- Designer: Donghwa Kim
- Publisher: A.ger Games
- Players: 2-6
- Age: 7+
- Time: ~10-15 minutes
- Played with Review copy provided by A.ger Games
Vaccine is a small format tile game where players act as researchers trying to develop a vaccine. To do this, they must collect virus samples while avoiding contamination. The bulk of the game is found in the 30 wooden vaccine tiles. They are randomly sorted into a 6×5 rectangle on the table. There are 6 sample tiles (white in color to be easily seen) – one of each type of virus. These are shuffled face down and each player gets one in secret. The color seen on this tile is that player’s goal for the game – they will try to collect as many of these as possible, preferably without the other players knowing what their goal is.
A circular scoreboard (with the tens shown inside and the units around the outside) is employed. Each player has two score markers, and all start with 50 points at the beginning of the game. The goal is to get down to 0.
On a turn, a place must move one stack of tiles (can be only one tile). The stack must be moved to an orthogonally adjacent tile – it cannot be moved onto an empty space nor can it be moved diagonally. The moving stack is placed on top of the tile/stack on the space it lands on.
Continue taking turns around the table until it is not possible to move any more tiles/stacks. At this point, the round is over. Players reveal their Sample Tile, and each player takes any stacks from the board that have their sample color on top. Players score 1 point for each tile they have and additional 2 points for each tile that is of their sample type. Subtract your score from the position on the scoreboard. Be very careful as it’s easy to dislodge the central tens markers.
The game continues until at least one player is at 0 or less. The player who is the furthest negative wins! There is no tie breaker.
My thoughts on the game
Vaccine is a really simple game that encourages both bluffing as well as tactical movements. Our games tend to go on for 4 to 6 rounds, but each round really only takes a minute or two to complete. It’s definitely not as easy as it looks to keep your target identity hidden – as you don’t have a lot of time each round to do things. If you are too obvious about it though, it’s easy for other players to cap your stack with a tile of a different color – so be careful!
We have found that the game plays a little better with 5-6 players, as in these cases most/all of the colors are owned by a player, and this makes all the decisions a little tougher. When we played with 3, if you suspected another player’s color, it was an easy decision to try to cover it with anything else – especially when 50% of the colors weren’t owned by a player. The game at that count maybe took a bit longer than I would have liked, mostly because the scores were lower as not every stack scored at the end of each round.
The artwork on the box is nice, though the box curiously doesn’t have a title printed on it. The publisher states this is because they want you to be able to enjoy the full amount of the box art, and they do provide you with a sticker to put on the box – if you want to have the name of the game somewhere on the box. I guess I’m a traditionalist, and I like having the name of the game on the front cover – but, A.ger games lets you have it both ways, so all people should be happy with the packaging.
The tiles are great, and I like the heft of the wooden pieces. I’m less a fan of the scoreboard as our fat fingers jostled the inner markers somewhat – but in the end, it wasn’t that big of a deal. They had to make the scoreboard small due to the tiny box, and a tens/units scoreboard was likely the easiest way to provide such a small scoring record. If it’s really an issue, I’m sure that we could find a scoreboard from another game (or just keep track on paper or whiteboard).
Vaccine is a great filler, and one we have played a few times at the start of our gamenights as we await for everyone to arrive. It comes in a small package, and that is appreciated as well. A.ger is a newer company, and they are trying to break into the market with this and BON (Boast or Nothing). If you’re in the market for a tiny abstract – this might be worth checking out!
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor