Diseases are breaking out all over the world and it’s up to you to find the cure and stop them!
Pandemic from Zman Games is a co-operative board game where you must carefully plan the eradication of four diseases. But if you don’t keep on top of outbreaks then you’re sure to be over run and lose.
To set up the game you’ll first need to randomly dish out character cards – these characters have unique traits that will help you in a specific way whilst playing. Each player will start with a few player cards dependent on how many are playing – 2 cards each for a 4 player game. You’ll then need to shuffle the remaining player cards and deal them in to four piles, place an Epidemic card in each pile and shuffle again – but shuffle each deck individually, once done place all the cards in one pile on the board. Now you need to start infecting cities, shuffle all the infection cards and place them on the board. Turn over the first nine cards placing 3 infection cubes on the first 3 cities, then 2 cubes on the next 3 and then finally 1 cube on the last 3 cards cities that are turned over. These cards are now placed face up on the discard pile.
All players start the game in Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, and now you’re going to want to start heading out across the globe to combat the four diseases that need curing.
Each player has four actions they can perform in a turn. These consist of:-
- Moving to an adjacent City
- Flying to a city, providing you have the city card for either your current city or the city you wish to travel to.
- Build a research station – Discard a city card that matches the city you’re in and place a research station.
- Clear disease cubes from a city – one cube for each action
- Cure a disease – requires 5 city cards of the same type/colour to cure that specific disease
- Share knowledge – Give or take city cards provided players are in the same city and the card is for that city.
Once a player has completed their actions they then take two cards from the player card pile (for a 4 player game) – usually these are city cards, but there are also Epidemic cards which, if drawn, mean you have to carry out a number of actions. Firstly increase the infection rate which determines how many infection cards are drawn at the end of a players turn. Then Infect cities – drawing the bottom card from the infection deck and place three disease cubes on that city. Finally you ‘intensify’ by re-shuffling the discarded infection cards and place them back on top of the infection deck. You can also draw event cards that give you a special ‘move’ to perform like being able to place a research station for free.
Your main objective is to cure all diseases, once you’ve done this then you’ve won! You can also eradicate diseases by clearing them from cities and this could help you with managing where you apply our resources, but it’s not the main mission. There are, however, multiple ways in which you can lose. If you deplete the players card deck, then you lose. If you need to place a disease cube and have none in your reserve (for that specific colour), you lose. If eight Outbreaks occur – triggered by more than three disease cubes being on a city, you lose. So there are a lot of things to keep an eye on and manage during your play through.
The randomness of the player cards that are dealt to you at the beginning of the game can almost make or break your play through. Some of the character cards feel extremely rewarding whilst others only a little bit. It’s this randomness that really keeps the game feeling fresh. We’ve played multiple games where we’ve both lost and won, our most recent loss felt like it was partly down to one character not really offering much, although I’m sure it was also because we’re fairly new to it. But we’ve also had games where we’ve played with what I’d consider the dream team and it feels much, much easier. Knowing how to get the maximum use from your characters and planning ahead is essential to your success.
What I love about Pandemic is that things can easily go from great to a total loss. That might sound a bit odd, but we’ve had games where we’re one or two moves away from winning only to draw an Epidemic card that has caused us to lose the game. It’s that constant knowing that you could quickly lose the game that makes it more entertaining and when I do lose I usually want to start playing again straight away to try and rectify that loss.
The overall quality of the game is good, the cards feel robust, the board is nice and sturdy, all the pieces feel well made and like they will last. The presentation and artwork is good. But the box itself isn’t the best and most of the cards are left to just float about which is kind of annoying, so you might want to invest in some extra bags to collect them all together, but all the other pieces have bags, but I’d just like everything to fit a little more snuggly and not rattle around so much.
Pandemic is game that has been lauded by many and it’s easy to see why with its challenging nature, quick to set up game play and heavy focus on team co-operation and planning. I know it will certainly be a mainstay at my table. It’s a great game and has quickly shot up near the top of my list in terms of favourite board games. With all of the expansions that are now available for it, it’s a game that could keep you busy for a long time. I will definitely be trying out some of them out to see how they can expand the experience.
Find your copy of Pandemic here.