Pandemic Strategy (Guest Blog)

I’ve invited my brother-in-law Joseph Erickson to post his thoughts around Pandemic strategy. Cooperative board games are great to play with kids because you can lead them along. One of the best is Pandemic. Joseph discusses it below, but I want to add that one of the keys to cooperative games is to let people play. Don’t dominate the game on your own, allow everyone to participate, even if it means a sub-optimal move. You can give suggestions, but if you are the game controller, people will leave with a bad taste in their mouth. Now to Joseph.

__________________________________________________________________

Do you always seem to win at board games? Or perhaps you feel you are consistently on the losing side when you play? Maybe board games often result in fighting. If you’ve had any of these issues, then I would recommend playing a cooperative board game. Your friends become your teammates and your foe becomes the game itself. High on the list of great cooperative games is Pandemic.

When I think of possible outcomes for Pandemic, one “blonde” joke comes to mind. There was a redhead, a brunette, and a blonde on an island. They decided they would take their chances and swim the 50 miles back to the mainland. The redhead swam 20 miles and couldn’t go any farther and drowned. The brunette swam 30 miles, but met the same fate. The blonde swam 49 miles and decided she was too tired, so she swam all the way back to the island. Pandemic can be just like this. Either you will die trying to win, or you will spend a lot of energy “swimming” but forget what the actual goal is.

Pandemic is about saving the world. There are 4 different diseases that are spreading each turn. Your job is to find the cures before time runs out. There are many ways to find the cures, but there are also many ways where the board game beats you.

This brings me to the first key to the game – remember what it takes to win. Every time someone has a turn it is a good idea to ask, “Is this helping us get a cure?” Four cures is all you have to do to beat the game. There can still be many disease pieces on the game board.  You can have several outbreaks. While it is important to keep tabs on the many ways you can lose to the board game, focusing on getting the cures give you the best chance to win.

The next key is to maximize. This game is a good lesson in basic economics because every turn has trade-offs. You can choose to remove disease pieces or trade city cards or move to another city. While most of the time doing anything is helpful, there is usually a better choice to stay on track for the win. As often as possible use all 4 moves that you are given. Perhaps remove a disease piece before moving the three times to your intended city.

Another key to Pandemic is to understand and utilize all special powers. Each player will be given a role card that has a particular power. Use this power often. It is a valuable advantage. There are also event cards. Don’t forget about these after they’ve been drawn. These cards have kept me alive or made a big difference in winning many times. All these powers are there to give you an advantage because the game can be pretty impossible without them.

The final key or strategy for Pandemic is communication. This is a cooperative game, so work together. Ask each other for ideas and openly discuss what should be done every turn. Not only will this bring out the best ideas, but it will also make the game more fun.

Lord of the Rings: Confrontation Strategy

This is my all-time favorite two-player game. The complexities of strategy along with the simplicity of play make it accessible but extremely satisfying.

My brother and I had been playing this game one night many years ago. It was the day before he left on a two-year mission for our church. He ended up sneaking in a win at the last part of the game. At that point, it was pretty late, so we went to bed. I kept playing the game over and over in my mind, and an hour or two later, I went to his room and tried to get him to play one more time. He refused flat out!

This gave me the opportunity to think about how to beat him for two years. When he did finally return, we had our fated rematch and I came out victorious! My family still reminds me about this every time the game comes out.

The game itself has the fellowship of the ring fighting to get Frodo into Mordor while facing hordes of overpowered servants of the dark lord Sauron. You move pieces around like Stratego on a grid and face off in battles. It is quick to learn, and each game can be completed in 15 minutes.

lord-of-the-rings-characters

Strategy

The strategy for LOTR: Confrontation is very complex. There isn’t one great thing to do because once your opponent knows your strategy, it is completely obsolete. Refer to my post on what to do when people know your strategy for tips on other games, but in this game, you can’t have one set strategy. What you can do is know the strengths and weaknesses of each character and take advantage of them as much as possible.

I will lay out the strategies for each character on each side, and then talk about general strategies.

lord-of-the-righs-fellowship

The Fellowship

Unit Good For/Against Bad Against
Gandolf Sarumon
Cave Troll
Flying Nazgul
Black Rider
Orcs (Watch out for Orcs when trying to bring out Gandolf the White)
Boromir 5 point characters Warg
Legolas Flying Nazgul All others
Gimli Orcs All others
Aragorn Sarumon Level 5 Units
Merry Witch-King All others
Pippin Scouting only Warg
Sam Staying with Frodo With Frodo, no one
Frodo No One! Run away! Everyone!

Your goal early on should be to kill as many of Sauron’s minions as possible while preparing a path for Frodo to sneak through.

