I recently spent a week and a half in Toronto, after having been gone for nine months, and the city’s changed already! There’s a stretch of Bloor street that’s notorious for having new shops open every few months, and others disappearing when the rent gets too high. Just west of that a new board game cafe opened while I was gone. For $5 you can sit there as long as you want and play as many boardgames as you like. They have close to two thousand games, all stacked in IKEA Expedit shelving along the long wall of the cafe.
While waiting for Nadia to show up, I spotted a game that I’d read a review of. I had been meaning to play Pandemic, and here it was! Nadia was also up for a game of pandemic eradication, so we got out the multi-page instructions and tried to figure it out.
The girl sitting at the table next to us commented “Wow, your game sounds complicated” when we had to refer to the instructions for the millionth time. “Have you been the infection yet this round?” “You still need to take another card – we only just did the epidemic card.” “Don’t forget to move the outbreak marker.”
The goal of the game was to win, as a team, against the spreading infections. The game itself could win from all the players by making them run out of cards or playing pieces, or after eight epidemic outbreaks. The players could win by finding cures against all diseases. Once you had a cure, you could then also eradicate that disease, making it impossible to get new infections of that type.
To find a cure, you needed 5 similarly-coloured cards, and a research station. Building a research station was, relatively speaking, the easiest move in the game. It only cost as much as a plane ticket, and if you were lucky, you could even use this card, making it entirely free:
Don’t you wish you had that card in real life?
Nadia and I were battling the imaginary diseases as hard as we could, but even though the game had assigned us the awesome roles of scientist and medic, respectively, we couldn’t seem to win. After playing for more than two hours, and cheating a little by not admitting defeat when the pile of playing cards ran out (an instant loss, according to the game), we wondered how anyone was ever able to beat Pandemic. We were collaborating and playing well, and had still only wiped out two of the four diseases from the map. That’s when we read the instructions again…. We were supposed to find cures to all diseases, not entirely eradicate them! We’d been playing with all the cures for over an hour, trying our best to entirely get rid of every single pathogen on the board, but that went way above and beyond the call of duty.
Science had won after all. If only building research stations and finding cures was so easy in real life…