The world is in chaos. Four deadly diseases are rapidly spreading around the globe, and despite their best efforts, governments are failing at preventing them. Now, it’s up to you and your team of disease-fighting specialists to save humanity from the brink of disaster. Welcome to Pandemic, the popular cooperative board game that puts players in the middle of a deadly global crisis to save humanity from extinction.
In Pandemic, you’ll travel the world, treating infected patients, building research stations, and researching cures for the diseases that threaten to wipe out entire populations. Each player takes a unique role in the crisis team, from the Medic who can treat patients faster and easier, to the Scientist, who excels in discovering cures. But the clock is ticking, and the diseases are spreading faster than you can move.
What makes Pandemic different from other games is its engaging narrative. You’ll feel like you’re part of a Hollywood blockbuster, racing against the clock to save the world. The game mechanics are designed in a way that creates tension and drama, with outbreaks occurring unexpectedly, to epidemics causing chaos at every turn.
And not to worry if you’re new to cooperative games, or board games in general. Pandemic is easy to learn, with clear rules and intuitive gameplay. And with multiple difficulty levels and a variety of scenarios and themes to choose from, you can tailor the game to the level of your gaming group, so that everyone can have a great time fighting for health.
So grab your friends, put on your face masks, and get ready for the ride of your life. Pandemic is waiting for you, and the fate of the world is in your hands. Are you ready to save humanity from the brink of disaster?
Pandemic is one of the most loved cooperative board games designed for two to four players. In the Pandemic, players work together to stop the spread of four deadly diseases around the world. Each player takes a different role and must use their unique abilities and resources to treat and cure diseases before it’s too late.
The game is played on a map of the world, divided into four regions and colors, one for each disease. Players begin the game in Atlanta, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is located, and must move around the world to different cities to take actions. Other than players taking actions each turn, new infections also occur each turn and the diseases could spread to neighboring cities, making it more and more difficult to contain their spread.
Players must work together to strategize and make important decisions about where to focus their efforts and manage limited resources such as player cards. The goal of the game is to find the cure for all four diseases before they spread too far and cause a global pandemic.
It’s not difficult to get carried away during the tension of a game of Pandemic or other co-op games, and players may become something we call “Alpha Players”. Alpha players are players who tend to dominate the decision-making process and take full control of the game. Though they may be well-intentioned, their behavior can sometimes lead to other players feeling left out or disengaged from the game. Make sure to give all players a chance to share their opinions and consider their suggestions so that everyone can join in on the fun.
How to Play
To begin a game of Pandemic, you must first set up the game board. To do so, lay out the board and shuffle the deck of infection cards. Infection cards each show one city on the board and the type of disease that infects it. First, draw three random infection cards and place three cubes in each city according to the disease type, and discard the cards. Then, draw three more cards and place two cubes in each city. Finally, draw three more cards and place one cube in each city. Now you should have nine infected cities in the world.
Next, each player should choose a character. Some characters are more useful than others so be mindful of the team you assemble. You could also divide the roles randomly to make the game a bit more challenging. Each player then gets their matching pawn and places it in Atlanta. Also place one research station in Atlanta.
Shuffle the deck of player cards and give each player a hand of cards according to the number of players and the table in the rulebook. Player cards also each have a city printed on them and players use them to take different actions like moving or discovering cures. Also included in the player cards are event cards with special actions printed on them that players can use at any time throughout the game.
After giving cards to players, set aside a number of epidemic cards. The number of epidemic cards is determined based on the difficulty you’d like. For an easy/medium/hard game, you should include 4/5/6 epidemic cards. Shuffle the epidemic cards into the player deck as the rulebook describes. Determine the starting player and you’re good to go!
The main game mechanic in Pandemic is action points. On each turn, players have four action points they can distribute between actions in any way they’d like. These four actions could be repeated actions, and the order of actions is up to the players.
Players could use their action points to move between cities, either by land, sea, or air. Players can also discard player cards from their hands to move greater distances. They could also spend actions to treat diseases in cities to prevent outbreaks, discover the cure to a disease in a research station by discarding five cards of the same color, build more research stations around the world, or share knowledge with each other to trade cards.
Player cards are open information and players can and must freely discuss their plans and strategies during each turn, but the final decision is up to the active player. After spending their action points, players must infect new cities at the end of each turn. According to the infection rate, reveal a number of infection cards and add cubes to those cities. This could cause outbreaks and spread diseases to more and more cities.
