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A version of this review originally appeared at Board Over Boring.
Pandemic is the first and best cooperative game I’ve ever played. In a cooperative game, the players work together to overcome the obstacles posed by the game itself, and they win or lose collectively.
Tricia and I have grown to love cooperative games. We love the feeling of working together, against all odds, to save the world/save Andor/rescue people from a burning building/free slaves/put on a great fireworks show/escape a temple/escape a steam-punk desert. I think Toby Ziegler put it really well in an episode of The West Wing:
We’re a group. We’re a team[…]We win together, we lose together. We celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories sweetened because we did them together… You’re my guys and I’m yours… and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you
What I’m trying to say is that there is a spirit of camaraderie that develops among the players during a coop game, and that just doesn’t happen with other games.
What It's About
In Pandemic, the players are scientists dealing with a major crisis. Four deadly diseases are running rampant in different areas of the planet. These diseases must be controlled and cured as quickly as possible.
On a player’s turn, she can take up to four actions. The actions include traveling to other cities, treating disease, building research stations, sharing knowledge and finding cures.
To make things more interesting, each player is assigned a specific role. The roles available in the base game are Scientist, Researcher, Operations Expert, Medic, Dispatcher, Contingency Planner, and Quarantine Expert. (Those last two are from the more recent edition of the game.)
Each role makes that player exceptionally good at a certain aspect of the game. For example, the Scientist needs fewer city cards to discover a cure, and the Medic can treat disease more efficiently. Players will need to coordinate according to each other’s strengths in order to succeed.
After a player has taken her actions, she draws cards from the player deck. This deck is primarily composed of City Cards, which are required for some of the actions a player can take. There are also a handful of Event Cards, which can give the players a much-needed boost. But it’s not all sunshine and daises, for, lurking among all the helpful cards, are the dreaded Epidemics!
Drawing an Epidemic card means a few things: first, a random city is infected to the limit. Next, the number of cities that are infected each turn might increase. Finally, cities that have already been infected become likely to get infected all over again! Because of all this bad stuff, Epidemics often lead to…Outbreaks!
A city is infected to the limit if it has three disease cubes. If any more cubes would be added to it, then an Outbreak occurs, and every adjacent city gets infected. If any of those cities were already infected to the limit, they outbreak as well, and so on and so on.
Having eight outbreaks occur on your team’s watch is one way to lose the game. You can also lose if you run out of City Cards, or if you run out of any color of disease cubes. The only way to win is to find cures to all four diseases.
What I Like
I like that it’s a cooperative game, but I talked about this at length up top, so ’nuff said.
I like the theme. I’ve talked about this in other reviews, but I really appreciate games that look beyond zombies and wizards and space marines to find interesting and accessible themes. But beyond that, I absolutely love this game for making scientists the heroes. In a culture that teaches children that math and science should be avoided whenever possible, Pandemic is a breath of fresh air.
I like that it’s hard. If you’ve read many of our Scorecard Sunday posts, you know that Tricia and I usually lose this game. But those losses make the wins so much sweeter!
I like the expansions. This might be cheating a little, but I have to say that the expansions make a great game even better. I would start by getting the On the Brink expansion, which among other things, adds seven new roles and eight new events, spicing each game up considerably!
What I Don't Like
I don’t like bossing people around. Unfortunately this can happen in Pandemic, especially in a game with new players. It’s tricky, because while I don’t like telling people what to do, I also don’t like losing! I try to make suggestions in the beginning, then let people take it from there.
I don’t like that the artwork changed between editions. We got Pandemic several years ago. The box art made Tricia quite dubious when I bought it. Then in 2013, Z-Man Games published a new edition with new artwork on everything. To be clear, I think the new artwork is a big improvement. The issue is that it made my old edition incompatible with the new expansions unless I bought replacement cards or card sleeves (which I did). I think it was worth it, but it was still an annoying hassle.
If you’ve never played a cooperative game before, Pandemic is an excellent place to start. It’s a game that’ll make you want to high-five your friends (and immediately wash your hands).
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Also, they changed many of the components in the 2 editions (translucent cubes vs wooden cubes in first, Research station shape, and when SOE was being printed they changed the wooden pawns to plastic), as well as you're missing 2 roles exclusive to the 2nd edition (Quarantine Specialist and Contingency Planner), the latter kinda similar to the exclusive mini expansion for the newest edition of Carcassonne). But it is a good review.
That's a good point. At this point I have matching cubes (from the BGG store) and all the cards, including roles, from the conversion packs offered by Zman. In fact, I didn't actually buy On The Brink, I just bought the conversion pack, since it had all the content I was interested in. My pawns however, are sort of a hodgepodge.
- Last edited Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:23 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:18 pm