I recently got the OTB expansion, which is a must-have, as it adds so much replay value to the base game. I had already played multi-player games with both Challenges, the Virulent Strain and the Mutation, with five (5) epidemics. I set up a game to see how it plays solo, with 6 Epidemics (Heroic) and both Challenges.
Solo game on Heroic after setup
The solo game rules can be found in the Pandemic: In the Lab rulebook, which provides a CDC overview card for the dummy player. Nevertheless, no additional material is required and one may play even with the base game a solo game. For those who do not know the rules, here are the condensed rules:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Before setup: discard 8/12/14/16 player cards, ensuring that no more than 6 cards of the same color are discarded.
Setup: just like a 2-player game. Shuffle 4 random events, deal 4 cards to yourself plus a random role, deal 4 cards to the CDC dummy player and leave all other roles next to it. Afterwards, prepare the player deck as usual.
Note, this means the setup time is much longer in a solo game. One has to shuffle the player deck four times!
a) To discard cards at setup; this might be repeated if more than 6 cards of a color are discarded.
b) To shuffle in the 4 events.
c) After dealing cards, to shuffle in the Mutation Events.
d) While preparing the event deck, to shuffle the smaller chunks.
CDC rules: after your turn (including Infection) the CDC may do one (1) action:
1. Draw a card, resolving Epidemics (or Mutation Events) as usual. Hand limit: 7 cards.
2. Move the player pawn (Drive/Direct/Charter/Shuttle). The CDC discards its own cards for Direct/Charter flights.
3. Discover a cure, by discarding 5 cards of the same color.
4. If the player is at a Research Station, the CDC may exchange one city card for one city card in the player's hand. The color of the card that the CDC is giving away must match the color of the city the player is in. The CDC may receive any one city card from the player.
5. If the player is at a Research Station, the CDC may swap the player's role/pawn for new one. The discarded role is removed from the game and can only be re-used with the "New Assignment" event.
The CDC has no "draw cards" or "infect" phase. It only executes a single action.
Things were really tough from the get-go. As I was venturing on the Heroic level, I discarded 14 city cards: 6 yellow cards, 3 blue cards, 3 black cards and 2 red cards were discarded. That would be very tough for yellow!
I was dealt the Generalist role, which is really powerful to begin with! I was dealt two mid-game events in my opening hand, which was really unfortunate: Airlift and Forecast. I was also dealt Delhi and Santiago.
While Kolkata and Karachi had 3 cubes each, I had no easy way of getting there, without discarding Delhi. I decided to take my chances and just move there on foot. Thus, I went to Los Angeles and cleared all three cubes.
And the turn 1 Epidemic came out! Drat! Delhi was the infected city, thus I had a clear danger of getting a triple chain on the get-go, as Karachi-Delhi-Kolkata had 3 cubes each! Not to mention that the black virus became the Virulent Strain. I had no option but to use Forecast at that point. The CDC moved me to Manila to get a bit closer. I thus cleared some cubes in Kolkata, built a research Station in Delhi and cleared out Delhi and Kolkata in the next turns.
Meanwhile, I eventually got 4 black cards in my hand, after trading a bit with the CDC. Having ended my turn at the Delhi Research Station, the CDC turned me into a Scientist, to immediately cure the black disease. I didn't stay Scientist for long, as I became the Medic in the next turn (having ended my turn in Delhi) in an attempt to eradicate black. The Hidden Pocket Epidemic came out just before eradicating black, which was a huge boost! Thus, I easily managed to eradicate the black virulent strain disease.
In the meantime, the purple disease was starting to spread on the board. A purple cube showed up in Atlanta, and, guess what, I had Atlanta in my hand! With 3 yellow cards! I was at a crossroads: should I cure purple or not? Eventually, I took the risk and found the purple cure by discarding 5 cards, including Atlanta, where purple was present, and 3 other yellow cards. That would be a high risk/high reward decision.
I had an issue getting around the board; thankfully, the New Assignment event came up and I switched to an Operations Expert, in an attempt to lay down some Research Stations across the map and thus trade easier with the CDC. I did manage set the CDC up with 5 red cards, which subsequently found the red cure.
And, time was running out at that point. I was 2 cures short and not enough yellow cards were left, as I had used up most of them. I thus changed to a Contingency Planner to reuse the One Quiet Night event and the New Assignment event and became later the Archivist, in an attempt to pick up yellow cards from the discard pile. In a desperation, I switched to the Field Operative to move yellow cubes on my card, so as to cure yellow with only 3 cards, but I lost to 8 outbreaks, as I had neglected everything else at that point.
Game over, but I really enjoyed that game! I usually win more often than not with the base game, finding it very easy, thus this game was a real challenge and I was happy that it shoved me all these hurdles! There is clearly room for improvement, as I learned that my decision to cure purple with 3 yellow cards was fatal. I should not had done that!
Rendez-vous the next time, swift mutated disease!