Pandemic is a 4 player board game unlike any I had previously played before. This is my first foray into the world of board games beyond the old dead whipping horse that is monopoly, which to be honest drives me nuts.
I picked it up because Steven had recommended it and me and my sister and her boyfriend were stuck at home for a week with nothing better to do.
Pandemic is part of a "new" breed of imaginative and exciting board games that I had, until recently completely ignored. Its biggest and possibly most exciting feature is that its 2-4 player cooperative - no more being lorded over by your sister who beats you every time (stupid monopoly!)
"Its biggest and possibly most exciting feature is that its 2-4 player Cooperative"
The basic setup is a map with major cities dotted around and linked together by a network of what what can be assumed to be flight paths. Each city is coloured depending on their location, Europe and most of North America are blue, Asia and Australia is red, South America and Africa is yellow and the Middle East and Russia is black. These colours correspond to a disease and generally the diseases occurs in their own regions.
Each player gets four actions each turn. This includes moving between cities, treating diseases (more on this later), swapping cards with other players and curing diseases. Once the player is done with their turn, they draw cards from the player deck. It is these cards that the player needs to focus on, collecting five of one colour means that a disease can be cured and it becomes less of a threat and curing all four diseases means victory. These cards can also be discarded to fly to their corresponding cities, meaning fast movement around the board at the cost of what may later be an important card.
Players are constantly having to balance curing a disease, treating the disease cubes and preventing outbreaks. Curing all four diseases before any of these occur is what keeps the players constantly active.
Curing a disease however does not stop a disease. It becomes much easier to treat, but it will still constantly pop up and cause outbreaks if left unchecked. The disease can be eradicated if all disease cubes are removed from the table and can make the end game somewhat easier, but players need to decide whether its worth the time.
Aiding this is each players role, these are randomly assigned at the start of the game and when used right can greatly effect the outcome of the game. Some roles seem on first glance to be better then others but generally apart from one or two, are very well balanced to work in combination with each other.
During the game players are free to discuss actions, show cards and are actively encouraged by the game to swap cards (they have to be in the same city and have that cities card to exchange) and work together. Roles do not limit what a player can do, but will often help decide what each player can contribute to the team, for instance the quarantine specialist will often be sent to control an outbreak while the medic mops up, all the while the scientist will be seeking those ever important cards to cure a disease by exchanging cards with others and the dispatcher makes sure everyone is where they need to be.
The outbreak and epidemic mechanics remove a bit of the randomness that might have occurred were they not in place meaning that some areas will be a consistent issue and making the game more difficult as it progresses.
Setup takes very little time once you know where things go, play time lasts about 45 mins once you have the mechanics down. The game is very well balanced but the difficulty can be increased, you never feel cheated when you lose and victories are glorious and best of all don't have someone lording over you with how awesome they are (stupid monopoly!)
About half the games I have played have been down to the last few cards and very often nail biting.
Overall I can't praise this game enough, as my first venture into the "new" breed of board games I am hooked, and everyone I've played this with has been hooked also, even my old man who probably hasn't played a board game in 15 years was begging me to play Pandemic at the end of each night.
Its opened my eyes and encouraged me to seek out other games and it made me realize that board games didn't have to be the thing you resorted to when the power goes out - stupid monopoly.
8 out of 8 Outbreaks.
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