Saving humanity isn’t a game… or is it? Pandemic reviewed

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As a person who enjoys playing board games with friends, I though’t I’d review one of my favourite games: Pandemic

Plot: You are a group of scientists from the Atlanta’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC), who must travel the globe to research, diagnose and produce cures for 4 deadly diseases that are gripping the worlds population.

Pandemic - 4 Cures Found

Four cures found, win! The second token has been flipped to show its been completely eradicated from the planet.

Aim of the game: Discover the cures to all 4 diseases before various lose conditions arise, such as catastrophic chain reactions of outbreaks or running out of resources.

Mechanic: Pandemic is a cooperative game of between 2 and 4 players, with three levels of difficulty. It uses an ‘action point’ style dynamic, with a player able to perform 4 actions before their go ends and new diseases outbreak, making subsequent goes harder. Actions include such things as flying to a new location, treating a disease in a city, or finding a cure.

You must draw cards at the end of your turn, cards that represent resources, and match 5 of them to produce a cure for a one of the diseases. Each player also has a unique roll, with the medic needing only 4 matching cards to produce a cure.

The board starts with a selection of cities already infected, with more cities reporting cases of the diseases at the end of each players turn. However when certain resource cards are dealt, named ‘epidemic’ cards, the previously infected cities can be hit again and again. This means that once a city has reported the disease once, its more and more likely to appear there again.

Moving quickly (aka flying or taking a ship) around the board uses up valuable resources, which you must conserve to find cures for each of the diseases.

My opinion: For one its always nice to be able to play against the game, which isn’t just one unlucky friend being the bad guy, with a strong sense of cooperation between players.

Decisions, verbal communication between players, weighing up risks and balancing resources are all essential in Pandemic. This probably means it isn’t for everyone.

Although I’ve never timed it, a 3 player game probably takes about an hour, however the game can’t run and run because players will run out of resources after X amount of turns, meaning they (and humanity) has lost against the diseases.

Pandemic - Failed!

Mission failed. Chain reactions of epidemics starting in Bangkok caused us to lose this game

The game starts off fairly easily with you thinking you’ve got the diseases easily contained. Then it accelerates as a new outbreak occurs halfway around the world; do you then spend a valuable resource to fly a medic out there, take a longer route while conserving resources or ignore it for the time being? Tension mounts as an epidemic in one city triggers multiple outbreaks across, say Europe, as you let Madrid’s infected population go too long without treatment.

I’ve played it several times on the medium setting and its been a close win or lose every time. It must have been very well play tested. I have yet to attempt it on heroic setting though, which increases the speed and aggressiveness of the outbreaks. It also has the re-playability factor, with us playing it back to back on several occasions.

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Good: Who wouldn’t want to save the world? 🙂 Nice use of character bonuses, good cooperative feel and the dynamic of cities becoming hit over and over again seems quite authentic to the genre.

Bad: Cooperative gaming isn’t for everyone. Sometimes when it gets round to your go there isn’t much ‘choice’ of what to do because the right decision is obvious or your team mates have left you with nothing else to do.

Verdict: I think the games great. Brilliant to play, real tense at times and almost perfectly balanced it seems.

 

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