Pandemic is also a 2-4 player cooperative board game released in 2008 from Z-Man Games. The players’ goal is to stop the spread of four deadly diseases before they reach world-wide epidemic proportions insuring the death of the human race.
The game board is a world map with movement spaces indicated as major real-world cities. Players begin in Atlanta at the CDC and take on the role of one of five specialists (dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher, or operations expert) each of which has a special ability with which to help combat the diseases. Player tokens are represented by figures color coded to their role while disease tokens are represented by colored cubes. The players move around the board collecting cards with the names of the cities and colors which represent the four diseases.
The players must coordinate their movements and actions in order to try to slow the spread of the diseases and collect the right amount of cards to research a cure for each. Once a cure for a disease has been researched it can be systematically wiped out. However while the players are trying to find a cure the disease multiplies. Infection cards are drawn, randomly populating the board with disease. If an epidemic card comes up, the disease spreads rapidly that turn. Each time a city’s space accumulates more than three cubes of a specific disease, an outbreak occurs spreading the disease to the surrounding cities, this can cause a nasty chain reaction with the disease suddenly blossoming out of several cities at once.
The game ends when either; the diseases have been wiped out, the players run out of cards to draw, seven outbreaks occur, or there are no more cubes for a specific disease available to be placed. The game also has rules for difficulty modes that can ramp up or limit the virulence of the diseases.
While not as complex as Arkham Horror, the game takes a few minutes to set up and usually about an hour to play (or twenty minutes to recognize a hopeless situation). It’s a very social game as the players will often find themselves trying to coordinate several turns in advance, but not so complicated that you can’t have a few drinks while doing so.
Two expansions for the game have come out. On the Brink (2009) included a fifth disease, more player roles including an antagonist “Bio-Terrorist” role who goes around the board spreading disease, and rules for adding a fifth player. In the Lab (2013) included a new laboratory game board, new cards, and new roles. There are also “Compatability Packs” available. The first pack updates the basic game to the 2nd edition version released in 2013. The second pack updates On the Brink to 2nd edition. The In the Lab expansion requires at least Pandemic 2nd edition to play.