Giant Bomb Unplugged, a.k.a TheBeast's Introduction to Board Games is a blog series intended to introduce the Giant Bomb community to board gaming. I'll try to introduce a couple of games in every edition, hopefully there'll be something that interests you somewhere. Enjoy!
For this board game post, I tried to pick a few games out of my collection that are more likely to appeal to the video-gamey audience here on GB. We've got outbreaks of deadly viruses, and spaceships, what more could you ask for?
Designer: Matt Leacock, Publisher: Z-Man Games
Pandemic is a little different from what you might expect from a modern board game in that it’s entirely co-operative. Working together with up to 3 other players, your team tries to beat the ‘board’ by eradicating the world of four diseases which are constantly spreading, causing outbreaks and general creating chaos all over the map.Each player starts by being given a role which give that player a special ability; from the Medic’s ability to quickly heal a country of all disease, to the Scientist, who has an easier time discovering cures for each disease. While this doesn’t limit what each player can ultimately do, you’re probably going to want to play to everyone’s specialities.
Every turn, a player will draw new cards from the player card pile and take a certain number of actions, ranging from moving around, treating disease, or discovering a cure (as long as you have the right number of cards matching the diseases’ colour) - which will make it easier to treat, and eventually cause the disease to stop reappearing altogether. If you end up depleting the player card pile before you’ve managed to complete your goal of finding cures for all four diseases, you’re defeated.
Players will end each of their turns by playing as the board - drawing a number of infection cards and adding the disease to the cities shown on each card. If at any point a single city has more than 3 disease cubes, an outbreak occurs, resulting in the disease spreading to each adjacent city - bad news not only because it’s more to clean up, but because it puts you one step closer to the end of the outbreak track, once you hit the end, you’re defeated.
One final hurdle thrown in the mix is the ‘Epidemic’ cards mixed in to the player cards (You have the option of using up to 6 Epidemic cards, depending on how difficult you want the game to be.).
When these are drawn, a major outbreak of disease occurs and all the cities that have previously been infected are added back to the top of the infection card pile - meaning you’re going to have to be extra careful that these cities don’t outbreak. Not to mention that every two Epidemic cards that you draw, the game gets more difficult by ramping up the amount of cities that are infected each turn.Pandemic is an absolute blast to play - you’ll have to plan carefully, discuss (or argue) tactics with your group, and still end up feeling panicked about the imminent chance of an outbreak. Each game plays differently - sometimes you’ll lose control of the situation and get completely overwhelmed, at which point the game turns in to a chaotic rush to cure diseases before they take over. Other times you’ll be in perfect control the whole way through and feel like a total badass by the end.
Expansions: Although Pandemic has enough re-playability to last you quite some time, the ‘On the Brink’ expansion adds more roles and more challenges that you can mix in to the game for a different experience. There’s also a variant in which one player plays as the ‘bio-terrorist’, trying to spread disease while the others try to stop him.
Players: Between 2 and 4 players with the base game, On the Brink adds support for a 5th player. The game works great with any amount, although I’d say that 5 might be a bit too many. Seeing as there’s no hidden information in the game, it’s also a relatively decent solo game, although you do miss out on the banter of playing with others.
Recommended for: If you like co-ordinating strategies, working as a group and don’t mind a slightly stressful experience at times, this is an excellent choice. It’s also a good option for families that want to play a great game that doesn’t end in someone sulking by the end of the evening.
Designer: Tory Niemann, Publisher: Clever Mojo Games
As small a market as board games are at the moment, there’s still room for ‘indie’ games that aren’t published by the larger game publishers (Days of Wonder, Rio Grande, Z-Man). Funded by a Kickstarter project which tripled its funding goal, reaching almost $15,000 in June 2010, Alien Frontiers is an indie success story which turned out to be a pretty great game too.In Alien Frontiers, each player has a set of coloured die symbolising your fleet of ships. On your turn, you roll your die and place each one on an ‘Orbital Facility’ around the beautifully designed board. Each Orbital Facility has different requirements for what die rolls can be placed there to activate their unique abilities. For example; the Shipyard allows you to purchase a new ship (dice) as long as you have enough resources and can place two die of equal value on it. The Raider’s Outpost requires three die of sequential values (e.g. 2, 3 and 4) but allows you to steal resources or Alien Technology cards from other players.
Using each facility will gain you resources, ways to trade those resources for valuable skills, and ways to just get in the way of your opponents. Whatever you do, they’re all there to serve to help you get colonies on the planet in the middle of the game board. The player with the most colonies on a planet segment (each named after a Sci-Fi writer; from the Asimov Crater to the Heinlein Plains) earns that segments’ special ability - usually the ability to exert some influence over an Orbital Facility, making their use of that facility more efficient.
Each colony placed, each segment controlled and each special Alien Monument card owned gives the player a victory point - the first to reach the end of the victory point track wins the game.The simple yet creative mechanics, along with the excellent art, design and production quality of Alien Frontiers make this a really easy one to recommend.
Players: Works well with 2 - 4 players. The game scales depending on your player count - so a 2 player game will only use certain slots at each Orbital Facility to make sure there’s still competition over who can use what facilities.
Recommended for: Fans of Sci-Fi will particularly enjoy the theme and artwork, but it’s really a game that anyone can enjoy.
Are there any board games you like to play? What would you like to see covered in a blog post? Let me know!