Pandemic Review

Pandemic Review

Pandemic Review

Want details on the how Z-Man Games Pandemic plays?  Check out the Game Overview.  Want to know what we think of this game – keep reading below.

You are probably wondering why we are posting a review of this game. It’s been out for years! Since 2008, in fact.  There are a few reasons: Pandemics are still kind of topical at the moment, and if you can’t get away from them you might as well join them, in the safest possible way; we really like this game; and finally, not everyone is a lifetime gamer, and at Detective Hawk Games we want to offer help and resources to everyone, hard core gamers and new comers alike.  

With all of that in mind, here is our review of Pandemic, the base game.

The Game – Pandemic

Since it was launched in 2008 Pandemic has become a game franchise – there is a Pandemic for every taste and situation.  Each variation and expansion has their own pros and cons, but there Is nothing like the original. Pandemic is a fully cooperative game for 1-4 people and it takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour to play.

In Pandemic, you and your fellow players work for Centers for the Disease Control in Atlanta, GA.  It is your job to race around the world and find the cure for 4 diseases that are spiraling out of control.  These diseases are identified by color (Red, Black, Blue and Yellow) and occur in specific regions of the world – although they can spread.  Your job is to work with your team to find a cure – in this game by collecting 5 city cards that match the color of the disease and taking them (moving  your pawn to a research station) to create a cure. 

Game Components

Overall the game components are of high quality but basic. The cards are full color and have attractive artwork.  The physical pieces; pawns, research stations and colored cubes representing the diseases; while basic are of good quality and server their purpose.  The board itself is highly detailed and really shows off the cities and their associated diseases.  We really like the fact the board has a place for the player deck and the infection deck right on the board.  This helps keep game play organized.  

Game Setup

The game is straightforward to set up but the setup steps need to be performed in order, and the order is very important.  Make sure you follow the instructions so you don’t have to go back and start over – yes we have made that mistake maybe more than once.  

The player deck cards need to be dealt to the players first.  Then the remaining cards need to be divided equally and have the “Epidemic” cards added. This does take a few minutes, but it is not too bad.  

Next the base infections for your game are set out.  These come from the Infection deck – 3 groups of 3 cities get varying levels of infection.  This random start to the game often feels like it is setting you up for success or failure even before you perform your first action.  

According to the rules, you now randomly select your Roles.  There are lots of variations to this that can be employed if you want to feel like you have some more control over the game.  Sometimes we choose two each and reject one.  Sometimes we just pick which Roles we want to play based on how the board has laid out.  Random is more challenging, so the choice is yours.  

The rest of the setup just involves putting down markers and adding the pawns to Atlanta along with a research station. Then you are ready to save the world!

Game Play

Pandemic is a really fun game to play.  What we really like about this game is that it has a nice balance of risk vs reward.  “Do I throw away a city card I have in my hand to fly to Paris and treat disease, even though I may need it to cure the blue disease?” is a question you are bound to ponder.  Once you discard a player card, for the most part it is out of the game.  This is where that risk vs reward come in as you figure your game strategy.  You don’t want to discard too many of one color cards because that may mean you won’t be able to cure that disease.

Each of the Roles has certain special abilities that help your team achieve your goal.  The Operations Specialist can easily build Research Stations, so they can pop them up in the cities nearest to players ready to cure a disease.  We especially love playing the Scientist and Medic in the same game.  The Scientist can cure a disease with one less card in hand and the Medic can treat all of a disease in a city with only one action.  This can turn the tables in your favor as you battle those pesky disease cubes.  

Surprisingly, the one role that it took us time to learn to love was the Researcher.  We were wondering what good it was to be the one who trades cards with others… didn’t seem like much of a special ability.  Not so,  trading cards and moving them from one player to another is actually pretty awesome.  The Researcher’s ability to give or take any card at any time with another character and not have to be at that city, only in the same space as the other character, is amazing!  

There are three ways to lose Pandemic – hit 8 outbreaks, run out of player cards or run out of disease cubes – but only one way to win – cure all those diseases!

Overall Impressions

Pandemic is a great game for a game.  We love it for game night with groups who aren’t big gamers because it gets everyone working together.  Every Role has a useful specialty which makes every player integral to the success of the team  

We also really like the balance of the actions you can take and the potential consequences of your decisions.  You fly off to treat disease in Sydney only to have an outbreak happen at the end of your turn in the city you just left!  

If there were any gripes about this game it would be that it is really tough with just two players.  Turns out there is an easy solution to that – play an extra role.  When playing two player, we either share a third Role or play two roles each.  

The other thing to be prepared for, and this last year or so of real life pandemic should have prepared you for it, is that this game is designed for you to lose more than you win.  As you improve your play strategies and learn more about what could happen if I do this now and that later, you start to be more successful but there is always that dire risk of pulling an Epidemic card right as you are setting up for a cure and not making it.  

We Love

  • Cooperative Nature of the Game
  • Role Specialties make everyone feel involved and important
  • Great balance of actions for good risk vs reward

Could be better

  • Hard to play with two players – but add a third role to balance it out in a 2 player game
  • You loose a lot, especially at the beginning – Once you get the hang of it, the game becomes easier.

If you find you like this game, there are plenty of variations that use the same or similar mechanics but have been re-themed.  For example, Pandemic: Fall of Rome with the same basic mechanics but now you are racing around Europe trying to save Rome.  There are also expansions that add to the base game like Pandemic: On the Brink, bringing virulent strains and bio-terrorists into play.

There are also several campaign type, legacy versions of Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, Season 2 and Season 0.  These take the mechanics of Pandemic and expands the story telling aspect into a year long adventure played out one or two games per month.  Each Season is very different and are really fun to play.  We completed Season 1 in 2020 as a global Pandemic played out in real life and right now we are playing the prequel, Season 0 — which is really cool!

Can’t wait to get your own copy to start playing?  Check out our product page

To use the coupon you will need to order at least one copy of a game from the Pandemic series and have a Detective Hawk Games account. This offer is valid for one week from the time of this post and is limited to one use per account. 


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