Turner and Robinson embrace their dark side in Viral to play the bad guys.
WHAT IS VIRAL?
In Viral you take on the role of a virus that has just infected a patient, your goal is to spread and mutate to infect all of the organs in the patient’s body. To win you need to drive the organs into crisis achieved by controlling the various colourful segments of the board. Of course, conquering organs is not easy, and you need to be aware of other viruses and the patient’s immune system. It’s a strategic area control game where you need to carefully balance your resources and keep an eye on what the other viruses are doing.
IS IT FUN?
The game is quite a brain buster with lots for players to think about! After selecting your rather scary looking virus, you take it in turns to load up the various organs in the body then the rounds begin. The first step needs care – selecting which organ you are targeting and which mutation you will apply. The mutations allow you to do things like build up resilience to the immune system or attack other viruses. These choices have consequences though, both good and bad. Firstly, the more viruses you have in a zone the better the body is at creating a response – which could lead to a ‘cure’ and you being eradicated! However, those same viruses could trigger an organ to go into crisis which can lead to valuable victory points. It is fun and challenging, there is a lot to think about and the dynamics change quite a bit over the game’s six rounds. We would say it is, as is often the case, a better experience with more players.
IS IT EDUCATIONAL?
The game is about viruses attacking the body and therefore uses multiple scientific concepts and ideas to generate the game-play. The overall game mechanic of viruses mutating to reproduce and adapt to the immune system is anchored in reality. The flavour of the game leans heavily into the theme like the event cards, a personal favorite is the excellent ‘number 2’ which causes all viruses to be expunged from the large intestine. The game may be useful for starting a conversation about viruses or immunology, but the educational use probably ceases there.
A complex strategy game that leans heavily in a viral based theme. The game is very bright and colourful, and its components really help players navigate through the complex possibilities that exist while playing.
MESA board games and Arcane Wonders
Dr Louise Robinson is Lecturer in Forensic Biology and Dr Ian Turner an Associate Professor in Learning and Teaching, both work at the University of Derby