Pandemic is a board game fixated around diseases threatening to overtake the world. There are multiple rules, and multiple versions, but they all focus around the core idea: cure four diseases (represented by cubes of red, blue, black and yellow hue) and eradicate the disease. The main draw of this game is that it caters for competition, but is focused around players working together to compete against the board game. Which of course means if you love board games but hate the messy arguments that can be triggered by ultra-competitive friends, Pandemic may be the game for you.
If you look at the following image you will be able to note how the standard Pandemic map is laid out. The top right-hand side has the infection deck and the infection discard deck. The bottom right has the player deck and the left- hand side has the outbreak counter. Down the bottom are the indicators for which diseases have been cured. Now the beauty of Pandemic is in how strategic it is as a game. Each player (2-4 players for a typical game of Pandemic) has a specific character role which grants them certain abilities – from being able to take extra moves, to being able to pass cards to other players. These skills must be used together to defeat and find the cure to the diseases, or else the game itself wins.
The way to beat the diseases and unlock the cures is relatively straightforward. The game begins with nine infected cities (three with three disease cubes, three with two, and three with one cube each), and players have four moves. They can within those moves either travel to cities connected to their location; play cards to build research stations, or build cards to fly to the cities featured on the card, or swap those cards with fellow team mates; and cure disease cubes. Once four moves have been completed the player draws two more cards (which may include some special bonuses) and then infects cities. If a city that has three cubes on it of the same colour becomes infected then an outbreak occurs and the infection spreads to all connected cities.
It is this act of outbreaks occurring within the game that truly makes Pandemic such a memorable board game experience. In the process of picking up cards players may uncover an Epidemic Card, and this means all previously infected cities go back to the top of the pile (while the bottom card of the deck becomes infected with three cubes). The chance of outbreaks then increases, forcing teammates to work together to quickly cure the diseases at the research stations on the board.
If you would like to know more about the rules of the game, please watch the following video for the comprehensive rules of Pandemic in a quick 5 minute video!
Pandemic comes in a range of modes, expansions and with differing rules for each version. Pandemic: Legacy is the version of the game currently being played by this reviewer. Since the legacy rules have not yet been tackled, this means that standard ‘vanilla’ Pandemic can be played on this board (and if you choose to buy the Legacy edition you can always return it to the ‘vanilla game’ once you are done. The draw of Pandemic: Legacy is that it features changing rules, scenarios and characters (almost like a video game in board game format). However, this review is focusing on the vanilla format and expressing why the game is such infectious fun.
This is a game for those who enjoy competition, but are sick of losing to their fellow game players. This is a game for those who enjoy strategy. This is a game for those who like to give orders to their teammates (and for teammates who like to plan and order their own moves). This is a game for friends, for families, for couples – for every age capable of understanding and enjoying strategy. In other words this is an excellent game that constantly changes each time you sit down to play. Like all of the best board games, Pandemic is a game you will not easily grow sick of.
If you enjoyed this review, why not also check out IGN’s post on the best versions of Pandemic to buy!