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Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp (Victory Point Games)Game Name: Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp

Publisher: Victory Point Games

Designer: John Gibson

Artists: Michelle Ball, Chris Kiser, and Barry Pike

Year: 2013

Genre: Solo card driven, puzzle solving medical game

Players: Solitaire

Ages: 13+

Playing Time: 30-45 minutes

MSRP: $29.95

At first glance the theme to Infection may lead those unfamiliar with the title to believe this to be just a knock off of Z-Man Games’ Pandemic. Thankfully this impression is far from reality and, for me, it’s a very good thing. I know I’m in the minority of gamers out there because I’m not much of a fan of Pandemic since I find it to be a bit too abstract, too programmed, and too boring; as I’ve said many times I always feel Pandemic is playing you as opposed to yourself playing the game. I’m not knocking people who like Pandemic but it simply isn’t my kind of game whereas this Victory Point Game release is.

Infection places you in the role of the lead scientist tasked with the nearly impossible job of defeating a deadly virus which has emerged to threaten the existence of the human race. If you’re familiar with the recent movie Contagion or, going back a few years to Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain, you’ll have a firm grasp of what’s ahead of you. If you succeed you’re the savior of the world. If you fail, however, humanity is doomed.

TGG Inside the Box


As you can see from the video, Victory Point Games has put together another quality release with really nice components and a rulebook loaded with images and examples of play. The bulk of the rules focus on setting up and explaining the components while the actual gameplay is covered in a quick eight pages. It won’t take much time to get down to playing Infection after cruising through the book.

You’ll track your progress on the board, which two sided for separate difficulty level, as you have your research area and a section to track the molecular structure of the virus. You also have a couple decks of cards: One which is mainly an event card deck (Status Report) and the other a smaller deck of resource cards (Lab Equipment and Lab Personnel) which assist you in your quest to conquer the virus. As with many VPG games, much of Infection is driven by events and both positive and negative play out to create a real narrative every time you play.

Setting up takes a few minutes as you place the Molecule tokens for the difficulty level (Bacterial is easier and Viral a bit harder) you’ve chosen in a cup to draw randomly. You’ll also use a second container for the Protein tokens, which are used in your research, for random draws. Special event tokens are included as well and two good and two bad tokens are randomly selected to be included with the Molecules. Seven Molecule tokens are placed on the Virus portion to create the initial structure of the virus and four Proteins are drawn and placed in the Incubator area indicating your four starting Proteins you may use.

You’ll also shuffle the Status Report Cards and set them aside while also shuffling your resources cards, blindly removing five of the cards, and then flip over three of the remaining cards to show the personnel and equipment currently available for investment. Lastly you’ll set your markers on the Death Toll and Funding tracks whereas the fatalities of the virus are still low and you have five funding units to spend.

Now you’re ready to play.

Infection is broken into turns with four phases:

Infection_SR_card_sample1Status Report – This is the event phase and the cards display three sections: Mutation, Lab, and Deaths. Reading down the card you’ll perform any action which may be called for in each section. Mutations mainly call for additional Molecules to be placed on specific hexes in the Virus section – making your job more difficult – and you’ll hate reading the dreaded “draw three Molecules” cards while “virus has stabilized” cards will bring a sigh of relief.

The Lab section adds more narrative to the game while also possibly providing positive or negative effects lasting a turn or more. You may have to deal with personality conflicts and equipment breaking down or even receive some good news too.

Finally, the Deaths portion of the card adds more flavor (as do the titles of each card) while indicating any modifiers to your Containment roll for the turn or, in the worst case, having to move the Death Toll marker further along toward your defeat.

Player Actions – Since the gist of Infection is to destroy Molecules within the Virus section you’ll find Infection has a bit of a puzzle game feel to the proceedings. Depending on whether you’re playing the Bacterial or Viral version, different Molecules (designated by letters) are in the mix and you’ll be building Antibodies to tackle these lettered Molecules. I’ll get to targeting Molecules in a moment…

Unlike most VPG titles there really isn’t a limit to how many actions a player can take during this phase as long as they have the ability to do so.

