Sunday, February 14, 2016


Looks like a good time to go on long trip to Asia

 Or as it is referred to in our household, “World Go Boom!”  Pandemic is co-op game which means all players are on the same team trying to defeat the game itself.  It is good for individuals who are not that competitive or those that want to join a mob to strike down colored cubes. 


Z-Man Games


Matt Leacock

Elevator Pitch:

There are diseases spreading around the world that threaten humanity.  That is bad.  Mostly.  Like 99.7% bad.  Your job is to, with your fellow players, race around world slowing down the spread of the diseases while also developing cures.  Cure all four diseases before any number of bad things happen you win, but if too many outbreaks occur, one disease gets to prevalent, or you run out of time, you don’t.

Personal Impression:

One of the things I like about games is that give a focus to my competitiveness.  While I have developed a number of rivals and frenemies over the years, not everyone wants to be cutthroat.  And as experience has shown me, crushing my wife at games is definitely not worth the long term consequences.  Pandemic and other co-ops allow me turn that competitiveness away from my opponents and on to the game itself.  While there are a lot more co-op games out there now, Pandemic remains a star.  Highly thematic and engaging, you are filled with tense decisions as you go from coasting along, to utterly hopeless and back again several times throughout the game.  Variable player powers and card randomization allow each game to feel different with expansions adding even more variety.  

Good for People who Grew up Playing:

Team based games and sports.
Ease of Learning:

Pandemic is on the more complex side for a gateway game.  Some of the game play steps, like shuffling used cards and putting them back on top of the deck, are unusual if you haven’t played this type of game before.  Pandemic also has a very tight rule set, so one mistaken rule can cause the game to be super easy or impossible.  On the bright side, an experienced player should be able to take care of the setup and game flow, leaving new players only to worry about what actions they need to take, which is pretty straightforward.

Fidgety Index

There are lots of cubes though they aren’t too interesting to play with. 

Universal Theme:

Pandemic oozes theme.  You can feel the pain of the poor infected people of Santiago as you leave them to die lonely deaths while you take care of outbreaks in Eastern Europe.  Plus there are vials!  And petri dishes!

Player Count and Length:

2-4. Fine in any count, but it little more difficult with more players.  Game lasts about an hour and a half, but it can be much shorter if you die horribly early on.


Pandemic expansions are mainly modular, which lets you pick and use the parts of them you are interested in and ignore the rest.

On The Brink adds purple cubes which can be used for game variants.  We use these occasionally to change the game up and increase difficulty.  Mostly though we use the new roles and events of the expansion to increase variety.  Brink also adds rules for a bio-terrorist who plays against the rest of the players.  For us this changed the feel of the game too much to be worth using.  Finally, it includes rules for 5 players.

In the Lab takes the very simple cure action of the base game and makes it much more involved.  It makes the game even more thematic and allows for some tough decisions, but the added complication might scare off players. 

State of Emergency adds some more challenging ways to play.

Spin Offs:

Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are similar games to Pandemic also designed by Matt Leacock.  They are in many way simpler versions of Pandemic which makes them good introduction games for children or non-gamers.

Pandemic Contagion lets you play as the disease trying to wipe out humanity.  It is the only Pandemic game not designed by Leacock and thus the most different.

Pandemic the Cure is a dice version of the game.  It is more portable and faster to setup and play.  It is more random than its big brother diminishes the Alpha player problem.  Highly recommended.

Pandemic Legacy Season One is the newest Pandemic game.  The game comes in two versions, red and blue.  They are different in that one has a red box and one has a blue box.  A legacy is a game system in which your actions in one game affect future games.  You play a series of 12-24 games with a narrative that ties them together.  There are hidden elements of the game that only get revealed when certain conditions.  Thus far the game is wildly popular, reaching the status of number #1 rank on board game geek.  We are currently in August of our campaign, and while my personal ranking doesn’t have it quite that high, Legacy adds a compelling narrative arc and many surprises to an already great game, so there is little to complain about.

Introducing the Game to New Gamers: 

Most criticisms of Pandemic revolve around the concept of the Alpha player.  An alpha player is a person when the most experienced or aggressive player at the table tells everyone else to do.  Since in Pandemic everyone is one the same team and there is little player specific hidden information, it is susceptible to this problem.  Thus your job as a teacher is to make sure everyone makes their own decisions, even if they are suboptimal.  You can provide options or rationales, but do not tell players what actions they must take. 


There is an ipad version of the game, which is okay.  The graphics and mechanics are fine, but it doesn’t give me the same excitement to beat it as when it is on the table.


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