I love cooperative games and for me, this game set the standard for all future cooperative games. I knew it was going to be good from all the reviews that I had read, but I had no idea that it was going to bump my favorite game, Castle Panic, out of its number one spot. Click herefor my review of Castle Panic.
Game Bits: Not great, but pretty good. The player pawns and research centers are solid wood and a good size. There is an awful lot of cards in this game that can become marked, so handle them with care or invest in some sleeves. The game board is awesome because they actually wrapped the image around the edge of the board instead of leaving the standard black border. My only complaint about the board is the city names are hard to see when you get a bunch of cubes in one city. The wood disease cubes are ok, but these custom FIMO diseases that Daniel Herding has created blow them away!
Mechanics: The mechanics in this game really work. The game starts out with a low infection rate and no outbreaks. Infection rates are increased when and epidemic or outbreak occur. Epidemics are random events that are dispersed throughout the player draw pile, while outbreaks occur when a city gets more than 3 disease cubes of the same color. During an outbreak the disease spreads to adjacent cities and chain reactions can occur if that city already has too many disease cubes. This is exactly how I would picture a disease spreading and the only hole you can poke in this mechanic is that people traveling by airplane in today's society would cause outbreaks to expand past adjacent cities.
Replay Ability: Players receive one of five different roles at the beginning of the game and each role has a different special ability. Every game also starts with random cities being infected at different levels. These two factors cause players to develop new strategies each time they play the game. When you finally master your strategy and you are curing the world like a pro, you can bump up the difficulty to Heroic and it will turn your world upside down. There is also an expansion available that adds a new roles, new special rules, and a new disease.
Audience: Beating this game requires a strategy and teaching this game requires an entire play through to cover all of the different scenarios that can occur, so I would not recommend this as a gateway game. There are also a lot of interesting rules that seem to require clarification for first time players (I know I played it wrong the first time). I recommend this game as the next step after gateway games, once you get them hooked bring this one out and they will never go back to monopoly.
My Overall Rating: BGG Definition of a 10: Outstanding. Always want to play and expect this will never change.