Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 4 August 2015

Outbreaking, bad:- Pandemic

Game Title: Pandemic

Designer: Matt Leacock

Manufacturer: Z-MAN

Year: 2007

Humans evolved to be the most intelligent species on the planet. We've spent thousands of years creating the arts, sciences, engineering, philosophy, and, most important of all, Cricket. And yet, after all this time, all this selective breeding, you still can't get someone to finish their damned prescription! Antibiotic resistance, does that mean nothing to people? And then they started the anti-vac movement, because Polio was something we desperately needed back! All this time we tried to warn them about the risk of global pandemics and now we have 4 at once. Still people take homeopathic medicines in the desperate hope that they won't catch Asian Flu.

Should humanity survive this we need an extensive re-education programme.

Pandemic is a 2-4 player cooperative game where you play as one of 7 disaster relief workers to cure 4 diseases that are ravaging the globe. The game revolved around chasing small disease cubes that appear around the glove, keeping them at a manageable state until you can save up to cure them. Along the way you'll struggle through epidemics which cause the diseases to become more virulent and infect completely new areas.

The game follows the standard basic design of a Matt Leacock Co-op, you start your turn as a character with 1 rule-breaking ability, take 4 actions, draw a couple of 'good' cards, then draw a number of bad cards which increases as the game goes on. That said while Forbidden island feels more or less completely replaced by Forbidden Desert, Pandemic still stands strong as its own game.

An example of a player's hand, they have 5 city cards, 2 of the powerful special event cards, and their role card.
There are 48 cities across the game board that you have to travel between, each of these has 1 infection card in the infection deck. at the end of each turn you draw a number of infection cards equal to the infection rate, then place a disease cube on the cities drawn. This isn't too much of a problem unless you neglect an area and let it get to 3 disease cubes (oh and the games starts with 3 random cities at 3 cubes, enjoy), if that city is drawn again then instead of adding a 4th cube you add 1 cube to every adjoining city. Should any of them have reached 4 cubes you can get a chain reaction of outbreaks spreading disease far and wide (the main rule about this is each city can only have 1 outbreak per infection card drawn), should you get too many outbreaks then the game ends because everyone is a touch too dead. Also if you run out of cubes in one colour, then people come down with a nasty case of 'not very alive' and you lose, take too long and run out of player cards, I'll let you guess how that works out for you...

Bogota got hit which caused an outbreak, infecting every connected city, which included Sao Paulo which was also at 3 cubes, causing a second outbreak.
The player cards are also mostly cities, although this is as much a curse as a blessing. You can discard any city card to flight straight to that city (or from that city to anywhere), though you have to be careful not to discard too many cards of one colour as you need 5 cards of the same colour to cure the disease. Of course to cure a disease you need to be standing in a city with a research station, which also costs a city card to set up. So it's apparent that you'll need to trade with other players to get the cards you need, but you'll struggle there as you can only trade with someone if you are standing in the city on the traded card. Once you cure a disease you are one quarter of the way to victory, and every time you cure that disease in a city you remove all cubes there rather than just 1! If you somehow manage to remove every cube of a colour off the board while you have cured the disease then it is eradicated, meaning no more cubes of that colour can ever appear, a huge help... if you can afford to waste the time doing it.

Ultimately Pandemic has all the necessary ingredients for a good coop, adjustable difficulty, a need for teamwork and moments where you have to make tough decisions. Of course it has the main flaw of a coop in that the wrong player might try and take over everyone's turn in the 'common good'. Of course discussing strategy is fine, but don't force people to do what you would do! No-one wants to be that guy! Pandemic is a modern classic and is really worth picking up, with plenty of expansions now available for when/if you get bored of the basic rules.


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