So, have you ever had a cold? Well, ok, that’s a bit silly. Of course you have.

Have you ever had a cold that spreads rapidly across the globe, has a high mortality rate, and has no known cure? No? Great! You get to play a game about it instead!


If you have … kindly don’t touch anything and show yourself out.


The Premise

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Reality Check

To truly grasp the meaning of the game, it’s helpful to understand what a pandemic is. When you get sick, that’s a disease. When a lot of people get sick, it’s an epidemic. When that “area” is the size of a continent – or the planet – that’s a pandemic. Pandemics are really bad for us humans. We’re pretty good at a lot of things: we’re adaptable to almost any environment, we have no natural predators, and we’ve invented all sorts of amazing things from wheels to spacecraft to pizza. Nature loves to throw pesky diseases at us to try to even the score though; nature sees disease as human brushfire.  To wit, here’s a look at the top four pandemics ever to affect the human race:

4. Malaria: Although now mostly just in the tropics, malaria still affects upwards of 500 million people a year. There is no cure, and it’s hard to treat. Over a million people died during the American Civil War alone from it, and it was one of the primary causes of the fall of Rome.

3. Smallpox: Smallpox showed up continuously. It was prevalent in Athens in 430 BC, killing 20% of the population, and again in 165-180 CE during the Roman Empire, killing 5 million people – including two Emperors. It took out about 1/3rd of the population of Japan in the 730s, essentially becoming a mainstay of Eurasia and Africa by that point. Oh, and let’s not forget that in conjunction with other factors and diseases, Smallpox played a large factor in European settlement of the Americas causing the collapse of the Aztecs, the Incas, and 80-90% of Native Americans. (Repeat in Australia.) It was still affecting tens of millions even into the mid-20th century.

Total worldwide losses: 300-500 million.

2. The Spanish Flu: Truly worldwide, the 1918 influenza strain affected almost 30% of the planet in six months. Or about 500 million people. Of that, recent estimates put the toll between 50 and 100 million deaths. The scariest part was that there was no cure; it just subsided.

1. Bubonic Plague: Oh you know this one, don’t you. The Black Death. 75-200 million people died in 14th century Europe alone. Half of Europe – gone. Yet it wasn’t the only time the plague attacked. The First Epidemic affected the Byzantine Empire in the mid 6th century, leading to the death of 25% of the entire eastern Mediterranean alone and totaled about 100 million worldwide.  The Third Epidemic happened in the 1850s in China. That lasted a hundred years but “luckily” only claimed about 12 million lives.


So, good. You’re prepared to play. Smallpox took 200 years of vaccination and global effort to eradicate. You and your team have an hour to do it four times.

You and your fellow players are members of a well-equipped team working together to isolate, contain and cure four different deadly diseases that are spreading around the world. Using a variety of tools at your disposal, you must rush against time to find cures for each contagion or humanity is doomed.


Rule Synopsis

Pandemic is a cooperative game in the truest sense. You are a team of folks who must rely on each other to save the world. At the start of the game, each player draws a role card that grants special abilities (i.e. the Medic role can help remove disease from cities, but the Scientist can cure a disease easier), as well as a handful of cards that correspond to cities around the world. The board is a stylized world map, divided into four color-coded regions. Each of the four diseases the players are tasked with curing corresponds to a specific map region. Several cities begin the game infected. The cities affected are determined by drawing cards from the Infection deck. Cities affected are denoted by placing colored disease squares upon them.

Each player has have a number of actions they can take, including a moving about the board, treating an infected city, and ultimately, discovering a cure.

To cure, a player must collect five location cards of a single color and deliver them to research station. The game begins with one research station (the CDC) in Atlanta, but more can be built across the globe. If players can cure all four colors, they win. But the colored location cards are a finite resource. Each city has one corresponding card in the deck, and players are required to draw two cards from this deck each turn. Players must be careful not be wasteful.

But that’s not all! Randomly inserted into this city deck are trigger cards that simulate new incidents somewhere on the map. This speeds up the global infection rate – and the players’ demise.

Lastly, the active player flips over cards from the Infection Deck and infecting the cities indicated. As cities can only hold a finite amount of disease, this can cause outbreaks in adjacent cities. Of course, this can cause game-ending chain reactions if players are not both careful and lucky.


Not a Moment to Waste

Pandemic, provided they’re willing to get into the experience, is amazing for Immersionists. The game is a refreshing take on a potential apocalypse that isn’t zombie related. Players have specific roles on the team, and you can really feel the tension of the board state at times. Your collective decisions can make or break the outcome of the game. Now, you can take it a step further if you’d like and do what we do at the Cardboard Republic: come up with ridiculous names for the four diseases to give them added weight. Curing “Explosive Amnesia” or “Cullen-ism” is far more rewarding and entertaining than curing “Blue”. Plus, wouldn’t you want to rid the world of those?

It appears that Hipster Pox is spreading to Europe…







These flavorful distractions are likely the only ones you’re to have in this game, though. Due to the continually changing game state, Tacticians will enjoy being kept on their toes as they calculate the team’s way forward. While options vary from game session to game session, players will need to focus on strategy continuously and proceed with clearly defined options. There’s not a lot of room for trial-and-error. Needless to say, efficiently executing a plan to the finish line is the Striker’s wheelhouse – and accommodating that style is not easily done in most Co-op games for that Archtype.

On the contrary, Daredevils may often find themselves unfulfilled. Likewise, even though the game is quick, Socializers might be flummoxed as the vast majority of conversation will be game-related. Architects could also find the game mixed: on the one hand, they can’t hoard resources, but on the other, they have a sense of build up as their group expands across the globe. It could be enough to scratch the Civ itch.


The Takeaway

Pandemic has a reputation for being one of the most fun games you’ll ever lose, and in that it doesn’t disappoint. You will have crushing defeats as well as tense victories. This is all for the best, as those moments will give you a sense of accomplishment within the game. Win or lose, there is rarely a moment that you don’t play with a sense of purpose, and it’s that intrinsic balance of player camaraderie and the element of surprise that will keep you coming back. It’s fast-paced, engaging, relatively short, and you get to save the world (maybe). What’s not to like?


Cardboard Republic Snapshot Scoring (Based on scale of 5):
Artwork: 3
Rules Clarity: 4.5
Replay Value: 5
Physical Quality 2.5
Overall Score: 4.5

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