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Reposted from Around the Table and Gaming, my board game blog!
I have owned Pandemic ever since its release in 2007 and have yet to write a review for it. After watching calandale's excellent video play through of the game, I decided it was time to review it myself. I will be reviewing the first edition.
Pandemic is a cooperative game designed by Matt Leacock for 2-4 players that plays in about 45 minutes.
In Pandemic, the players are attempting to prevent the spread of four deadly diseases. As with most cooperative games, there are many ways to lose and only one way to win: cure each of the diseases. The players lose by running out of cards in the player draw pile, running out of disease cubes for any of the four diseases when needing to place them on the board, or when eight outbreaks occur.
Fittingly, the players will start at a research center in Atlanta (the Centers for Disease Control). One of five roles will be passed out to each of the players: the Medic, the Operations Expert, the Scientist, the Researcher, or the Dispatcher. Each role has its own special abilities. The Medic treats diseased citizens in infected cities more easily; the Operations Expert allows for new research centers to be built more easily; the Scientist can cure diseases using only four cards of one color; and the Researcher can trade cards for any city while in a city with another player. Thus, each is allowed to break one of the rules of the game.
Each turn players receive four actions and can do obvious things like fly to a city, drive to a city, treat diseases in a city, or try and cure one of the diseases. There is always the need to do more in a turn than is possible. This adds a real sense of urgency to the game. Here is a sample of what may be going through your head on any given turn: I need to treat the disease in this city, then fly across the world and treat disease over in Mumbai. Well, that is too bad. Those poor saps in Mumbai will have to wait until next turn.
Of course, as this is a purely cooperative game, you will be working together with a team of experts to help you cure those pesky diseases! As each player turn passes, you will play the Infector, or spread disease across the world according to a number of card draws from the Infection Draw pile as determined by the current “Infection Rate”. If a cube ever needs to be placed in a city which already has three, there is an outbreak and all of the cities adjacent will be infected with that disease. As mentioned earlier, you are only allowed eight outbreaks before the world succumbs to disease, so you must act with urgency to stop outbreaks from occurring.
Everything in the game is a limited resource: the player cards, player actions, the disease cubes, the number of outbreaks allowed; all of it. Effectively managing these resources as a team is the name of the game. Occasionally while drawing end of turn cards from the player deck, epidemics will appear. These epidemic cards are what will decide the game’s difficulty. There are three difficulties included in the game: easy, normal, and heroic. Easy uses four epidemic cards, normal uses five, and heroic uses all six. These cards will force new cities to be infected and then causes previously infected city cards to be placed back on top of the infection deck. The same few cards you just dealt with will be coming back to haunt you. I hope you are prepared to take care of those outbreak prone cities immediately!
The majority of games that I have lost are due to the maximum number of outbreaks being reached. This can be attributed to epidemics hitting at the worst possible times and chain reactions. That is right; outbreaks can, and will, cause other outbreaks to occur. If these happen, they will surely shorten the survivability of the world!
The components in the game are very nice. The game board is sturdy and has a really nice, smooth texture to it and is different from any other game I own. The colors used for the continents are realistic and look very nice against the dark background used for the oceans and seas. All of the wooden pieces are nice, but too large for the game board. This is the major problem with the game: none of the player pawns or research centers really fit the board. This may have been corrected with the second printing forward, but if you end up with a first edition copy, be ready for extra large pieces. The cubes fit the spaces just fine, however and look quite nice on the game board. The cards are of a nice thickness and lend themselves well to easy shuffling. This is a good thing as you will be doing a fair bit of shuffling for the Infection deck. The tokens are also of a nice thickness and quality. Finally, the rulebook is eight pages with full color and lots of pictures and a sample turn included. I have no trouble referencing the rules for questions, but the game is simple enough that after a few plays you should know the rules well enough to no longer need to reference the book. Again, the components included with the game are top notch, even with the player pieces being too large for the board.
Pandemic is a great cooperative game, and one of my favorites. It always provides a challenge and never ceases to be exciting. While some games will be landslide losses or victories, I have found that a lot of the time games turn out to be nail biters that go to the bitter end. The game is easy enough to be considered a family game, and while the box suggests it is appropriate for ages ten and up, it could easily be played with children a little younger. Games rarely last longer than about 30 minutes once you have played a game or two, and boy do they pack a wallop; most of the time. Some find the game to be more of a puzzle than a game, and I can see why that line of thought exists. However, the interaction and uncertainty that the game presents is enough to give me the feeling that I am playing a good game, rather than an interactive puzzle.
In summary, if you are looking for a relatively easy, quick playing cooperative game (or game in general), I would suggest giving Pandemic a look. If you hate cooperative games or do not like puzzles in any way, it is pretty safe to say that you should avoid picking this one up.
Personally, after 19 plays I rate Pandemic an 8 and don’t see that changing any time soon.