What’s deadlier than a Cobra, faster than a Lion, and kills with even less remorse than a Great White? Disease… and Chuck Norris. Yes, he is awesome, but I am talking mainly about disease. Well, I am talking totally about disease.
Don’t think disease is all that scary? Homer Simpson once killed a large number of ferocious dinosaurs with one sneeze. When aliens invaded Earth in “War of the Worlds”, what finally took them down? A pesky little cold. Even though they were made of metal! I am literally shaking in my house slippers right now.
Disease, infection, outbreak, and epidemic. This is all you will be talking about as you gather your friends around the table and join in to play “Pandemic”, a cooperative 2-4 player game by Matt Leacock, published by Z-Man games.
In Pandemic, players are working together to fly around the world, trying desperately to reign in, cure, and eradicate 4 separate diseases using the special unique abilities of their characters. While doing this, the diseases continue to spread to new areas of the globe. If cities become too infectious, outbreaks occur, causing even more damage.
Players need to obtain the cures to all 4 diseases in order to win the game. Each disease is represented by a color. Players take turns using 4 actions each to move around the board, remove disease cubes, and build research centers. Players also draw cards corresponding to individual cities. Players need to gather city cards and take them to research centers in order to cure the diseases affecting those cities. Once all 4 are cured, the players win!
Sounds easy, right? Well, it most certainly is not. With 3 different ways to lose the game, and only one way to win, you may find that losing becomes a very frequent outcome.
I have lost this game more times than I have won, and each time, I want to immediately play again. The game is so brilliantly balanced that it has this way of giving you the feeling that you are about to win, before completely destroying your dreams. You’ll find yourself looking at your friends and saying “But…we were so close….”. Yes, yes you were…then you all died of dysentery.
Lets go over some of the highlights and lowlights of the game
Components: The board is sturdy, the cards are high quality, and the disease cubes have a great feel to them.
True Co-op: This is the cooperative game you have looking for. If your team does not communicate and strategize together, you have no chance of winning. But luck plays a factor also as the “Epidemic” cards add a great randomization to the game that leaves the players always guessing as to where to go next.
Difficulty: This game is difficult. My family and I lost the first 9 times we played this game. We finally won on our 10th game and it was very exciting. Each game we lost, we felt like we were about to win until the very end. There are also more difficult modes if you want an even greater challenge.
Engagement: This game keeps everyone engaged. Turns are quick and everyone has special abilities that keep the players engaged in needing to know what your team mates are doing. Everyone will have their phones put away for this one.
Great Expansions: There are multiple expansions for this game, all with rave customer reviews. I own the “Pandemic: On the Brink” expansion, and think it adds great variance to the original game. It also includes cool Petri dishes for the disease cubes.
Simple Mechanics: This game can be explained in about 5 minutes. The mechanics are simple, and easy to remember. The recommended minimum age is 13, but I think 10-12 is also appropriate with some adult support.
Good length: The average game runs about an hour.
Price: This game has been out since 2012, so the price is very reasonable. I have seen between $20-$30.
Looks: To be honest, when I first saw the box for this game, I was not impressed. I thought it looked boring. I was so wrong.
Number of players: The base game only supports 2-4 players. With the “On the Brink” expansion it is possible to have a 5th player.
Potential for Quarterbacking: Quarterbacking is a term used to describe when one player takes control of the game and tells other players what to do. Since players can all see the same board and the same options as far as what the next player should do, this is definitely a possibility in “Pandemic”. Setting some ground rules about telling each other what to do should be done before hand.
“Pandemic” has never become a boring, or predictable game. Each time I have played it the diseases have spread to different areas, in different patterns. Each game, the group strategy needs to be different and although I have become better at the game, it only takes one “Epidemic” card at an unexpected time to completely ruin a strategy.
This is a great choice if you are worried about a game being too complicated for your gaming group / family or if you are just getting into gaming.
As a side note, if you are looking for something a little more complicated, though, you can check out “Pandemic: Legacy”(Season 1), a legacy style game, as implied by the title, with the same great “Pandemic” theme. Z-Man games is actually looking to unveil the second edition of “Pandemic: Legacy” (Season 2), at Gen-Con this August.
This game needs to be a part of your collection. I hope you have realized by now that I absolutely love this game. I am going to say it one more time. I love this game. This is debatably the best board game that I own. If someone I didn’t know said something negative about this game and I heard it from across the room, I would run over there to defend the honor of this game. With respect and tact, naturally.
Play on boys and girls.
Photos by Samantha Hill