After infecting cities, players then end their turn by drawing two player cards and adding them to their hands. But, remember! There were some epidemic cards in the deck as well. If a player draws an epidemic card, they must resolve its effects before going on to the next turn. And the effects are catastrophic. I’ll let you find out the destruction of epidemic cards for yourself.
The game continues in this manner until one of the end-game conditions is triggered. There are three ways players can lose, and only one way to win;
If the deck of player cards is depleted before finding the cures, time is up and the diseases spread beyond control, and you lose the game.
If you must add cubes to a city but there are no more left, that disease has dominated the world and left no survivors, and you lose the game.
Each city only has the capacity for three cubes, and whenever a fourth one must be added, an outbreak occurs. Advance the outbreak token by one, and add cubes to the neighboring cities where the outbreak occurred. Keep in mind, there could be chain outbreaks causing much more damage to global health. At any point during the game, if the eighth outbreak occurs, there’s nothing you can do to reverse the damage caused by the diseases, and you lose the game.
The only way you can win is to find the cure to all four diseases before any of the above conditions occur. Nobody said saving the world was an easy task.
How’s the Experience
Playing Pandemic is an extraordinary experience that can be both exciting and challenging. Playing the game for a few rounds causes a sense of tension and urgency as players race the clock to find the cures. The atmosphere of the game is one of high stakes and high pressure, because a lot of the decisions in the game are important and the wrong one could have disastrous outcomes, and players can almost never predict what’s coming next.
The game is designed in a way to simulate the real-life challenges of managing a pandemic and controlling widespread diseases, such as limited resources, unpredictable outcomes, and the need for swift response. Players easily get invested in the game and get motivated to work with each other to beat it.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll have an awesome time playing Pandemic, but keep in mind the nature of the game. You’re never in the lead, you never have the advantage. I’ve found it rare that players are satisfied with their game before it ends, it seems there’s always a loose knot you can’t find the time to undo. The only moment of satisfaction and relief is after the fourth cure is discovered and the game ends. Before that, players are in a struggle, often having to choose between bad and worse, and most of the time hoping for the best.
The cooperative aspect of Pandemic also makes it a game for the ages. A lot of the time players of Pandemic are seen discussing and arguing with each other more than they actually play the game. Having to share opinions and making a group decision only adds to the joy and excitement of the game.
Overall, playing Pandemic is a satisfying and rewarding experience that encourages teamwork, communication, and strategic thinking. It’s a game that players of all ages and skill levels can easily pick up and enjoy.
Versions and Editions
I’ve never seen a board game so successful that it has as much different versions as Pandemic. Because the core game of Pandemic is so intuitive, easy to learn, and engaging, Z-Man Games has released a ton of different approaches to the game. Here are a few of the best;
Also included on our list of best campaign games, Pandemic Legacy has taken the board gaming world by storm. In three seasons, (1,2, and 0) players are taken into a massive immersive story of diseases and quarantines through different eras. The first season is currently ranked as the best thematic board game in the world, with seasons 0 and 2 in rank 8 and 13. This is proof enough that how positive the public reception has been towards this new take on the beloved game.
To say anything much about the Pandemic Legacy would be spoiling the story and experience, but just knowing that it’s Pandemic was enough for me. With a rich narrative and plotline, as well as new challenges and rules being introduced after each round, it’s safe to say that Pandemic Legacy could be the best version of Pandemic overall.
Pandemic: Iberia is another version of the core game set in the mid-19th century and features new gameplay mechanics such as water purification or railway construction. It also includes historical events and characters from that time.
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is set in the Lovecraftian universe and features different cultists and elder gods the players must overcome.
Pandemic: The Cure is a smaller version of the game that is dice-based and features faster gameplay and simplified mechanics, as well as new roles and player abilities. This makes it a great choice for Pandemic lovers when they don’t have much time.
Out of all the cooperative board games out there, none has brought me more joy and created more memories for me than Pandemic has. It’s the best choice for people who haven’t played co-op games before, as they quickly and easily realize the importance of teamwork, and the fun behind it. And all of the different varieties of Pandemic make it so you never have to experience the same game twice. All of these points help Pandemic become one of the most known and most played board games in the world. So gather your fellow fighters and get ready to save the world!