This week, I am reviewing the critically acclaimed Matt Leacock original Pandemic. With multiple different awards from well-known game industries such as Board Game Geek and Boardgames Australia, Pandemic focuses on working as a team to stop a series of virus outbreaks from eradicating all of mankind.
Game Title: Pandemic
Release Date: 2007
Number of Players: 2-4 (4 recommended)
Average Game Time: 45 minutes
Game Publisher: Z-Man Games
Game Designer: Matt Leacock
Available in Stores: Yes
There aren’t many board games out there that ask you to combine forces against the game itself. A lot of the fun of playing games is playing against friends and family so that when you win, you can claim superiority over them (at least that’s what I enjoy about it). Still, there are a few games out there that find a way to create some form of villain or obstacle, and the object of the game is to join forces and defeat it as a group. One of the games that does this best is Pandemic, where you have to communicate and work as a team to claim victory as a single unit.
The object of this game is to stop virus outbreaks from infecting the entire world and finding cures so that you can eradicate the virus from the planet. No pressure, right? You travel around a map of the world and try to contain the 4 different viruses currently infecting the cities around the globe. The more the virus spreads, the harder it is to contain it. While you work to contain the virus, your team will also be focused on finding a cure. If you are able to cure all four viruses within the allotted time, you win. If you take too long or allow enough “outbreaks”, you lose. There are a number of other factors involved with the game, including research stations to contain outbreaks and look up cures, Epidemic cards that when drawn add more of the virus across the board, and numerous different types of event cards that bring a level of complexity and variety to the game.
By far the most appealing thing about this game is that it allows you to work as a unit, but keep an individual identity during the game. Each player starts off with a specific “role”. There are seven roles you can play in any given game, and each one of them has a specific skill that can be used to improve your odds at winning. For example, the player with the Dispatcher role is able to move the other players’ pawns across the board easily, while the medic is better than the other players at stalling outbreaks. A huge part of the game is working together in order to use your role’s strengths. The more you’re able to help each other, the easier it is to complete your objectives.
The game is definitely complex, not so much in how to play but rather in the strategy and decision-making that goes into a successful game. The more you know about the game the more fun it is, because you can try a number of different strategies and work with your team members to win. Replay value for this game is high, especially since you learn more as you go and get better at playing at harder difficulties. The only real flaw in the game is the beginning; learning how to play and the best way to use your role takes effort so it can be confusing to people playing for the first time. I definitely recommend for your first play-through trying to play the game with someone who has played before rather than having a group of people with no experience. Having someone who knows the game takes some of the pressure off since they know how the roles work and the best ways to win.
Overall this game is a nice change of pace from the traditional competitive games, and the art and game play are big positives. The rules are fairly complicated and game-play can slow from player to player, but Matt Leacock has found a way to motivate people to work together in an industry that normally pushes for competition against each other. Be prepared to do a lot of critical thinking and scheming with the other players to claim victory against the ultimate Pandemic.