#2 – Pandemic


At a Glance: Pandemic is the ultimate cooperative experience. A large scale virus-fighting theme with a tight, time-sensitive design.

Pandemic is a cooperative game for 2-4 players designed by Matt Leacock. In Pandemic, you play a team of scientists and personnel trying to cure 4 major diseases that are spreading across the globe. Players will take the roles of Medic, Scientist, Researcher, Dispatcher, Quarantine Specialist, Contingency Planner, or Operations Expert, each with their own unique special abilities. The 4 diseases are represented by colored cubes and at the beginning of the game, 9 cities are infected, and the tension begins! On your turn you may do 4 actions, and these may be split or 4 of the same action. You can Move one space to a connecting city, Fly to different cities by discarding cards, Treat a disease by removing a cube in your city, Build a Research Station, Share Knowledge with others by giving and taking cards, or Discover a cure. In order to Discover cures, you will be collecting sets of cards and if you ever have 5 of the same color, you may turn them in at a Research Station and cure that disease. Once you have done your 4 actions, you draw 2 cards from the deck, and then you Infect more cities. The problem with adding cubes to cities is that if you ever have to add what would be the 4th cube to a city, an Outbreak occurs, and you add a cube to every adjacent city. What if one of those has 3 cubes as well? You guessed it. Another Outbreak. If the Outbreak Track reaches 8, everyone loses. When you draw cards on your turn, if you draw an Epidemic Card, these are the nastiest thing in the game. You increase the Infection rate (more cities becoming infected), draw a card from the bottom and place 3 cubes on it, then shuffle the discards and put them on the top of the deck. That’s right, the cities that are already infected, will be infected again. It is easier than you might think for the world to get overrun. If you ever have to place one of the disease cubes and the supply is exhausted, you lose. Lastly, the most common way to lose is to run out of cards in the Draw deck, which basically means you run out of time. If you are able to cure all 4 diseases in time, without getting overrun, everyone wins.

Like a couple other games Matt Leacock has designed, there are multiple ways to lose, but only one way to win. Something about this idea just elevates a cooperative game to excellence. More than any other cooperative game I know of, EVERY turn in Pandemic is vitally important. Time and efficiency are of the essence. Many times in a close loss, you can even think back and point to just a couple things you could have done differently to win the game. The difficulty is customizable depending on how many Epidemic cards you include in the deck. This is important for increasing the replayability and challenge for more experienced players. The game is pretty easy to learn, hence its incredible success in the mass market. The virus-fighting theme is also something that can really draw people in who are new, and since you’re not just building a castle for example, this theme feels important and more dire. One thing I love in games is when each character or role is unique and has varying abilities, AND when those abilities are actually cool. That is the case here. You feel like you really can contribute something indispensable to the group’s objective. You need the special abilities for sure because the Epidemics are such a brutal idea, but they enhance the gameplay in both a challenging and thematic way since the virus is tougher to contain in certain locations. The marriage of theme and mechanics is just so strong and it is always very engaging when you play.

Components are decent. They’re not really the focus here honestly. I would say they’re more than merely functional though. I do like the wooden bits, and the cards are nice quality. No complaints, that’s for sure. The map has a sharp look to it, and the city connections form an interesting web to navigate. There have been a few expansions and even other stand-alone games in the same Pandemic family. It is one of the top-selling games for a reason. This is the ultimate cooperative experience. I would suggest that Pandemic can actually improve you, no matter your age or gaming background: communication, teamwork skills, and critical thinking. Amazing.

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2SvDK12

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