Welcome to the world of cooperative gaming. These type of games pose an entirely different challenge, where everyone at the table teams up to play against the game. It’s a turn of events and can bring a group together again after a game of attacking and stabbing each other in the back. Typically a good co-op game can be challenging for the whole group together, and it’s rarely one person’s fault for a loss.
Pandemic is such a game, and is fun to play with a group of light gamers. You are a team of specialists who are working together to stop viruses from spreading across the world. At the start of the game, four viruses start in four different countries, and as the game progresses, they spread exponentially unless you can get your team to eradicate them.
Each player will get a special ability, such as the ability to construct buildings, or move a bit further each turn, or cure more disease than the rest, and it’s important to evaluate where the rest of the team is, and where your abilities are needed when it becomes your turn. On your turn you have three phases: Actions, disease spreading with location cards, and picking up a bonus card.
The actions phase is pretty neat. You have the option of eight or so actions and get to pick four of them. You can do anything you like as many times as necessary, and switch it up every turn. If you need to move a long way, then choose the driving or flying actions. If you need to cure some disease, then choose that, or choose to trade a friend’s special location card. Either way, each turn will be different and you won’t know exactly what you need to do until it’s your turn.
Disease spreading happens every turn when you pick up a location card. This will tell you where to put a disease gem before you can continue onto the bonus cards. Be careful not to let a city get too full of disease, because if you need to put a fourth gem on a city, you instead start an outbreak. This causes all adjacent cities to also get a gem of that disease, making it that much harder to cure. You might ask what happens when an adjacent city also already has three gems. Unfortunately that’s the disease exponentially spreading, and it can happen fast.
But don’t worry, there are bonus cards that you pick up every turn that can do things like stop the spread for one turn, or cure extra viruses for one turn, however in this pile are also some outbreak cards, causing an epidemic to occur in a city. When you draw one of these, there are a series of steps before continuing on to the next turn, and you’ll notice the world is now filling with gems again.
So how does the game end? Well there is an outbreak counter on the side of the board that you increase with each outbreak. Too many outbreaks and the world is taken over and you all lose. But, if you can cure and/or eradicate the diseases before too many outbreaks, you all win and rejoice together in your victory.
Here is a suggestion: the first time I played, the rest of the table had already played, and it was a very easy and silly victory. It really turned me off from the game. I would suggest every player get to make their own decisions on their turn. Let them talk out what they want to do and let them execute it. If you feel very against one of their moves, tell them, but let each player attempt what they are thinking. This prevents one player from taking over the game. Since we started doing this, and playing with all six outbreak cards, we have yet to beat the game.
Pick up Pandemic for $30 on Amazon sometime, especially if you don’t already own a co-op game yet.