Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Tabletop Review - Pandemic: Rapid Response

Pandemic: Rapid Response
Published by Z-Man Games

Pandemic: Rapid Response is a tabletop "Save the Earth from any and every disaster possible" game built for 2-4 Players, set in the near future...the world's gone a bit downhill, cities all over the world are asking for aid: vaccines, water, power and other supplies.

YOU are part of a crack team of operatives (equipped with a knock-off Air Force One) all of whom have individual skills to bring to the table. They must put their minds together to ensure the survival and safety of all cities around the globe. However, you don’t have long. You must race against the clock (or hourglass in this case) to save each city and the people inhabiting them...

It's all a bit dystopian but thrilling nonetheless, the last hope for society flying around at 30,000 feet dropping care packages onto the cities to save them. Now that we know what's at stake, let's get down to the gameplay.

The game comes with a pretty high quality fold-out game board detailing the aeroplane, and the flight path of the plane around the outside of the board with all the city names listed.

Each character maneuvers between a number of different colour-coded rooms all adjacent to each other. Each colour room holds a different resource (Red for Medical, Blue for Water, White for Vaccines, Yellow for Power, Green for Food, Black for Waste and finally Purple for the Cargo Bay). To be able to gain these resources you need to collect the number of dice listed in the room to gain X amount of said resource. Once you have collected the correct amount of resources required by the city then you can airdrop them down out of the cargo bay.

“But wait”, I hear you ask, “I can just use any die? Doesn’t that make the game a bit pointless???”

Good question, voice in my head, which i’m glad you asked.

Each player has 6 Dice, each side of each die has a colour-coded side with the room symbol on. (who would have thought?). You roll all 6 at once and move the colour die that you have to the corrolating room (if required). Once a die has been placed you lose that die until the room is cleared down and you gain the resources available in that room. You have the opportunity to roll your dice 3x per turn (your initial roll and 2 additional rerolls...1+2=3. My maths teacher would be so proud).

Dice are not only used for resource gathering but also movement between the rooms, unlocking the cargo bay and moving the plane to each destination listed around the board. Each time you use a die you lose it for that turn or until it is removed from the board back to your stack.

Each player gets a Character card which displays your starting room in the top right hand corner and gives you a built-in trait that you can use on your turn at any time as many times as you want, for instance “when moving your character using a die, you can move 2 rooms instead of 1” or “when rolling a plane die, you can turn that die to any side that you want and use that on the board”. Some quite handy features, and there are a couple of harder to use characters that the info sheets explicitly tells you not to use until you have got your head around the game a bit.

I went in completely blind and decided to bring in a couple of novice board game players with me (namely my brother and sister - who have made me realise I never want to play a cooperative game with them every again…).

What started as fun very quickly turned into a shouting chaos that irritated my mum as she was watching Love Island at the time. But this shouting chaos was not because we weren’t having fun and were annoyed at the game. No, this was caused by us trying to do things as quickly as possible to make sure we don’t lose the game when the time runs all the way out.

The Lose and Win conditions are simple.

You win by either clearing through the deck of cards listing all of the cities around the map, providing them with the resources required and traveling to them around the map while doing so
*OR
by gaining all of the time tokens, which are given to you one at a time when you succeed in saving a city. Whichever comes first.

You lose by running out of time too many times (you have 3 chances to start with as you start with 3 time tokens, and each time the hourglass runs down you lose a token.
*OR*
by not clearing up the mess you make in the plane creating these resources, eventually tripping over said mess into the cockpit and evidently bombing out of the sky into the Indian ocean. We learned about the 2nd way to lose a bit late into the game after our plane (you guessed it) bombed out of the sky into the Indian ocean.

You need to be really ready for the game as the pace starts at 100% and then ramps up to 150%, and the game doesn’t really slow down either. You start, the timer is flipped and BOOM you’re starting. You are rolling your dice trying to run around the plane, building resources, rolling again, moving the plane, building more resources, re-rolling and then eventually passing it onto the next player after your 3 rolls.

The next player then, in my experience, does the same, but after rolling twice forgets that they can roll a third time and just stares at me blankly expecting me to telepathically recognise that it is indeed my turn. By that time we have 10 seconds left on the time and we have already lost our first time token…. I had to put the hourglass on its side to re-explain the concept of rolling dice to a 16 year old, not something that I thought I would have to do on a Friday evening.

Once we restarted the game we opted to go a bit slower to get the hang of it and work together talking about what's best to do with your teammates' dice and ensuring that we can get things done together..as a team, while it hurt us in the long run (losing the game due to lack of time) it set us up really well for game number 2 which we all wanted to jump straight into.

As game 2 starts we are back up to 100%, but this time all understanding what a set of dice is intended for...JORDAN!!! We start strong and continue to grow stronger as a team, we recognise the dice more, we work out what city is best to commit to due to how far away on the board they are, we start utilizing the character cards and their own personal effects on our turns and found that believe it or not, we were actually winning the game.

Each time we were losing a time token we were gaining another one for saving a city. We were getting so close to winning and then we forgot about a pretty large part of keeping the plane up and running. The waste management, the aforementioned Indian ocean crash of 2019 was looming. One thing I haven't mentioned yet was how waste is created and it's a pretty large element of the game.

Once you activate a room and gain the resources, waste is created by the dice that are used. You roll all of the dice used in that room and any dice that have a circle in the background generates 1 waste counter, if you get up to 11 waste counters you lose...we clearly were too infatuated with saving Tokyo at the time because we didn’t realise that we had ticked up to 10 very very quickly.

We were actually really bummed out that we failed...again! But we had a great time, the games only last around 20 minutes so we could have started up again but we left it for the night.

We have since played and won a few more times and this is still only using the basics.

There are a few more elements/rules that you can use to make the game harder will allows for a great amount of replayability.

Pandemic: Rapid Response is a fast paced, high octane tabletop game that on a basic level anyone from around 10+ can pick up and play, it's a fun coop game to play with your friends and family and for £30~ I think its a great pickup!

Kyle Mullings
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