Game the Game: Pandemic Legacy

I love Pandemic. One Thanksgiving break, I played it with my friend Scott into the wee hours of the morning.

If you ever ask me if I want to watch Boogie Nights, or any of the Mad Max movies, I will say yes. If you ever ask me if I want to play Pandemic, I will say yes.

Now, with all of these hours playing, came some ideas on how to best play the game. Ideal combinations of characters if you will. I have my own ideas, if you have played the game you may very well have your own ideas.

Then, along came Pandemic Legacy.

$50 or so for a game you can only play through once.

Gamers are notoriously thrifty, so many might cry at this, to which I offer up: tickets to see the latest nerd film in 3d with soda and popcorn= about $50. A meal out with a couple drinks= about $50. The newest video game that might provide less than 100 hours of playtime= more than $50.

Suck it up and stop being so cheap.

Now, there are two different boxes (red and blue), all reports indicate they are the same, I only have the red box, so I cannot say for sure.

The Legacy concept of board games in a nutshell is that each game played changes the rules in some way, so the next time the game is played, it is different. What this means in Pandemic, is that there is a story and narrative. It elevates the game in awesome ways!

And what I can say about Pandemic Legacy is:


Brilliant game design. This is one of those games that gave me all the nerd feels. I wanted to play all the time (as Ellie can attest). I played some with Mike, and some with Ellie, and I am not ashamed to admit it, I played alone.

I am not ashamed. Rich Sommer (Harry Crane from TV’s Mad Men) enjoys the experience of playing board games solo, and so do I.

Now, I don’t want to give away any major spoilers, but know this, even having played through it once, I want to do it again. I won’t “Game the Game” and use what I know, because I enjoy the narrative elements and how they played out. I did learn a couple things, such as what to focus on, but at the end of the day, Pandemic’s brilliance, is that no matter how carefully orchestrated a tactic is, the game design is such that it can all go to shit, no matter what.

What can I say, and what advice might I give?

Pick a theme for the characters. We used the Fantastic Four for our characters. As the game develops, this becomes even cooler, and Doom does enter the picture. Minor Spoilers below. In Mike’s game, we went with DC, with a roster of characters that is indeed a bit of hodge podge: Oracle, Jason Todd, Blue Beetle, Lois Lane, and Skeletor Dr. Destiny. I loved picking folks for my game, and it definitely added to the experience.

[spoiler] As gameplay continues, more characters are added to the game, and these characters have relationships with the characters already in the game. The roster in my game expanded to include Banner, Cap, and Namor.[/spoiler]

All that said, Reed and Valeria were the most frequently used characters, and how cute is that?

I won’t give any more advice, and I won’t share my secret of which roles we found to be most effective. Did we screw some things up? Yes. It happens. When upgrading diseases, start at 1 and add upgrades in order. And, don’t forget the effect of the Player Deck. [spoiler] when dealing with outbreaks[/spoiler]#vague

As I work on games of my own, I am always looking to incorporate ideas I find compelling. Pandemic Legacy and The Quiet Year are two games that I am currently looking to for inspiration, wondering how I might create something with some of these same nerd feels.

On our podcast, we discussed what other games could benefit from the Legacy type gameplay. More to the point, Pandemic has teased us with further seasons. This is after all, Season 1. It says so right on the box. I cannot wait for Season 2.  Please.

And, if you really want a very large spoiler, but without too much specific spoilery info:




Whatever Happened 2: Electric Breakdancing Superheroics

This will likely be the last in our short series about comicbook characters that have been orphaned by the recent reboots in both the Marvel and DC Universes. Characters that were featured before the reboots, or even featured prominently during the Big Events (Secret Wars and Convergence).

Why is this the last? After this column, it won’t matter anymore. We will have broken the code. AoG Editor Mike and I have been donning the tinfoil caps researching this one. We broke the 52 Issue code of New 52, and we predicted some sort of Convergence type event.

Of course, like any Uri Geller wannabes, we are right sometimes and wrong other times. Battleworld did not end up being Nu-Earth for example. But, you gotta at least try: a defeated Clock King is still right at least twice a day.

Rebirth news has been trickling out, and Mike has every available resource dedicated to compiling this information. #wheresbluebeetle

pantyfiend_logoNot every product launch can be Qwikster or

Confused? These two products never got off the ground, or were kiboshed pre-launch, or immediately post-launch.

The year is 1986, what the DC Universe needs is a Hispanic, breakdancing superhero.


