Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 11 July 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Pandemic: Rapid Response

Game: Pandemic: Rapid Response

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer:  Kane Klenko

Year: 2019

You've saved the world from global pandemic many times. Perhaps you've also prevented floods, built railroads to help cure cholera, or even defended Rome from invading armies. But, this time in Pandemic you're aid workers, throwing supplies out of the back of your plane to help a humanitarian crisis. Not only that, but Matt Leacock's name, ubiquitous with the Pandemic series, is nowhere in sight!

Pandemic: Rapid Response is a real-time cooperative dice rolling game for 2-4 players, designed by Kane Klenko. Kane Klenko is the master of stressful games where you roll dice really quickly while anxiously watching a timer, with both Fuse, and one of our favourites Flatline, to his designer name. Pandemic: Rapid Response certainly takes a lot of inspiration from these previous games, as you work together to deliver supplies of aid all over the world to cure the pandemic before it spreads out of control.

The central board in Pandemic: Rapid Response is long and thin, representing the fuselage of a plane and all of the rooms within it. Each of the rooms corresponds to a different action, for example the room where you gather food, vaccines or water, or the back of the plane where you launch your care packages. Each round is timed with a 2-minute sand timer and players take turn to roll their six dice and take actions based on the faces rolled. Two re-rolls per turn are allowed and then any dice face can be used for a point of movement around the ship and dice are allocated primarily to gain resources or to fly the plane to new global locations, that are currently in need of supplies. After each 2-minute phase, a success token is lost and a new location cards, in need of help, is added. If you ever run out of success tokens you lose the game, but if you send supplies to every city then you win.

Pandemic: Rapid Response certainly encourages cooperation and with a 2-minute timer, there's a need to to communicate effectively and efficiently. It's definitely easiest with players of similar experience and skill levels, else one player may just end up shouting instructions. If you do work well together then you can really focus on ensuring that you have a good amount of dice in circulation and overcome the obstacles of locked dice to try and keep making the right level of progress in the game. If you're not curing one city every two minutes then you'll lose, but if you take every opportunity to make a few spare cubes then you can get to the point of curing two per round and you're well on your way to victory.

There are a number of ways to alter the complexity and difficulty in Pandemic: Rapid Response. First with complexity, there are a number of character cards in the box that give each player a special ability - these are mostly really strong unique powers and some are suggested to be simpler than others. The unique powers are really helpful to guide players into the faces they should be either saving or re-rolling based on what they are the best at around the table. For difficulty, there are different levels allowed for by adding more city cards and/or by adding crisis cards. Adding more city cards did not seem like a huge factor to us, because once things are under control, it seems like a no-brainer that you should win the game by continuing to go through the motions. The crisis cards definitely add a more challenging curve ball and add a little more complexity to the game.

Difficulty is the key aspect that I have grown to dislike about Pandemic:Rapid Response. Our first two games were played with strangers at a board game convention. We didn't really have a common language to communicate with and we were not all players of a similar experience level. We found the game to be a real challenge as a result. After initially thinking that two-players could be harder due to having locked dice committed on the board we've actually found it far easier because the group focus is not divided and you can just jointly work your way around the plane checking off all the things you need to do. I think our level of  familiarity and efficient communication is also a big factor. We've gone all in on difficulty, adding all of the city cards and crisis cards and still found that winning was a given. This is in contrast to Flatline and Fuse which we barely ever win, and I think that in a cooperative game I prefer the more difficult challenge - there's no real point in playing a cooperative game I know I'll win.

Pandemic: Rapid Response is a good real-time cooperative game, but for me it's not quite great. It's definitely highly cooperative, but the secret ingredient of most real-time co-ops is the simultaneous play which diminishes any chance of alpha gaming where one player makes all of the decisions. I do like that there's a nice mix of elements going on with walking around the plane, flying between cities, as well as assigned dice to complete objectives. Ultimately, if Pandemic: Rapid Reponse were more difficult, I think it would become a favourite, but I'd rather face the challenge of Flatline, which is perhaps less thematic and varied, but is more frantic and challenging. If you find the simultaneous rolling too stressful and would prefer the slightly more turn based game, perhaps for introducing new players then Pandemic: Rapid Reponse might be a perfect fit. For the Yellow Meeple, Pandemic: Rapid Response is a 7/10.

Pandemic: Rapid Response was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £38.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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