Let’s talk about board games #1: Pandemic
I feel like we’ve reached a point where it’s cool to talk about board games. The cool kids might not bother with such things, as they’re too busy chillin’ in da club with the hookers and blow1. But for the rest of us, board games are a perfectly acceptable way to pass an evening [and I’m sure that their sudden rise in popularity is more than partially thanks to Wil Wheaton and the other folks at Geek & Sundry’s TableTop]. Recently, Glenn and I organised a board game retreat weekend with a group of friends [Nerdy Weekend 3.0]. We switched off completely, staying in the middle of nowhere with no internet or phone reception, and a big pile of games to keep ourselves occupied.
Where am I getting at with this attempt at writing something that vaguely resembles a blog post? Well, today I’d like to talk about a game called Pandemic. This was my first exposure the world of collaborative board games [where the players work together, rather than against each other], and I quite liked it.
The basic gist of Pandemic is that there are a bunch of diseases infecting the globe. With each turn, the infection spreads, and the players need to treat and eventually cure all of the diseases in order to win the game. Each player takes on a role [with an individual special ability], which helps them contribute to the team.
You all take turns to perform four actions [for example, travelling to a city, or treating an infection], and in between each turn a pile of cards determines where the infections spread. It gets tricky quite quickly, when infected cities “outbreak”, or when an Epidemic card is turned over. This all sounds incredibly complicated, I know. But the best way to understand how the game works is to either play it, or failing that, watch the relevant TableTop episode. It would be pointless for me to try to explain it all here, but you can read the rules on the game’s Wikipedia page.
There are many ways to lose Pandemic, but only one way to win: cure all of the diseases before the infections get out of hand. I’ve played the game three times now, and we’ve only won once. Luck certainly plays a part in the outcome, but strategy and teamwork are also really important. The first game I played, we were too focused on clearing infections, and didn’t think about finding cures early enough. The second game, we ran out of yellow cubes without even realising how bad things were. That loss might not have been completely preventable, but it could have been postponed had we been paying more attention to the board.
The most recent time I played Pandemic, we won. This time, we kept our focus on finding cures. It was a two player game, where we took on the roles of Scientist and Medic. The Scientist found cures, while the Medic managed outbreaks, and they occasionally worked together to exchange necessary cards. We had a defined strategy from the start, and it worked for us. But, things could have easily been different had the Epidemic cards come up more frequently, or at less convenient times.
If we ever get sick of the original gameplay2, there’s an expansion available that modifies the rules and adds some different roles and the option of having a player work against the team. Apparently there’s a second expansion due out later this year. While I’ve only played it a few times, and certainly haven’t exhausted the game just yet, it’s good to have the option to expand the gameplay in the future.
Pandemic introduced me to the world of collaborative board gaming, something that we did quite a bit of during our weekend away. I look forward to sharing more of the games that we played in the coming weeks. I’d also really like to hear any board game recommendations that you may have, as well as your own experiences [and strategies] playing Pandemic. Please do not hesitate to leave a comment below. Comments are awesome.
If I’ve somehow managed to convince you to give the game a go, you can buy a copy of Pandemic here on Amazon3, or they might have a copy at your local game shop – be warned, though, because physical copies sell out pretty quickly.
1 I know, I’m incredibly lame. The scary thing is that this is probably far from the lamest thing that I’ve published on this blog. Apparently I have no shame when it comes to proving exactly how uncool I really am. I don’t know why this is. Shh.
2 “Get sick” – see what I did there? I made a really bad pun. These comedy writing classes have really been paying off.
3 Please note that this is an affiliate link. If that kind of thing bothers you, the game is the first thing that comes up when you search for Pandemic. It is also available at other retailers.