Plague Inc The Board Game review and unboxing from Ndemic Creations

If you have ever played Pandemic the classic board game where you are working to try and save the world
from deadly epidemics, and diseases and wondered.... what if I could actually infect the world? then this is the game for you! This time its from the other side, and you ARE the disease.

Plague Inc: The Board Game is a strategic game of infection, evolution and extinction for 1-4 people - based on the smash-hit digital game with over 85 million players. Can you infect the world?
Each player is a deadly disease and they must battle against each other to spread their plagues, develop new symptoms and ultimately wipe out humanity.
Starting with Patient Zero, you spread your infection across the world by placing tokens in cities - earning DNA points and preventing other players from becoming dominant. Players choose which countries are placed on the board but you must be both climate resistant and connected to a country before you can infect it. Eventually, as countries become fully infected - you try to kill them using the Death Dice.
Each player’s unique pathogen can be upgraded by evolving trait cards onto an evolution slide (with DNA points). At the start, your disease is weak and unspecialised, so you will need to add new symptoms to make it stronger. Choose carefully and plan ahead in order to react to the changing world and exploit opportunities created by other player’s actions.
A simple nosebleed could accelerate things early on, whilst diarrhea will help you thrive in hot countries. Sneezing can infect new continents by air but Total Organ Failure would allow you wipe out multiple countries each turn.
As countries start to fall, use powerful event cards to alter the balance of power. You might try to eradicate a dominant player by bombing their diseased cities, or hold the Olympics to cause huge numbers of infected people to travel to a healthy continent.
When the world collapses, who will be the ultimate plague?

Lets pop it open, and take a look......

Inside the rather nice box you get a couple of decks of cards, a nice fold board, player boards that are double sided with the normal Bacteria you start as on one side, and the Virus which is a different way to play on the other.  You get the rule book, which is fairly small, and real easy to pick up, but then the player boards also have all the steps in them... its not a complicated game to learn, but there is a lot you can do as you personalise your virus.  You also get 4 sets of plastic markers for your infection and point tracking .
The cards are broken into 3 types......  The country cards, these show the cities in the country you are tying to infect, they may have a sun or snowflake to represent ho t and cold resistance, so make sure your disease is evolved to cope.  You do get a little but of information on the country, like population.. but otherwise the cards are a bit... plain.. informative, but... nothing special to look at.  Event cards usually provide you with some nasty bonus that can be played to increase your spread of disease and reflect the things going on in the world around you as civilization crumbles in the face of global pandemic. These cards each have specific triggers, and can be played anytime those triggers are met on any turn after you’ve received the card. This will trigger a one time event that might allow you to spread your plague quickly, lock a country down so diseases can’t spread, evolve more efficiently, or even launch a nuclear strike, wiping out a whole country and all the diseases festering there, handy to get rid of a country your opponent may be about to kill.  Lastly the Trait cards, this is where you start to customize your disease making it more lethal, or more infective.
The game comes with double sided player boards, so you can start as a bacteria, or.... a virus, each have different levels and slots for evolving, and each also have a very handy step by step guide for the turn on the side of them.

Each Plague will begin with a “Patient Zero” in a randomly chosen country, that you draw from the starting country deck,  then you spread your infection across the world each turn by placing tokens in new cities, while simultaneously seeking to limit your opponents’ ability to spread by gaining control (having more tokens in a country) than your opponents.

To set up, begin by placing the World board in a central location that is easily accessible to all players. Each player should be given an Evolution Slide, to serve as their player board, and 16 Plague Tokens in a matching color. For the base game, players should play with the “Bacteria” side of the slide visible. Through the Kickstarter, the alternative “Virus” expansion was unlocked and printed on the reverse of the Evolution Slide. and made available in this retail edition  The “Virus” abilities are very different than the “Bacteria,” and gives you a different play experience – beginners should start as Bacteria, then after some practice of the basics work up if they want to, though of course Bacteria is still epic fun!

You then grab the Trait Cards and deal each player a hand of five. The remaining cards are placed in their appropriate spot on the Card Mat, which keeps things nice, easy and tidy. Shuffle the Event Cards, and place those face-down on their assigned Card Mat location. The last stack of cards, the Country Cards, should be separated into two piles – starting countries (marked by red circles on their back) and regular countries. Shuffle all of the Starting Country cards together, and deal one to each player. Then shuffle all of the Country Cards together into one deck. In order to set up the pool of available Country Cards for the game, you will need to count out a specific number of available countries determined by the number of players (24 for two players, 27 for three, 32 for four, and 35 for five). After counting out the appropriate number of Country Cards face-down, return any remaining cards to the box. The cards that you have counted out will form the Country Card deck for your game, and should be shuffled and placed on the marked spot on the Card Mat. The top three cards of the Country Card deck will then be turned over onto the three remaining spots on the Card Mat.

