Humanity is in peril and who do they call for help? Me! That’s right, my long-awaited copy of Pandemic finally arrived and now I and my merry band are called on to save the world from four contagious diseases.
Pandemic is a cooperative game where each player is given a character with a special ability to help you find cures for four diseases that are spreading around the world. On your turn you have four actions to take from a choice of eight, then you draw 2 new cards into your hand and, lastly, you spread the infection to more cities. If you can play five cards with the same disease on them while you’re at a Research Station, you have found a cure for that disease. When you’ve found all four cures, you win.
The production quality is very good. The box and board have a velvety, suede-like texture which I like because there is absolutely no glare from the board. The cards are sturdy enough to stand up to repeat plays but not so stiff they can’t be shuffled. The city names on the cards are big and easy to read but they could have been a little bigger on the board. The cards have a map on them to make it easier to find the cities on the board, and the diseases are represented by both color and shape to accommodate the color-blind players—always a nice addition. My one complaint would be the insert which is only good to hold the cards in shipping but totally worthless after you’ve opened the decks of cards. One other thing came up quite by chance in my second play: there should be one card for each city but we found two cards for Khartoum and none for Kinshasa. I’ve emailed Z-Man games to let them know if they don’t already, and the post I left on BGG has gotten comments about other duplicates/missing cards in both decks.
Right after supper, Richard and I set up for a 2-player game, and when Cori came home from work a couple hours later, I talked her into playing a 2-player game with me; the two games couldn’t have been more different.
Richard and I played with the Medic (lets you remove all of one disease from a city instead of only 1 cube, for one action) and the Operations Expert (lets you build a Research Station without having the corresponding City card). The Medic is a very strong character and that, coupled with the fact that no Red disease—call it Scarlet Fever—came up in the game set-up, let us get a serious jump on the situation. In only a few turns, I had Eradicated Scarlet Fever. The other break we got was that we didn’t draw an Epidemic card early which kept the diseases from starting in a new area. We cured all the diseases without having even one Outbreak, which is what happens when too many disease cubes of one type are in a city so the disease spreads to adjacent cities.
The game Cori and I played was a totally different monster. She played as the Scientist (you only need 4 cards instead of 5 to cure a disease) and I had the Researcher (lets you trade City cards other than the city you’re both on). The Scientist is another very good character to have but our luck was not as good as my first game. We had disease spread all across the map and, just to show us how bad it could be, my first draw turned up an Epidemic card. This added one more serious threat to the world but that wasn’t as bad as the fact that now you shuffle the Infection discard pile and put it on top of unused draw pile. This meant that the next 2 cards drawn put more cubes in the same cities that we had just set up and we had our first Outbreak on the first turn of the game. We did manage to Cure two diseases but I didn’t keep a close enough watch on the number of cubes left for Scarlet Fever and in the end, we lost in two ways: no red cubes left and eight Outbreaks. I’m sure we could have done better, maybe even won, if I had been paying attention.
This game plays very quickly and smoothly, leaving me wanting to set it right up and play again. An interesting aspect is the reshuffling of the discarded Infection cards. This means that you are going to be dealing with only a small number of cities for the entire game, but the diseases are going to be very concentrated in those cities. The character cards offer a bit of variety which is especially nice if you play with only 2 players; some are more powerful than others so the combination you start with can have a large affect on your game play.
This is an excellent game that I would recommend for family play as well as gamers who like cooperative games. It would also make an excellent introductory game to new gamers.