Ian K
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Back when I first started writing reviews for Board Game Geek, I chose to specifically avoid writing a review of Pandemic because it is not a game I play that often. I figured it was best to leave the reviews to those who get to play it more than I do. My friends and I collectively own many, many games and when we got together for a night’s gaming we, obviously, tend to play the games that we all like, not just one or two of us.
This, I reasoned, was a good reason to not review Pandemic as I wouldn’t be able to give it as fair a positive review as someone else that plays it more often.
But lately, I began to reason thusly: someone who has seen Star Wars 1,457 times does not have a more valid opinion of it than someone who has seen it just once. The person who has seen it just once might not be able to engage in a conversation about the detailed breakdown of the opening sequence but they can still say whether or not they like the film and, more importantly, why.
I tell you all this so you know that while my experience of this game is not great and a lot of players have played it far more, I can still review it from the position of someone who likes it but doesn’t play it as often as they’d like.

Synopsis
The players take control of a group of experts who are desperately trying to contain four deadly diseases as they spread around the world. This being a co-operative game, the players all win and lose together and the result depends on whether or not the players can gain control of the diseases before one of the loss conditions is triggered. If the players are efficient enough, the world is saved. If not, the world dies screaming in agony and it is all the fault of the players.

Gameplay
The game board shows a map of the world with various cities marked and connected to each other by straight lines. These lines represent roads or boats or aeroplanes that the players can take to travel around the world as they treat the diseases and search for a cure. Each city also has a corresponding card and each city belongs to one of four colours. If one player manages to get five city cards of the same colour, they can use them all to discover the cure for the relevant disease.
The problem, however, is that there are only twelve cards of each colour and they have many other uses that the players need to put them to as well. If too many of one colour are used for other purposes, then it becomes impossible to cure that disease. Thus, resource management is not only one of the most important strategies of the game but every player needs to manage their hand of resources with the others. It’s all very well player A trying to collect five red cards, but if player B is happily using several of them for other purposes, player A’s task gets harder.
This collective responsibility for the resources separates this game from a lot of other co-operative games as it becomes very hard for one or two players to carry the others unless they go as far as to effectively play the other’s turns. With some groups this can become a problem but if you have a group that can either make sure it doesn’t happen or don’t mind if it does, this collective responsibility can actually make the game far more interesting. Instead of a collection of individuals all working for the same goal, you have to display genuine team work and co-ordination.
Therefore this game is not for everyone. If you have one or two dominant personalities in your usual gaming group or if some of your regulars are not capable of effectively working as a team, this is not the game for you. But for those groups who can co-ordinate well without one person taking complete control, this game can prove to be an interesting co-operative challenge.
There is more to the game than this, obviously, but this central idea of collective responsibility and co-ordination lies at the heart of the gameplay and nearly every decision you make in game needs to be made with thought of how it will influence and impact on the other players in the long term and not just the immediate gains. Maybe it will be better to let the red disease spread for a while rather than using some red cards to contain the current spread? After all, if you use the cards for that purpose then you can’t give them to another player later to help with the red cure. Etc.
Once you have beaten the basic challenge the game has many ways to scale the difficulty so that you can be sure of always having a challenge suitable for your skill level. Personally, I don’t see how you can even theoretically beat the hardest settings but I’ve been assured it is possible.

Presentation
The artwork is professional and consistent in style. It doesn’t get in the way of the game and, quite frankly, that’s all that’s need from it. No complains in Presentation is all I look for.

Summary
A co-operative game of genuine teamwork which requires all players to be of a decent skill level unless you are happy for one or two to simply play the game for everyone.
While this does mean that those looking for a genuinely challenging co-operative game need look no further, it is not a suitable game to play with more casual gamers or one a newbie can join in with at anything but the basic setting.
8 out of 10. A hard core game for dedicated gamers only – especially once you start increasing the difficulty.




Note 1: I have learned from bitter experience with this site that I need to stress that all reviews – including this one – are entirely matters of opinion. I am not claiming that anything I have said in this review is fact, it is all entirely my opinion and I am sure that many others have different opinions. If you wish to reply with yours, I welcome it. I enjoy discussion but will not respond kindly to aggressive replies.
Note 2: I am fully aware the expansion can change things a great deal. However this review looks only at the base game as it plays out of the box. To do otherwise in this review is unfair to the readers and the game itself.


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Mike Fox
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Yukon
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Good review.

Just curious, do you think it "plays best with X amount of players"? I personally think it plays best with 2 or 3. Curious as to what you would say it plays best with.

Also, I like the art, too. I agree that it doesn't get in the way. There's something appropriate about the art being sleek and sterile in this game instead of flashy and busy.
 
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Jay K
United Kingdom
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Nothing to see here. Please move on
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Good review
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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Stenun wrote:
But lately, I began to reason thusly: someone who has seen Star Wars 1,457 times does not have a more valid opinion of it than someone who has seen it just once. The person who has seen it just once might not be able to engage in a conversation about the detailed breakdown of the opening sequence but they can still say whether or not they like the film and, more importantly, why.


The force is not strong with this one.
 
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Ian K
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foxfan wrote:

Just curious, do you think it "plays best with X amount of players"? I personally think it plays best with 2 or 3. Curious as to what you would say it plays best with.


I've played quite a few two player games but only a few with three or four players. As such, I don't really yet have much to draw on as to the best number of players as I don't have enough experience with 3 or 4. Sorry.
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