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What is Pandemic Game

Pandemic is a cooperative board game designed by Matt Leacock and first published by Z-Man Games in the United States in 2008. Pandemic is based on the premise that four diseases have broken out in the world, each threatening to wipe out a region. The game accommodates two to four players, each playing one of seven possible roles: dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher, operations expert, contingency planner, or quarantine specialist. Through the combined effort of all the players, the goal is to discover all four cures before any of several game-losing conditions are reached.

Three expansions, Pandemic: On the BrinkPandemic: In the Lab, and Pandemic: State of Emergency, co-designed by Matt Leacock and Tom Lehmann, each add several new roles and special events, as well as rule adjustments to allow a fifth player or to play in teams. In addition, several rule expansions are included, referred to as “challenge kits”.

Pandemic is considered one of the most successful cooperative games that has reached mainstream market sales, condensing the type of deep strategy offered by earlier cooperative games, like Arkham Horror, into a game that can be played in a limited time by a wider range of players.

Aside from expansions several spinoffs have been released, most notably the Pandemic Legacy series, which encompasses three seasons (Season 1, Season 2 and Season 0), which adds an ongoing storyline and permanent changes to the game. The Pandemic Legacy games have been received with critical acclaim, with Season 1 ranking 2nd place on BoardGameGeek out of approximately 22,000 games.

How to Play

The goal of Pandemic is for the players, in their randomly selected roles, to work cooperatively to stop the spread of four diseases and cure them before a pandemic occurs.

The game consists of a game board representing a network connecting 48 cities on a world map, two decks of cards (Player cards and Infection cards), four colors of cubes with 24 cubes each (each representing a different disease), six Research Stations, and a pawn for each role. The Player cards include cards with each city name (the same as those on the board); Event cards, which can be played at any time (except some events in expansions) to give the players an advantage; and Epidemic cards. Infection cards consist of one card for each city on the board and a color of the disease that will start there.

At the start of the game, Infection cards are randomly drawn to populate the board with infections, from 1 to 3 cubes for a number of cities. Players start at Atlanta, the home of the Centers for Disease Control, and are given a random role and a number of Player cards based on the number of players.

On each player’s turn, there are 4 actions to take up, consisting of any combination of the 8 possible actions (some of which require cards, including curing). After taking their actions, the player draws two Player cards, reducing their hand down to seven cards if necessary. If either draw is an Epidemic card, the player moves the Infection rate marker one space, draws a card from the bottom of the Infection deck and places three cubes on that city, puts that card into the Infection discard pile, reshuffles the discard pile, and places it back on top of the Infection deck (so that cards just drawn will come out again soon, unless another Epidemic follows shortly after). After the two Player cards are drawn (Epidemic or otherwise), a number of Infection cards are revealed (increasing throughout the game and corresponding to the Infection rate marker), and one cube of the indicated color is placed on each city drawn. Should a city already have three cubes and a new cube is to be added, an Outbreak occurs, and each interconnected city gains one cube of that color. This can create a chain reaction across many cities if several already have three disease cubes on them. After the infections are resolved, the player on the left has a turn.

The game is over if the players either win (by discovering the cure for all four diseases) or lose (by having 8 outbreaks, not having enough disease cubes of a color to place at any time, or not having enough Player cards when someone needs to draw).

To aid in winning the game, players are given roles that allow them to alter the above rules. Five roles were introduced with the original core game, with 7 in the 2nd edition, but additional roles were added through the game’s expansion. For example, the Medic is able to treat all cubes in a city with a single action or, once a cure for a disease has been found, can remove cubes of that color in the city he is in without spending an action, while the Scientist needs only four cards of the same color to discover the cure (instead of 5). The players are also helped by the Event cards, which allow for similar one-time actions, such as direct removal of a few disease cubes or immediate construction of a research station.

Pandemic requires all players to coordinate their efforts to win the game, specifically in gathering and sharing the necessary cards to discover cures while moving in coordination around the board and preventing Outbreaks in an efficient manner. However, a criticism of the game, dubbed “quarterbacking” is that there is a tendency for one player – the “alpha gamer” – to control the game. However, this is not limited to Pandemic – other cooperative board games can also suffer from quarterbacking.

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