I’ve always played games with my family. Some of my favorite memories are of us sitting around the dinner table playing a a game. However, my competitive family hated games where one person was clearly better than everyone else. Pandemic solves that problem: it’s a cooperative game where everyone works as a team and everyone wins or loses together. People who love board games will surely have heard of this game. It’s a modern classic and a standout among so many great games arising out of the current board game renaissance. It’s easy to say a game is great, but it’s a little harder to say why it’s so good. Let’s give it a shot.
Four deadly viruses have suddenly broken out around the world and only your team can save the day! Find the cures for each virus before the world becomes incurably diseased. How much bigger can the stakes get? The game is really good about making each player feel necessary to the task at hand and even better at making the players feel like the world is going to collapse if anyone makes a terrible choice.
I find that new players are often turned off by games that look like they have a lot of rules and a complicated set up, especially if they are playing against a veteran. What makes co-operative games so beautiful is that every player is important and previous experience with the game gives the entire team and not the individual an advantage. The game allows teams of two to four players, with each player taking on a different role granting them a unique power in the game. This gives the game an incredible amount of replayability. Although the board may look daunting, so long as one player understands the rules and can explain what each mechanic does, each player should have a fun time even during their first play through. If it’s the first time for the entire group, then a few practice rounds should be played so everyone can get comfortable with the turn order and game mechanics. After warming up, feel free to play the game in earnest. This game is much easier and much more intuitive than most games.
Art and Pieces:
I have the second edition of the game that comes with a revamped art style, completely different from the first edition. The board looks fantastic and the layout makes complete sense. Overall, the board invokes the feeling that the team is looking at the world through a computer monitor and watching the outbreaks occur in real-time as they desperately attempt to direct their avatars to cities on the brink of total infection. The city cards “zoom in” by helping players find their location on the board, so even if you haven’t brushed up on your geography lately, you’ll know where pieces should go. Lastly, the tokens are made of durable material which feel like they will last decades even if you play the game religiously. It’s a great look for a great game.
The box states a game should last about 45 minutes, and that’s a fair estimate from my experience. However, like some other co-op board games, the game can cripple you from turn one. It wouldn’t shock me if someone said they lost in ten minutes, especially at higher difficulties where the infection rate goes at what feels to be super sonic speeds. It’s easy to start over at that point and just call it a warm-up round. If you’re looking for a game to occupy the evening without requiring you to save and continue as some other games do, Pandemic is a solid choice.
In general, if you’re going to spend money on something, you should enjoy it as much as possible. A board game is no different. $40 may be a steep price to pay if you only play the game one time, with one friend, especially if no one enjoyed the game (which is hard to imagine with a game like Pandemic). Board games of this size tend to cost about this much, so it doesn’t win or lose any points on the price issue. For my money, the game has been well worth the investment. Although it retails for $40, you can probably find it much cheaper online (I paid about $25 for my copy). I’ve played my copy about a half dozen times with my fiancée, and a few more times with other people in a little over two years. In other words, I’ve had hours and hours of entertainment and provided hours and hours of entertainment to those closest to me, and all it cost me was about the price of going out to dinner one time.