Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pandemic - Keeping the World Safe One Game at a Time

Pandemic is a cooperative game about the unfortunate spread of 4 disease types across the world. The world itself consists of various cities on our home planet Earth. Before the players get into the game, they are dealt their roles in the game which consist of the Medic, Dispatcher, Scientist, Researcher, and Operations Expert. Each player will also receive a pawn that they will place in the North America region on Atlanta, Georgia. A research station also goes here, thus why all the players must start at the first research station. There are two gauges on the board for infection rate and an outbreak indicator. Outbreaks start at 0 and the infection rate starts at 2, which represents how many infection cards are to be drawn on each turn. Players then receive player cards based on the number of people in the game. A four player game is two cards, three player is three cards, and two player is four cards. The remaining player cards are then taken and divided into piles based on the level of difficulty your team chooses to play at. Introductory games get four piles, normal games have five, and the heroic game mode has six. For each of these piles an Epidemic card is shuffled in. The piles are then put back together to form the main draw pile. The final setup moment is when the infection sites are established. Three cards are drawn from the infection pile for the first three cities to be infected. Each of these cities gets three cubes to indicate infection. Three more infection cards are drawn and each of those cities receives two cubes. The last drawn set of three then gets one cube per city. Play order is determined by who was most recently sick.

Every player on their turn has three tasks to complete. They must take four actions, draw two player cards to add to their hand, and then take on the role of the infector. The infector’s role is to draw the current infection rate number of cards and then add a cube to each of the cities they draw. Cities may each only have three cubes. If a city already has three cubes then one cube must be added to each city around or connected to it, indicating an outbreak has occured. If an outbreak happens, the outbreak indicator must be moved up one. The basic actions a player can take per turn consist of driving straight to a connected city, using a player card to directly fly there, move directly between research stations, and use a player card to fly anywhere. There are also special actions as well consisting of building a research station, discovering a cure, treating a disease, and sharing knowledge (a player card). Curing a disease consists of a player taking a single cube off of the space they are on. Sharing knowledge allows players to trade player cards they currently have to help with curing the diseases present in the game. When a player has taken four of these actions, they may draw two more player cards. The player cards are predominantly locations on the map in which a team member must collect five of to cure a disease, which may only happen at a research station. There are a few other special event cards one may receive that can be saved to help the team effort when needed. As mentioned earlier, the third step is to become the infector.

The driving force in the game and the reason for the difficulty levels is the epidemic card. These are the cards that can turn up randomly at any point in the player card deck and cause some serious game drama. When a player draws this card they must first increase the infection rate meter. It starts out at two but can easily go up to three or four, meaning cities will be infected faster. The next step is to infect more places. The player must take the bottom card from the infection draw pile and add three cubes to that city. Finally, all the infected cards that have been discarded must be shuffled and added to the top of the infection draw pile. That’s right, places that have already been infected can be infected again. There are actually three ways to lose the game, two of which are when you run out of either the disease cubes or the player cards. The third is when the eighth outbreak occurs. To win this game, all four cures must be discovered.

This game is fascinating simply because it is a cooperative board game. That still kind of blows my mind that a cooperative board game exists. Not to mention the fact that it is an excellent one. For starters, you are presented with a map of the planet you live on. However minor it may be, I do feel that it invokes empathy to the whole situation. It’s a real place that you have to protect. The actions you take on your turn have can affect the other players. For example if you want to give a city card to another player, you both have to be in that city for one person to get the card. The roles everyone receives are also very important to this game. I was the Scientist both times I played which allowed me to only need four player cards for a cure. Quite a bit of both games were focused on transferring more cards to me. Equally to getting cards for the Scientist to cure diseases was getting the Medic to as many places as possible. The Medic has the ability to remove all the disease cubes from a city in one action. There is also a Dispatcher which can move any other player where he likes. Basically the whole dynamic of having different roles is the strategy. You have to know what others are capable of and how to work together. Hence, it is a cooperative game.

This game was published by Z-Man Games and designed by Matt Leacock. If you would like to take a further look, even check out the rule book, all can be found at this website: http://www.zmangames.com/boardgames/pandemic.htm .

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