Next you grab your  Starting Country Card and place it onto the board in the Continent Zone matching their card. Each card is tied to one of the six Continent Zones however it is not important where in the continent zone a card is placed. Once you have placed your card, you will take one of you Plague Token and put it on any City Space (the small black hexagons) on that card. This marks your “patient zero,” your initial point of infection preparing you to begin plaguing the world.

The first player will place her DNA Point Marker on the 0 position on the DNA Points Track. The player to her left will place their Marker at one, and so on.  these points are used both as currency within the game and victory points so the more you spend to make your plague brutal the less vps you will have at the time, but its investing in the future when this starts harvesting them. After determining turn order, the game is set and you are ready to begin.

There are five phases of the game that take place on each player’s turn – and as i mentioned these are nicely printed on your player cards so referring to the rules is minimal.Players will begin with the DNA Phase and then move through the Country Phase, the Evolution Phase, the Infection Phase, and the Death Phase in order.

In the DNA Phase, the active player will score 1 DNA point for every country that they control. Control is determined by having the most tokens in a given country with a minimum of 1 token and ties being shared for scoring purposes. Given that every player starts with one token in their starting country, the first player will always score at least one DNA point on the first turn. After scoring DNA points, the active player will move to the Country Phase. In this phase, the player must choose a Country Card to place on the World Board or discard from the game. The player may choose from the three countries that are face-up on the Card Mat, or they may blindly draw from the top of the deck. If they choose from the face-up cards, that card is immediately replaced with the top card of the Country Card deck. If the player chooses to place the country on the board, they will choose a spot in the matching Continent Zone and place the card there. This action creates new countries for all players to potentially infect, control, and destroy. If the Continent Zone matching the selected card is full, the player must discard their chosen card. When a player chooses to or must discard the Country Card, the card is removed from the game, and that player must also discard all of the Trait Cards in their hand, drawing five new cards from the deck. Discarding can be done out of necessity (no open spaces) or strategy (to deny access to your opponents or to refresh your hand with new cards). Discarding Country Cards is, for the most part, the only way you will draw new Trait Cards throughout the course of the game.

After the Country Phase, the active player moves to the Evolution Phase where you may choose to pay DNA points equal to the cost of one trait cards in their hand and place that card on any spot on their Evolution Slide that doesn’t already contain a card. This phase is optional, and players are not required to evolve their plague. In order to evolve, you must have at least the number of points equal to the cost of the card you are playing, and you will move your DNA Point Marker back a number of spaces equal to the cost of the Trait Card.

There are two important things to acknowledge here. The first is about scoring – at the end of the game, you add the value of each trait card visible on your Evolution Slide to your final score. So you don’t really “spend” your victory points unless you choose to devolve a trait you’ve previously played. And that leads us to the second important thing: At any point on your turn, you may devolve a trait on your Evolution Slide. To devolve, you simply remove a card from your board and place it in a communal discard pile. This does not take an action or cost any DNA points – however, you do not earn the cost of that trait card back, nor do you count it in end of game scoring.

Each slide has 6 open slots where you can place your evolved Trait Cards; however, there are some pre-printed abilities on each Evolution Slide. You only benefit from these abilities when they are visible, so if you place a Trait Card on the “Outbreak” or “Bonus DNA” slots on your “Bacteria” Evolution Slide, you lose those abilities. There is a careful decision making process at play here, where you have to weigh the costs of your DNA against the benefits of the Trait Card you’re planning to evolve which provides plenty of difficult choices... lose points to potentially gain them alter? Each Trait Card that you evolve is going to give you new abilities. Some contribute to your Infectivity or Lethality (more on that later), some give you climate resistance allowing you to expand into new countries with extreme climates, and some allow you to spread more quickly by making you an Airborne or Waterborne disease. All of these traits are important to spreading your plague around the globe and eliminating humanity.

After evolving, the active player will move to the Infection Phase. In this phase, the player will count the number of yellow “Infectivity +1” spaces visible on their Evolution slide. Before evolving, this number is always 2 on the Bacteria side of the Evolution Slide, but will increase as players play Trait Cards. The player will then take a number of their Plague Tokens equal to their Infectivity, and place those tokens in cities on the board. You can place all of your tokens on one Country Card or spread them around to as many eligible Country Cards as you can infect.  In order to infect a City Space, your plague must be connected to the associated Country Card or have airborne or waterborne transfer and the corresponding symbols marked on the countries you wish to spread from and to.

