Pandemic 2013 Review
What is Pandemic?
Pandemic is the newest game added to my collection of board games. Its unique playing mechanic makes the game like nothing I have played before. It is a cooperative game, in the sense that all the players (up to four players) are competing against the game itself. How you may ask? There is no CPU controlling the game or little gnomes moving the tokens. So how could a tangible cardstock board and plastic player pieces possibly allow for such sorcery? Before you get your torches out and proclaim witchcraft let me say that the game achieves this through a repeated step each turn in which certain cards are drawn from a pile that generates diseases that the players must overcome. But the randomness has a fantastic twist to it, which I’ll get to soon. All I’ll say is that it makes the games theme come alive.
What is the theme?
The theme is noble and makes you want to be part of it. You take on a role of a specialist e.g medic, researcher, scientist etc. There are 7 unique roles in the game, giving a nice replayability factor to the game. You’re navigating on the world map (the playing board), and your mission is to find cures for four diseases that are breaking out and spreading around the world. The great art on the 2013 edition of the game makes you think you have the latest Hollywood action blockbuster in your hands.
What makes the game unique?
As I already stated all the players are pitted against the game itself. The experience is fantastic and very social. The game encourages dialogue and planning together for the next move. Charmaine even exclaimed at one point that she feels like we are cheating by talking to each other, because the usual routine is to go at each other’s throats as a means to winning other games.
I also love the way that when certain cards are drawn they force old disease cards to be recycled by being placed back on top of the pile. That means that previously played cards will be played again very soon opening up old wounds so to speak. No I am not a sadomasochism, I like the mechanic because it simulates the way that a real world disease would reappear in a close proximity to where it originally emerged.
There is also a brutal action called an outbreak that takes place when a city is just awash with a disease and then gets hit with another wave of the same disease, the outbreak causes all neighbouring cities to catch the disease as well, which may cause a chain reaction and you’re on your way to a swift end.
Finally there are three ways that the players can lose and one way to win, so there is no time for lollygagging or taking whirlwind tours around the globe. The role is clear, cure those diseases before the time run out or before the disease gets too strong.
How many players?
I have now played it as a two player, four player and (I am sad) one player game. For one player I just took on two roles at the same time. You can easily play it as a three player game and I hear the expansion allows for a fifth player. So you can whip it out and show it off when it’s just you two, or if you feel daring to a group of people. I am talking about the board here, you sickos.
Anything bad about the game?
I have found nothing bad about the game so far.
Anything good you haven’t mentioned already?
The game is relatively cheap. I got mine for under $40 AU.
Just like the difficulty levels in the old classic PC game Doom that ranged from ‘I’m too young to die’ to ‘Nightmare!’ Pandemic can be scaled similarly in difficulty. One of the main ways to do that is by controlling how many epidemic cards you include in the game. The easiest (Still difficult at first few plays) amount would include 4 cards, while Nightmare mode would be playing with 6 cards. Some player roles pair better, while others are challenging to play with.
Oh and the disease cubes as seen in the pictures resemble jelly pieces you would find at your local RSL club, mmm delicious viruses.
I found it easy to teach. About five minutes of explaining the rules and we were on our way. Of course there was the occasional rule correction for newbies, but after the first game, everyone knew exactly how they would want to play.
The strategy is great in this game. There are many actions you can take and sometimes one player sees a move that the others haven’t seen. The bouncing of ideas from each other makes the game a great communication building exercise.
The black dude on the cover looks a lot like Dr. Dre – the rapper
Over all 09/10