Pandemic is a board game created by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man Game in 2008. Pandemic is a cooperative board game where players work together to eradicate the world from four diseases. It is played by two to four players to attempt to save the world from the four diseases that are spreading. Like other board games, players have a movement piece in which the player has to transport in order to cure the city of diseases. From multiple plays through, the player would have gone across the entire board as it represents a map of the world. Unlike other board games, Pandemic incorporate cards to change up the dynamic. There are two types of cards the player has to draw, Player Card and Infection Card. The infection cards have an infection rate value assign to it which is defaulted at 2. This value represents the number of cards the player has to draw from the Infection Card deck. The outbreak indicator is set to 0. In addition to these primary mechanics, a secondary mechanics that the player has to take into consideration is building research station. These are utilized in solving cures. Players are not required to build research station since they start off with one however it makes the game easier to play with multiple research stations on the map. These are some basic mechanics in Pandemic.
The first step in the game is to shuffle the player deck and infection deck. The player deck is split between 4 to 6 parts depending how difficult the player want the game to be as each part will contain an Epidemic card. Those parts are then shuffled and stack on top of each other. Next the players draw 9 cards from the infection deck. The first 3 cards indicate which cities will be infected by 3 blocks of that city’s color. The next three cards are cities that will be infected by 2 blocks of that city’s color. The last three cards indicate which cities will be infected with 1 block of that city’s color. After the board has been infected, a research center is placed in Atlanta. This is because the Center for Diseases Control headquarters is in Atlanta Georgia. If there are 2 players then each player draws four cards from the
Player Deck. If there are 3 players, each player draws three cards. If there are 4 players each player draws 2 cards. Each player has to take a role. The roles the player can be are a Dispatcher, a Medic, a Scientist, a Researcher and an Operations Expert. Each Player randomly selects a role card.
Each role card has a Special Action in which the player should take into consideration when they take their turn. A Dispatcher has the ability to move other players as their own or move one player to any city that contains another player. A Medic has the ability to remove every cube (disease) in the player’s current city with a single action and if a cure has been found for that disease, the player does not have to spend an action point to cure the city. A Scientist Ability is that the player only needs four cards of a given color to find the cure (for the same color disease). A Researcher can give other players any card from their hand as long as both players are in the same city. An Operation Expert ability is to build a research station anywhere without needing a city card.
With the game now set up, the first player to go is decided by who got sick the most recent. All players have to go though three game procedures. They are action phase, drawing 2 cards from the player deck and taking on the role of the infector. Each player gets 4 actions to perform per turn. The player can select from basic action and special action and spend 1 action for each instance. The player can also pass this phase if they have nothing to do. Unused actions are not saved from turn to turn. Each role card has its own special actions that have been mentioned above.
The basic actions that the players can perform are Drive (ferry), Direct Flight, Charter Flight, Shuttle Flight and Pass. Drive is moving your pawn to an adjacent city and the cities are connected by a red line. Direct flight is when a player plays a card from their hand and moves their pawn to the pictured city. They discard that card to the Player discard pile. Charter flight is when a player plays a card corresponding to their pawn’s current location and move to any city on the board. Discard that card into the Player discard pile. Shuttle Flight is when the player’s pawn is in a city with a Research Station, they can more their pawn to any other city with a Research Station. Pass is when the player decides to do nothing for an action.
The Special Actions that a player can perform are to build a research station, to discover a cure, to treat disease and to share knowledge. To Build a Research Station, the player plays a card corresponding to the city your pawn currently occupies then place a Research Station in that city. Discard that city card in the Player Discard Pile. If there are no Research Stations left in the supply, the player must select a Research Station currently in play and transfer it to a city where the player pawn currently occupies. To Discover a Cure, the player’s pawn must be in a city with a Research Station. The player must discard 5 cards of the same color to cure the corresponding disease. They take the cure marker and place (the vial-side up) it on the Discovered Cures area of the board to indicate which disease has been cured. Those 5 cards are then placed in the Player Discard Pile.
To Treat Disease, the player removes a disease cube from the city the player pawn currently occupies. Each removed cube takes one action. If the players have discovered a cure, instead of removing one cube, they remove all cubes of the cured disease in the currently city for one action. If a cure for a given disease has been discovered and all of the disease cubes of that color have been removed from the board, the player flips the Cure marker for the disease to the “Sunset” side. Any cards of that color have no effect when drawn on the Infector’s turn. Those color cubes would not be used for the rest of the game. This mean the disease has been eradicated. Share Knowledge is a difficult special action for the player to perform. Both the current player and the fellow player must be in the same city and the current player must only transfer the card of the city that both players are in together. If either players hold s more than 7 cards because of the transfer, the excess card(s) must be discarded to the Player Discard Pile.
After the player completes his or her action phase, they more to the drawing cards phase. The player must draw 2 cards from the Player Draw Pile to add to their hands. The Player Card deck contains some Special Event cards that the player can play at any time and do not require any action to play. These Special event cards are Resilient Population, Government Grant, One Quiet Night, Airlift and Forecast. Resilient Population removes a city from play from the Infection Discard Pile. Government Grant allows the player to build a Research Station anywhere. One Quiet Night allows the player to skip their turn in being the infector. Airlift moves a player pawn anywhere on the map. Forecast allows the player to see the top 6 cards of the Infection Card Deck and rearrange them in any order. On normal and Heroic difficulties, the players may not show their hands to other players however they are freely allow telling other players what their hand contains.
