I’m always on the lookout for games that I truly enjoy playing. While there are a lot of notable games, as I’ve become older, I’ve realized that the games I play with my friends are more enjoyable when it’s a competition against the game itself rather than a competition against each other. While the joke is that I’m a sore loser, the truth is that I like seeing how other people use strategy. Working together just makes it more fun and interactive. Plus, it brings the players together.
I’m waiting to play more cooperative games (namely “Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle”), but I already know that one of my favorites will always be “Pandemic” created by Matt Leacock and produced through Z-Man Games. Not only is it my first cooperative board game, but it was introduced to me by my fiancé, was played in my house with my family, played for hours in a fairly secluded cabin in Minnesota, and I used “Pandemic” to ask my brothers to be my bridesmen. Suffice it to say, it has a special place in my heart.
About the Game
Four deadly diseases threaten to spread across the globe and bring the end to humanity. You and your teammates are a part of a disease-fighting team that travels around the world doing your best to treat infections and stop it from spreading to more cities. Time is against you and the epidemics are time-bombs that only feed the devastating plagues. Your team needs to find all four cures before time runs out for humanity. Can you and your team do it?
Pandemic is a lot of fun but is also a little complicated making this a game ideal for older children and adults. It takes a while to setup and there are quite a few rules and steps to follow, but once you get into the rhythm of how to play, you’re golden! While the box says it takes about 45 minutes to complete, a game for us usually takes about 60 minutes to complete.
The number of players is limited to only 2-4 players, but we have successfully modified it to play with 5 people with no problems besides that the game went faster and it was crazier. It was worth it for us though!
Game Play Hardness Level
What I really enjoy about this game is that you can vary how difficult the game play is depending who is playing. To start with, you should do the recommended four epidemic cards because it makes the game difficult without making it impossible. After you and your friends master the game with those four cards, you can add all six cards since you already understand the character roles and strategy.
Pros and Cons
Different Outcomes/Game Board Setups
The game is always going to be a little different when you play again, which is a plus. It keeps the game fresh. You never know what will happen because it’s all random! If you’re looking for a game that has variety and never gets old? This is the one! It’ll keep you on your toes, guaranteed.
Adjustable Hardness Levels
The standard game begins with four epidemic cards in the deck. As you and your group gets more familiar with the game and how to play, the difficulty level can be increased by adding more epidemic cards (up to six). This ensures that it’s not too easy or boring no matter who’s playing. Trust me, the six epidemic cards can make it pretty difficult even for experienced players.
Not thrilled that you were a scientist last time? Not a problem! It’s a random draw of what other character/role you’d get when you play next time. There are 7 different role cards and they do have different jobs/skills and abilities. You’re never stuck as one role. With the recommended 4 players as the max, you have a lot of opportunity to really have a different game and different role each time you play.
Possible Losing Streak
Depending on you and your group, or how the cards are drawn, it can be frustrating in the beginning to lose the first few times. Sometimes you’ll have a win, sometimes it’ll take a few games to win. While this usually comes with the territory of cooperative games, it’s something to note so you’re not surprised.
Number of Steps
It’s difficult to keep track of everything that’s happening on the board because there’s so much going on (once you advance farther into the game). My brother liked to say that we had to be constantly vigilant so we wouldn’t miss any important steps. He’s not wrong. We would tend to lose track of whose turn it was or who had done what – with so much strategy talk and epidemics and outbreaks erupting, steps were missed or even duplicated. Spontaneous double outbreak, anyone?
While this isn’t too much of a con, if you play on certain surfaces, it can be harder to find the pieces if they blend in or if you drop one (RIP to the two little red cubes in Minnesota). We’d recommend playing somewhere where the pieces won’t drop and fall into a vent, under a place you wouldn’t be able to get it, or where they could blend in.
Really, it’s no secret why this game is well-rated online and loved by those who play it. Plus, it isn’t too costly to give as a holiday present.
Also, if you love the game, you can always buy the expansion pack called “Pandemic: On the Brink” which will add a lot more variety, challenges, and a new virus that behaves differently. It also allows a 5th player! While other expansion packs are available, we didn’t find them to be helpful or fun so it wasn’t worth it.
What do you think? Do you think you have what it takes to save humanity? Our win:lose rate is about 50:50, so humanity definitely isn’t safe in my team’s hands quite yet!
Note: Photos are my own.