A Pre-Christmas Game Night with Pandemic, Power Grid, & 7 Wonders

As the holiday roll in, there’s the opportunity to spend a lot of time with family, but even more opportunities to host game nights at my place. Typically, the day before the holidays is a half day at the office, which means it’s easy to round up coworkers (and former coworkers) and have them come for some cardboard fun. It also helps that most were locals and getting to me isn’t too much of a hassle.

That night, we managed to bring in 7 people for game night. A lot more than I normally get (normal is about 3-4 people), but enough that it opens a whole host of games to explore. So with that, here’s what we played and here’s what went down:

Game 1: Pandemic

The Setup: Not all 7 people showed up at once, but we started with 4 people, which allowed us to play Pandemic. One of our players, KL, picked up the game earlier but hadn’t yet learned how to play with a full group. In spite of that lack of experience, we decided to go into it on Heroic mode, confident in our ability to keep outbreaks under control.

What Happened: When we set the board up, the initial disease placement worked in our favor. However, the role draws were less than ideal. We drew a Medic, Quarantine Specialist, Contingency Planner, and a Dispatcher. All of those roles are great in terms of general utility, but what those roles don’t help us do is to make it easier to cure diseases.

Even with that, we were able to prevent many outbreaks. A lot of the action was centered around the Middle East/Southern Europe, so it was an easy decision to send my Quarantine Specialist over there. So while outbreaks wouldn’t become a concern, we were distracted by fires elsewhere on the board, making it difficult for us to transfer the cards so that players can research cures. Bad draws also didn’t help and many of us were stuck at 3 cards of 1 color for the longest time. Eventually we lost by drawing down the deck with 2 cures researched, one where we came really close, and another that was just too far out. Oh well.

Final Thoughts: The game itself was pretty enjoyable and KL was quite happy with his purchase. After we talked, we came to the conclusion that we could have let a few more outbreaks go by and use those turns to get people the cards they needed for researching cures. Basically, it means being able to prioritize actions by looking at the game state and determining what really needs to be done and what we can get away with.

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Game 2: Power Grid

The Setup: Once we wrapped up the game of Pandemic, more people started coming and it was enough to start a game of Power Grid. Power Grid has consistently been one of my go-tos because of how easy it is to teach and how much the game tends towards edge-of-your seat outcomes because of power plant order and bidding psychology. Since everyone knew how to play, we started and went with the German map.

What Happened: In initial city placement, Yellow managed to secure the Western portion of Germany and was in the strongest position because in a fit of mindgames, no one actually tried challenging him for that particular region. I contented myself with Central Germany which, while more expensive, gave me better options for expansions with only Blue to fight. Black situated himself in the really expensive Eastern region while Green got a good footing on the Northern region, forcing Purple into a series of undesirable jumps to gain access to more cities.

Once the game proceeded, there was a lot of resource jockeying going on as was expected and garbage plants turned out to play a bigger role in the game than they normally would. Nuclear resources also became dirt cheap by mid-game since very few of the nuclear plants had come up. Black was stuck in the Eastern quarter for most of the game, but did make an impressive leap into the Southeast, thereby stymieing my efforts to expand there and forcing me West. Even if he hadn’t done so, by the mid-game, it was pretty obvious that I was in a tough spot and wouldn’t be able to catch up.

Postmortem, and Final Thoughts: In a sharp contrast to most of my other Power Grid games, this one was one of the least satisfying ones I’ve played in awhile. A great game of Power Grid is a nailbiter while a mediocre game never quite comes down to the wire since the person who’s in the lead stays in the lead and doesn’t get challenged during the game. Green player, played by JC managed to win this one. Such is Power Grid sometimes.

Seven Wonders

Game 3: 7 Wonders

The Setup: After wrapping up Power Grid, we had 7 people to contend with. So in went 7 Wonders, a game that I haven’t played much of and haven’t fully figured out, especially because it’s hard to know when to prioritize card denial versus scoring high.

Then again, many of those who came that night hadn’t played it either, which meant teaching time! As easy as 7 Wonders’ mechanics are, it’s still a bit of a pain to teach because of all the symbols that are involved in the game. Another player, JH, and I took the time to go through and explain to people what each symbol meant. The explanation would never be quite complete the huge number and variety of symbols meant that people would need reminders from time to time. Explaining how to score the Science symbols was also a pain and hard to grasp until the very end.

What Happened: The game got underway and it ran about as well as a first game of 7 Wonders could go. People started getting the hang of it after a couple rounds and the only thing I noticed was that military wasn’t contested more heavily once a neighbor started investing in military. Also, one of the players managed to amass a huge chunk of science; no one contested him on that and he won the science race pretty handily.

Results, Postmortem, and Final Thoughts: In spite of all that happened, I managed to win that game. The point margin was pretty slim since the person in second place was only trailing me by about two points. My investment (some might say overinvestment) in military was the deciding factor as was my ability to build my Wonder to completion. I wouldn’t say that I knew what I was doing completely, so it’ll take a bit longer before all the pieces fit completely. After 7 Wonders, we took a break for dinner.

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Game 4: Coup

The Setup: Once we finished dinner, food coma began to set in and we figured it was time to switch to lighter fare. We decided on Coup, which is light in terms of game play and rules explanations since the game is pretty much BS, but with murdering involved.

What Happened: I took one shot at playing blind; that is, I didn’t look at the cards in my hand and went in Duke all the way. Unfortunately, my shenanigans were called out and I wasn’t able to do a whole lot there. The only other memorable play was someone doing a Turn 1 Ambassador which I should have called out on since most of the time, it indicates a weak hand, but let that opportunity drop. Oh well.

Final Thoughts: People new to Coup seemed to have a lot of fun and it was really great seeing the mindgames run its course around the table. The big takeaway for the evening was that in a 6-player game of Coup, don’t let yourself be the one painted as the juicy Captain target or you’re just gonna have a bad time.

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Game 5: Sushi Go

The Setup: Finally, we wanted to close out with an easy game. Because people had been exposed to 7 Wonders, I figured it’d be a breeze to teach people Sushi Go. Most people there had either already played Sushi Go! and were able to pick up on it pretty quick. After a 5-minute explanation, the game got under way.

What Happened: Unlike what happened in 7 Wonders, people were more proactive about denying cards others needed. The most interesting moment in the game was when someone else revealed the Sashimi card on the same turn I did, only for that person to have position over me, denying any/all subsequent Sashimi cards. I also took a Sashimi gambit in the first few rounds and, surprisingly, it worked!

Final Thoughts: As late as it was in the evening, people there enjoyed Sushi Go! and talked about how good of an intro the game is for heavier fare like 7 Wonders. And fittingly, it’s one of those light games that’s easy to teach and easy to run through. Because of that, it serves as a wonderful appetizer or a dessert-type game. A great way to end the night feeling satisfied by it all.

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