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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 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 January 16, 2016
2 people with doctorates, one with a masters degree and me, and we COULDN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO PLAY IT.
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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 February 19, 2014
I bought this game to play with my college graduate friends, and we all lost interest after about an hour. This game has such complexity that you must absorb a ridiculous set of rules - but that complexity does not add to the fun factor... This is why we were unable to "get into the game." I was unable to introduce a single person to this game, never mind a small group of people, which is pretty much required for a fun time. If this was toned down and a little more simple, I would not be returning it. The fun factor is overshadowed by the rule book.
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on May 1, 2017
Pandemic is the only global strategy board game I've ever seen that is cooperative rather than competitive. Everyone is on a team together trying to stop 4 simultaneous regional disease outbreaks (each represented by one of 4 colors) from turning into global pandemics. You're working together to treat the diseases in major cities and find a cure.

A few of the basic mechanics will be familiar to strategy gamers. Each player has a playing piece. There are decks of cards that allow actions and events to occur (some must be done immediately, others are up to the player). Small colored playing pieces represent objectives on the board that need to be dealt with successfully to win the game.

The initial set-up is very straightforward, and can be done while reading the rules for the first time. In other words, it's a game you can play while learning, which greatly adds to how quick it is to get started. You start with 9 cities having been infected by the diseases, some highly infected and others just barely touched by the diseases.

Each turn triggers further spreading of infections from a deck of infection cards, and major epidemics can be triggered that dramatically increase the rate of infection. Another deck provides each player with 2 player cards each turn, which give them events (which they control when to use), cities (which they can use for travel or for finding cures if a player has 5 cities of the same color), or the potentially disastrous epidemics (depending on the desired difficulty of the game, there can be 4, 5, or 6 epidemics spread throughout this deck).

One of the most fun-adding aspects of the game is the player roles. Each player is randomly assigned a role that gives him or her special abilities, such as being a scientist that can find cures easier (with 4 city cards of the same color, rather than 5), or being an expert in disease containment, or in building research facilities, to name just three. Some players might prefer to pick the roles themselves, but playing with them randomly assigned (as the game is designed) is a lot of fun too.

In the words of game master-designer Sid Meier, one of the keys to creating fun in a game is presenting players with interesting choices. Some of the features that make the game Pandemic hard, but very interesting and fun, involve putting players in a bind where choices are not easy and have big consequences.

One of these is interesting choices is presented in the way cards are traded. The game allows players to trade cards (after all, it is a cooperative game), but makes it pretty difficult to do. Both players need to be in the same city, and one of them has to have the city card associated with that city, to trade that city card. Many times while playing we have been tempted to adjust this rule and remove just one of those 3 requirements to make it easier, but it works well as designed. Because it is so hard to trade cards, this presents interesting choices such as whether it is worthwhile to try to get 4 cards of a color to the Scientist to find a cure, or to wait and see if other players can get 5 of a color instead.

Why would this matter? Because the game also has a really short timer. One of the ways to lose the game is to run out of cards in the player deck, which of course runs down faster when there are more players. So unless players really step up their cooperation, more players can actually make the game harder to win. We have played with 2, 3, and 4 players (the max it is designed for), and with 4 players this timer ran out just one round before we would have won the game (by researching cures to all 4 diseases). I have to confess that we cheated a little and reshuffled the deck for the win. It was the first time we had ever gotten so close to winning - usually we have cascading outbreaks that quickly overwhelm our ability to contain them.

Which leads to my last brag about this game. The way the outbreaks and epidemics were designed is positively brilliant. It reminds me of video games, where you see chain reactions get triggered, or Old School video games where the pace increases with each level. I have never seen a board game that so elegantly imitates this feature of electronic games, but Pandemic does it beautifully. Every time an epidemic is triggered, the cities that have already been infected get reshuffled into the TOP of the infection deck, and the # of infection cards played per turn moves up a notch. This little (but hugely important) feature means that the cities that are already affected are the ones where the heat is going to be turned up the most (very true to real life epidemics). The other stroke of genius in the game design that makes this so exciting (or dismaying, if you're struggling to keep up with treating infections) is that whenever a city reaches a threshold of infection cases, it infects every city adjoining it (termed an outbreak). If those adjoining cities in turn also have already reached that same threshold, a chain reaction can occur where more cities adjoining THEM are also infected. Each time an outbreak occurs, a counter on the outbreak scale is moved; another way to lose the game is to have too many outbreaks. The third way to lose the game is to run out of counters for infectious cases.

