Pandemic is a co-op board game where the players take on the role of workers for the CDC racing to cure four diseases spreading around the world before they spread to far and destroy the world.
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Pro One of the first games to implement full co-op gameplay, Pandemic remains one of the defining examples of the genre
When it was first released Pandemic's co-op gameplay was a pretty unique aspect to boardgames and made for a different and fun experience where either all players won or lost as a team. As the board gaming hobby has grown over the years fully co-operative games have become an entire genre and yet Pandemic remains one of the defining examples of the style. With a base game that is consistently difficult, even for veteran players, and an engaging and interesting theme to draw players in, this is a game where working together to achieve victory is almost an art form.
Pro Excellent design keeps each experience unique and gives this game a large amount of replayability
With multiple player roles to choose from and the unique way that areas are randomly infected, each playthrough is an entirely different experience. Pandemic also has multiple expansions adding more player roles and even a traitor mechanic which can turn the game from fully co-op to 1 vs many, adding an additional challenge for the good guys to overcome. All of this combines in a game that will continue to get played even years after being purchased.
Pro Design and gameplay successfully pulls players in and makes them feel as though they are saving the world
One of Pandemic's greatest mechanisms is the way the Infection Deck is managed. Each turn players reveal a number of city cards from this deck equal to the current infection level (2-4), this determines where new infections will appear. Players also draw 2 cards each turn from the Player Deck, which has a variable number of Epidemic Cards mixed in based on the difficulty level. The brilliance of the infection deck is how it interacts with Epidemic cards; when one is drawn from the player deck the Infection Deck's discard pile is shuffled, and then placed on top of the current Infection Deck, making it more likely that cities that have previously had outbreaks will have them again. This creates a very real sense of urgency as the first draw after an Epidemic Card can often result in outbreaks and a rapidly accelerating spread of diseases. It is this mechanic that allows Pandemic to successfully pull off a very in depth experience that creates a large sense of self involvement in a made up world.
Pro There is variety. The different editions/expansions stay true to the Pandemic experience yet offer something fresh each time.
For example, in Pandemic Iberia, your movement is much more limited therefore you have to invest in building railways and the diseases cannot be cured, only researched. They will continue to infect even after being researched.
Con Can suffer from Alpha-gamer / quarterbacking issues
Due to the nature of co-op games like Pandemic, a strong willed or loud player can end up dictating everyone else's turns for them, especially in situations where there are clearly better decisions to be made. This can lead some people to feel like they aren't actually 'playing' so much as being told what to do.
Pandemic is a pretty difficult game, there will be a lot of losses compared to wins. Though when there is a win it does feel righteously earned.