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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?

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 July 1, 2016
I was originally introduced to this game by a student of mine, who had been working with me on disease modeling. After reading some of the great reviews of the game, my wife and I decided to purchase it last year. We can't say enough how much we enjoy playing this game; it makes you think, and, more importantly, you have to work together!

My wife and I love playing board games, but some of our board games can get fairly competitive and, in some cases, can leave bad feelings afterward (we don't play trivia games anymore because of this!). If you've had these feelings, then Pandemic is the game for you: You don't compete against each other, but against the game board. This means, you can talk, you can share information, and you can strategize together openly. And, if you win, it's a strong sense of accomplishment; if you lose, you can always try again!

To the game itself: We love the quality of the pieces (sturdy plastic for the disease cubes and game pawns, well-made cards that have withstood numerous plays and shuffles, and a very sleek game board and box!), but we especially love that it's a different game every time. Each of you randomly selects your role, giving each of you a special ability that can help your team. You then randomly place disease cubes on the board, and then start trying to find cures. Sometimes, you get lucky, and you can discover cures quickly, but, other times, epidemic cards come up so quickly that you don't know what hit your team! Admittedly, the first few plays are slow, because there are a lot of rules to keep track of. But, after a few plays, you really get the hang of it, and, since you are working together, you can help each other learn the game. We've found that a typical game takes around 30-45 minutes, which is a good length of time.

Finally, I'll say that one other thing we really like about this game is you can adjust the difficulty: make it easier by putting in less epidemic cards or laying your hands on the table so everyone can see, or make it harder by adding in more epidemic cards and/or playing with expansion packs. Some other rule changes to make the game more challenging are included in the main rules.

The few complaints we have had about the game are that the game is only for 2-4 players (more requires an expansion pack), so, if your family or board game group is large, keep this in mind. Also, although the game is cooperative, it is hard! We're currently on a streak where we haven't won a game in weeks, but I'm hoping we'll save humanity soon enough!

Anyway, if you've been growing sick (he he he) of the "standard" board games, give this one a try. It was our first venture outside of "standard" board games, and Pandemic is why we now own Ticket to Ride and Forbidden Island, and are looking at Settlers of Catan. This coming from people who started out with Monopoly, Clue, and Life!
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on April 25, 2017
I have been playing more and more board games over the last year and Pandemic has been the best addition to my slowly growing collection. Working with my friends and family instead of against them was a great change of pace after years of royal rumble style board gaming. This game is just as fun to play with 2 people as it is with several more and no two games of Pandemic are the same. It is just as easy to lose this game as it is to win and losing only makes me want to play it again. I have begun to purchase the expansion sets and each new update only makes the game more entertaining and fun. That being said, the original game is extremely replayable and worth every penny. For the dedicated tabletop player, or the family looking to play infrequently, this is a must buy game!
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on January 20, 2016
I haven't even played this yet but I don't need to. I know it's going to be a fun game that's why I bought it! What I do want to review is the product itself. I couldn't even believe how high quality this thing is. This is my first non-traditional board game I've bought. The box is super study and the print is like a vinyl decal. Even if you spilled water on it I bet it would just roll right off. It's very ridged too. No bending or anything. The game board looks very nice and detailed and is also very sturdy. I love all of the outlines for where to put all the tokens and cards. Also the board has a little tip for what to do on your turn. It makes it easy to set up and follow along for people who are new to this stuff. The cards are a heavy material also. Seems like they're made from the same vinyl the box is made off. The player pawns, disease cubes, cure bottles, and the treatment centers are all very high quality and even cool to look at. I've never been more impressed with the look, feel, and quality of a board game. I feel like I want it on display! Now I just have to get everyone together and play!
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on June 28, 2016
This is one of the best board games I've ever played that features a team dynamic. Unlike Settlers of Catan, which will ruin any and every relationship you ever had, this co-op will reveal the true colors of anyone daring to pick up a colored pawn. Play this game with a stranger to get to know them. I promise that by the end of the game that you will know whether they will become your beast of a best friend forever or labeled a selfish, uncooperative squat head to be despised forever. Try it on a first date. It will foretell whether or not you and your interest will successfully spawn offspring together.

After opening this box for the first time, my roommates and I spent countless nights trying to save the world. As frustrating as it is to lose to a piece of cardboard, it is equally, if not more, gratifying to conquer your imaginary microscopic adversaries. There are so many occasions where you end the game in despair wishing you had just one more turn. But when you win, you come away feeling like the hero of an apocalyptic movie, saving the world in the very nick of time! Needless to say, we are currently best friends changing the world via healthcare, the arts and non-profits.
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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 June 22, 2017
It's a co-op game - you fight the board, not each other, and I love that, especially in a family that is full of competitive people. The more people you have playing it can be a really long game. Although it's co-op you don't have to share your cards with everybody and let them know what you have. Before you start the game, you may want to make it clear to everybody else that the game consists of teamwork, but nobody is leader. I know there can be some forceful personalities; it sucks the fun out of the game when people are telling you what to do, and you feel like it's not even really your turn, but their turn nonstop with your character.

There's three ways to die, so that makes it fun! You're in a hurry to figure out how to survive. Some rules are unclear and confusing. Look online, and there's a lot of people there to clarify the rules. The first time I played it was with two friends. We misunderstood a lot of the rules and went all over the place, and even changed rules in the middle of turns, to try to sort it out better. It wasn't a proper game at all, but it was loads of fun, and we won right before there were no cards left to draw. My friends also have this obsession with the asian character guy, so they always hope and pray they get him when we mystery pull character roles. And no, they've never pulled him. I did once. They hated me. :)
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on March 15, 2017
This is a great cooperative board game to play with your friends or gaming group.

I've played this with many different groups of people now and every experience was positive and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves very much while playing. Having a great cooperative game in your rotation is a good way to get people who don't like the competition aspect of games to be able to enjoy themselves too.

The game itself is fairly easy to get the hang of after a few turns and allows for great strategy sessions where you work together to eradicate the various diseases on the board to trigger the win condition. Playing at maximum difficulty will generally be pretty challenging and will require good planning and communication with the other players in order to succeed.

This is one of those games that is tough to win, but tends to make people want to play "just one more time, I know we'll get it this time". It's that enjoyable. This one tends to be a favorite in our board gaming group, and we keep bringing it out time and again.

The only issue that I have with the game set is that the instructions aren't the easiest to read if you want a quick summary of win conditions and such. I had to read them a couple times to figure out some of the more nuanced game rules and situations that tended to come up quite a bit more than expected.

No other issues to this really fun game.

Highest Recommendation.
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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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