Recap: Returning to Long Time Favorites Avalon and Pandemic | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Recap: Returning to Long Time Favorites Avalon and Pandemic

The Knights would have won … had only Merlin survived

It was a good weekend for gaming. I got to dip my toe into several different waters. Among them, was the lying, bluffing, and betrayal associated with the best games of Resistance: Avalon. But, I also got to swing over the other way and play a few fully cooperative games. Among them, an oldie but goodie, Pandemic.

Avalon. I got to play two games. In the first, the good team achieved success three times, but Merlin was quite obvious. The assassin’s blade granted victory to the Minions of Mordred. The second game was more interesting – and partly because I drew the Merlin card. Even though I’ve played Avalon 42 times now (and vanilla Resistance about 30), but in all those plays I’ve only drawn Merlin three or four times. I find the role very difficult to play well – especially given my relative inexperience with it.

The challenge with Merlin is two fold. First, I can’t be too perfect. If I am, it’s a dead giveaway and I’m basically handing the other team the victory. So I have to do things to throw evil off the trail. In the past, I’ve tried really gunning for a player I knew to be good hoping that would throw the assassin off. It did, but evil achieved a victory through three quests so it didn’t matter. The other trick, is in getting the information out there in a way that isn’t suspicious.

For the first part, I simply voted my missions the way I would if I didn’t have special information. In fact, on the second mission, I knew that there was an evil player there. But it would have made no sense for me to vote it down. So I loudly proclaimed my trust and voted up. In fact, when we ended up winning, that vote there was the thing that threw the assassin off my trial. That, and some great play by another member of the good team to look very Merlin-y near the end of the game.

Second, I’ve decided that the best way to get my information out there is to come up with legitimate reasons why I think the evil players are evil. In this game, one of the players (and the newest to the game), voted a mission that he wasn’t on when the vote required all four good players to go. Only evil would vote that way. He blamed it on newness (and I conceded that could be a possibility) but I firmly stood by it as, “the best information at the table.” That allowed me to narrow things down, and draw the spy to just a 50/50 between two other players (of course I knew the right answer, but it seemed good).

When the third quest was successful, the Assassin believed that Merlin was either myself or the player to my right. He guessed wrong thanks, in large part, to that player’s good play and to my early approval of a mission with a spy on it. There was some great play in that game of Avalon and it will be remembered for quite a while.

Cures obtained, now others can actually implement them

Pandemic. Though this marked my 44th play of the game, it was my first since February 2013. We had four players and, with one new player, we decided to play on the Normal difficulty with five Epidemics in the deck. Playing Pandemic was fun and really hit some nostalgia notes (which is weird for a game that’s only been out five years).

We had a few lucky breaks during the game. First, we drew an inordinate number of special action cards right at the beginning of the game – so we had many more options than usual. Second, we had a long time before our first Epidemic. That gave us time to treat the starting diseases and also put more cards in the pile to be shuffled. Finally, we had some good luck with draws where players collecting a certain color happened to draw more of that color. Between that and the Researcher, we did a good job of getting cards where they needed to be.

There were still some hairy moments, though. The worst being when the world flooded with red cubes. We had two epidemics almost back to back. In fact, as the infection rate went to three, we put only three cards right on top. So we were looking at two outbreaks right off the bat – both in Asia. And that would, in turn, trigger more outbreaks. Luckily, we had a plan. First, we initiated a commercial travel ban to limit the damage. Second, the scientist cured the red disease on her turn. Finally, on my turn, we used Role Assignment to change me from an Operations Expert to the Medic. I ran throughout the red area administering the cure and preventing any additional outbreaks. We had 4 or 5 by game end, well within the limit.

Although it was fun, we never had critical moments where we felt like we were on the precipice of losing it all. We had everything well in hand. I guess I had forgotten how much the difficulty is stepped up by the expansion. The next time I play, I think I’ll insist on using either the Virulent Strain or the Mutation variants to keep the tension much higher.

My two year old is unnaturally good at Gulo Gulo

Also Played. One Night Werewolf (x5), Werewolf (x3), Gulo Gulo (x2), Modern Art, Peptide, and Sentinels of the Multiverse (featuring a five player victory over the Ennead in Rook City).

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