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on August 26, 2014
It seemed like we’d just started the game and the yellow strain had not only been cured but eradicated! We were on the cusp of a cure for the second strain. This one was in the bag. We had weathered two epidemics so far without any egregious problems. Sure there was a pair of cities in Eastern Europe that was in danger, but what were the odds that was going to be a problem? One of us was already there. Then another epidemic hit, the infection rate increased, three cities were drawn and it seemed the cascading outbreaks knew no bounds. I think nearly everyone in Europe died that day, and we – a group of specialized scientists- were served a plate of bitter defeat. Again! Again and again, always defeat. Oh, the humanity!

It’s true, I haven’t ever beat this rotten game and yet I keep coming back. Because one day I’ll win; in spite of all the wounds to my pride I’ve had to nurse, one day I’ll – I mean- we’ll win. I say we’ll because this is a co-operative game where you all work together against those nasty strains of no-doubt-human engineered beasties. Now, I know there are those of you who beat this every time you play, like I beat Shadows over Camelot every time I play, but I’ve invited those sorts to come play with me and they can barely stand the shame of losing with me.

To make it even worse, we only play with 4 epidemics. I feel like I’m at an AA meeting: “Hi my name is Kyle.”
“Hi Kyle” echoes the crowd.
“I… I suck at Pandemic.”
This is the part where you put your arm on my shoulder and tell me it’s going to be alright.

Game Play
This board is a handsome map of the world; only instead of country boards you see in Risk there is a red web of interconnected cities. Everyone starts in Atlanta were a research station is and you go from there. Each player plays a scientist that has a special ability: one can move others on their turn, one can give cards to another without the restrictions other players have and so on. The game also begins with 9 random cities around the world with varying degrees of infection (one to three stacked blocks). If a city would have a fourth block put on it (called an outbreak), it actually stays at three and the cities connected by the red web get a block. Isn’t that nice? It’s called a cascading outbreak. Such a pretty name. If you get 9 outbreaks in a game you lose. If you run out of blocks for a certain strain you lose, and if you haven’t cured all the strains before your white deck of cards runs out, you lose. I hate to be a negative Nancy, but there’s a lot of ways to lose this game. If, on the other hand, you are able to find cures for each strain, you win!

How do you do that? Well you get someone who has got 5 cards of the same color in their hand to a research station, that’s how. One of the players only needs four.

Every turn each player gets to do four actions. Picking up a cube off a city counts as one, so does moving between cities. You can charter flights with your cards, rather than use them for cures. You can build research stations and fly between those without expending a card, and a few other things. Then you draw cards that you think will help you, but can instead turn out to be epidemics. And you also draw cards for cities that get infected: usually this amounts to adding on square to the city’s pile. As the game progresses, more cards are drawn at a time to be infected. Oh, and when an epidemic happens, the cards for the cities that were infected get put back on the top of the draw pile. Oh dear.

I hate to tell you what to do because what do I know anyway?
Those of you who beat this all the time should tell me what to do. I understand that finding the cures is everything- lest you run out of time. Others say, make sure that you never have three on on e city at a time, as to avoid outbreaks.

Make sure that the medic is only clearing off stacks of infections, the dispatcher should be moving people so that don’t have to move themselves.

Again, I never win, so what do I know?

If it hasn’t been obvious, I am completely sucked in by the theme. There are similarities to other co-operative games especially Forbidden Island: Each character has special powers, you make moves for the team and then the board pushed you closer to defeat, that sort of thing. Forbidden Island also shares the shuffle the cards and put them back on top of the draw deck mechanic. I tell you this so that you won’t be surprised if you decide to add them both to your game closet, this is why I haven’t added Forbidden Island to mine, though I’ve played the game. While this adds to the evidence that the theme could be stripped out of the game, I don’t recall cascading flooding going on in Forbidden Island, or feeling like humanity is hanging in the balance, or being glad I don’t live anywhere in Eastern Europe. That is to say, I think the theme sticks.

I read about people who win all the time and needed the expansion to rouse any concern in them. But who can believe everything they read on the internet, I ask you? Just because I’ve never won though doesn’t mean that it’s not an enjoyable experience, mind you. Because I keep coming back.

Interaction is very high. There’s all sort of collaborative discussion that goes on through this game.

Learning Curve
Low. It takes all of ten minutes to explain and there are directions on the board and the turn cards.
Nill. You are all in it together! And you even get to move a guy in your turn.

What’s not to Like?
I actually know where some of these cities are on the map are but they all have these lines that go from the pin-pointed location to the circle where you actually place the blocks. That remains a bit annoying even after playing the game 10 times.

Collateral Endorsement
My four year old likes “The one where they get sick” We run around curing cities till the infection deck runs out. He feels a lot better about himself than the rage I feel playing by the real rules.

