Boardgames: Pandemic. Z-Man Games (2008)

Can you save Humanity with Pandemic?

I’ve been playing Pandemic and off for the past 18 months but with the outbreak of the actual pandemic the game got put away and ignored for a good 6 months as it felt a little crass. However on since the UK and US governments have screwed the pooch so badly we are now on a new lockdown as society crumbles around us. On that cheery note some  mates decided to huddle together and give Pandemic a try before humanity falls and we reduced to sitting lonely in our homes unable to mingle. We couldn’t possibly be as inept at eradicating a disease as the UK and US governments, could we?

Players: 2-4
Set up: 10-15 minutes
Rules to Learn: Medium
Game Length: 40-60 minutes
Overview: 4 Barrys

Overview

Pandemic is a cooperative board game where you work together to stop the spread of 4 different diseases (red/black/blue/yellow). To do this you randomly select 6 different character each with a unique ability, and you need to find the cures for the diseases before the game ends (run out of cards) or the virus causes humanity to become extinct.

Luckily when I have played it the people I have been playing with have been coopretive and worked together, however I have heard of arguments when other people of played it. So having friends who aren’t bellends is a must.

The Rules

The initial rules are pretty simple, however the 8 pages of text are obfuscated with constant pop-outs and explainers causing the rules to read a little muddily. That said you can be up and running in 15 minutes having given the rule book a good read, and you’re able to start a game and explain rules to a newb pretty easily.

Less pop-outs would make the rules easier to follow

Set-up can be a bit of a faff as you need to randomly select your starting character, then pull out 3 infection cards, place 3 viruses on the relevant location, pull 3 more cards out, place 2 infection markers, then pull out another 3 cards before placing 1 more infection in these cities. It is a little bit of a faff and it requires you to carefully unbox everything and create neat piles for the different infection colours as well as 2 card decks and you other markers.

Beyond that, you get 4 actions a turn, move, cure, fly to a new location, trade knowledge, eradicate a disease, and build research centers all take one of your 4 actions.

The cards are split in into types, city cards which correspond to locations on the map and collecting 5 of the same colour allows you to cure it. While infection cards will add infection markers to the corresponding city.

At the end of your turn draw 2 cards and draw 2 (up to 4) infection cards.

A typical board set-up will look similar to this.

It is pretty simple, the first few turns is you trying to get on top of the initial outbreaks. Each time an EPIDEMIC card is drawn the played infection cards are shuffled back in to the top of the infection deck. This means you need to remember what cards have been out, as you need to get to those locations and stop cities overloading and causing outbreaks. These outbreaks till ultimately lead to gameover (if 8 occur) and each EPIDEMIC card moves the infection meter along.

When you are setting up, you shuffle 4-6 of these cards into the player deck and each time these are drawn you move the infection meter up one. This can lead to up to 4 infection cards being drawn a turn.

Still not sure what the researcher does.

Your aim is to collect 5 cards of the same colour to cure a disease, but you are only allowed to trade cards in certain ways ad you can only hold 7 cards at a time. As the deck is limited you need to efficiently use these cards in order to be able to cure the disease at the end.

My only criticism of the rules is that some of the wording is a little confusing and between 4 of us, we still couldn’t figure out what the RESEARCHER role does.

Equipment

Cards are not quite to the standard of regular playing cards so after 6 games they are starting to show signs of wear which is disappointing.

The disease cubes are a little bit of a faff to sort, and are easily lost so you need to keep everything in their little baggy.

The character tokens are generic colour blobs, I would prefer a sculpted model, but for the price you’re paying (£30 brand new) it is perfectly acceptable.

Expansions

To my knowledge there are 3 expansions each costing between £20 and £30, these are ok additions to the game. they add rules for more players (up to six) as well as new scenarios and depth to the game. They are OK from what I have read, but for most people the base game should be enough.

Price

Pandemic is £30 brand new. This is an excellent price for what you get. Sure the cards could be better, and the models could be better, but at £30 for the base game it is more than fair.

In Summary

Pandemic is a fun game that has a short enough play time you’d happily play a couple of times in an evening and an entry curve that allows new players to join in. The rules also allow for scaling difficulties (More EPIDEMIC cards) as well as the random character select means you can’t optimise the team to make the game too easy.

That said, from playing through Pandemic 4 players is the best. 2 players feels a little hollow, so trying to play in 3-4 players is best. One of the expansions introduces one player mode.

I'm awesome. I write about videogames occasionally but spend most time painting and playing Warhammer in varying formats.

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