights on Monday night. The place reminds me of a hipper, cleaner, and BRIGHTER dollar store: most items are $1.50, with a few priced higher, and they’re all BRIGHTLY colored. In spite of the BRIGHTNESS factor (okay, I’ll stop yelling), my family and I enjoy shopping here. It’s tough not to walk out with at least one item (and it’s equally difficult to pass up the coffee and pastries at the nearby 85 Degrees).

I scored a small food container tin with a plastic top that fit perfectly in the space left over from my petri dishes. The OCD in me would love to have two half-sized containers for each of the 1 and 3 value coins, but I’m not complaining. Perhaps another trip to Daiso is in order.

Day 98: Groggy



I’ve been groggy all day. Was it because I decided to play a late-night solo game of Pandemic?

At least I was able to pull out the win on the next-to-the-last turn. I’ve played dozens of games at the Heroic level and even though I win more than I lose now, it’s still a challenge. I am, however, looking forward to playing the expansions.

Just not so late at night.

Day 95: Game Night Continued


Pandemic and Ticket to Ride

I’m considering changing my 2015 Goals list to include “Play 10 New Games.” I’ve bought and played four new games in two months, so I’m nearly halfway there and I have more than enough on my Amazon Wish List to make this a reality. While my stepdaughter was back for spring break, she really got into Pandemic, which happens to be my favorite game of the new bunch. My wife is slowly getting into it as well and we managed to win on Heroic Level this morning.

Running a close second is Ticket to Ride, which is my favorite for a family experience. Everybody has a great time playing this and, as I’ve read in several articles, it is a great “gateway” game to bring in new players to the hobby. I love that my niece and nephew enjoyed it so much that they immediately wanted to play after their first game.

The other two games I bought were fun as well: Tsuro and Castle Panic. Tsuro is quick and light; easy to learn and a perfect “warm-up” game. It was fun with my youngest niece, who learned quickly and nearly won in her one attempt. As for Castle Panic, I believe my nephew and I were the only ones who took to this one. When we played with his sister he was our designated sound-effects guy, eagerly providing the soundtrack for each goblin, orc, and troll that we slayed.

I’ve loved every second of our game nights. It’s much more satisfying bonding over board games than video games or television shows. Even the good-humored trash talk has been great; I’ve learned that my wife is quite skilled at the art, as she regularly reminds me who owns the longest win streak (7 straight) in our Ticket to Ride matches. Hint: it’s not me.

Day 87: Castle Panic


Yesterday I talked about Tsuro, one of two board games that I bought recently. The other was Castle Panic, a cooperative game that’s on the easy side of the learning scale, with a fun theme; I mean, who doesn’t like to slay trolls, goblins, and orcs? You and your partners are defending the castle against wave after wave of monsters. Each monster has 1-3 hit points and you use the cards to take away those points. Other challenges face you, including a Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark rolling boulder that crushes everything in its path, plagues that thin out your ranks, Orc Lords leading the charge on the castle, and many more.

Over the past few nights, I’ve managed to go 3-1 in solo play. It’s definitely on the easier side of the difficulty scale, which is exactly what I wanted as I was stocking up on games for my niece and nephew’s visit. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do. I’ve already added the Wizard’s Tower expansion to my Amazon wish list.

Here’s the always entertaining Wil Wheaton and his Tabletop episode on Castle Panic:


Day 63: Ticket To Ride


Ticket To Ride


This arrived tonight: Ticket to Ride! Back in January I wrote about my purchase of Pandemic, which was the first board game I’d bought in years (at least a decade). I’ve loved playing Pandemic; even though it’s a 2-5 player game, since it’s a cooperative game, it plays well for one person. Nearly every weeknight, I’ve managed to play a game or two before going to bed.

My wife and I played one game of Pandemic and she didn’t take to it like I did, so I decided to buy Ticket to  Ride. Once again, I did my research on games for new gamers and Ticket to Ride kept coming up. Watching the Tabletop episode on the game sealed the deal.

I hope she likes this one because it doesn’t seem like it will be a fun solo game. I could go down to the game store or connect with some local gamers, but I’m more of a homebody these days and prefer playing games with family and close friends. Thankfully, my wife likes playing Zombie Dice. I picked up a copy and we went 1-1 the other night, with the rubber match still to be played.

So, three new games in the last two months. I still have a ways to go to have a collection on par with Game Haus Cafe, but it’s been fun stocking the games shelf here at home.

Day 27: Post-Apocalyptic Reading

Station Eleven e-book cover

Station Eleven e-book cover

While I was learning the ropes of the board game Pandemic this weekend, I received a notice from the L.A. County Public Library. Apparently, I had placed a hold on the e-book* Station Eleven and it was now available. I didn’t remember doing this, but since I’d only read one book this year I decided to download it.

In keeping with my recent binge-watching of The Walking Dead and my fascination with the Pandemic game, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven fit right in with my entertainment du jour. It’s a brilliant book that I can’t put down. In fact, it’s so good, that once I finished 75 percent of it, I decided to slow down my reading pace in order to savor its final pages.

Station Eleven is a beautifully written book about life after a pandemic wipes out 99 percent of the world’s population. Mandel’s handling of each character is masterful and I’m looking forward to reading her previous work. For now, I’ll enjoy her post-apocalyptic novel between games trying to prevent the apocalypse.

*Note: One of my favorite things about the L.A. County Public Library system is its selection of online materials. Through the Downloads section of their website, patrons can borrow e-books, audiobooks, and music free of charge. All you need is a library card (any resident of California can get one) and a compatible device. I no longer own a Kindle, but the Kindle app allows me to borrow books on my phone or tablet.