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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Pandemic

"A truly cooperative game where you all win or you all lose"


Pandemic, 1st Edition


This is where it all began, the start of my board game adventure! A bunch of us were at a friends house when this was suggested. Having only ever played the usual suspects (Monopoly, Scrabble, etc.) I was intrigued from the off. What was this new game? Was I going to like it? What the hell do I do? There was only one way to find out...

Pandemic is a 2-4 player cooperative game created by Matt Leacock, published in 2008 by Z-Man Games, and has garnered many awards since. The opening line in the manual: 'Do you have what it takes to save humanity?' No pressure then!

Bring it on!
The aim is to work together to rid the world of 4 viruses. Doesn't sound too difficult, until you actually start the game! Everyone randomly draws one of the 5 characters and places their pawn in Atlanta along with one research station. Now its time to start. Firstly, you need to infect the world with multiple viruses according to the infection cards you draw. It will look something like this:

Each player has 4 actions per turn to take to aid their quest. These include moving your pawn, treating diseases and trading cards. After this takes place, the infection phase begins. Cities get drawn from the infection pile and one cube added to each (max of 3 per city, a 4th will cause it to outbreak and infect connected cities).

A certain amount of planning is required to try and beat the game so it’s best to try and move your pawn into an area where it will be most effective. This is where your player role and cooperative skills come into play. Our plan consisted of getting the Medic into the most infected area and have everyone else focus on collecting the required cards to cure diseases. Sounds like a reasonable plan until the dreaded epidemic card comes out! This causes 3 cubes to be added to 1 city and the drawn infection cards to be shuffled and placed back on top of the draw pile. Once this has happened several times, all plans went out the window and everyone was racing to treat cities. It definitely causes a slight panic! This repeats until the game culminates in a glorious victory (cures for all diseases) or crushing defeat (8 outbreaks, no more cards to draw, no more cubes). The first couple of games for us ended in defeat but eventually we were able to come up with strategies to win.

Total annihilation.
At times, the game seems like a relentless assault on the team but eventually you start to capitalise on your character's role. Once you start beating the game on one difficulty level (number of pandemic cards) it can be kicked up a notch to keep it challenging. Game time is around 1 hour so you could play this a few times in one session.

The components are of good standard. There aren't any intricate or detailed parts, but the board, cards and cubes have a quality feel to them. (The 2013 version has replaced the wooden cubes with clear plastic ones) They have survived many games and don't look any worse for wear.

The beauty of the Pandemic lies both in its simplicity and complexity. Newcomers to the gaming scene will be able to pick up the rules very easily, but can also be helped by veteran players instead of playing against them and feeling intimidated. With the 5 different roles there is plenty of variation and replay value; every game is different. The board is very well designed and even with lots of cubes on (which is inevitable) it is still easy to decipher. The excitement builds up during the game as you formulate new plans and realise the end is drawing closer and closer which means the level of interest remains strong throughout the game. Another great thing is that the game encourages dialogue between players. It could possibly be seen as a team building exercise!

One negative point is that Pandemic can be extremely frustrating at times, not due to any game mechanic but because you can have the best plan and be so close to victory only to have it snatched away by the turn of a few cards. If you're a bad loser then maybe this isn't the game for you! One other potential downside could be if you get 1 player that starts to dominate and make all the decisions. This isn't really any fault of the game though, it just depends on who you play it with.

Overall this is a great game and is suitable for players of every level. It's especially suitable for someones first foray into board games due to the easy to follow nature and ability to partner with more seasoned players. When I first played it, it seemed daunting for about 5 minutes but after the first few goes my fellow novices and I started to understand the roles and basic turn progression. I found myself enthralled throughout and after the first game (a heavy loss!) I immediately wanted to play again; surely the sign of a good game. I wholeheartedly recommend this game to any level of gamer.

What are you waiting for... go save the world!

Rating - 8/10


The Famous Five

N.B. The version I have is the original first edition. It was re-released in 2013 with some minor changes. Read about them HERE.