Saturday, April 03, 2010

Nottingham and Pandemic

Siobhan and I had company over last night (I know, weird, right? We're going to lose our membership to the Hermits Antiassociation at this rate), Kaye and Bob (with Vaughn), for an evening of board games. It was a pleasant and relaxed evening, despite me being a little sore in the knee from the work of giving the house a thorough cleaning beforehand. We played two games, Nottingham and Pandemic.

Nottingham is a fairly lightweight game that's easy to pick up. It strikes me as a pretty social game, the kind of game you'd play while also chatting with friends. It's a card game with a Robin Hood theme (obviously) which is primarily about building a hand and gathering sets of related cards to score. There's relatively little you can do to each other, and not a lot of choices to make at any given moment, which keeps it quick and easy. There's a lot of luck involved, though, not so much that there's no tactics, but enough that there's a limit to how much you can optimize to win.

Pandemic's most striking feature is that it's a wholly cooperative game: you're not playing against one another, all the players are playing to win together or lose together. (We lost.) The production values are excellent: the game board's imagery, the pieces coming in petri dishes, and the card graphics are really striking and evocative of the game's subject, the fight against global epidemics. You play a team of CDC staffers fighting against a set of epidemic outbreaks, traveling the world to try to halt their spread while working to develop cures. The game we played included a few of the expansions from the On The Brink add-on, but not most of them.

Later, I played a computer solitaire version with just two players (me playing both, of course). This Java version is basically just a game board, you still do all the play yourself, so if you don't already know all the rules and what all the cards say, you can't really use the role powers or the card abilities, which is very limiting. Even so, I was able to win, perhaps because it was an easier setup, and because of better luck on the card draws, but also because I had a better idea of the strategy. It also makes me think a two-player version of the game might be quite viable, but I'm not wholly sure about that.

I was very impressed with the game in general and would definitely like to play it some more, so it's on my wish list now. I'm not sure where I'd find time to play it, of course; that's the big limitation on all these games. I haven't even managed to play Rock Band more than two or three times since Christmas!

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