Actually, as I think about it, the first time I played this game I was at the home of some friends and I think we won. But I’m certain I have not won with my copy of the game. I’d say mine is jinxed, but we’ve played on another friends copy and lost there too. Also, I should say that a brother of mine lost two in a row and saw the writing on the wall in the third game and left the table, swearing off the game forever. You might consider your own resiliency before buying this game.
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on March 17, 2013
Pandemic is a rare board game in that (1) it is cooperative and (2) you can play with as few as two players. The cooperative aspect of the game is a great way to break up the monotony of some of the race to the finish/get the high score aspects of most other board games. Also, if your household is plagued with an overly competitive person who tends to ruin game night, Pandemic is a great game to encourage teamwork rather than an extended effort to beat your opponents into the ground (Risk and Monopoly are the two main culprits, in my mind). All players work together to cure four diseases that are constantly spreading across the globe. The game board is a map of the world, diseases are represented as plastic cubes of different colors, and each player is assigned a character. Each character has special abilities and many of the abilities complement each other. There are several ways to lose the game, but only one way to win. On a given player's turn, the player will move around the map, treat disease in different cities, build research centers (where diseases can be cured), and cure disease. The game, especially on higher difficulties, places players on the defensive rather than offensive. By that I mean that most of the game is spent containing the spread of the diseases rather than curing the diseases. I personally love the defensive aspect, as the team is always in jeopardy of losing, but some people I have played with felt the game was too much of a chore.

The game shines when you are playing with three or four players, in my opinion. You are never sitting around waiting for your turn, because on every turn the team debates about what the best moves are, what special abilities can be used to achieve the goal efficiently, and what problem areas need to be dealt with. Two players generally works very well, but if one of the players has a much higher skill level, the game turns into a solo affair where the less skilled player just follows instructions from the more skilled player. The game is not terribly complex, though if you are planning on playing with a child, I would say that a 10 year old could pick up on it. A more simplistic game with very similar rules is Forbidden Island, if you are looking for a cooperative board game but think Pandemic might be a tad too advanced.

Other reviews have mentioned the misprint on some of the boards. Mine did come with a misprint and I contacted Z Man Games via email for a replacement. It has been several days and I have not received a response. I will update this review once I follow up on my email. However, I could easily solve the problem by drawing in the missing connection, so even if customer service support turns out to be lacking, it is hardly a deal breaker for me.

If you are on the fence about whether or not to get this game, I find that watching the game in action is a much better way of deciding whether or not you want it than reading reviews. I would suggest checking out the web series Tabletop, which did an entire episode on this game.

UPDATE: Z Man Games sent me a replacement board about three and a half weeks after my initial email. Apparently, they aren't responding to emails, but they are replacing the boards. Just keep this in mind when you read other reviews bashing the customer service. It exists, and the response time is decent, though not great.
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on August 8, 2013
My favorite game!

If you grew up playing games like Monopoly, Uno or Risk and hated it because in many games someone either got mad / quit / cried / threw cards / knocked over the board, then you will LOVE Pandemic.

This is the game that made board games my hobby. Pandemic is called a Cooperative Game. This is because each player is not competing with each other, but rather trying to defeat the game. It's like a puzzle, but far more interesting and the game is different each time you play it.

I won't bore you with details about the theme or how the game is played; there are over 100 reviews here already. However, if you want to see it in action, check out Wil Wheaton's YouTube show TableTop:


This version is the 2nd edition of the game, which is a much prettier version with an easier to understand rulebook and a couple of bonus cards. I do not recommend buying the older version. (Why would you??!!?)

If you buy this and enjoy it, go ahead and buy the expansion "On the Brink" a bit later. The expansion is a bit more advanced & is not needed to play this game. It is just a way to spice up the original after you've played it a bunch of times.
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on February 6, 2013
You should be aware that there is a misprint on some of the first-run boards. There should be a connection between Lagos and Sao Paulo. The manufacturer (Z-Man games) has been very responsive about replacing boards with mistakes.

In any case, this is a great game and you should buy it. Worst case scenario: draw in the missing connection. Just make sure you are playing the correct version.
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on July 29, 2015
This is my first modern board game after playing all the classics for years. Monopoly, risk, clue, etc. All I can say is this game is awesome. It took us about an hour to set it up and go through the rule book. Then we jumped in and played with no problems whatsoever. The instructions are laid out really good for a newb such as myself and it has examples on how to play certain scenarios. It plays great with 3-4 players and just as good with only 2 players, which is what my wife and I were looking for in our first new board game. I highly recommend this game.
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on July 12, 2013
I'm sure everyone has heard enough of the goodness of this game.

My purpose is to tell you that there was no misprint on my game board. I placed an order on 30 Jun 2013.

Hope this helps for people who are on the fence on the issue with the game board.
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on February 8, 2013
This game is great. It's cooperative, which is different. After getting whomped two games in a row, we won on our last game with few player cards left. We all did a simultaneous, bilateral high five with four players...A high forty...We're in our late 20's and were impressed. We play tons of board games with only one winner, and the only teamwork we had in the past was to destroy first place's lead. So, this was a nice change.

My version has the misprint from Lagos to Sao Paulo. There is a discrepancy with the number of players. On Amazon it says 2-5. The box and rule book state 2-4 players. We tried with five people, four epidemic cards, and lost at the end of the second round.

