27th June 2021
Sunday is here and I'm logged into Board Game Arena.
Playing board games is a great way to escape your troubles and ignore what's been happening outside your window and across the globe for the past 2 years and to do that, we chose to play a game about not 1 pandemic, but 4 of them!
The first game of the evening was Pandemic.
What's in a game?
The components in Pandemic are all of a reasonable quality as you would expect, nothing feels particularly cheap. The pawns are made of plastic and not wood, but that's a trivial quibble. The other markers are constructed of satisfyingly thick plastic.
The plastic 3D research stations are a nice touch as are the colourful, translucent, acrylic disease cubes, it also makes them easier to pick up and move - which for the cubes will occur frequently.
Artwork on the board is functional more than pretty, which is fine and everything's easy to understand, the same is true of city and infection cards which show locations on the board as opposed to containing illustrations.
The small amount of artwork in the game mostly appears on role cards, which each have a good quality unique illustration that depicts their role, event cards also contain some unique artwork.
How's it play?
On to play
The turn structure for Pandemic is as follows: The active player has their turn, which consists of 4 actions, then they draw 2 cards from the player deck, finally the 'board' has its go. Once all of this has been completed, the player to the left becomes the active player.
Play continues until one of the following conditions is met.
If the marker on the outbreak track reaches its 8th and final space; the players collectively lose.
If, at any time a disease cube needs to be added to the board and none are available in that colour; the players lose.
If a player needs to draw 2 cards from the player deck and cannot do so because none or only one is available.... you guessed it; the players lose.
If all 4 diseases are cured, then the players immediately win. Diseases do not need to be eradicated in order to win.
Well, Pandemic.... what's there to say about this game?
Pandemic is a pillar of modern cooperative games that has been followed up not only by a slew of expansions and spinoffs, but also a number of differently themed games such as Horrified that employ similar mechanics.
Some of Pandemic's elements and mechanics may seem a bit trite nowadays, but that's simply because they're part of a game that popularised those mechanics in the first place and is a testament to Pandemic's longevity and influence.
Pandemic utilises the tried-and-tested game flow of alternating between player turns and card-driven board actions in a game that is a globe-trotting race against time. In a turn, players are faced with the difficult choice of trying to stem the spread of the 4 diseases or instead trying to interact with the other players and swap the cards necessary to cure those diseases. Ultimately, players will need to find a balance between the two approaches.
As with other cooperative games, bad luck may play a major role in Pandemic and mitigating that bad luck is vital to winning.
Decisive actions, recognising priorities and acting on them are also vital to success, as are knowing when to use role special abilities.
Pandemic is also hard, I think this comes down to Pandemic's rules for swapping city cards between players which requires them to be in that card's city in order to do so. It's unlikely players will be able to collect 5 cards of single colour on their own so coordination between players is vital.
We've played a few of the iterations that followed Pandemic and it always felt like this rule has been softened a little. Is that as bad thing, I suspect YMMV?
Pandemic does a good job at evoking the feel of a spreading global crisis and the desperate worldwide fight to contain it.
I have to admit, considering the events of the past 2 years, we haven't had much compulsion to play Pandemic. Even so and despite the difficulty, I feel that if you like cooperative games, it's still worth playing, it challenges players with making difficult decisions at nearly every avenue and is satisfying to win.
I play, I paint.