Gandolf is your main killer. He has an advantage over almost everyone, but don’t get tricked into sacrificing him to the Orcs. Use Pippin to test for weaknesses and attack characters with less than 5 with Gandolf. Eventually, you will end up getting killed by a 5 character, but then prepare to come back as Gandolf the white.

balrog

Sauron’s Minions

Unit Good For/Against Bad Against
Balrog Protecting the tunnel
All Characters (but Boromir)
Noble Sacrifice
Boromir
Shelob All Characters (but Boromir) Warg
Witch-King All Characters (but Boromir and Merry) All others
Flying Nazgul Scouting
Frodo
Legolas
Gandolf
Aragorn
Black Rider Scouting
Frodo
Gandolf
Aragorn
Saruman Rushing past Gandolf and killing all weak characters Gandolf
Aragorn
Orcs Gandolf Gimli
Warg Pippin
Frodo
All others
Cave Troll One free kill Gandolf

Sauron has a distinct military advantage, but the fellowship can whittle away at your army until you can’t stop Frodo. If you can sneak past Gandolf, Saruman can do some excellent damage to the Fellowship. Use your 5 characters and sacrifice yourself to Gandolf. Guard the Gandolf the White space to ensure he doesn’t return.

You want to kill enough characters that you can force Frodo to move towards you. Whenever you attack Frodo, you open yourself up to him sneaking through, so if you can trap his movements and require him to attack you, you can usually win.

 

This is a great game. I suggest you pick up a copy and play often.

 

 

King of Tokyo Strategy

This is a top 3 game for my 8-year-old girl. She loves taking a big handful of dice and shaking them out. She also loves the giant monsters and the powers you can gain.

Here is the strategy:

  1. Get in Tokyo early
  2. Collect energy in early turns
  3. Choose a winning strategy and focus on it
    1. Kill everyone
    2. Risky Tokyo points
    3. Extra turns
    4. Sneaky slow ramp up with a quick ending.

Get in Tokyo

Anytime throughout the game, when your points are higher than 7 or 8, you want to get into Tokyo. Early in the game, this is very useful because opponents have not acquired high attacking powers and they are often trying to get energy. You can usually get 5-7 free points before you have to make a retreat.

Depending on the other players’ upgrades, you want to exit Tokyo when your points drop below 4. Anything less than that can lead you to an early demise.

Energy

To win the game you really need to upgrade your skills. Collect energy in early turns to prepare you for the future. If you are getting the points from being in Tokyo, you can spend the rest of your dice trying to get energy.

Win Strategies

Choosing your winning strategy depends on the available cards to purchase. You really won’t know what you will be able to do until you see what is available.

Killing everyone

This is my favorite strategy because it ends before people know what hit them. Stay middle of the pack, attacking here and there and collecting energy and cards, but purchase the upgrades that give you extra attacks and multiple player attacks.

Once the game gets going and you have enough offensive upgrades, attack relentlessly against the players with the least life. The other advantage of the attacking strategy is that you will often get extra points by being in Tokyo, so if you need to back away from the attacking strategy, you could still win on points

Risky Tokyo points

Another strategy that can sometimes work is to try to stay in Tokyo as long as possible. You can squeeze just a few more points out of Tokyo and exit around 2 life points.

Collect upgrades that give you advantages in Tokyo: healing, extra attacks, defense, etc.

This strategy can pay off well but often leaves you vulnerable to the killing strategy.

Extra Turns

You can also win just by having a bunch of extra turns. Target the cards that give you extra turns for your roles. Play as normal, but take advantage of the extra turns to take the lead.

Sneaky Strike

All your strategies should employ some elements of the sneaky strike. If you get ahead in the game to0 quickly early on, the other players will collude to eliminate you. You need to be in the middle of the pack, slowly collecting points and upgrades until you are ready to make your move.

Collect a lot of energy and stay alive in the game. Purchase cards that will increase your chances of getting points later in the game. Cards that increase the value of your rolls, give you more dice to roll or change your roll scoring conditions are all great cards for the sneaky strike.

Then, when you feel you are close, buy up any victory point cards and hope for the right roles.

In all of these strategies, you need to keep the target off of your back by staying close to the pack, but preparing for the end.

 

What other strategies have you used?

 

 

 

Party Game Strategy

Married couples often get together for game nights. When we get an invitation, I get super excited. Sometimes, usually in the fine print, it says, “bring your favorite party game.” This used to fill me with dread. Why would anyone have a game night and not play strategy games?

Fortunately, I have learned how to appreciate the strategy of the party game. I’m going to share it with you so that you can be successful in all your game endeavors.

  1. Figure out how to actually “Win”
  2. Have a positive attitude
  3. Pick good games
  4. Make it fun for others
  5. Use it as an opportunity to plan a strategy game night

Winning Party Games

There can be satisfaction from guessing the word right before the buzzer in Catchphrase, or snagging the final card in Dixit, but often it feels like randomness and luck. (It feels that way, because it usually is.)

In one of my kids’ favorite books, Elephant asks Piggie if he knows the secret to throwing a ball. Piggy says, “Have fun!” Elephant is skeptical, but in the end *spoiler alert* Elephant learns to just have fun.

You win at party games by having fun! But wait…that sounds ridiculous. Who am I winning against? Well, you win the night if people leave saying, “Wow, that Brandon was really funny/fun/creative/witty. I’d like to spend time with them again.”

For the ultra-competitive, like me, you can even keep track in your mind how funny/fun/creative/witty you are in comparison to other people, and figure out where you fall in the line-up. For party game people, this won’t make any sense, but for strategy gamers, we get satisfaction from knowing who actually won.

