So you have your copy of Pandemic.
The board is all set out on the table and those nasty diseases stare back at you with a baleful eye (if they can have eyes?).
What to do next?
Playing the ‘Introductory’ game shouldn’t be too hard to beat, but once you move up to the ‘Standard’ difficulty, things can get tricky.
This article is a “work in progress”: I will start with some basics of how to play the game and I’ll add more to it over time.
Later we’ll talk about possible strategies you can try to beat it!
Have you saved the world today?
What Are You On?!
Some of you may be thinking, “I have no idea what you are talking about, Tim!”
If you’re not sure what I was going on about in the introduction, or you don’t know what a cooperative game is, then be sure to read my review first and then come back here to find out more!
Role Cards I won’t reproduce all the rules of the game here, but will give you an idea of how it plays in practice.
The setup is fairly simple, with Roles being assigned, and markers placed on the Outbreak and Infection Rate tracks.
Player pawns, plus a research station are placed on Atlanta (the real life location of the Centre for Disease Control).
Starting Cards are dealt to each player, then Epidemic cards are added into the Player deck.
The number of Epidemic cards determines the difficulty of the game: 4 for ‘Introductory’, 5 for ‘Standard and 6 for ‘Heroic’.
Finally, some of the infection cards are turned over to set up the first few cities with their ‘starting’ diseases.
The players check the cards in their hand: the player holding the city card with the highest population goes first.
Alternatively, you can use the rule from the first edition of the game: the first player is the person who was sick last!
Pandemic Board Mid Game Each player turn consists of 3 phases (displayed clearly on the board):
1. Take 4 actions
2. Draw 2 player cards
3. Infect cities
The second phase may be interrupted if the player draws an Epidemic card.
If this happens, then the Epidemic is resolved before the player continues …and yes, the player still has to infect cities afterwards!
At any time, anyone can play event cards, even in the middle of another player’s turn.
Each turn, players can do up to 4 actions.
These boil down to movement actions and things you can do to help deal with the threats around you:
Drive or take the ferry to another city – along one of the links on the board
Fly to another city by discarding the matching player card
Take a charter flight to any city on the board by discarding the player card of the city you are in
Travel directly from one Research Station to another Research Station, anywhere on the board
Build a Research Station in your current city by discarding the matching player card
Treat disease – remove 1 disease cube in your current city
Exchange information with another player in the same city by giving (or receiving) the player card matching that city
Cure a disease at a Research Station by discarding 5 cards of a given colour
The game helps by giving each player a handy reference card to remind them of the possibilities.
Don’t forget that the reference cards are double sided: make sure to point this out to new players too!
Pandemic Board Close Up As you can tell from the list, there’s nothing complicated here:
Everything counts as 1 action, but sometimes you have to play a card or be in the right place.
For example, moving from one city to another along one of the links is 1 action, while playing a city card allows you to take a direct flight to the location on the card.
If you play the card for the city you are already in, you can take a ‘charter flight’ to anywhere on the board.
You can spend an action to Treat Disease and remove 1 disease cube in the city you are in.
You can also spend an action to build a Research Station anywhere on the board (although you are limited to 6 in total).
Once built, you can use an action to move directly from one Research Station to another.
Research Stations are also important, because they are the only place where you can cure a disease (also an action).
Take a closer look at the photo above and you’ll see that the Quarantine Specialist (the green Pawn) is on Kolkata, where there is a Research Station.
This means that on her turn, she could:
Hand in 5 cards of the same colour to cure that disease
Move direct from Kolkata to another city with a Research Station
Move to an adjacent city along on of the connection lines
Treat disease to remove a disease cube from one of those cities
Let’s say that Green doesn’t have enough cards to make a cure and wants to clear up some of the disease already in the area.
She could move to Delhi and treat 1 disease cube there (2 actions – 1 for the move, then 1 to treat disease), followed by another move to Mumbai and treat disease there (another 2 actions = 4 total).
With the Quarantine Specialist finishing their move on Mumbai, it would prevent any outbreaks occurring at Chennai (due to that role’s special ability).
The players discuss this scenario, but are concerned that Green may be needed somewhere else next turn.
In the end, she decides to move directly to Chennai (1 action) and treat disease 3 times (3 actions) instead.
Hints And Tips:
Here’s a selection of hints and tips for the game.
I’ll add to these when I think of something else.
If you can think of something not on the list, then let me know in the comments!
Don’t underestimate any of the Roles: all of them are useful in different situations.
Read out your Role card aloud to all players at the beginning of the game.
This ensures that everyone knows who can do what.
It’s not a memory game: the rules say you can freely check the discard piles for the Infection and Player decks at any time!
Focus on cities which already have 3 disease cubes: you want to prevent outbreaks before they happen!
Don’t underestimate Research Stations.
As well as helping you to cure disease, they allow for quick movement without spending precious cards.
Try to place them in strategic places, such as in each coloured disease “area”.
Don’t forget the goal of the game is to cure diseases.
If you get too caught up in mopping up what’s on the board, you can easily run out of time due to player cards running out.
Try to be as efficient as possible with your movement and cards.
Removing 1 disease cube from a city which already has 3 means you will almost certainly have to revisit it again – particularly if you are near the beginning of the game.
Don’t forget that you can play Event cards at any time, even during another player’s turn.
The card “One quiet night” prevents the Infection phase from happening on that player turn.
A really good time to play this card is just after an Epidemic, when the previous discards have been re-shuffled and placed back on top of the deck.
Don’t forget that once you have cured a disease, you can remove all cubes of that colour from a city, using only 1 action.
We forgot this rule the other day and lost the game to too many outbreaks as a result!
Are you a Pandemic newbie, or a Past Master?
Do you quail at the thought of playing the Standard game, or do you eat Heroic difficulty for breakfast and then laugh for the rest of the day?
If you have tips about how to defeat the menace, then let us know in the comments!