Save Patient Zero – The Savior Stumbles
“A new pathology has just broken out! Patient Zero has been identified, it’s up to you to find the antidote as soon as possible to save the patient and all of humanity!”
It sounds like a movie plot, but it’s not; it’s a game. Save Patient Zero is a team tabletop game from Helvetiq. In Save Patient Zero, two teams (or single players) are using the tools at their disposal to determine the three molecule antidote cocktail to save Patient Zero, the first human infected with a dangerous new virus. Save Patient Zero plays 1-7 people (or so) in about 30 minutes. Any age can play, but it’s probably best for gamers age 10+.
To start a game, each team grabs their screen, research sheet, Sample deck, Tool deck, and the “Scanpad”, “Estugamo”, and “Centrifugo” tools. There’s a “Red” team and a “Blue” team here. It’s pretty easy to figure out which pieces go to which team.
One person will be “Savvy”, and randomly draws three cards from the “Savvy” deck. Each card shows one of the 25 molecules represented on the research sheet. Savvy keeps this three molecule combo secret; the goal of the game is for the teams to deduce that combination.
At the beginning of each round, each team selects the tool they want to use and places the corresponding card face-down near Savvy. The team that selects their tool first in each round gets to perform their test first.
Each tool provides a different way to gather information about the secret molecules. Most of them eliminate possible matches from the teams’ respective research sheets.
There are fifteen tools to choose from, but the game recommends starting with just six of them for beginners. We’ll detail those tools here: Dedukto, Samply, Analyzer, Scanpad, Intervallo, and Antidote.
- Dedukto (1) – Receive five cards from the Savvy deck. None of these can be the curing molecules.
- Samply (3) – Give the top three cards from the team’s Samply deck to Savvy. Savvy will place them on the sides of the research sheet: On the left if the card contains none of the molecules in the antidote, and on the right if the card contains at least one.
- Analyzer (3) – Use this tool after using Samply at least once. Select up to three cards from the right side of the team’s sheet. Savvy will place them each in a column indicating how many of the antidote molecules appear on each card.
- Scanpad (1) – Place the 2×3 molecule “scanpad” on the research sheet. Savvy will tell you how many of the antidote molecules show within that rectangle.
- Intervallo (1) – The team selects “Min” or “Max”. Savvy denotes the row with the lowest number molecule (each molecule has a number) for a “Min” or the row with the highest number molecule for a “Max”.
- Antidote (2) – The team circles three molecules. Savvy writes how many of those molecules are correct. If all three molecules are correct, that team wins!
Each team has limited uses of each tool (shown in parentheses above). So teams must be careful how they select their tools and sequence them to gather the most information.
Save Patient Zero also includes a “Disruption Mode” which includes a deck of “bad stuff” cards. Savvy draws one card after the teams play three tools and “plays” it face-up. The cards could shut certain tools down, prevent players from being able to write on their sheets, or many other things.
Whichever team finds the antidote first wins immediately!
We have been effusive in our praise for Scorpion Masque’s Turing Machine on The Family Gamers Podcast. Save Patient Zero has a ton of similarities. Both games present the player(s) with a blank slate and bounded options and expects them to do all the work to solve the solution.
Save Patient Zero makes a strong case here. Its theme shines and is tied well to its mechanics. Some of the testing tools are baseline tests (they can be conducted independently of any other test) but others rely on the results of the baseline tests. I find this to be an interesting and thematic way to build up the detective case of the game. In this, I really enjoyed what Save Patient Zero brought to the table.
Unfortunately, two big issues with the game really impacted my game experience.
The first is the reliance on Savvy. Most gamers I know would rather be involved in the process of solving the mystery, not relegated to being a fact checker on the side. Unfortunately, the core game mechanics require an impartial third party.
The Savvy role is incredibly prone to human error, but the game has absolutely no room for mistakes. We have had a game completely ruined because our Savvy made a single mistake on a card on a Samply test.
There are two variants that get around this:
- No Savvy – Each team is trying to find a different set of molecules, and the other team plays their Savvy role. This is still prone to human error, but removes the need to have an additional player sitting “outside” the game.
- Mobile App – Our best play experience came from using the mobile app for Save Patient Zero, which is available on Android and iOS for free. Both teams register an account, and can connect and use the app as “Savvy”. While this worked well once we got into the game, we found the app incredibly buggy on iOS and fairly frustrating to use.
Needs Polish and Proofreading
The second big issue that we had with Save Patient Zero is that the game simply lacks polish. Tool names are either English words or some kind of Latin-like invented language, which makes it feel incompletely translated.
The team screens helpfully explain what each tool does as a quick reference, but many of the explanations are difficult to understand and require going back to the rulebook. The game needs a heavy review from a native English speaker. I can’t speak to the other languages included in the box.
Finally, there are just some errors in printing. Half a dozen of the Samply cards have the wrong numbers on them.
I really like the core game here in Save Patient Zero. I think the game needs an extra, deep round of polish and the mobile app would benefit from the same (and some testing!). Any one of these problems would have been worth mentioning, but not a significant downer. All of them together, in the context of a fairly heady deduction game, really pulled me out of the experience.
When it went well, it was great (even though I lost), but that only happened once in our five plays.
If you can overlook these issues, and have a savvy Savvy (or you can patiently use the app), Save Patient Zero is definitely a game to consider.
You can get a copy on Amazon or you can ask for it at your friendly local game store.
The Family Gamers were provided a promotional copy of Save Patient Zero for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Save Patient Zero - The Savior Stumbles
Age Range: 10+ (we say 10+)
Number of Players: 1-7
Playtime: 30 minutes