Viral infections. Global Chaos. Intrepid heroes. A vial-full of fun.
In Pandemic, the players work together – as a team – in an attempt to stop the spread of diseases throughout the globe; finding the cures – eradicating the viruses and saving humanity.
Sound hard? It is.
Sound fun? IT IS!
This game is a marvel. Deceptively simple rules hide the true genius of a game; allowing new players to jump right in and discover how fun Pandemic is – all the while being handed a big plate of disease and pestilence as the game whoops your butt.
Consisting of two decks of cards, a bunch of wooden cubes denoting the different type of diseases (in four colors), colored wooden pawns representing the players and a map of the world denoting large cities distributed around the globe. On each turn a player is given four actions – which allows them to move to adjacent cities, find a cure for a disease (assuming the proper card combination is in-hand), treat the disease in the current city, etc. At the end of each players turn the diseases spread – slowly at first – by the draw and reveal of infection cards. The players must work together to try and collect certain player cards and find a cure for the diseases; trading cards amongst each other to allow the right players to collect the necessary cards. As the game progresses and more infection cards are drawn, and occasional outbreak! card will be encountered which changes the contents of the contagion draw pile – basically recycling the cards already encountered in previous turns. This means that the cities which have already been infected with the disease(s) will be prone to have more problems as the game progresses. It’s really a very clever mechanic. One of my favorite things to witness as a veteran player of Pandemic is the reaction on new player’s faces when they realize just how desperate the situation becomes when an Outbreak! card is activated.
Each player assumes a role – which grants that particular player a certain benefit: easier movement, better medical treatments, etc. The roles – and how they are played – are integral to winning the game and not just fluff. One has to really play their particular role well, along with the other players in a coordinated symphony of viral fighting actions.
There is one way to win – find a cure for each of the four disease types.
There are multiple ways to lose – the most likely being the world becoming overrun by the diseases.
Keep in mind – this game is cooperative – which means the players work together against the game rules in order to win. There is no inter-player competition within the rules – you all win or lose together. This concept may sound odd at first, but is one of my favorite types of games. I believe it takes a lot of pressure off the individual and helps the game become a more social event. Even losing a game of Pandemic is fun for all, as you discuss – post drama – what you all could have done differently and wonder at what ‘could have been’ had you just done that one little thing differently.
There are built in rules to scale the difficulty of Pandemic – which is fantastic as it increases the replay value quite a bit. Even veteran players will find a challenge at the higher difficulty levels.
And for those who need even more challenge, there is an expansion out – “On The Brink” which adds a few game variants and even adds a “bio-terrorist” – allowing one of the players to be the bad guy in charge of helping the game win against the players.
Pandemic – a whole petri-dish full of fun!
Now I have to go wash my hands…