You’ll be able to buy equipment, hire personnel, harvest Proteins, create anti-viruses, and target Molecules. Equipment and Personnel are pretty self-explanatory since as long as you can afford to pay the cost you’ll be able to add these resources to your arsenal. Where things get a little tricky is in the Antibody creation and targeting of Molecules.

You normally have a limit of two Proteins which can be harvested in a turn, although that can change depending on resources at your disposal, and the Antibodies need anywhere from three to five Proteins to complete. Your pool of Proteins consists of sixteen tokens displaying one of five shapes. Some Proteins are more common than others so it becomes important to harvest rarer Proteins when you can as you don’t carry over harvested Proteins from turn to turn unless it’s been placed as part of an Antibody. Honestly, you might not see that Protein again until much later in the game. If humanity survives log enough, that is…

Each Antibody corresponding with the Molecule letter requires specific Proteins so once you’ve acquired the correct match you can then target that Molecule. As an example, to target the “A” Molecule you must complete the “A” Antibody which requires a circular Protein and two doughnut shaped Proteins.

Infection_Perscard_sample1Once you’ve completed you Antibodies you’ll be to attack the Molecules corresponding to them if both of the following apply: the have the correct lettered Antibody (or some special Equipment or Personnel allow for it) AND the Molecule has three open hex sides. There is no limit to the number of Molecules you may target in the phase so you’ll see a bit of a domino effect beginning to take place. Using another example, say we’ve completed that “A” Antibody and there are two “A” Molecules in the virus. One of them has the three open sides but the other does not. We destroy the one we can and if there’s a way for us to open one of the hex sides, say we also have the “D” Antibody and the first “A” Molecule was blocking it last turn, we could destroy the first “A”, then tackle “D”, and then come back for “A”. As I mentioned there is a puzzle factor at work here.

Plus you receive additional funding when you destroy Molecules but only on the turn you first create the Antibody.

Containment – Here’s where we see if the virus is spreading and the Death Toll rises. Things become more dire, and less containable, as we move from outbreak to epidemic to pandemic. Each level has a required die roll or higher to keep the marker from moving ahead. The Death section of the Status Report may include negative modifiers to your roll and your resources may provide a positive modifier.

One the Death toll reaches ten, it’s game over in more ways than one!

Clean Up – You’ll reset your Equipment and Personnel you may have used; clear the incubator of unharvested Proteins while restocking four new Proteins; refill empty spots if you purchased any Equipment or Personnel or, if you didn’t, you may discard one (placing it on the bottom of that deck) and draw a single card to replace it. Also, if playing on the Bacterial level, you’ll get more funding if you’re still at the outbreak or epidemic phase.

Whew! There’s actually a lot going on in Infection!

Infection_Counter_v1.6I have to say Infection is a very interesting game and different in design than anything I’ve stumbled across. Once you get a handle on how to create Antibodies and attack Molecules there’s a good flow to the game which (as in many VPG titles) creates a true narrative to your gameplay. “Well, things were going swimmingly until my scientists had a falling out and I could mend those fences…”

I will mention the creation of Antibodies portion of the game was throwing me off a little and since it had been a week or so since I last played Infection before writing this review so the original version of this review misinterpreted the rule. It turns out the game design is set to be as challenging and my original assessment you could have one Protein cover to spaces on the Antibody section was with special piece of equipment, as John Gibson has pointed out in the comments. Doh!

Long time TGG visitors are sure to know two things about me.

First, I consider Alan Emrich and much of the gang working with VPG to be pals. This doesn’t mean I crow about their entire catalogue, as there have been some clunkers in my opinion, but I’ve also recognized and given kudos to the vast majority of VPG titles which are deserving inclusion in gamers collections. Regardless of personal relationships I may have I’m still going to call it as I see it. I think it’s funny I would get emails and comments accusing me of being “in the bag” for VPG and suddenly, as if by magic, now that the component quality of the company has stepped up a couple notches Victory Point Games produces good games.

