Game Buzz: Roll Through the Pandemic

Today, I want to take a look at two recent games that are sequels to Matt Leacock games.  We’ll start with

image by BGG user EndersGame
image by BGG user EndersGame

Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age is a sequel to the 2008 game, Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age.  This title was designed by Thomas Lehmann, and is published by Gryphon Games.  The game had a successful Kickstarter campaign that concluded last December.  It’s for 1-4 players and takes thirty minutes to play.  The game uses the same Yahtzee-esque system as the first game, but adds a few mechanisms to bring this civilization building game to the Iron Age.

image by BGG user EndersGame
image by BGG user EndersGame

RTTA:IA comes with four pegboards, 20 pegs, 6 empire dice, one Fate die, a pad of score sheets, and two reference cards.  Each player gets a pegboard, five pegs, and a score sheet.  On the pegboard, your food is set to three, armies and goods are set to one, while wealth and ships are set to zero.  You then decide if you want to build a port or province, filling in the appropriate spots on your score sheet and possibly adjusting your pegs.  Ports increase the number of goods you may earn, while provinces give you immediate benefits (but require food).

On your turn, you roll the fate die and one die per province or port you have (whichever is greater).  You get three total rolls, and may reroll whichever dice you want (but not those with skulls).  Once you’ve finished rolling, collect goods and food.  The goods peg is advanced one per urn you have rolled, and the food peg is advance one per wheat symbol you have showing.  The fate die can adjust how much food you’re getting, +1 or -1 per die.

The next thing you need to do is feed your provinces and resolve disasters.  Reduce your food peg by one per province you have.  For each province you cannot feed, mark a disaster at the bottom of your scoresheet.  Then, resolve your skulls.  Mark one disaster for one skull, and four for four skulls.  Three skulls gives three disasters to your opponents.  Two or five skulls results in a battle, resolved in the next phase.

There are two ways you can get into a battle – roll 2 or 5 skulls, or roll a conquest result on the fate die and choose to fight.  Compare the strength of the opposing army (4 or 10 with skulls, or number of conquest boxes for conquest) to your army strength (armies plus ships plus any bonuses).  If you win, fill in tribute boxes equal to the difference.  If you lose, fill in disaster boxes equal to the difference.  Win, lose, or tie, lose one ship and one army if possible.  If you achieved a conquest victory, fill in another conquest box.

If you rolled a tribute result on the fate die, you compare your military strength to your opponents.  If you win, you gain tribute equal to the difference.  If you lose or tie, nothing happens.  You can choose to give the demanding player a good to prevent them from gaining tribute from you.

Next, it’s time to build.  For each person symbol on a die, you can mark off a box on a province, a port (which also requires goods), a monument, or an army (which also will cost a food).  You can spend two goods to build a ship, but you cannot build any until you have the Shipbuilding development.  If you are the first to complete a monument, you get the higher point total.  Anyone else who completes it after that will get fewer points.

The next step is to buy a development.  You can spend goods (1 each), innovation die results (3 each) or stored wealth (5 each) to purchase one development, marking it on your sheet.  The last step of your turn is to optionally convert sets of four goods into one wealth each.  A good deal, since wealth has a value of 5.

When any player builds their seventh development, has 50+ tribute, or all monuments have been built by someone, the game is over after everyone has had the same number of turns.  Add your scores – monuments plus developments plus bonuses and remaining wealth plus tribute minus disasters.  The player with the highest score wins.

The original RTTA is something I really enjoy.  I like the simplicity of it, and I love the components.  It’s also the first game I played that took Yahtzee to a new level, and I’ve enjoyed exploring the different avenues to victory.  This game looks like it adds some different mechanisms, but doesn’t seem to add too much to the complexity.  It’s still the same basic system, but now with a battle system and more of a streamlined process of acquiring developments.  I’m glad they kept up with the wooden aesthetic, and I hope the game does well – it looks fun.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Pandemic: The Cure is a sequel to the 2008 cooperative game Pandemic.  This sequel was created by Pandemic’s designer, Matt Leacock, and is being published by Z-Man Games.  It’s a 2-5 player game that takes thirty minutes to play.  The game is essentially a dice version of Pandemic – four diseases are threatening the world, and it’s up to you to cure them.

image by BGG user Happykali
image by BGG user Happykali

The Cure comes with 48 infection dice, one infection bag, 7 player pawns, 7 role cards, 37 player dice, 6 region tiles, one treatment center, one outbreaks syringe, one infection rate syringe, one CDC tile, 10 event cards, and one cured diseases card.  In the beginning of the game, twelve infection dice are randomly drawn, rolled, and placed in corresponding regions.  No one region can have more than three of a single color die.  Each player is randomly dealt a role, then takes the associated pawn and dice.  Pawns begin in region 1 (North America).

On your turn, you roll dice, take actions, give samples, try to find a cure, and infect regions.

ROLL DICE: Roll all of your player dice.  Actions can be taken in any order, and you can even reroll after taking actions (but not the dice used for the actions).  You can reroll these dice as much as you want, but if you ever roll a biohazard symbol, you cannot reroll it.  Each biohazard advances the infection rate by one.  Epidemics are caused when you reach certain points on the infection track – these are bad.

TAKE ACTIONS: There are four standard actions – fly, sail, tray, and collect sample.  To fly, move your pawn to any other region.  To sail, move your die to an adjacent region.  To treat, move one die from your region to the treatment center, or move one die from the treatment center to the infection bag.  To collect a sample, take one die from the infection center and place it on your role card.  There are also actions specific to your role.

GIVE SAMPLES: You can give all samples of one color on your role card to another player in your region.

TRY TO FIND A CURE: Reroll all collected samples of a single color that you have.  If you roll 13 or higher, you have cured that disease and are one quarter of the way to victory.  From now on, when you treat this disease, you can move all dice of that color instead of just one.

INFECT REGIONS: The final part of your turn, after taking all of your actions, is infecting cities.  Draw as many dice as are indicated by the infection rate, roll them, and place them in the corresponding regions.  If there are more than three dice of a single color in a region, an outbreak is triggered which spreads dice into adjacent regions.  You could also roll crosses, which go into the CDC and can be spent on special events that are very helpful.

If you cure all four diseases, you win.  If the infection rate syringe reaches the end of the track, you lose.  If eight or more outbreaks occur, you lose.  If there aren’t enough dice left in the bag to infect humanity, you’d think that would be a good thing.  But it’s not.  You lose.

I haven’t played Pandemic in a long time, but it’s not because I dislike the game.  I really like it, and have a lot of respect for it.  I was suspicious of The Cure because I think dice versions are often not worth it.  However, it looks like Matt Leacock has found a clever way to make this feel like the original while still offering some unique ideas of its own.  I like that you can reroll as much as you dare, at least until you run out of dice from all the biohazards.  Rather than having the usual Yahtzee style (no offense to Roll Through the Ages), it makes things a little more interesting.

So, there you have it.  Two sequels I’m looking forward to.  Check them out, and let me know what you think if you get a chance to play.  Thanks for reading!

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