Easy to teach, great for beginners.
Really hard to beat.
Can suffer from alpha player syndrome.
This is such a great game, I recommend it without hesitation. But that’s a bit short for a review so indulge me while I tell you why.
Designed by Matt Leacock and winner of numerous awards this is a cracking CO-OP game that by rights should be sitting alongside Monopoly on the shelves of every toy store. And there has never been a better time to jump on as its recently been reprinted with all new graphics and components and shiny cubes.
The set up for the game is pretty straight forward, everyone plays one of various roles working for the CDC out of Atlanta and together you have to cure all 4 of the viruses that are threatening to spread across the globe and bring about the end of times. I love this theme and If you’ve read The Hot Zone by Richard Preston or seen the movie Outbreak then you’re going to eat this up.
That idea alone is fantastic but what makes this game so great is the simple but brilliant mechanics that infect it. As you fight to slow down the spread of the diseases (in the game they are nifty looking little perspex cubes) by clearing them out with one of your 4 actions that turn, or chartering a flight to some third world disease infested hell hole or maybe building another aid station. But here’s the rub each turn you have to take cards from the infection deck that will cause the 4 viruses to randomly pop up somewhere.
Managing to keep them in check whilst simultaneously attempting to cure them is a struggle in itself, but to make things worse hidden somewhere in that deck are 4 (on the easy level, 7 on legendary) Epidemic cards.
When one of these nasty nasty cards are drawn everyone at the table winces and then even more viruses appear, if one hits an area that you haven’t yet cleared of bugs well then it can outbreak, spreading snotty death to neighboring cites and in some situations it can cause a chain reaction hopping city to city and usually ending your game shortly thereafter.
I’ve lost count the amount of times where its all been going swimmingly only for a small corner of the globe that a turn or two earlier only had a couple of cubes on it, suddenly to turn into a hot zone and in the process completely derailing any plans I had.
Boy this game is tough, but i love how a simple couple of decks of cards turn into this doomsday clock hanging over you, and somehow this inanimate object, a board game is outsmarting you, hows it doing that?
If I’ve made that sound complicated then trust me its not, the rule book for this thing is a handful of pages and really well designed and laid out. There’s a two page spread in it that pretty much tells you everything you need to know and for the first couple of games you can easily check it if you are uncertain. I’ve played this with the family and my 8 year old got it very easily and was playing alongside us and making decisions (so don’t get put off thinking all this talk of disease and death isn’t for the little ones).
And that’s it, if you want a better feeling for how this all works you can do a lot worse than checking out the Table Top episode where they played the game and if your not sold after that then I guess this just isn’t for you.
If however you enjoyed that there is more. There is already an update for Pandemic out called On The Brink. (yes board games can get patches)
This adds a bunch of optional rules that you can pick and choose to add to the game. Among them nastier virulent strains of the viruses, more job roles, an extra 5th virus (that does nasty stuff and can mutate) and also the option for somebody to play the part of a bio terrorist running around the globe causing the carnage. You also get some other cool stuff including little petri dishes to hold your viruses in and a cool insert so you can fit everything neatly into your original box.
Coming out in late August 2013 is also the latest addition – In The Lab
The full details still haven’t been released yet, but what I do know so far is it will include official solo rules for the game. An option to play as teams and score points. The Lab board and rules for it (sounds cool), scenarios to play and some more cards. Further expanding the core game and getting even more bug filled coolness.