There are two primary ways to extend your connectivity. The first is to become “Airborne.” If you evolve the Airborne trait, and you infect a Country Card with the purple Airport Icon, you are connected to all other Country Cards in play that also have an Airport Icon. You can also develop the “Waterborne” trait, which works the same as “Airborne,” but instead of allowing travel between Country Cards with the Airport Icon, you can travel between Country Cards with the green Seaport Icon.

Most countries have cities represented by blank hexagons. These countries have neutral climates. However, some of the Country Cards have City Spaces that have black hexagons containing either a Hot Climate (represented by a Sun Icon) or Cold Climate (represented by a Snowflake Icon). In order to infect these countries, your disease must develop a resistance to the extreme temperatures of these locations. In order to infect a City Space with a Sun Icon, your disease must have “Heat Resistance.” Likewise, to infect a city with a Snowflake Icon, you must have developed the “Cold Resistance” trait.

Finally, after infecting City Spaces in appropriately connected and acclimatized countries, the active player moves to the Death Phase. In this phase, the player will roll the rather cool blood splattered die to determine if any fully infected Country Cards that they control are wiped out by their plague. Control is determined here the same way as in the DNA Phase, having the most Plague Tokens on a Country Card, including ties, gives you control of that country. If the Country Card has every City Space on it filled with a Plague Token, regardless of color, it is fully infected. During this final phase, the active player will identify every fully infected Country Card that they control, and then attempt to “kill” these countries.

To do this, they will announce each country one at a time, count the number of grey “Lethality +1” spots on their Evolution Slide, and then roll the Death Dice. If it number on the die is greater than your lethality, the country survives for now and you move on to the next fully infected Country Card that you control. If the die value is less than or equal to your leathlity, you kill and score that country. When you kill a country, all Plague Tokens on the card are returned to the owner’s pool and each player scores 1 DNA point for every token returned to them in this way. Each player who had a Plague Token in that country also draws an Event Card.

After the active player has killed a country and all players receive their Plague Tokens, DNA points, and Event Cards, the active player collects the Country Card and keeps this in their possession for scoring at the end of the game (it is best for each player to keep these separated by Continent Zone). If the player failed to kill the country, they just move to the next one they want to attempt to kill. When the active player has rolled the Death Dice for each fully-infected country that they control, their turn ends and play moves to clockwise to the next player who begins at the DNA Phase.

Then you continue the phase player to player doing your best to destroy the world.  Sudden Death Mode is then triggered when the last remaining Country Card in the deck is either placed on the World Board or discarded. This symbolizes the collapse of civilization as we know it, and slightly alters the way the game is played until it finally ends with every player skipping the Country Phase. The game will then end in one of two ways:  If any player has all of their Plague Tokens removed from the World Board, they have been eradicated and the game ends when the active player finishes their turn.If any player is unable, on their turn, to either place new Plague Tokens or roll the Death Dice, the game immediately ends.

Final scoring......  every player will begin by adding the DNA Costs of the Trait Cards currently visible on their Evolution Slide into their DNA Points. This usually changes scores dramatically, and is best done one player at a time. Then, three rounds of “bonus” scoring occur.

1. The player who has the most Plague Tokens remaining on the World Board is awarded +4 DNA Points.
2. The player who has the most Country Cards in their possession for each Zone will be given +6 DNA points
3. The players will check to see who killed the “largest” country by determining who possess the Country Card containing the most City Spaces. This awards the winner +7 DNA points.

So there you go, it may SOUND complicated, but it really isnt, its smooth and simple to play.  It also includes a solo variant, and that always pleases me called "plaguebot" which gives you the rules to run solo, its simple, and is pretty challenging, i will defeat you plaguebot!

The game plays smoothly, its fast, the theme is there, and when you start getting traits on your plague it becomes quite fun trying to build the right combination, the most deadly, or the most downright unpleasant such as diarrhea and pustules and organ failure.  Solo of course earns a big bonus.  do not think this is coop like Pandemic, this is pure out to crush the opponents, so expect devious moves to cut off your opponents plague.  Its easy to teach, does not take that long to play and is a solid price.  Th only downside... the quality of the cards could have been a bit better, they do feel a bit flimsy, but after sleeving should be fine.  Otherwise you ave yourself a rather good fun game!  Give it a try, it will surprise you.

Plague Inc comes in at an RRP of £33.99 so its a good price for a fun game with a solo option!, so head on over to your local game store and grab yourself a copy, remember aircraft noises are encouraged but optional!
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