REVIEW – Pandemic

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PandemicName: Pandemic
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Type: Cooperative
Players: 2-4
Best with: 2-4
Length of Playtime: 1 hour


Give It to Me Quick: In Pandemic, players will band together to cure rapidly spreading diseases across the world, or otherwise watch helplessly as disease multiplies from city to city and the world is overrun. Fantastic theme and game design.

Infection spreads quickly in this version of the world.

Infection spreads quickly in this version of the world.

Gameplay Summary

Pandemic is a cooperative game; players will work together to cure all four diseases widespread across the globe before one of three events:

1. Too many disease outbreaks occur. (An outbreak happens when disease strikes a city already completely overtaken)
2. Too much time passes without a cure (player deck of cards run out)
3. A given disease spreads too much (disease cubes for a given color run out)

Each turn, players will take up to four actions to accomplish things such as traveling to other cities, building research centers, curing disease, or giving/taking cards with other players. To cure a disease, one player must turn in a hand with five cards of the same color to cure that color disease.

Each player has a special role that helps the team.

Each player has a special role that helps the team.

At the end of each player’s turn, two things happen:

1. Two cards are drawn from the player deck. These cards are needed to cure diseases, but also serve as the game “doomsday clock” to draw the end of the game nearer. Epidemic cards are also hidden in this deck. Just when you thought you had a disease under control, an epidemic card creates a new infection somewhere new in the world and also shuffles recently flipped disease cards back on top of the disease deck. This ensures that cities recently infected will soon become infected again (and creates a rising level of panic in everyone playing).
2. Disease cards are flipped over corresponding to the current Infection level. These cards detail where new disease infections occur. Sometimes this will create an Outbreak, where a city already filled with a disease will overflow to neighboring cities. Sometimes this creates a chain reaction of outbreaks.

Hong Kong is due for an outbreak.

Hong Kong is due for an Outbreak.


How many players is it best with?

Pandemic plays well from 2-4 players. More players mean that more of the special roles will be used to help win the game, but it’s a little more difficult since each player will get fewer turns (and fewer cards). The strategy shifts between 2, 3, and 4 players; for example, the Researcher role becomes invaluable in a 4 player game because sharing cards is even more important to complete sets.

We’ve played several different four player games of Pandemic. It’s fascinating how many four player games seem to come right down to the last turn. It’s never easy and always requires extensive teamwork. Two player games are not that difficult. In our experience, two players will generally win if they know what they are doing.

Our Positives

Pandemic has a great central theme (disease overtaking the world) that ties well into the game mechanics (how the disease spreads). Once you learn a few of the more specific rules, the rest almost seems like common sense and what you would expect to happen. The introduction and spread of infection onto the board is exciting and creates a rising sense of tension since the constant movement of infection is unrelenting.

The rising infection level is tense and fun.

The rising infection level is tense and fun.

You’ll think that you have the game under control, then hit an epidemic card which strikes London and your team’s strategy has to change gears immediately. While you’re dealing with the immediate threat in Europe, the Operations Expert might head to Southeast Asia to build a Research Station so that players dealing with the European outbreak can get quickly down to Asia to help there next turn (since you know those Asian infection cards are coming soon!).

Unlike some other Leacock-created cooperative games (looking at you, Forbidden Island), the handful of special cards in the player deck are very useful and will give a much-need breath of fresh air to gain some ground. The “One Quiet Night” card can never come quickly enough once disease has started to multiply across the globe.

The different player roles are interesting and varied. Depending on which roles are active, it absolutely will change your team’s playstyle. It’s a lot of fun to adapt to these changing roles.

Pandemic’s art design and graphics have an immediate visual appeal. We’ve played with several different age groups, including parents who (completely new to the cooperative style of game) immediately loved it.

A lot of interesting visuals.

A lot of interesting visuals.

Our Negatives

The game can be somewhat “solved” if you play it several times with the same people, especially if playing with just two. With changing player roles, rates of infection, city cards, event cards, and epidemic cards, the game is certainly random. However, it’s random within a set of rules and strategies that can feel familiar after several playthroughs. There are several Pandemic expansions to help combat this, and even with this critique in mind, coming back to it always feels fresh.








35_party for a Party Not really. Too few players able to play and too complicated to quickly explain.
casual Casual Eventually, though it will take them a few games to get used to it.
35_competitive Competitive Not at all. If you don’t work together with your team, your world will be overrun with infection. And you don’t want that!
35_strategy Strategic Very. Every turn you’ll be weighing risk/reward decisions and trying to coordinate team movements to trade cards, build research centers, and cure disease.


Final Thoughts on Pandemic

Pandemic is the big brother of cooperative games. It will become a classic if it isn’t considered one already. I’m sure you’ve seen it starting to be available at more big box stores like Target. During a recent big box board game sale I saw, Pandemic had a lot of product still left on the shelf. I would guess this is because it looks intimidating at first glance or the idea of cooperative games is new to people. Forbidden Island would probably be a better introduction to the cooperative game genre, but Pandemic is a necessary stop if you’re interested in the idea of cooperative games.

As with several cooperative games, when introducing the game to new players, you’ll have to keep your advice in check since it takes a game or two to become familiar with how the game plays. As a new game at a game night, it might not be the first game you will get on the table. With the right group of people, though, it’s great.

The theme is intriguing, the mechanics of the game are brilliant, and the strategy is interesting. Pandemic is a must-have addition to any game closet.

Other cooperative games by the designer: Forbidden IslandForbidden Desert


Check out more reviews!







      Game Mechanics





          • - Great theme and game mechanics
          • - Player roles are interesting and varied
          • - Plays with 2-4 equally well


          • - After many (many, many) playthroughs, strategy becomes a little samey

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