Published on April 12th, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
WHO Doesn’t Want Pandemic
Gregg Explains: Pandemic
This is probably the second game I was ever exposed to where the idea of “everyone either wins together, or loses together” was introduced to me. Pandemic is definitely a resource and time crisis management game. No turns can be wasted, and paying attention to what’s going on, who has what, as well as figuring out synergies with the different roles can make your function like a well oiled machine, or a pack of Three Stooges impersonators. Personally, we play a style of the game where we fan out all but the “bad guy” or antagonist roles, and have every player draw two roles face-down, then select from those which they will be, allowing for discussion once everyone’s drawn their initial pair of role cards. Pandemic can go really fast, or nail-bitingly slow, depending on what’s drawn, and how hard you make the game.
In our first match we were waiting around for a fifth person to participate. As time and luck would have it, the fifth showed up just before a full turn completed, so we added them in at the end of the turn order without any real issues. Matt “The Favorite” selected the Troubleshooter, a role that lets you zip around the board without consuming the precious location cards you need to travel to various epidemics breaking out all over the world; they can also preview what disasters are coming up, so people can plan appropriately. Dave played the Scientist, the role that needs one less card to develop a cure for diseases. Travis played the Medic, who removes all the disease tokens from a location in a single action, saving actions, as well as removing disease while moving should a cure be discovered. Stacey “Why’s Your Face?” was the Epidemiologist, who can take non-matching location cards on their turn, during a normal card swap action. I got the Field Operative, who can once per turn take a disease token from their location and place it on their role card, taking it out of circulation. With the Operative you can turn in three set-aside tokens of the same color in addition to three appropriate cards of the same color to find a cure. At any time, you can transfer the tokens on your card to the pool, but not vice-versa.
How’d it play out? Well, we had massive outbreaks in South America and Africa that just caused a pandemic, thus losing the game. A rapid game that just had rotten luck, despite our best judgement calls. Still, there were laughs, and we did what we could with the roles we chose. The second game ran a lot better but it was down to the wire as far as victory goes. One of the losing conditions of the game is if the primary draw pile is empty, the players lose. With one turn to spare, we chained some special events, and made judicial use of role abilities.
This time, I ended up as the Troubleshooter, zipping around and playing as a way point. Matt’s role was the Dispatcher, a person who can spend their actions moving other player tokens and zip people to where they needed to be. Travis once again managed to get the Medic who was made incredibly powerful due to the synergy of Matt being a Dispatcher. Dave was the Containment Specialist, who removes one disease token from any location they move into as long as there’s two or more tokens there- which also applies when you’re moved by another player. Stacy was the Operations Expert, who can make a Research Station without having the matching location card. They also have the ability to transport to any location by discarding any card while at a Research Station. By planning our moves expertly and moving people about we kept things to a more manageable situation, with only two outbreaks happening. Still, this game was ramped up by using the Virulent Strain challenge rules. This means that every time a new outbreak would happen, special and terrible rules would kick in, making nothing safe.
There are other options to ramp up or lower the difficulty. Normal epidemic cards just add a bunch of disease tokens to the map, and can potentially trigger outbreaks. Virulent strains add nasty bonus mechanics that make it harder to handle the default disease mechanics. Then there’s the Mutation which adds an odd fifth disease strain. With each of the previous three, you can raise or lower the difficulty just by using more or less epidemic cards. The two games we played used six normal epidemic cards, while the second round used five virulent strain cards. The Bio Terrorist role adds a B-Team or nemesis faction to the team play, a concept included in other games like Battlestar Galactica, the Fury of Dracula, or Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game. Other expansions to the game add different roles, and even “fix” weak roles from the original set. My group of friends find the world can surge into an epidemic of catastrophic proportions on its own, without the aid of the antagonist player(s).
(Editor’s Note: I sincerely apologize for the pun in the title. I just couldn’t resist. -Luke)