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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 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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on February 6, 2017
We spend several hours at a shot playing games, probably an average of once a week. Some of our favorites: Settlers of Catan, Fluxx, Munchkin, Phase 10, Parcheesi, Sushi Go!, some of the Cheap-Ass games, just to give you an idea.

We like having a variety of types of play to switch things up & keep us interested, but once in a while a game is simply addictive & we can play it over & over for hours. Settlers is like that for us (even after many years). And now Pandemic is, too. We just can't stop playing!

It's definitely challenging. One of the great features is that you can increase the difficulty level once you start feeling like the game has become easy. But don't judge that too fast, either. There are so many factors that add variety to the game from play to play. For example, the random assignment of a Role for each player means that your characters' combination of special abilities are different each game, so you need to adjust your strategy to take the best advantage of them.

One reason I chose this is because feedback about playing with two players was positive. Most of our games require at least the 3 of us to be any fun. And pretty soon my son will be moving out, so we'll need some good two player games. This weekend we got to test it with 2 people, and it was absolutely just as fun as with 3. In fact, it surprised us because it required such a different strategy than with the 3 of us. And once we adjusted and began winning at the lowest difficulty, we tried the next level and found we had to shift gears again. (And wow that level is tough)

This is the first cooperative game we've owned, and we love that about it. None of us is particularly competitive, so we find this a really nice change from the usual. Maybe if we can stop playing this incessantly, we'll simply use it as a nice break between other games in a sitting.
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on May 8, 2017
I have to quote Wil Wheaton to describe this game because I simply can not find a better way to say it. "I have had more fun loosing this game than I have had winning a lot of others."

This game is very difficult, but extremely fun and engaging. Despite loosing more often than you win (even on the easiest setting) you and your friends will be fully immersed in this game until the end and enjoy losses just as much as winning. The rules are well thought out and every advantage is well balanced and needs to be coordinated with other members of the team to stand any chance of winning.

This is one of the most perfectly developed games I've ever played.
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on January 26, 2016
Pros: High quality components, challenging, requires strategy
Cons: Can be too random, one person can take over if you're not careful

Excellent cooperative game. I got this to play with my girlfriend, and we've played with our families and some friends as well. It is very easy to teach since you're all on the same team, so you can show people how to play as you play. It also lets you choose how difficult you want it to be by letting you decide how many Epidemic cards you add to the player deck. When these are drawn, they will make you infect more cities each turn and they will cause all the cities you have already infected to be shuffled and placed back on top, so they will keep getting more disease added to them. The more Epidemic cards there are, the harder the game gets because this happens more often.

It requires a lot of foresight and strategy if you want to win, as you always have to be aware of what cities are potentially going to be drawn, and if you get close to the end you need to remember that there are only a set number of turns. Each player has a different ability that they can use, so we have found that it can be easier to play with more people, as this gives you access to more abilities. However, in the games I have played, we have both won and lost with 2, 3, and 4 people playing. It can certainly be tough depending on the game.

And that's why I'm rating it 4 stars. I really like the game, and, as a side note, the physical game itself is outstanding. The box is very sturdy with spaces inside for all the pieces and cards. The cards are sturdy and the player pieces and "disease cubes" are all beautiful (everyone comments on how nice the components are). However, the game play can vary greatly. Sometimes you'll win easily, sometimes you'll win at the last second, sometimes you'll get crushed early, sometimes you'll lose just when you think you've won it. This can be a good and bad thing. I like that there's no way to "figure it out" and win every time, but it would be nice if it wasn't as random. (I suppose you could decide where to put the Epidemic cards in the deck, but we haven't tried that.) I played with my brother once and we won very easily, and now he's convinced that it is too trivial.

All in all, I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging co-op game.
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on January 2, 2017
  Pandemic Board Game

Overview
Pandemic is a cooperative game where you’re working together to cure diseases and prevent a worldwide pandemic. If disease spreads too far, you lose. If you find cures for all of the diseases and eradicate them you win. There are multiple roles you and your team mates can play, each with unique powers that allow you to work around the rules in a specific way.

Pros:
There is a high sense of urgency and tension in the game. Working against the game to win in time really draws you into the theme.

The cooperative aspect of this game is great if you're not in the mood to play against your friends and family. Playing as a team can create a great bond with the other players, especially when you get down to that last nail-biting turn.

High level of difficulty and replay-ability, with rules to make the game harder once you've mastered the basic game.

This game really makes you work together to win. If everyone just does their own thing, you will lose for sure. The rules even encourage discussion before making any actions.

It really does an excellent job of making the game a challenging opponent. The game's "AI", that is, the way you draw cards and spread the diseases through "outbreaks" means that the game is very difficult without requiring a player to make decisions.

Cons:
The game can be very hard, even on the easiest setting. I have yet to actually win the game, even with six plays under my belt.

Be prepared to lose the first few plays.

Mood: Thinky, Cooperative, Strategic
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on June 28, 2017
When I first saw this game I had never actually heard of cooperative games. I read a bit about the concept and I thought to myself that it all seemed a bit pointless – playing games is about winning and how do you win if you don’t have someone to beat? I know that solo games such as solitaire are geared towards beating the system, but to me that’s because you don’t have a human to go up against (and ideally mash). I’m sure I’m not the only one whose family background was board games when it rains, with a win at all costs attitude instilled at an early age – it’s just what you did!

But then I thought about it. I love my wife so why do I always want to pulp her when we bring out the old favourites? I thought to myself that it might be a better idea if we face things together, a kind of extension on how couples are supposed to be. So I bought Pandemic as a Christmas present for her (me!), not knowing very much about it at all or if we would enjoy it. But hey, need to shop for present: box ticked!

We took our time learning the rules, but they aren’t too hard to grasp and we played a few easier levels and then dived into the toughest one. When we lost there was no finger pointing and when (if!) we won it was a very affirming experience for us as a team. I really have to recommend this game; it’s given me a taste for an unexpected evolution in game development and now I’m looking at other things out there too.

But we still play the old stuff like Ludo and Risk, and she still hammers me in chess…
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