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Pandemic Iberia» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First Impressions and Thoughts rss

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Raphael Pigulla
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Despite being a huge fan of cooperative games, I never liked Pandemic much. I do appreciate the elegance of the design but the gameplay never seemed that interesting to me, it always felt like it was obvious what a player's next move should be. To me, Pandemic was, for the most part, a boring puzzle and it never had the level of excitement and tension of other games like Ghost Stories. (Although I do have to add the caveat that I've only ever played the base game.)

Nevertheless, last week at Essen I picked up Pandemic Iberia as an impulse buy. I had it on my list of games to check out but I ended up getting it without playing a demo or anything. Having read through the rules, I wanted to share my first impressions. Please do keep in mind that I haven't actually played it yet.


Aesthetics

Honestly, this may have been what pushed me over the edge and triggered the purchase. While regular Pandemic went for this sleek, abstract, cleanroom-like design, this looks much more like a - for lack of a better word - "regular" board game. Where the Pandemic board screams "abstract puzzle game", Iberia lures me in with the soothing voice of theme.

To me, this even makes sense thematically as you are operating in the field, planning your next move in an improvised command hut as opposed to sitting in the CDC war room staring at a world map on a computer screen. In any case, this is just personal preference, there most certainly was nothing wrong technically with the looks of the original Pandemic game.


Box Contents and Components

What really surprised me was that the game comes in both German and English. And I mean completely: there are two complete set of cards, two rule books and even the board is double sided. I love that. The box itself is very sturdy, there are wooden microscopes and the cardstock is great. Honestly, I am not sure I agree with the 50 Euro price tag (as far as board games go, it is a smaller sized box) but it's fine. The stuff you do get is of very high quality.
The rulebook is well written and an easy read with plenty of examples. Even if you have never played Pandemic before you're gonna pick it up quickly.


Gameplay Differences

As you might expect, at its core this is still Pandemic. I will not go into the details too much, so here's the quick rundown:


Researching Diseases
You can't cure diseases, instead researching it allows you to purify water (see below). This also means that the Treat Disease action always removes only one cube.

Purifying Water
When a disease is researched, as an action you can discard a card of the appropriate color to add a purified water token to an adjacent region, i.e. an area enclosed by roads next to the player. One such token can be removed to prevent the addition of any disease cube to an adjacent city. This is maybe the most notable visual distinction from regular Pandemic as far as gameplay is concerned.

Railroads
As an action a player can place a railroad track on the board adjacent to his current location, though supply is limited and there are some connections (dashed lines) where this is not possible. When moving, a player can move along any continuous track of railroad tokens for one action.

Ships
When on a city with a port you can spend an action to move to any other city with a port by discarding a card matching the color of your destination. This replaces Pandemic's "fly to another city" option, which obviously isn't available in Iberia.


Additional Game Modes

There are two additional, more difficult "challenge" game modes you can play which I will not describe in much detail. One is Influx of Patients (cubes are patients and move towards the nearest hospital), the other is Historical Diseases in which each disease gains a special power (e.g., it costs two actions to treat a red cube if there is more than one in a city). You can select any number of those, the more you chose the harder the game gets, obviously.


Why I might enjoy this despite not being a fan of Pandemic

I haven't played this yet, so this is all conjecture. But I do think Iberia has (in addition to it being more visually appealing) a few improvements over regular Pandemic for me.

Most notably, there seems to be more choices and strategic depth. Placing a railroad token is an additional action you have to consider and so is purifying water. In case of the latter you also have to decide in which area to put the token.

Secondly, once you get more experienced with the game, using one or more of the historical diseases will give each game a twist without adding a lot of complexity, increasing replayability.

I am excited to see how this plays out (pun intended). If anything it is still a Collector's Edition :-)
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Susan
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If you can't cure diseases, how do you win?
 
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Raphael Pigulla
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isellsunshine wrote:
If you can't cure diseases, how do you win?

I don't think "cure" was the best choice of words here. What I meant was that you can't eradicate a disease, i.e. permanently remove it from the game. What you need to do is "research" all of them, which is what the original Pandemic refers to at "curing it", I believe.
 
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Susan
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n3rd wrote:
isellsunshine wrote:
If you can't cure diseases, how do you win?

I don't think "cure" was the best choice of words here. What I meant was that you can't eradicate a disease, i.e. permanently remove it from the game. What you need to do is "research" all of them, which is what the original Pandemic refers to at "curing it", I believe.


Ahh very good.

The railways looks to be very interesting. Do we take the time to build them or should we just focus on researching?
 
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Deb Wentworth
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I also picked this up at Essen and have played it once.

'Curing' the diseases would not be historically accurate for the setting. Instead, by researching the diseases, you learn how to control their spread, e.g. by purifying water. But the mechanics are the same as curing a disease.

I love this version! My only minor complaints regard how hard it is to see some of the elements on the board. The color matched wooden hospitals look too much like the wooden cubes, and there is not enough contrast to easily read the port city names that are written on the water surrounding Iberia.

We lost our first game - think we focused too much on the actions that were familiar to us rather than the new actions introduced in this version. I look forward to my next play!
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