Pandemic is a co-op style board game in which two to four players work together to cure the world of four extremely deadly diseases. This game has a pretty steep learning curve, so your first game always takes longer than normal, but once you understand it, gameplay runs pretty smoothly.
To set up the game, you and your fellow players each take up a random role and place your pawns onto Atlanta (your first research center). The roles you are able to choose from are as follows: Medic, Scientist, Contingency Planner, Dispatcher, Operations Expert, Researcher, and Quarantine Specialist. Each of these roles has a unique ability that lets you get around some of the more encumbering rules of the game. The next part of set up is to set up the infection deck and infect 9 different cities with diseases. Then finally you set up the player deck by placing what are called epidemic cards, into the deck by shuffling each them into 4 smaller decks and placing these deck one on top of the other. This is how the game keeps you from ever getting more than two epidemics in a row, and even then, it doesn’t happen very often.
To play, the players each take turns using four actions, drawing two cards and then infecting new cities. The actions include moving to a connected city, flying directly to a different city, treating disease, trading cards, building a research center, and what is ultimately the goal of the game, discover a cure for one of the illnesses. Each of these actions has certain rules that have to be followed unless you have a role that lets you go around those rules. One example is that normally when you choose to cure disease in a city, you have to be in the city and you can remove only one disease cube, but the Medic is allowed to remove all disease cubes of the same color using one action, or if a cure for the disease has already been found, the Medic can remove all cubes of that disease without using an action at all. So when developing your team’s strategy for each game, you have to consider not only what you want to do, but who would be the best person to do it. Then once your turn is over, you draw two new player cards which are used to do certain actions and may have special actions printed on them as well. The rules say that you have your hand of cards hidden from the others, but we found it was easier to just lay them out on the table where everyone could see; that way we could work together more easily.
Then once you are finished with that, then comes the scary part, the game begins to infect new cities. You now draw from the top of the infection deck (The number of cards you draw is dependent on how many epidemics have happened so far, but to start you draw two) and place disease cubes on the cities indicated. Play then proceeds to the next person. You then keep going on like this until someone draws and epidemic card from the player deck. When an epidemic card is drawn, you take a card from the bottom of the infection deck and place, not one, but three cubes on it. Then the discard pile of the infection deck is shuffled together and placed on TOP of the infection deck. As play continues, you come across the problem that most often causes a team to lose, outbreaks. A city can have no more than three disease cubes on it at a time and when a card causes it to gain more than that, it causes an outbreak. When an outbreak happens, the disease causes all cities connected to the outbreak city to gain one cube of that disease. This can really get you in trouble because it can cause chain reactions if you’re not careful enough.
This then brings us to winning the game, or more often, losing the game. Winning the game is hard because there is only one way to win and three ways to lose. To win, you have to discover the cure all four of the diseases. To lose, you either rack up more than seven outbreaks during the course of the game, run out of disease cubes of any color, or you run out of cards in the player deck.
So is it worth it to play this game?
As far as replayability goes, it ranks pretty high. This is because so much of the game is randomized. The deck is never going to draw out the same way, the roles are not always the same four characters, and the challenge rating can be adjusted by setting different tokens to different spots at the beginning of the game. While this can be good, it’s not perfect. Sometimes the cards can just be stacked against you and you cause a chain reaction of outbreaks, or if you’re really unlucky, you draw two epidemics in a row.
One of the hardest things about this game was understanding the rules, but after the first couple of turns, gameplay was quite easy. Especially since they give each player a reference card for the various actions and the board has many of the rules written on it. The game says that it is for two to fours players. This is actually pretty accurate. I’m sure you could attempt to play with more than that, seeing how there are seven different roles, but I don’t think there are enough cards in the player deck to support that many and you’d probably run out of cards before you even came close to winning. I found that playing with four is probably ideal because less than that can be more challenging due to fewer abilities from the roles, and less mobility around the board.
At the time of this review, the price is around $30 and considering all the pieces included in the box, I would say that it is worth the price. The game board and pieces are quite sturdy and the visuals and artwork are expertly done.
- Replayability is high.
- Visuals on the cards and boards make the rules easy to remember once they are understood.
- Promotes team building skills in the players.
- Allows players to think critically in order to choose the best possible action.
- Challenge rating can be adjusted depending on the skill of the players.
- Decent price considering the quality and replayability of the game.
- Has a high learning curve
- Has a tendency to snowball out of the players’ hands
- Far easier to lose than to win.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game, not only because it is a co-op style game, but also because it presents a suitable challenge, and does so in a very fun way. I would highly recommend this game for those looking for a fun challenge or those looking to find a co-op that gets people working together. If so, you can always buy a copy HERE.
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