Tabletop Games by Hoju

Game:  Pandemic

Publisher:  Z-Man Games (2008)

Player Count:  2 – 4 Players

Pandemic is a cooperative game for one to four players set in a world ravaged by an outbreak of four deadly diseases.  Each player assumes one role of seven (five in the original edition) CDC workers collaborating with their unique abilities to alleviate and prevent further outbreaks.  Face masks not included.

The objective of the game is to cure all four diseases on the board before certain in-game triggers occur. Alas, the game can be difficult and stressful, but fair, and can be mitigated by omitting certain Epidemic cards for beginners or for more casual play.

The game board features a world map sans Antarctica and New Zealand, for some reason, evoking a projected screen of a team trying to intercept Jason Bourne.  Each spot on the map represents a major city in the nearby vicinity in four distinct colors in loose quadrants across the board.  These four distinct colors (blue, yellow, black and red) are coded specifically and attributed to the Player and Infection Cards as well as their associated disease cubes.  The box is quite small comparatively speaking though it fits all the components nicely.  Time to set everything up is less than five minutes.  The artwork is simple yet elegant in its design with contrasting colors.  For our color-blind brethren, the diseases have unique iconography printed on the cards and board to distinguish them apart.

One of the beauties in the gameplay flow is its simple turn order. And in case one has any trouble it comes with this nice little guide at the bottom right-hand of the board for you to follow each time.  On your turn you will always do the following (unless stated differently by an Event card):

  1. Do 4 Actions
  2. Draw 2 Cards (Player Cards)
    1. Resolve any Epidemic Cards
    2. Discard to 7 cards (Immediately)
  3. Infect Cities

At the start of each game, all the players’ pawns will start in Atlanta, the home for the Center of Disease Control.  From there, each player will move and use their respective pawn to carry out certain actions.  There are no roll-and-move mechanics or random movement initiatives inside this box, you are in complete control on where you want to go and what you want to accomplish, provided you have the necessary cards for specific actions.  Other players are encouraged to give guidance as this is a cooperative affair.

Once all 4 of your actions have been completed, you will then draw two Player Cards, discarding down to 7 maximum if necessary.  You may carry out incentive-carrying Event Cards at any time, even if it’s not your turn, to include when you must discard down.  If you unveil an Epidemic Card (whether it be your first or second card drawn), everything stops and the instructions written on the card must be carried out.  If at any time, more cubes are required to be placed on a city with 3 disease cubes already, an outbreak occurs which is baaaaad.  Depending on the difficulty level, a set quantity of Epidemic Cards is shuffled into the Player Deck during setup in such a way that they are fairly distributed throughout the deck.  This mitigates any back-to-back draws, which would downright suck.  Pandemic’s automatic endgame falls into the “many-ways-to-lose-but-only-one-way-to-achieve-victory” category.  There are ultimately three ways for the game to end suddenly in a crushing defeat and only one way to succeed in a narrow victory:

  • If the outbreak marker reaches the last space, humanity loses.
  • If the stockpile of disease cubes for any color runs out, humanity loses.
  • If all of the Player Cards have been exhausted, humanity loses.
  • If all four diseases have been cured (not necessarily eradicated), humanity survives!

This one is about as streamlined as they come.  The cooperation, actions, decision-making and options all are clever, simple, intuitive and extremely engaging.  Pandemic is one of the more easier games I own to set up and take down and can easily fit on any table.  It is inexpensive (compared to most strategy games) and has a tremendous theme.  Considering that this is a cooperative effort by all, Pandemic elevates itself into the quintessential gateway game category.  My only quibbles are that this can be tense, sometimes difficult to win and, most un-shockingly, be an alpha gamer’s stomping ground.  Active participation and suggestions to be shared amongst the group is the key but let players decide for themselves in the end.  Jus’ sayin.  Lastly, since the game is driven by card play, an unlucky shuffle can also bring a quick and decisive game over.  But let me assure that this is an extraordinary board game, it receives my highest recommendation and is an overwhelming BUY AND PLAY!

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