Many look back fondly on the Justice League Detroit era. It sure wasn’t West Coast Avengers. (I don’t recall Del dropping any JL: Detroit lyrics).

dazzlerBut sometimes, ideas need to evolve and change.

Because, the roller-skating superhero isn’t always going to remain relevant.

Tangent: When was Guy Gardner’s haircut ever relevant?


Justice_League_of_America's_Vibe_Vol_1_1(Be sure to follow the links for full details!)

Vibe is DC Comics Newest Keystone Series, 2013

So, that didn’t necessarily work out too well.

Going back further, 2009.

Geoff Johns: (…)we want to turn Vibe into a pillar of the DC Universe, just like Green Lantern has become a pillar. Our goal is to elevate the Vibe Universe.

(UPDATE: see comments below, apparently the above was an April Fool’s joke: “VIBE REBIRTH article was a April Fool’s Day gag coordinated across several sites years before Vibe actually came back. The crazy thing is we were right about Geoff Johns involvement! Ha!”)

But, look at the name of that series: Vibe: Rebirth. What event slash non-event is coming up soon? Rebirth.

I figured it out.

The case for:

The power players at DC want to make Vibe relevant.


Given the speculation that part of the post-Rebirth publishing will be tie-ins to the TV and Cinematic DCUniverses, well, FlashU has Vibe already. OK, it’s not Vibe, but unless they are going the Hank Henshaw as Martian Manhunter route, it has to be Vibe, right?

And of course, Vibe was featured in a Convergence series.

Acotilletta2--Luke_CageThe case against:

Vibe was approaching offensive stereotype upon his launch. He has not necessarily been written well enough to move past this, ala Luke Cage.

George Pérez: Oh, I sincerely say he’s the one character who turned me off the JLA. If nothing else, every character that was introduced was an ethnic stereotype. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Come on now!” These characters required no thinking at all to write. And being Puerto Rican myself, I found the fact that they could use a Puerto Rican character quite obviously favorable since the one Puerto Rican characters in comic that existed, the White Tiger, is no longer a viable character. But having him be a break dancer! I mean, come on now. It’s like if there were only one black character in all of comics, are you going to make him…

The facts:

Sometimes hype is just that, hype. Sometimes the ending of a TV show can suck, because the buildup is too much, or just out-and-out falsehoods. (Lost? Mad Men?) Sometimes cheese is just cheese.

I know Mike will be thanking me if Vibe is part of Rebirth and Mike’s DC is brought back. And although I have a pretty decent track record of predicting some of this stuff, as of right now, there is no indication Vibe will be featured.

She Can Fly: I Took My Mom to Comic Con

I sat on the bus, bag of newly purchased, unread Wednesday comics on my lap, suitcase underneath my feet on the luggage deck below. It was my yearly pilgrimage to the mecca that was New York Comic Con.

But this year was a little different; a little more filled with anxiety–not borne of my upcoming interviews with Greg Pak or the guys behind the Venture Bros or Leila del Duca and Joe Keating–instead, it was because my mother could be accompanying me to Comic Con.

I was in love with comics from childhood: Calvin and Hobbes and Liberty Meadows inspired me to learn how to read, I loved to illustrate my own stories, and the day I found out my older brother had a collection of X-Men and Spider-man comics under his bunk bed was the day I aspired to steal them and start my own collection.

My mom never really got it. My older sister never had a comic book phase (as far as I knew), and my brother grew out of his at the age of 13. So when I started reading comics and manga actively at 13, and kept reading them staunchly and stubbornly through high school and beyond, I think my mom started to get confused. On some level, I think she worried my reading comics was a form of arrested development; a desire to remain childish and detached from adulthood. In a word: immature.

What she didn’t know was that my love of comics made me grow and improve. I began searching for literary allusions in comic strips for extra credit in English classes. I relished in finding graphic novel adaptations of historical stories and “great literature.” I applied art history to pop culture, and examined the difference between high and low culture (and if there even was a difference to begin with). I started writing, and my writing improved because I was absorbing so many different writers’ styles, tones, and genres. All of this happened because of comic books.

But I never really told my mom about the intellectual side of my hobby. All she knew was I spent too much money on anime, manga, and comics, and she didn’t really understand why an adult would be interested in that kind of stuff.

