Sunday afternoon was game day for me and my crew, and we threw ourselves in headlong for an afternoon of SORRY! SLIDERS, ROBORALLY and PANDEMIC.

After a fun time was had by all with the first two games, Shea Stanley (upper right), I (lower right), Billy Littlepage (lower left) and my wife, Becky (upper left) sat down for the main event, Pandemic.

The roles were drawn and assigned:

Shea = Scientist = White Pawn
Josh = Operations Expert = Green Pawn
Billy = Dispatcher = Purple Pawn
Becky = Medic = Orange Pawn

We were excited because we have found the Dispatcher + Medic combo to be advantageous in accomplishing the goal of curing the four virulent plagues. The medic's ability to treat diseases efficiently (including for free once a cure is discovered) combined with the dispatcher's ability to move another player's pawn during his turn makes for expedient disease treatment and helps prevent nasty outbreaks. Meanwhile, the scientist would try to make good use of his ability to execute cures with fewer resources while I'd be able to help with cure-finding by building research stations.

The early draw presented the greatest challenges in the Middle East with the black contagion, and in South America with the yellow illness. North America and Europe had a bit of the blue bug while the red disease was yet to show itself.

The game got started with me, the operations expert, trying to get a feel for the conditions in North America and treating the disease present there while the dispatcher moved south and the medic headed toward Europe, quelling illness where it was spotted. The scientist caught a flight to the middle east to begin battling the really aggressive black plague.

The dispatcher helped in this regard by using his ability to move the medic to another occupied city and the fast-treatment specialist further assisted in the control of the illness ravaging the Middle East. Shea (scientist) was also assembling a decent collection of black resource cards and lacked only one to find a cure for that illness.

Again, the dispatcher helped by sending my character, the operations expert, over to join the scientist in a location where I could share one of my black resource cards (I believe this was Istanbul) and build a research station. There, the scientist would be the first to cure a disease, finding the right course of treatment for the black illness.

Feeling like things were in good hands in the Middle East now, the Medic caught a flight to South America to begin treating the strains of disease in that region. Even as infections flared up around the world -- including the first cases of the red disease in Asia, the team began building momentum.

Utilizing the same research station that the scientist had used, I was able to employ my impressive collection of yellow resource cards to cure the yellow plague.
The dispatcher and medic combined their abilities and efforts to aggressively administer the cure for the yellow plague in the south, quickly eradicating that illness.

Soon after the team pooled its efforts to stamp out the last traces of the black bug, ensuring that we would not be further troubled by that ailment, either.

Thus far in the game, the blue disease had been a wide spread, nagging issue — but one that had been kept largely in check. There had been only one outbreak in Chicago that was quickly contained and several smaller infections across North America and Europe. Additionally, the red flu was likely to present a nasty propensity for outbreak if we didn't move quickly to extinguish its couple of hot spots.

The dispatcher had been assembling an impressive array of resources with which to treat the red disease and was closing in on a cure. In the meantime, the medic flew to that corner of the globe to treat the occurrences of the sickness while the dispatcher completed his research. The scientist and operations expert, meanwhile, did their part to keep the blue bug from spreading out of control.

Excitedly, the dispatcher drove from Miami to Atlanta and rushed into the research center there to confirm the test results. A cure for the epidemic in Asia was a reality!

At this point, a quick taking of stock indicated that the medic had the best shot of treating the blue disease with three of the five needed resources. As luck would have it, the operations expert had two blue cards to share, and the dispatcher assisted in coordinating the first exchange, in Madrid. The second would have to follow in the next round in New York, and we could tell we were going to be in the absolute 11th hour because the player card deck was about to expire.

Our hearts fluttered as we realized that Billy (lower-left) would draw the last player cards, but a quick scan of the rules told us that the game would not end until a player went to draw player cards and could not. That meant if the operations expert could zoom to New York first and erect a research center, that there was hope the medic could join him there, receiving from him the last bit of needed knowledge (blue New York card) and developing a cure for this last, widespread illness.

In truly heroic fashion, every member of our CDC operation played their role, making sure the needed parties got to the necessary locations and all special skills and abilities were brought to bear. As the time ticked toward zero on the DoomsDay clock, the medic rushed into New York's hastily established research center, collected the samples from the operations expert and raced to the lab where she and her assistants developed the curative medicine for the blue plague.

Even though we played with the introductory difficulty to assist our mostly inexperienced crew, and further simplified things by playing with cards face-up, this was an amazingly tense game that came down to the absolute last possible moment.

The greatest sense of satisfaction comes from the fact that each member of the team really played his or her role, with each person curing one of the four illnesses.

As would figure, MVP probably belonged to the dispatcher, with the medic a close second, but the scientist and I didn't feel for a minute like second fiddles. We made sure that we were in the places we needed to be to give us all the chance to pull out a victory, and we did ... by the skin of our teeth.

This type of victory was also better appreciated because three of the individuals at the table, in our inaugural game of Pandemic on New Year's Eve, lost when we ran out of player cards looking for one more cure.

Now that everyone is finally accustomed to the game, the next one will certainly be played at the normal level of difficulty, but I couldn't have asked for a better final act on this excellent game day.

Pandemic is an excellent cooperative game that fills a great niche in being a common-goal game that is playable in a reasonable amount of time and without a lot of rules overhead. The gamers at the table ranged from neophyte to hard core geek, and it seems an equally fun time was had by all.

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