Nick Capron - 2015-09-24

Published by: Z-Man Games
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I've recently gotten into board games due to a combination of a friend introducing me to the hobby, and looking for something to entertain me and my wife while she was pregnant. Pandemic was one of the first games I purchased and here is what I think about it.

Pandemic, designed by Matt Leacock, is one of the most popular cooperative board games currently on the market. You, and up to three other players, fight against the spread of four diseases across the globe in a race against time to find a cure before it's too late.

How to Save the World

The game-play of Pandemic is pretty straight forward. To win the game, you must collect sets of five cards, with the same colour, to cure the disease of the matching colour. If you can collect all four sets before you run out of cards, and before the diseases spread uncontrollably, your team wins the game.

Pandemic is a game that can be easily lost. You can run out of time by running out of player cards, run out of disease cubes to place on the board, or you can lose by experiencing too many outbreaks. Outbreaks are caused when a city is infected too many times with the same disease.

After setting up the board, each player can take four actions during their turn. These actions allow you to move between cities, remove diseases from cities, build research centres on cities, trade cards with team-mates, or potentially cure diseases. After a player has spent their actions, they draw 2 cards from the player deck, hopefully not picking up an epidemic card that are semi-randomly distributed throughout the player Deck. If you dodge the bullet on pulling an epidemic card, you infect random cities by pulling cards from the infection deck. If you pull an epidemic card, you grab the city from the bottom of the deck and drop 3 disease cubes onto it, and reshuffle the cities that have already been infected, putting them on top of the infection deck.

Easy to Learn, Hard to put Down

I'm very glad that Pandemic was my first purchase of my new found hobby. The game isn't overly complex and features an excellent rule book that clearly explains how the rules work. As I was able to understand the rules quickly, it really helped to introduce board gaming to my wife who ended up really enjoying our first game. Because of this positive experience, we have moved onto other games. If I had picked a heavier game, or one without great instructions, it could of killed the hobby for us both right there, if we had gotten frustrated with unclear rules or too difficult of a game.

Besides the game being easy to pick up and learn, the adjustable difficulty of the game was great for hooking us in and providing challenging but winnable games from the get go. Pandemic is a light game, but with just enough depth and theme that it makes an excellent introduction into boardgames for those who are not into the hobby, with enough action to keep heavier players interested.

Symptoms of Infection

Pandemic is a really good game, but there are a few factors that stop it from being a great game.

For our first few plays, we played only using four epidemic cards in the player deck. During these early games, before we could predict what was going to happen, and what the best possible moves where, Pandemic was great game for us. It was a fun struggle against the clock to try and discover the cures for the diseases, while combating the spread of infection. As we played more and more, we started to figure out the puzzle of the game, it became more or less follow the best possible moves and hoping that we wouldn't be screwed due to a bad draw of cards. As long as our luck held out to not deal us an impossible situation, we would end up winning a good chunk of the games following our strategy. The game was still fun, but things where starting to get a little stale and predictable.

Pandemic does feature multiple roles you can play as, each with their own special abilities to try and mix things up, but with us only playing two player games, and randomly picking roles, this only added some basic unpredictability into the game.

Thankfully Pandemic has a few expansions, and I ended up purchasing the excellent On the Brink expansion that addresses these problems, making the game great for us again. I hope to have a review for On the Brink shortly in the future.

Should I Buy It?

If you're looking for a game for introducing yourself or others into board gaming, it's hard to go wrong with Pandemic. While the original excitement suffers after multiple plays, there are 3 expansions available to improve the base game if you enjoy it. Even without the expansion, it is still a very enjoyable game.

If you're hesitant on buying, or prefer to play on your phone or tablet, there is an App available for Apple or Android devices that you may wish to check out first.

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