Second, I’ll play something multiple times before putting together a review. I never claim to be perfect and miss a rule from time to time so by taking multiple cracks at a title I can get a much better grasp on if I’m simply missing something in the rules or the game just isn’t very good. I suppose the Proteins portion of the rules threw me a little and I misinterpreted John Gibson’s walkthrough video which lead me to believe there was a proofreading mistake while the truth is I had the rule wrong. I suppose my confusion could have been addressed by the inclusion of an in game image of the Antibody portion of the board. Or, better yet, the rulebook would have been better served by replacing the two pages of flavor fiction with a more detail example of play or an FAQ.

Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp is plenty of fun (once you’ve got the rules straight) and should have a lot of appeal as a game which isn’t the same old same old. The premise is interesting, gameplay is challenging, and you just can’t put your brain on automatic when you dive in. Those thinking it will be a solitaire Pandemic will be sorely disappointed no doubt and anyone who despises any sort of luck in their games best look elsewhere. But for the rest of us Infection turns out to be another gem from VPG.

0 VISITORS' SCORE (0 votes)
Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp is plenty of fun (once you’ve got the rules straight) and should have a lot of appeal as a game which isn’t the same old same old. The premise is interesting, gameplay is challenging, and you just can’t put your brain on automatic when you dive in.
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  1. As the developer of Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp and Victory Point Games Board Games Producer I just want to clarify a couple of points you brought up in your article:

    1. Construction of Antibodies is addressed in the rulebook on page 11 in the Player Action Phase section (starting on page 10), specifically in the Placing Proteins subsection; it addresses Completing an Antibody in that same section. There’s no additional information required to play the game unless one of the Personnel or Equipment Cards modifies gameplay.
    2. Being able to use a single Protein to cover two spots on an Antibody isn’t a default ability in the game, but rather granted by the Equipment Card Homogenizer Mk III; the text of the card reads:

    Once per turn, if you are placing a Protein on an Antibody that requires 2 of that exact Protein, then it can count for both. You may roll for success BEFORE harvesting any Proteins.

    Hopefully that clarifies some of the issues you had while playing; if you have any other questions or concerns I’d be happy to address them (and we’ll even modify the rules for all future versions of the game if it does turn out I’m wrong and things are unclear).

    • Thanks for the clarification John. I’ve updated the review to better reflect my confusion. I don’t play easier variants of games I review so when I suppose it turns out the “viral” game really is supposed to be as challenging as it is. 🙂 I guess I should have watched your walkthrough video rather than listened to it as I was doing something else and that would have vaporized my confusion right away!

  2. What a great review and admire the speed at which you fixed the misinterpretation of the rules, Jeff.

    I like how you right of the top say this is not a Pandemic knock off, because it isn’t. Both games deal with a rampaging disease, but there the similarities end. If you think if Pandemic as being macro, then Infection is micro. You are not the first person to say they like Infection better than Pandemic. Some say there is simply more theme in my game, there is a lot of tension, and almost every game can end in a cliff hanger.

    As for making the game challenging…I had to. I had a dozen play testers banging away at the game for six weeks and I had to up the ante for gamers buying the finished product. Replayabilty was one of the key foundations for this game.

    Anyhoo, I loved this review and I’m glad you had fun playing Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp

    That Cowboy Guy

    • I always aim to get things right John and quick to point out no one can claim I’m perfect, least of all me. Nor am I one to come across as a self proclaimed gaming expert since I don’t believe that distinction exists.

      You are right on the money about replayablity and, as I should have mentioned in the review (although I started to feel I was reaching novella length), the player doesn’t have all the special event tokens or resources in play every time out so an event which may have made winning more difficult in one game may not happen in the next. On the other hand, a scientist or piece of equipment which saved the day in the last game might be unavailable on the following playthrough.


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