Game is still a bunch of fun, and we will buy the expansion.
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on December 26, 2013
I purchased this as a Christmas gift for my fiancée's family, who enjoy playing board games together. So we played for the first time yesterday.

If you firmly believe that every game should have defined winners and losers, and if you're driven in your board game playing to be "better" than the other players, this game is not for you. Once you get past this concept of winners and losers, you have a game where everyone works together, there are no secrets between players or cards you have to keep hidden from everyone else; you save the world together, or die trying.

Pandemic's instructions are excellent. They provide clear step-by-step instructions for setup. When the game starts, Z-Man even includes four identical cards, simply as a reference, listing the various actions a person can take on his/her turn. Those cards were a godsend, and tells me that Z-Man "gets it" when it comes to board games. The fact that those questions of the first round or two of "What can I do?" could simply be answered by saying "Look at your card" surely saved a fair amount of explanation time.

At first glance the game looks complicated. And the game does go slow at first, as the game mechanics take a couple turns to grasp.

A couple turns later you begin to feel out how each individual person can help the players win, using the advantages of each person's player card (e.g.: Medics are better at treating cities, Scientists can find cures quicker, etc.). Everyone works together, makes decisions together, learns from their mistakes as they go.

For a family it's a great bonding game, and for anyone else it's an excellent team-building game.

We lost that first game, unfortunately. And naturally, since everyone lost, everyone was able to think about what could have been done differently. In fact I was elated to hear that my fiancée's father and brother woke up bright and early this morning, determined to have their revenge on the game. They successfully beat the "easy" version.

For a family that has never played a cooperative game before, where "everyone wins or everyone loses", it was clearly enjoyed by everyone.

The app version of this game is available on iPad as well, for those who'd rather pay $6.99 instead of shelling out 5 times more money for the board game. In fact, the app is excellent and captures the game perfectly, EXCEPT for the experience. The experience of the whole family or group of friends huddled around a gameboard, trying to plan the next series of moves to "cure this disease" or "prevent this outbreak" CANNOT be duplicated.
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on February 9, 2013
This game was recommended to me by my friend Bill. Thanks Bill, it is a winner.

The original Pandemic game was released 5 years ago and is a bit harder to obtain at a good price. I was very pleased to see that there was a 2nd Edition that has just been released at a reasonable price. Since I have not played not the first edition, I can not offer a comparison but I can say that this was a lot of fun to play. I believe that the expansions available for the original are going to be re-released (per the Z-Man site) to match the 2nd edition look and feel.

The mechanics are deceptively simple (but brilliant) leading to nail biting fun. We skimmed the instructions and plunged into our game and we learned as we went. It took about 2 turns to get into the rhythm and even then I realized near the end of the game that I was not using my player's abilities. This game is a lot of fun, and the kids are being exposed to some other cities (no pun intended). Who knew you could pronounce Bogotá incorrectly!

What I really enjoyed most is the cooperative nature of this game. This is the only cooperative game that we own and it brings a different mood to the table as opposed to games where you are trying to beat everyone else. This is a great addition to our family night collection and I recommend it.
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on October 29, 2013
I am a huge board game fan and heard great things about Pandemic before purchasing. In this game you and your friends will be working as a team trying to fight a series of 4 diseases that have broken out around the world. It is your collective job to find a cure for each one before 3 specific things occur that cause you to lose. Each player is given a "role" which grants them a unique special ability to help the team. Each turn you take a series of actions, draw cards and place new disease cubes. The placement of the disease cubes is mostly out of your control and can cause the different viruses to rapidly spread in an event called an "outbreak". Too many outbreaks and you lose. If you run out of cards to draw you lose. If you run out of disease cubes you lose. It takes about 30-45 minutes. Check out the table top video to see how game-play works: [...]

This has easily become one of my all-time favorite games. If you enjoy euro style board games you will likely find the transition to pandemic seamless. (as a reference, I mainly play ticket to ride, settlers, puerto rico, dominion, thurn & taxis, carcassonne)

- The cooperative design is very unique and prevents any hurt feelings or over competitiveness within friends.
- The pieces are very high quality. In the 2nd edition the disease cubes are plastic and not wood but are quite stylish and almost look like glass.
- The Lagos - Sao Paolo missing link was fixed on my purchase.
- The game is a lot like Forbidden Island but a bit more complex and more difficult. If you are unsure, I would first invest in Forbidden Island and see if you like cooperative games.
- Great replay value. Every game is different and I have found myself playing back to back for hours.
- This game is highly strategic with only a bit of luck involved.

- After playing this game around 20 times I now think that it is a bit too easy. It was very difficult at first but now I almost always win with plenty of time to spare.
- The weakness of this game is that it is very easy for one person to basically take over and dictate your strategy
- The cards are a bit flimsy and I have found that they bend pretty easily.
- Setup can take up to 10 minutes.
- This is not an easy game to learn on one's one. I would suggest looking at youtube videos or having someone teach you.
- Though you can play with 2 players, I have found it to be less interesting and easier for one person to take over.
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