Infecting the world

It seems that over the last two or three months that Fenland Gamers have become disciples of the ‘cult of the new’. More new games have been hitting the table than normal. This has been partially aided by some of the backed Kickstarters starting to deliver. I’m not complaining really, it’s nice to get these games to the table instead of them arriving and joining the ranks of the pile of shame.

Yesterday Jonathan called asking if I wanted to play his latest arrival Plague Inc. Like many at the tail end of last week and over the weekend, he had received his Kickstarter copy of the game, and now wanted to play it.

I was knackered, it had been a long day. I had been awake from about 4:30am that morning, and my initial plan for when I got home was sleep. But who am I to turn down a chance to play games?

Plague Inc apparently is based on a video game I haven’t played. I’m not sure if Jonathan has either. I think, and it’s always a risk making assumptions on behalf of someone else, he liked the idea of infecting the world, and killing it off. The polar opposite to most other games such as the Pandemic family. It’s competitive and not co-operative. Something that makes it different from Pandemic.

So what did I think of the game?

For those that are already thinking tl;dr, we both liked it.

So you have this player board that is double sided, but we didn’t play with the virus side of it. We played with the default infection side.

You have these slots on the player board that you use to evolve your infection with using trait cards (each trait card has a cost to install that you pay for with DNA points). Two of the slots have default abilities on, such as get one extra DNA point. So you have to weigh up just when you are going to cover up those default powers with a trait. There is some nice decision making going on here, especially when your slots are full. Do you install a trait that will allow you to go into hot countries? Which existing trait do you get rid of? Depending on the stage of the game, is it even worth spending the DNA points?

This is an area control game, where you are trying to control countries on the board so that you get DNA points at the start of your go. If a country gets totally infected, ie all it’s cities are occupied by an infection token, then the majority player at the end of their turn gets a chance to kill that country by rolling the Death Dice.

When you kill a country, you get more DNA points. You also get the card for the country (important for end game scoring, which also has a majority control element to it). Bit more importantly you get event cards. Event cards are so much fun. They add a take that element to the game. For instance, I was able to cancel one of Jonathan’s events by playing an event from my hand that allowed me to cancel an event played by another player. The event cards give you boosts to your DNA points, or allow you to move infection cubes from one country to another, they even allow you to block countries and regions. Plus there are other effects I’m sure that we didn’t get to see.

Placing country cards is a nice tactical thing. Can your opponent go into cold climates, and you can? Then you are going to place cold climate countries on the map. But do you trash that hot country card that you can’t go into, and get a new hand of trait cards instead? You can’t do both. Do you advance your opportunities to infect more places, or do you try and scupper your opponents opportunities? But they might have a trait card that they can play that allows them to go into cold climates.

This is very thematic, especially on the trait cards. They have such names as nose bleed or diarrhoea. Ok the point scoring and calling them DNA points, might be stretching it a little.

Yes I liked this area control game. It has some nice elements to it that make it interesting. There was no run away winner throughout the game amassing a huge point lead that couldn’t be caught up.

For the record books, I beat Jonathan.

And thanks to Jonathan you get another photo of me!

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