This Pandemic review was made after playing the game about 30 times.
What is Pandemic?
Pandemic is all about, well, dealing with a pandemic! Pandemic has players attempt to eradicate four diseases that have broken out around the world, with each disease threatening to wipe out an entire region of people. It is up to the players to deal with the threats before too many people get infected.
Your goal in Pandemic is to work together to slow the spread of diseases around the planet and to cure them before they get too out of hand.
The Pandemic components consist of a board/map with 48 cities, player cards, infection cards, four sets of cubes to represent the diseases, a pawn for each player, and research stations. Each player is assigned a randomly selected a role, which could be the dispatcher, the medic, the scientist, the researcher, or the operations expert. These roles give players unique abilities to use throughout the game.
On your turn, you can move between cities in a variety of ways, share cards, treat diseases, and use your special ability. The key to each turn is realizing when you should treat diseases and when you should try to get the cards you need to cure a disease. You need to collect five City cards of the same color and make it to a research station in order to cure a disease. After you’ve done your four actions, you draw two new player cards and then draw a number of infection cards based on the current infection level.
Mixed in with the player cards are epidemic cards, which spread the diseases around the globe. Epidemics are horrible because they not only put a city on the brink of outbreaking, but they also add the discarded infection cards back on top of the deck, making it very possible that you will have major issues in the next few turns.
You’ll lose if more than seven outbreaks occur, there are no more cubes of a disease color when needed, or when there are no more player cards to be played. You’ll beat Pandemic if you’re able to cure all four of the diseases.
- Pandemic is very thematic, which makes it easy to get into and helps it to tell a different story every time it hits the table. All of the game’s mechanics make thematic sense, such as the set collection representing your group slowly figuring out the cures for the diseases. It’s a near-perfect marriage of theme and mechanics.
- I really like the way the tension rises as you play through the game. You definitely feel the pressure to make good decisions as those diseases spread. That tension makes victories feel even greater, and losing just makes you want to get right back in there and try again.
- Randomly assigning the roles at the beginning of each game forces you to come up with different strategies and ensures that the game stays fresh through many playthroughs. This is not a game you’ll be bored with after three or four (or 20) plays.
- Sometimes random events can hinder more than help in board games, but in Pandemic it makes sense that the random events are taking place. You never know for sure where the diseases will show up or how they will spread, so it feels like a slightly different disaster movie playing out in front of you every time this hits the table.
- Pandemic is very easy to pick up and learn. It is straightforward enough to be considered a gateway game; in fact, many people still consider it to be the best gateway game out there. There are also some excellent reference cards to help you out if you ever forget any of the key rules.
- Pandemic plays well at all player counts. You can definitely tell that it was made to be a four-player game, but it’s actually an excellent two-player game as well. That’s just another reason why it stays on most people’s board game shelves.
- One thing that you should be aware of if you plan on buying Pandemic is that it is not the best game for younger players. The box says that it is for ages 8 and up, but it could be quite difficult for an 8-year-old to understand the rules. It could also be a bit too intense for younger kids.
- Quarterbacking can be an issue in this one, especially if you play open-handed where everyone can see everyone else’s cards. One person could try to take over if they think they see the best plays, which can make it a frustrating experience for everyone else.
Pandemic is one of the best cooperative board games out there and it inspired a lot of designers to start making co-ops. No matter how many times you play it, you simply can’t help but feel like you’ve done something good when you’ve cured a fast-spreading disease. It is no surprise that Pandemic has won multiple awards and that it continues to be one of the most popular board games in the world.
If you end up being a fan of the base game, definitely check out the Pandemic expansions, especially Pandemic: On The Brink, which I think is one of the best board game expansions out there. You can also test out the game by getting the Pandemic app for iOS or Android.