Players: 2 to 4
Game Length: 45 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 4 players who want to work together to combat a global epidemic!
The world is on the brink of chaos! As members of the Centre for Disease Control, you and your fellow operatives are tasked with combating the outbreak of four virulent diseases, hopefully discovering and administering their cures before the planet succumbs to the ravages of plague.
The planet starts populated with a variety of diseases, with one, two or three cubes placed on a number of cities. Each turn, players will turn over cards that show which cities are becoming ‘infected’, causing a cube to be added to them. At certain points in the game, an Epidemic card will appear, ramping up the infection and forcing players to shuffle the pile of previously-infected cities and place them on the top of the deck, worsening the infection. What’s more, once a city has three cubes on it and requires another cube to be placed, an Outbreak occurs, causing cubes to be spread to all adjacent cities! If your team doesn’t plan their actions carefully, you could find yourselves unable to combat the spreading disease.
To stem this cascading tide of virulence, players will need to collect cards corresponding to the colours of the viruses. Once a player holds four cards of the same colour and goes to a Research Centre, they may develop a cure which makes eliminating that virus easier, and once it’s completely cured, cards depicting that colour of virus will no longer appear on the map, making everyone breathe a little easier! Once a cure is developed for all four diseases, the game is won – so long as the Player deck isn’t depleted and disease hasn’t spread too far!
Games of Pandemic can be very tense once they are in full swing. Victory can hinge on which cards are drawn from the infection deck, and players will be on the edge of their seat waiting to see what the next turn brings. The arrival of the dreaded Epidemic cards are always a tense moment. You will need to construct a worldwide network of research centres to allow each other to travel, research and combat the diseases efficiently if you’re to have any chance of victory.
While an exciting and enjoyable game, Pandemic can easily be hijacked by the most experienced player, preventing others from interacting with the game – a phenomenon called ‘Quarterbacking’ in the boardgaming community. Co-operation is essential for victory, so it will be important for players to communicate and arrange their moves together, but make sure that all players are part of the process! It’s easy to feel alienated if someone else is deciding all your moves for you. Pandemic can also end up feeling more like a collaborative problem-solving exercise than a game at times, which may not be to all players’ tastes.
When setting up your game of Pandemic, make absolutely certain that you do so properly! The game can easily be ruined by incorrect setup, and it’s vital to properly set up the player deck so that Epidemic cards come at the correct pace. Pandemic is not supposed to be a walk in the park, and if you’re handily winning every game there’s a chance you’re doing something incorrectly, such as not placing the Infection cards back on top of the draw pile after an Epidemic.
Pandemic plays well with 2-4 players, and comes recommended to those wanting a game where the players work together against the board instead of each other. It rewards careful planning but still provides a lot of excitement as the diseases overtake the board and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. If you’re up to the challenge of curing the world, give Pandemic a shot!