Like I said, most of the times we've played the game, we have lost, but we've never failed to have fun playing it. Unlike most global strategy board games, the playing time can be under an hour, though we've had games last an hour and a half. We've played with adults, teens, and kids as young as 10. The game encourages players to discuss options and collaborate in making decisions. They can advise one another, but ultimate decisions on choices are left to whomever's turn it is. My ten-year old son never felt ignored or like he was getting beaten (or patronized), which happens a lot when he's competing against older siblings. Instead, he felt like a valuable part of the team, with a special ability no one else had and that was needed for our team to win the game.

We got Pandemic as a gift from one of my siblings, and it's one of the best games on our shelf. We still haven't beaten the game yet without cheating (a little), but we're having fun, and we feel like we're alllmost there.
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Top Contributor: Board Gameson February 10, 2017
I love Pandemic. I originally picked it up because I got Pandemic Legacy for a very, very good price, and in the directions they tell you to play a few games of the original first to get your feet wet, so I bought it. This is probably one of my favorite games. I play anywhere from 1 to 4 players, while playing alone I'll play 2 rolls.

Be warned, you won't win. Out of 17 games, I have a 29% win ratio on it. The game normally wins, but that is part of the fun of the game, when you win as a team it feels more of a victory.

This is a co-op game, all players are on the same team and work together, and because of that, you can get the Alpha-Gamer in the group that tells you how things should be done, so just be aware of that. I've never had that occur, we all gives our onions and if needed vote.

It is highly recommended that you also pick up the Pandemic on The Brink Expansion Board Game (2nd Edition) with this copy. It adds nice storage, better rolls, smaller tokens, along with more ways to play. Even if you don't play the expansion what it does add to the main game is nice.
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on September 5, 2017
We bought this as a family game. We had never played a cooperative game before. In fact, our family is very competitive and we love games, but we just could not imagine a game where the players were cooperating with one another. We all win, or we all lose - What!?! It made no sense and definitely didn't sound very fun (i.e., competitive). We were WRONG!!! Pandemic is a very fun game, and it is very competitive, but the competition is in trying the beat the game together. The first time we played it (on the easiest setting), we thought we were doing well and the game was too easy, but then the cards (time) ran out and we lost!!! That was all we needed to get our competitive juices flowing and wanting to play again and again! We weren't going to let some game beat us! There is only 1 way for the players to win, but 3 different ways for the game to win. We now regularly beat the game about 50% of the time on the easy setting, 33% of the time on the medium setting, and we've never won at the hardest setting. Another factor for us is that our family consists of 5, but the game plays only up to 4 players, so we delayed purchasing it for over a year, but finally made the plunge. We now regularly play it with 5 players (using 2 cards like with a 4 player game). The game doesn't seem harder or easier with the 5th player. Our success rate is about the same if we play with 4 or 5 players. We found out that we also love cooperative games! Pandemic is a great game - cooperative, competitive, and tense!
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on March 20, 2013
I love this game -- I played it at a friend's place and bought it the next opportunity I had. However, as has been mentioned in other reviews, there's a misprint in this edition. My board is missing the line between Lagos and Sao Paulo.

Z-Man games has been utterly unresponsive to my inquiry about this, however.

I'm currently three weeks in with nothing more than an automated response to my initial request to them, as well as a follow-up about a week ago. I'd say "buyer beware" applies pretty heavily here -- you can buy a Z-Man game, but don't expect them to do anything about it if something is wrong with it.
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Top Contributor: Petson 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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