A to Z Gaming: Pandemic

Pandemic game board with a bad area of disease cubes just ready to outbreak

We tried to save the world from outbreaks of mysterious diseases in Pandemic, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Pandemic
Players: 2-4
Time: 45 Minutes
Designers: Matt Leacock
Artists: Josh Cappel, Christian Hanisch, Régis Moulun, Chris Quilliams, Tom Thiel
Publisher: Z-Man Games

Pandemic is a cooperative game where players are working together to cure four diseases that have broken out across the globe. Players work together to contain and treat outbreaks while seeking out cures. If they’re able to cure all four diseases before either time runs out, they win.

The game is set up with the board in the center of the table with the outbreak marker placed at zero, the infection rate marker at the left-most location, a research station placed in Atlanta, and the cure markers placed on their corresponding colors. The disease cubes are placed nearby. The infection deck is shuffled and placed on its location on the board. The player deck is shuffled and cards dealt out to each player, based on player count. Then the deck is seeded with epidemic cards — the number of epidemics chosen based on how hard the players wish to make the game — and placed on its location on the board. Players each receive a role and a helper card.

The board is then set up by drawing the top three infection cards and placing three cubes of the city’s corresponding color on the city on the map. Next, three more cards are draw and two cubes placed on the corresponding cities. Finally three more cards and one cube is placed on each. The player who has the city card with the highest population starts.

On their turn, a player will first take up to four actions. These are chosen from: treating disease (picking up a cube from the city their pawn is in), moving (in a number of ways), building a research station by discarding the card corresponding to the city their pawn is in, or curing a disease by discarding five city cards matching one color at a research station.

After taking four actions, the player draws two cards off the top of the player deck. If one is an epidemic, they resolve it immediately by drawing the bottom card of the infection deck, placing three cubes of the matching color on that city, shuffling the infection discard deck, and then placing that back on top of the infection deck. And the infection marker is moved up by one.

Then a number of infection cards is pulled from the top of the infection deck as indicated by the marker below the deck, and a cube is placed in the corresponding city. If at any time a fourth cube of a single color needs to placed on a city, an outbreak occurs. Instead of placing a fourth marker, increase the outbreak counter by one and place cubes of the color of the outbreaking city on each city connected to it. This can cause an outbreak in an adjoining city (!).

If the outbreak counter reaches the bottom of the track, or players need to place a cube but there are none left, or a player needs to draw a card from the player deck and there aren’t any, then the players lose. However, if they cure all four diseases before any of that happens, then the players all win.

We’ve had this game for many years — I don’t even remember when we picked it up. It was the first cooperative game we ever played, and it felt so innovative at the time to have everyone working together against the game. It doesn’t hit the table as much these days, mostly because we’ve gotten into the legacy versions, which has satisfied our need for a Pandemic-style game for the past several years. However, it’s nice to have a few co-ops on hand to play after a contentious game or two on game nights. And this one is still a “comfort” game — one that’s familiar and always fun to play.

How is it as a 2-player game? Pandemic works well at all player counts. For the 2-player game you need to be intentional about hanging on just a couple of colors of cards for the cures, because it’s hard to do more with the hand-limit.

How about the art and component quality? The components are nice, the cards and board are fine. not a lot of art, but the style is good for this game.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. This is a classic for a reason, and it’s great to have a good co-op in our collection to help diffuse a highly-competitive game night.

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