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on October 27, 2016
My wife and I have gradually gotten more into board games, because we're old and lame and that's ok. She's a bit ... competitive, however, so even playing a game like Settlers can put me on the edge of the seat a little bit if I'm winning. Some of you know what I'm talking about. Board games kept popping up in my Amazon recommendations, and I kept seeing this one (nice work, Amazon ad algorythms). Cooperative? Sounds good!

There went that Sunday. I even stopped watching football, BECAUSE CHILDREN ARE DYING IN ISTANBUL OR CONSTANTINOPLE. We played several games. We lost our first few, then kept winning. Our kids were annoying us with petty stuff like, "Daddy, I'm hungry" and "Mommy, my toe fell off" but sometimes you just have to tell your kids that now isn't a good time, because Daddy is building a research center and then has to fly to meet Mommy in Milan, and there is leftover ham in the refrigerator.

I do question whether the game will keep its challenge. We've won our only two games on the hardest difficulty, but it felt suspenseful and like we could have lost, so I think it'll still be fun to play. Regardless, we've already gotten our money's worth out of this game. I think my daughter (six) will be able to learn it now or shortly as well, which will be cool and we can monitor her toe situation better.
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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?

Theme
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.

Balance
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
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.
Downtime
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 July 7, 2017
This game is a super fun easy to learn co-op game. It will keep you on the edge of your seat! Highly recommend for new gamers and experienced gamers. It's one of those games you will want to play again and again because chances are you will spend a lot of time losing to the game. Still really fun and challenging though!
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This game is brutal, but fun. I highly recommend buying it.

My only complaints are that the roles can completely change the game from being way too hard to way too easy depending on what combinations you have. Also, the time limit is also very tight, a lot of times you can lose the game because you ran out of time even if the diseases were under control. I'm not sure why the time limit is so artificially tight, but I guess it does add to the stress level.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon May 13, 2016
We've had this game a little over a year. Our family plays a lot of similar games like Dominion, Settlers of Catan, etc. This is good to occasionally pull out for a Sunday afternoon with the family and everyone likes it, but it hasn't become one of our "addictive" favorites.

I would still highly recommend this. It's a good game, well made and well thought out. But it just doesn't pull us in quite as much as some of our other games. As a parent I very much like the fact that this is less competitive than other games, but that also seems to take a bit of the excitement out of it.
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on July 8, 2017
This is a great beginner strategy game. I like the cooperative nature of it, though some will say what's the point of playing if there A WINNER. We like working together to save the world though. It's quicker than a lot of strategy games, which is a bonus. It can be played with much younger kids because of the cooperative nature too.

I think this is great for long time players of strategy games and beginners not only because you can work together, but also because you can make the game easier or harder.
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on September 5, 2015
This is the first cooperative game that we've tried, and we love the change of pace from your typical competitive options. My husband bought it after he soundly trounced me several times in a row while playing Ticket to Ride (also a great game), saying (jokingly) that he was hoping to save our marriage. It's a great choice for those uber-competitive types who want to play games without devolving into negativity.

I won't go into game play here - there are plenty of reviews that do that - but I will state this: read the instructions carefully the first time you play. We got ahead of ourselves the first time around and ended up confusing ourselves (and shooting ourselves in the foot) by merely trying to eliminate plague pieces from the board instead of actually curing disease.

We've played it most often with two players, and it works well. It holds up to multiple playings, or has so far - after two months of playing it a few times a week, we're still enjoying it.

That said, it would be interesting to see how well it would work to play with people at various levels of experience. We haven't tried this, but because of the collaborative nature of the game, I would think those with more experience would have to consciously choose to be quiet and let the less experienced players lead in order for them to have a more enjoyable time.
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on December 11, 2016
I have found the game to be fun and interesting. At the learning stage of the game, it took a bit of time to figure out how to play it. There was just a lot of steps and rules. There is a lot going on in the game. It seemed a bit confusing a first. Once I got into the swing of things, it was not so bad.

I like how you can get different roles each time one plays the game. It makes it more interesting. It has different challenge levels too. This is a fun game with two players. I think 3-4 players make it more challenging as well. Since it is a co-op game, an extra player hand can be made if there is only 2 players.

The thing I do not like is that it took me a while to get used to the game. There is a lot going on. It makes sense why there are reference cards to give to the players. I got used to it after the second game. The other thing is to win the game is to cure all the diseases. I think it would be more fun to be able to eradicate all the diseases. It would also make the playtime longer though if that was the case. The other thing is I do not like how one of the ways to lose is when the entire player deck is gone. It feels like it shortens the playtime a bit, especially if I am into the game and want to continue playing to see if I can cure everything before I get to many outbreaks, which is another way to end the game,
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on September 1, 2016
This is always my easiest Christmas present to buy. I buy this game for my parents every year for Christmas. They absolutely LOVE this game. Despite how busy they are, they play it whenever they get the chance (usually 4-5 times per week). Whenever I visit (about once per 2 months, on average), they always ask if I want to "help them cure the world" (meaning "play Pandemic") Every year, by the time December rolls around, the cards and board are always worn and falling apart from too much use (keep in mind they play it hundreds of times per year). The game is fun because it's cooperative. You can play with anywhere from 1 to 10 players. The board is a map of cities. The players work for the CDC, and there are several diseases spreading. The players have to work together to prevent the diseases from wiping out humanity. Each player has a special ability. All players work together, taking advantage of their unique abilities, to beat the board. Every game is different from the one before. There's a bit of a learning curve. There's a whole lot of strategy involved, and it's based strongly on probability. While I picked it up right away, It took my parents probably 10-20 games to really fully understand the logic and the possible moves. The game is cyclical. The players moves, then the diseases spread, then the players combat the disease, then the disease spreads some more. Any player can suggest moves, and it's up to the team to decide what's the best move. Once you get the hang of it, the whole game, from pulling it out of the box, setting it up, playing it, and putting it back away, takes about 45 minutes. It's easiest to teach new players by first explaining the basic rules, then jumping right in. Because every player is working together, the new players tend to soak it up during the first half of the game, and actually begin contributing and suggesting moves to do by the second half.
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on February 20, 2016
My friends and I have been obsessed with board game lately. We had been going at each others throats and decided it was time to mix things up and get a co-op game. We tried Castle Panic and found it lacking on gameplay and way too easy, no matter how we adjusted the difficulty. After hearing great things about this game, we decided to take the plunge and purchase. Wow! It turned out to be a very well designed game and difficult to beat at first.

Just some advise to first time players. This game is fairly difficult, even when playing at the beginner difficulty; however, don't lose heart! It took my group several times to beat it. Try to think at least 2-3 full turns ahead before the first person makes their first move. Make sure you're playing to your role's strengths. It's easy to get caught up in removing disease cubes while forgetting to focus on curing the disease itself. Then you run out of players cards and you lose... Good luck saving the planet!
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