Be careful not to catch it: Pandemic

The world has been plagued by numerous plagues, and it is up to you with your team of scientists and specialists to research cures, treat, and prevent these diseases from spreading throughout the world. Can you save humanity?

Pandemic is a cooperative (yes, you don't have to fight against one another here, except maybe argue about decisions) 2-4 player game. A game can last anywhere between 30-90 minutes depending on the skill and number of players involved. The main premise of Pandemic is for the player to control infections and outbreaks, treat diseases, and to cure these diseases before the time runs out. It's an international award-winning game and is ranked in the Top 100 games over at BGG. What makes this game so awesome? Let's find out.


The box of goodies
The game contains the following components:

7 Role Cards
7 Pawns
59 Player Cards (48 City Cards, 6 Epidemic Cards, 5 Event Cards)
4 Reference Cards
48 Infection Cards
96 Disease Cubes (4 colors of 24 each)
4 Cure Markers
1 Infection Rate Marker
1 Outbreaks Marker
6 Reasearch Stations

Excellent quality components, most of which can be used for other games as well. The board is a fold out-type, and you can see the design of the full board here:

World Map
The artwork is excellent, and the color scheme they chose for the whole game really makes it feel like you are going on a medical mission. They didn't skimp on the quality of the cards, and the tokens are made of plastic, where the disease cubes are made of translucent plastic. Overall solid quality for a board game.

Some cards and tokens

Rules and Gameplay

The board represents several major cities on Earth which can have an effect in the real world should a real pandemic rise in them. You start the game by setting up the board - laying out the decks, putting the markers, infecting 9 cities with disease tokens, picking a role, and setting your player pawns in Alberta. Why Alberta? This is because that's where the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is located in the real world. You can also come up with names for the 4 diseases (we usually just call them the Black Plague, Yellow Fever, SARS, and the Blue Death).

This game is played cooperatively with mechanics such as hand management, point-to-point movement, and an action point system. A player can do up to 4 actions each turn, such as travel to cities, treat diseases, discover a cure, or build a research station. All of these actions are written in your handy-dandy reference card. We found that the 4 roles we used most often in this game is the Scientist (requires only 4 same-colored city cards to cure a disease instead of 5), the Quarantine Specialist (prevents disease cubes from being placed on any adjacent city to where he is located), the Medic (removes multiple cubes in 1 action instead of just 1 per action), and the Operations Expert (build a research center without a specific city card). Of course, this selection varies according to your playstyle but this is just what we usually go with. It's especially hard to do cure everything quickly (we usually lose due to the player deck running out) so the Medic and Scientist are necessary for control and quick disease curing, and the Operations Expert to place research stations in key areas around the map.

Role cards
After doing the actions, the player draws 2 cards from the player deck (which contains city cards, events, and epidemics) and hopes that they don't draw an epidemic. Epidemic cards are scattered in the deck depending on difficulty (4 for easy, 5 for medium, 6 for hard) and these cards can accelerate and aggravate the diseases on the board. Aside from the epidemic, there is also an infection deck which infects 3 cities per turn so you need to manage your cities wisely so as not to make it have more than 3 disease cubes, because once you need to put an additional cube on it, an outbreak will occur. An outbreak basically infects adjacent cities so that's why the Quarantine Specialist is useful in preventing this. The players lose if you run out of disease cubes for a specific color (which means it's spread too far for recovery), or if you run out of player cards (which means too much time as passed). However, if they are able to cure the 4 diseases before any of these conditions occur, everybody wins.

The rules and gameplay are all excellently laid out, and our doctor, geography, and researcher friends enjoy this really well. There's also a lot of critical thinking and planning involved so it really keeps your brain going during the game.

Length and Replayability

We've played this game with a combination of 2-4 players although we found that the less players there are, the faster the game ends (both positively and negatively). The pros with playing with less players is that it will be easier to get the cards you need to find a cure, because the cards will only be distributed between 2 hands instead of 3-4, and it's also easier to coordinate. The con is that you will have less mobility and it will be hard to transfer cards between each other if that's going to be your way of curing the diseases.

The game lasted around an hour for most of our games, which is common for a full game such as this. Most of the game time consisted of us discussing strategies and arguing with decisions. Everyone starts out being positive that we can save the world, but sometimes you can see that the ending is grim and everyone starts panicking.

After each game, everyone is always excited to get another chance since the board is different each game. The key cities are different for each game and there is also the varying difficulty level so it is quite replayable especially if it is still a novelty for new players. However, some roles are clearly superior over the others so there were some roles that only got played a 1-2 times during our games. Also, once you got the hang of curing the diseases, older players sometimes lose interest especially if they've played with the same people so the replayability level is dependent on the number of new (and excited) players in the group. However, there are a lot of expansions available to add to the game experience so that definitely counts.

Overall score

Awesome, solid board game overall, and is worth playing at least twice by anyone in the board game world. The only thing that kept it from being a solid 5 was that once you get used to the technique in curing the diseases, the game can be predictable by older players. However, this is a definite must-play for anyone in the board game world.

View the BGG game page here

I sure hope that the skills you acquire in this game can be used against a zombie apocalypse in the future. It's flu season lately in the Philippines so everyone, be safe and don't like a pandemic arise. Until next time!

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