Many hands make light work. A saying that goes back a long way, but not nearly as long as sickness, I’m sure. Disease has always been the bane of mankind, striking fear into those that know the symptoms and not the cure. There must have been a caveman that correlated a cough with sickness. A caveman that paved the way for science to discover vaccines and treatments to battle the plagues that ravaged mankind. Of course, he probably took a more direct route to eliminate the spread of disease by clubbing the one that coughed to death. Cough drops wouldn’t be invented for thousands of years, and an itchy throat is a real drag. But, getting the cougher backed into a corner and taking them down by oneself can be difficult. That’s why many hands make light work. Fast forward a bit, and you get a game based on the history of illness, virus, and plague. You get Pandemic.
Pandemic, designed by Matt Leacock and released by Z-Man Games in 2008, is a co-op board game that tells the tale of 4 viruses spreading across the world at a drastic rate. They outbreak quicker than zits on a teen’s face and cause more and more damage, infecting city after city until the population of Earth is a memory. Luckily, there are a few people out there that are working together to put a stop to this scourge. Are they superheros or friendly aliens? Time travelers from an alternate universe sent by robot leaders to lend a hand? No, they’re regular, good, old fashioned humans working together, using their skills to figure out how to cure and eliminate the problem. Go, humans!
These people have specific roles and skills that contribute to the group and achieving their goal. Originally, there were only 5 possibilites, but the recent re-release added 2 new roles, all of which help the rest of the group to get around the board, cure disease, wipe out infections quicker, and more. What’s wonderful about a co-op game is that you’re working together to beat an opponent that physically isn’t there. The opponent is a mix of luck of the draw and the players’ abilities (or lack thereof) to work together to figure out the best course of action to annihilate that which would annihilate mankind unless you can cure all 4 viruses before time runs out.
Another wonderful thing about Pandemic is the ease of introduction. As with any game, it’s always a plus to play your first 1 or 2 go arounds with an experienced player, but not having that benefit doesn’t make the initial game a chore to learn. Once you and your compadres give the instructions a read over, the assistance cards help you keep tabs on which options are available during a turn. Having a group to consult takes some of the pressure off of your shoulders, especially when an epidemic card is drawn. A card that causes havoc by adding cubes which represent the presence of virus to the areas that may or may not already be infected. If cities already infected to their limit are hit, an outbreak occurs and spreads to cities that have direct routes to the city that started the outbreak. Much like when someone starts a cute kitten memorabilia collection. Sure, it’s only for the mantle or wall in the guest bedroom . . . until it covers the bathroom, the fridge, and every other spot in the house not already taken up by necessities like the sink or toilet. But, having guests push their fingers into a grinning cat’s backside to ring the doorbell is a bit excessive.
It’s no wonder that this game is a multiple award winner and has spawned a re-release and 2 expansion options allowing players more chances to lose just when they think they’re going to win. This is a bit of a plus, because I’ve never had so much fun losing at a game. Like many other Z-Man releases, I’m giving this bad boy a hearty thumbs up. Just make sure to get inoculated before playing.
You can thank me later.