Pandemic [App o' the Mornin']

Four diseases are spreading across the planet, and your goal is to find the cure for each in this adaptation of the award-winning co-operative boardgame.

Pandemic (F2Z/Z-MAN Games, iPad: $6) is a tense game, with many ways to lose and one way to win: cure four diseases by matching sets of cards. Along the way, if you run out of cards, draw too many outbreak cards, or have all the disease groups on the board, you lose. Fortunately, you’re not in this alone. Other players are working with you against the enemy (disease), and by communication and coordination it’s possible to race to the finish before virus outbreaks destroy the world.

Each player takes on a character with a particular skill: the Medic can remove three infections in one action, while others can only remove one; the Dispatcher can move people; the Operations Expert can build for free; the Researcher can uses cards even if they don’t match her location; and so on.

Characters get four actions and draw two cards per turn, with new infections added after each turn. The cards can include new cities (which are also color coded to match the viruses), special events, or epidemic outbreaks. You can use the cards to travel, trade, or curse diseases.

The map shows cities across the world, connected with lines allowing for direct travel. A player can move to an adjoining city using one action, or use special abilities to move around the map. As infections multiply, the chance of them spreading increases, so players also use their turns to cure diseases.
The Epidemic card moves the infection rate marker and the game forward. One city gets three infections, and discarded infection cards are placed back on the top of the deck, meaning new infections will break out soon. Since each city can only host three infections, any fourth infection causes an outbreak and all cities connected to the first receive one infection.

If you gather enough matching cards, you can cure an infection, and all the same color cards are removed from the board. The disease has been eradicated. Do this four times and you win.

The proper use of character skills, co-ordination and co-operation with other players, and a bit of luck are all part of the game. For a board-game conversation, it achieves a very high level of tension thanks to music and pacing that accelerates as the threat grows.

The problem, however, is that it lacks multiplayer support (with the exception of pass and play). Fortunately, the nature of co-op games is such that they convert quite well to solo play. Rather than playing with other people in the various roles, you’re performing all the roles. It makes for an effective game even without other live players.

Content: Pandemic is not gross or overly detailed, but it deals with outbreaks of diseases that cause mass deaths. The subject matter is, of course, quite grim, but the game doesn’t make light of it.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Heather

    My roommate and I picked up the physical board game edition of this on our Christmas vacation and have had a lot of fun with it. Definitely a recommend.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    There’s an add-on called On The Brink that makes the board game version harder.

    The same designer made Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert based on similar ideas, but simpler.

  • http://www.jonathanfsullivan.com/ Jonathan F. Sullivan

    We have all three games and love them! For my money Forbidden Desert is the “sweet spot”; it has some interesting mechanics but isn’t so hair-pullingly difficult as Pandemic can be on the tougher difficulties. ;-)

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    I haven’t tried Forbidden Desert, but I understand it’s midway on the complexity spectrum between Island and Pandemic.

  • Heather

    There are at least two expansions that I’ve seen. That one, and one called “in the lab” or some such. For now the base game is challenging enough. We picked up carcassone at the same time for when we want to be a bit less challenged and don’t want to end the world in a cataclysm of plague.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    Carcassone is great. So is Tikal, Ticket to Ride, Settlers (of course), Rivals For Catan (2 player), Finca, Puerto Rico, Fresco, many others. I’m testing Garden Dice now and it’s pretty fun.


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