Positive Attitude

No one likes to play games with people who have a bad attitude. Compliment people, joke with people, and play the game to the best of your abilities.

Pick the right game

Good party games include:

  1. Dixit
  2. Telestrations
  3. Luck of the Draw
  4. Codenames
  5. One Night, ultimate werewolf

Make it fun for others

Part of winning the party game is making it fun for others. Some ideas for this include:

  1. Compliment others when they are funny
  2. Keep your humor light
  3. Engage in witty banter as if the game wasn’t actually luck
  4. Smile
  5. Engage those that aren’t as comfortable

Plan for the future

If you are successful in your strategy, you should leave the game night with a good gauge of who is fun to play with and who you want to spend more time with. As you are leaving, grab people individually and suggest a strategy game night, or follow-up the next day.

Lastly, thank your host for the fun evening.

Do you have any other ideas for making party game night fun? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Review

I got a text yesterday to see if I wanted to play a game last night. I was free at 9 PM, and I figured that I would be done by 10:30 or so. This was a gross underestimate. X-wing, it turns out, involves choosing ships, upgrades, and characters before the game even starts. This being my first time, and following my own Strategy For your Strategy blog, I had to read through a huge stack of cards to come up with a strategy as well as learn the rules.

We finally started the game around 10, and it lasted until a little after midnight. It may sound like I didn’t enjoy it, but the funny thing is, I loved all of it! A lot of the fun was figuring out what combination of cards will work together, and then try to implement the strategy while keeping track of what everyone else is trying to do.

In X-wing, you play the side of the Empire, the Rebellion, or the Scum (bounty hunters, etc). You choose ships and go through phases of movement and attacking. The ships move in the way regular ships should move, and if you don’t plan your flight path, you could find yourself crashing into an asteroid.

It has been awhile that I have had a hard time sleeping because my brain was trying to figure out the strategy for a game, but last night, I couldn’t stop. I love this game.

My only issue is the length of play. Now that I know the rules, I think it could be completed in an hour and a half with 20 minutes of prep, but this isn’t going to work for some people.

You can even modify the game to play with kids by removing the upgrade cards. It is fun to play and will teach them spatial reasoning skills and some planning and strategy. Additionally, the sweet space ships make the game awesome to play.

x-wing-review

 

Counting to 21 Strategy

21 is a simple game that you can always win if you go second. The goal of the game is to be the first person to say “21”. The rules are that you can only add 1 or 2 to whatever the other player says.

For example, the first player can say “1” or “2”. If he said “2” the second player can say “3” or “4” and so on.

There is a strictly dominant strategy in this game. You can use backward induction to figure out what to do. Try to figure it out yourself first, but below is the strategy.

  1. You need to get them to say 19 or 20; therefore, if you say 18, you win.
  2. To say 18, you need to get them to say 16, or 17, so if you say 15, you win.
  3. Continuing on, if you say 12 you win
  4. if you say 9, you win,
  5. if you say 6, you win,
  6. if you say 3, you win
  7. So, if you go second, you can guarantee that you will say 3, and win every time.

When playing this with people, the secret is to not let on that you are doing a strategy against them .To win the most time as possible, act like you are thinking about what to do on every turn, even though you know what you will say.

If you go first, just hope that they don’t know the dominant strategy and mess up one time. Once that happens, you can get back onto the winning track and win every time.

There are different variations where you lose if you say 21. Can you figure out the dominant strategy in that game?

 

 

Career Strategy 8: Being a Good Mentor

I recently received an invitation from my alma mater, Brigham Young University asking me to mentor a student in the Economics department. This is a great opportunity to give back and build the next generation of budding economists.

The program coordinator gave the following suggestions when working with a mentee.

  • Be kind and encouraging, but honest– Show confidence in your mentee, but if you sense that he/she is headed in the wrong direction, share your honest opinion.
  • Serve as a guide, not an “answer person”– Share your advice when you think it’s needed, but also guide your student to his/her own answers.  
  • Put yourself in their shoes– Remember how you were when you were in college. How much did you not know? What would have helped you the most?
  • Share your knowledge – Sharing your knowledge and experience will greatly benefit your student.

 

As a mentor, your job is to help the mentee in whatever capacity they need. Sometimes they don’t even know what they need, but you can step in and lead them in the right direction.

Ask yourself these questions to help guide them along the path.

  • What do I wish I would have known at their life stage?
  • How did I become who I am today?
  • What are they doing that is a mistake that they aren’t aware of?
  • How can I make this person extremely desirable in the job market?

Review with them my other Career Strategy posts to get them started, and add your thoughts to them as you go along. Below are the links to the previous strategies.

Career Strategy 1: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Career Strategy 2: Job Search

Career Strategy 3: Getting your First Real Job

Career Strategy 4: How to Get a Job at …

Career Strategy 5: Protecting your personal brand

Career Strategy 6: Effective Interviewing

Career Strategy 7: Up, Over, Out, or Stay

 

What else have you or your mentor done that has been effective?