When comparing Pandemic vs Terraforming Mars, the Slant community recommends Pandemic for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Pandemic is ranked 2nd while Terraforming Mars is ranked 11th. The most important reason people chose Pandemic is:
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.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro One of the first games to implement full co-op gameplay, Pandemic remains one of the defining examples of the genre
Pro Lots of replayability thanks to each playthrough being unique
With multiple player roles (Pilot, Scientist, Doctor, etc) to choose from and the card draw that infects areas at random, 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.
Pro Easy to learn but still provides a challenge
Learning the rules doesn't take long at all, and within a few rounds, most players will be able to pick up what's going on. Even though the general game flow and rules are quick to understand, there is still plenty of nuances to gameplay, little tricks you'll be learning along the way, and plenty of different roles to choose from which allow room for in-depth strategies.
Pro Creates a sense of urgency thanks to the Infection Deck
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.
Pro 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. Each expansion is easy to pick up and play as it offers something new while keeping the base game familiar.
Pro Exciting feeling of progression
The constant anticipation and sense that you're working towards a goal is very pronounced. At the start of the game, you'll have limited money and resources, but as the game progresses and these resources accumulate, you can start to do more and more things each turn. Seeing your strategy slowly start to pay off as your corporation grows, and knowing you'll soon have the resources to unleash your big play helps to keep you excited for the next round.
Pro Theme and gameplay gel well
Pro Huge amount of strategy
Juggling your resources, money, and production against your opponent's actions as you try to satisfy the win conditions (getting the oxygen, temperature, and ocean coverage to their desired levels) can be pretty intense. Always having to think several turns ahead will definitely appeal to people who like a game that makes them strategize and prioritize. Choosing which cards to buy each round, what to spend your resources on, and how to terraform the planet without giving too much leeway to your opponents creates plenty of situations to outplay others.
Pro Loads of replayability
There are over 200 unique project cards in the game that represent all of the terraforming projects available such as introducing plant or animal life, greenhouses, new buildings, and more.
Since you'll be drawing random cards in a random order each time you play, each and every game session turns into a unique experience. Even if you've seen a card in a previous session, the conditions on the board (oxygen levels, temperature, and ocean coverage) will most likely be different than the last time you saw that particular card, meaning you'll be calculating the cost vs. benefit of playing that card in a brand new way.
Additionally, each player-controlled corporation has its own specialties. Some examples are being able to substitute certain resources for money, or perhaps having an increase in production for specific resource. Each one plays dramatically different from the others, so something as simple as choosing a new corporation on your next playthrough will change your strategies.
Pro Great balance in the game systems
The win condition states the oxygen, ocean levels, and temperature must reach a certain level. However, all three of these parameters are interconnected with one another, meaning you'll have to focus on all of them rather than just trying to brute force one.
For example, if you want to build a water production facility, you will need at least 2 ocean tiles in play. But in order for those ocean tiles to come into play, the oxygen and temp will first have to be satisfactory.
Overall, the game systems are very deep and complex, but the takeaway is that everything has a condition that needs to be met that is reliant upon all three parameters. This results in a very balanced experience where you need to pay heed to everything equally if you want to succeed.
Pro Lots of great expansions
There are several expansion packs which add new moons and planets for you to terraform. The rules and game flow is the same as the vanilla game, but they add new cards and corporations. The most interesting twist is that the board layouts are completely different for each expansion - with heat sources, oceans, etc in vastly different spots. They are an excellent addition that take the fun and excitement of the base game while giving you an all new playing field full of new possibilties.
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.
Con Won't appeal to competitive PvP players
Everyone works together in Pandemic, so there is no dominating or crushing your opponents in this game. This may not appeal to some competitive gamers who would prefer to play games that allow them to best other players.
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.
Con Games can feel very long and drawn out
The sheer amount of things that need to be tracked is fairly high, and continually grows in complexity as the game goes on. Keeping track of cards in play, actions, awards, milestones, map, resources, money, etc. can lead to some intense calculations. Most players will want to carefully ponder their strategy each turn, and the end result is a game that often seems like it comes to a grinding halt.
Con Not suited for large groups
Regardless of how many players you have, getting the oxygen, temperature, and ocean levels to their goal level to satisfy the win condition is the exact same. The more players you add to this equation, the longer the game will take as each person has to contemplate and think their strategy each turn. As such, this game is best played in only very small groups and doesn't lend itself well to larger parties.
Con The board is flimsy
The game board itself is very thin cardboard with no linen finish, and tends to dent easily. After enough wear and tear, the game tokens/pieces won't stay in place due to the lumps and pockets that form in the cardboard. The board must be handled carefully at all times due to its low quality or you risk damaging it.
Con Game pieces are cheap and wear down easily
The little game cubes (the tokens/pieces that represent resources) are coated with a metallic finish that chips and wears away easily. This leaves you with some rather ugly game pieces with flaking and peeling paint, especially in the corners.