The bus ride to New York City was uneventful. I read my weekly pull, checked Twitter for updates on who had already arrived at the convention, and fidgeted impatiently for my impending arrival at Penn Station. When the bus finally pulled in, I was quick to escape and make my way to the hotel, where my mom had already arrived.

My mother is a watercolor artist who is nationally, and internationally, known and ranked. She studied fine art for most of her life, and comics represented, for her, a baffling antithesis to John Singer Sargent and van Gogh.

The small pieces of anime and manga she witnessed me watch and read looked the same. The characters were interchangeable, and if you swapped their hairstyles, they looked like one another (which is a fair critique). She felt I was limiting my artistic ability by only drawing cartoons, and not participating in life drawing and classic art classes.

I met my mom at the hotel, and we spent the evening in the city, eating at a deli, seeing the sights, looking at off Broadway plays and comedy shows we could go to. When we finally returned to the hotel, we both readied our costumes for the next day, my first (and her only) day at the con.

Cosplay, another hobby of mine, was much less baffling to mom. In addition to being an artist, she was also a theater major in college, and did costume designing as a job. Mom helped me make my very first cosplay when I was 16, and didn’t question my enthusiasm or interest in learning how to sew. When I told her that part of my convention experience was dressing up in costume and taking pictures, she jumped at the idea. She loved it, and wanted to dress up along with me.

I began to share historical insight I had on different characters and costumes; I sent her emails with pictures of Catwoman’s different costumes, stories about the Black Canary mother-daughter legacy, offering up thoughts and ideas on different comic heroines and cartoon stars she could dress as.

She changed her mind (first Catwoman, then Supergirl, then the 80’s show Space Cats) until she finally settled on a her own design: a 50’s housewife-style Supergirl.

12144779_10208194810015093_1624722004017802763_nDressed in our finest, we made the short trek to the Javits Center, and both sorely regretted our choice of high heels as our footwear, and that’s when she saw it: the three block long line of people, in costumes and nerdy shirts, who already had their tickets for the con.

“Is the line always like this?” She asked.

“Yeah, New York’s numbers rival that of San Diego Comic Con.”

She nodded, amazed. “What’s it like inside the convention?”

I paused for a moment before I answered, “huge.”

In the weeks before the convention, she emailed me, concerned; “are people okay with their pictures being taken?”

I had to laugh to myself. “Absolutely! People love it, but do make sure to ask them, first.”

tumblr_nw6p6kVbnr1tvmnaho1_1280When we got past the line, and into the blacktop area of the convention, people began to stop mom, asking her for pictures. Every ten or so feet, another person asked her for a photo, and she glowed, pleased that her effort and hard work was being acknowledged. She gawked at a massive Hulkbuster Iron Man costume, and complimented a small child on her Supergirl costume.

She pointed to a group of men in the same masked costumes, “look at all those Spider-men!”

I snorted, “that’s actually a bunch of Deadpools, mom, but that was a good guess.”

The day was a blur. She was amazed at the size of the convention, even on its most docile day (Thursday), it was bustling with energy. The moment we entered the Artist Alley, something suddenly clicked for her.

As we passed the rows and rows of artists and writers, and I pointed out some of the people I had interviewed, or was planning to interview, she nodded, studying each artist’s banner and prints.

As we left the hall, she turned to me. “I finally get it now.”

“Get what?”

“I get why you like comics. It seemed like you always used to read things that all looked the same….same art, same color, same style. But looking at all those artists in there, the huge variety, I get it. I see how beautiful some of the art is, how many different styles and kinds of stories they are telling. I understand why you love comics.”

As an adult, I like to think I have a pretty good relationship with my mother. We talk openly and frankly, and I feel lucky to be able to be so honest with her.


Taking mom to NYCC was completely intimidating and totally exciting. I wanted her to understand that I am truly passionate about comics as a medium and an art, but also as a piece of history and as a reflection of popular culture and society. I couldn’t think of a more perfect convention to take her to, with New York Comic Con’s strict anti-harassment policy, family friendly vibe, and variety of programming ranging from critiques on representation to artist profiles.

I think the experience helped her really understand the industry of nerds, and I got a chance to share a big part of my world with her.

A week after the convention, I got a phone call.

“So, do you think your dad would want to go with us next year?”

My dad? A smart, hugely nerdy man who wasn’t the biggest fan of crowds?

“Gosh, mom, I don’t know, maybe? I definitely think it would be fun to have him come.”

She laughed. “What do you think we could get him to dress as?”

Maybe that’s a blog post for next year.