Over the last ten months, a growing number of gaming enthusiasts post images and thoughts about a specific gaming mechanism. This encourages other Instagram users to look again at their collections and consider what older games might fit certain categories. So it was recently with a mechanism called “contracts” that meant we dusted off our rediscovered game: Ticket to Ride Europe. The contract element comes from aiming to fulfil at least three specific routes. [Ticket to ride has had a bit of a renaissance in the last month. The latest iteration is the gorgeous 15th Anniversary Edition] TTR comes alive with higher player counts.
With four people or competing for specific routes in Western Europe we had plenty of “Euro congestion!” This is where the competitive and tactical element comes into play of this old classic. The wise gamer is able to predict the intended route of the others and deliberately sabotage their plans. This might be by claiming the single track between Zurich and Paris or other key tracks. This could force others to take a detour while they are trying to enlarge their single continuous route. Alternatively, playing a station to “share” the rights to that rail track would at least allow a contract to be fulfilled or perhaps limit others in that possibility.
Also, whoever thought that bluffing could play a part in a classic TTR game? At one point in our game, there was no route-building east of Berlin. Everyone was fighting over Western Europe. This allowed me to start to construct a very long route despite having no initial contracted tickets. Then by drawing a handful of other route tickets I was able to select a number of paths that encompassed areas I had already claimed. This was a risky strategy but so satisfying.
The final tally that included the 10-point bonus for the longest continuous route meant I sneaked into the lead by a single point. Ticket to Ride is seen as very mainstream. It is a family-friendly gateway game that some might consider a little simple. However, I would argue that experienced players will always have plenty of fun especially when other strategies to win are considered.
Pandemic is my rediscovered game. Designed by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man games has been collecting dust on my shelf since the start of the…well…pandemic. It’s a cooperative game that plays best at four. Its recent addition to Board Game Arena and lockdown easing has meant I can finally play it again.
Released in 2008 this hugely popular cooperative game and its spin-offs appear four times in the boardgamegeek.com top 100 list. It’s one of the most popular, and biggest-selling hobby board game franchises.
If you have never played a cooperative game before, start here. Pandemic is the benchmark that all other cooperative games are compared against.
The aim of the game is to cure diseases that are spreading throughout the globe. Players do this by working together to collect sets of cards that match the colour of each disease and trading them in at a research station.
Each player’s character has a unique ability that can be used in conjunction with the others to achieve your goal. Maybe you can cure diseases for a lower cost, “treat” (remove) disease cubes easily, or keep the spread in a certain area under control.
Each turn more disease cubes are added to the board, increasing the chance of triggering an outbreak, where cubes spill over into neighbouring cities. In our last game we lost when a chain reaction of four outbreaks happened in Europe.
The game can be made harder by adding more “Epidemic” cards to the draw deck. Causing an epidemic adds three disease cubes to a new city and adds more cubes to locations which may already be in danger.
Pandemic is a very fun but sometimes unforgiving game and so it not the best choice for people who are not okay with losing. If working as a team to save the world sound like your bag, then grab Pandemic.
Is it just me, or did life just get BUSY?! With saying goodbye to an old job, jumping into a new one and working on 3 of my own designs things have definitely been hectic for me personally, but with the country gradually reopening there's suddenly so many things to do, people to see, so much life to enjoy. Perhaps that's why this month, when back at home, I've been drawn to taking a moment of peace and quiet in the form of Tranquility, my rediscovered game.
Tranquillity is a 1 to 5 player game that carves out a moment of stillness. It’s a cooperative (or solo) game that relies on instinct as you and your fellow players must fill the sea with islands in numerical order but, and this is key, WITHOUT communication.
Whilst filling a 6x6 grid with cards ranging from 1-80 may initially seem easy, the simple rules around card placement make for a challenging and puzzle-y game. You have to try to keep track of your own hand and discarded cards and anticipate how your fellow players might move.
You’re faced with two options when taking your turn in Tranquillity: 1) Place a card or 2) Discard two cards.
Placing a card is exactly what it sounds like and allows you to place a card anywhere within the 6x6 grid, if you happen to place a card next to a card already in the grid then you must discard cards equal to the difference between the two numbers.
This is when the game starts to get interesting because you need to ensure you can fill the whole grid and because communication is forbidden you can never be sure of who has discarded what.
The second option, to discard two cards should be used sparingly, as there is no way to get discarded cards back into your hand.
This simple game is the perfect antidote to a busy schedule. It plays quickly, quietly and with various expansions included you can increase/decrease the difficulty as you see fit!
Pandemic (Again!) - Craig Smith
I’m sure there’s a joke about my rediscovered game being called Pandemic during a pandemic. I can’t think of one right now though. Nope… not even one. Pandemic was one of my gateway games to the hobby. I generally find cooperative games are easier to teach and learn as you are already working together. It was the first game my family truly understood the rules to. We played it a lot when I first bought it. I mean a lot.
My parents are people who enjoy the comfort of familiarity. They don’t like it when their neighbours move house. They don’t like it when the news interrupts their regularly scheduled programmes. Because of this, they play games to death rather than learning new ones.
I’m the exact opposite. I’d rather play a game occasionally rather than letting be overplayed. This meant I hadn’t actually played Pandemic for a while. However, we recently invested in the On the Brink expansion, which has a bioterrorist mode who works against the group. This allows us to have the best of both worlds. A newer version to keep me interested, but the familiarity for my parents. I will always recommend Pandemic as a great gateway game. On one hand, you’ve got the hand management aspect. On another hand you have the board, and epidemics springing up all over the place. You end up in situations where you must consider the lesser of two, three or even four evils. Do you just let viruses spread to help speed up the creation of cures?
Some of you might be suffering from pandemic fatigue, in which case do not play this game. However, if you are wanting a game that’s easy to learn, encourages teamwork and has high replayability, Pandemic is your game.