If the player draws an Epidemic card from the Player Card deck a series of events happens. First the player must move the infection rate indicator up by one on the Infection rate Track on the Board. Next they take the bottom card from the Infection Draw Pile and add 3 cubes on the pictured city. If there are more than 3 cubes on this city then an outbreak occurs. Finally, the player takes the infection Discard Pile and shuffles it and places it on top of the remaining Infection Draw Pile.
The final phase the player has to go through is playing as the infector, the enemy they are trying to fight against. The player draw cards from the Infection Draw Pile equal to the current Infection Rate and add one cube to the pictured cities, using a cube of the same color of the card. However, if that color has been eradicated, the player does not add a cube. If the cube the city as more than 3 cubes of the same color being added, and outbreak of that color occurs. This completes one player turn.
Players of the game must be aware of outbreaks as this mechanic works against the players. When an outbreak occurs, the player is require to add a cube to a city when it already as 3 cubes of that color. Instead of adding a 4th cube, the player adds a cube of the out-breaking color to each adjacent city. A chain reaction can occur during an outbreak. For example, if one city out breaks a player must add one cube to each adjacent city, however if those adjacent city already have 3 cubes of the same color, then those city also outbreak spreading the disease to cities adjacent to them. Every time a city outbreak, the player moves the Outbreaks Marker up one space on the Outbreak Indicator.
There are many ways the player can lose the game. If a player needs to add disease cubes to the board and there are none left of that color in the supply then they lose. The players lose if they allow the Outbreak Marker reach eight on the outbreak indicator. When there are not enough cards in the Player Draw Piles during the time when a player must draw cards, they lose. There is only one win condition and that is when the players have found cures for all four diseases.
There are many things that the player has look at when playing this game. They have to manage the cards in their hands since they are only allowed to have 7 cards. However the players must move quickly to prevent the Player Card deck from running out of cards and from outbreaks to occur. Communication is important in this game as all the players play the important role of preventing the diseases from spreading and to finding cures for them. Each player has a role card and each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. It would be wise to use the Medic to prevent outbreaks while a scientist quickly finds cures. A dispatcher can quickly transport the medic around the map while an operations expert can build research centers for a scientist to use find a cure special action. All of these strategies bring a layer of cooperative play that is different from other traditional board games.
Conflicts can arise when players have opposing view on how to handle the current situation on the board. Outbreaks and drawing an Epidemic card adds some psychological tension between the players which would not make them think straight. It is interesting because the game makes the player play as the Infector (enemy/opponent) during their turn unless they decide to use the One Quiet Night special event card. This adds a layer of unpredictability to the “enemy’s” movement.
The players of the game are bounded by the rules and by the map itself. There is no play outside the map area. They are also limited by the number of pieces they have like research stations and diseases blocks. If they run out of a color block then they lose. This incorporates resource management. If those resources are not managed properly, then all the players lose the game.
From my play time with this game, I would rate it a 4 out of 5 on the fun scale. A concept from “Theory of Fun” is that Pandemic exercises the player’s brain (Koster, 26-33). Throughout the game, my partner and I had to think of the most optimal way in getting rid of a particular diseases and where would be the best place a Research Station. Many types of discussions took place between us. This is a game of survival since the number of cards in the Player Deck is our time limit on the game. Having different roles in this game encourages team work and working together makes the game enjoyable. Tension can also be felt through the game as each of us gets a limited number of actions to perform so we need to learn how to best use our limited resources (like Actions, Player Cards and Disease Cubes). These mechanics encourages cooperative play as just one player cannot save the entire world in time.
The marketing hype on the packaging succeeds in describing the game and does live up to the hype. It mentions cooperative play and states “The Fate of Humanities is in your hands.” This get the idea across that the player is out to save the world from various diseases. It gets the idea about the game and the art style fits it too. The game title is ready to pop out of the box with a red outline and an orange 3-D effect. This is indicating of many outbreaks that can occur in the game. The color pallet is grayish giving a feeling of a menacing power taking over the world.
There are not many things that I can think of to improve this game. I felt like it was well made. A concern did pop up where I felt this game could have just been played by one person. This person will take the turns of all of the “players”. However I would imagine it would not be fun to play this game by yourself as there is no one to talk to about your strategy. This could be a problem for beginner players but the combination of Epidemic cards and the Infection Draw Pile can lead to too many random outbreaks in the same location. This is because Epidemic card forces the player to shuffle the Infection Discard Pile and place it back on top of the Infection Draw Pile. This can lead to the player drawing the same city multiple times which would cause many outbreaks to occur at once giving the player no chance to counter act against it.
Some other things that I thought that could expand the game but not essential in improving the game are more types of diseases, more cities (which would increase the Player Card Deck), more roles, more types of Special Events and giving research centers more abilities. This could increase the complexity of the game and it also allows more than four players to play the game. It will defiantly increase the tension and panic in the game. Diseases can also have more affect on the game play. If an outbreak occurs in a city where a player is at, this would disable the player’s special ability for a couple of turns. This means that the other players have to pick up the slack for one of their team makes now lost a critical ability. All of these improvements or suggestions all create a game where it increases the pressure on the player as this will stimulate their minds. This will warp with the players thought process and decision making. Players in panic tend to not think straight however it raises adrenaline making the game fun in an intensive way.
Pandemic is a cooperative board game where the players save the world from four diseases and I had lots of enjoyment in playing this particular board game as I have not seen or play a cooperative board game before. During my time with this assignment I played this game three times with different people. I would recommend this game to anyone who is looking for a different type of board game.