Pandemic Board Game: Rules and Review

The Pandemic Board Game is your choice if you’re looking to have fun and spend time making interesting decisions with your friends and family.

One of the most popular and fastest-growing co-operative board games, Pandemic has great fun to offer even to beginners. Compared to other collaborative games like Ghost Stories, Saboteur and Space Alert, Pandemic board game rules are easier to learn and offer a challenging experience. 

To help you better understand the game, our Pandemic Board Game review will run you through each of its rules and gameplay. From setting up the board to what strategies may give you an edge, we have covered it all for you. Let’s see how it feels to save the world.

What is the Pandemic Board Game?

Pandemic Board Game Info image

Pandemic is an exciting co-operative board game that has gained much popularity over the past couple of years. This game will put your strategic abilities to the test to check if you can save the virtual world of Pandemic.

Matt Leacock is the designer of this brain-storming game which was first published by Z-Man in the US in 2008.

In this game, all the players need to work together to save humanity from four life-threatening diseases. Each player shall play a specified role to serve the cause. 

Once you get accustomed to the Pandemic rules, you will start enjoying the course of this game. That’s what our guidelines are designed for.

Number of Players: 2 to 4

Ages:  10+

Length: 45 minutes 

Difficulty: Easy

Similar to: Ghost Stories, Saboteur, Space Alert, Forbidden Island

Main Objective: Try to find a cure for four life-threatening diseases before they get out of control.

Why We Love It: Pandemic is a co-operative game that can be played in any group and takes a lot of thinking and strategising. Each participant is required to play a specific role and gather resources that will help find a cure.

What You’ll Need to Play Pandemic

You will require the Pandemic board, and four different coloured sets of cubes. Each colour will denote a disease, wooden research stations and markers. You may grab this cool Pandemic set, which contains:

  • One board that depicts a world map with connections between cities
  • 5 player pawns
  • 6 wooden research stations
  • 6 markers (4 cure, 1 outbreak and 1 infection)
  • A total of 96 wooden disease cubes
  • 115 Cards (59 player cards, 48 infection cards, 4 role cards and 4 cards for quick reference)

The Pandemic board game can be a great form of recreation at house parties or any other gatherings. 

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Game Setup

As the Pandemic game set includes too many accessories, the first thing is to ensure all the pieces and the board are there. Then simply follow these steps to set up the playing area.

  • Unfold and place the board in a position where all the players are able to reach comfortably.
  • Separate the four coloured sets of disease cubes and place them alongside the board.
  • Place one of the research stations in Atlanta.
  • Put the outbreak and cure markers in their respective positions on the board.
  • The green token that has a small circle in the middle is the outbreak marker. Put it on the 0 space of its track.
  • You will find some vial-shaped pieces that match with the colours of disease cubes, and those are the cure markers. Place the markers with the vial side up, close to the cure indicator. Make sure you do not place the marker right on the spot.
  • A green marker with a biohazard symbol on it is the infection marker, and you need to place it at the bottom of the infection track just above the second number.

Pandemic Board Game Rules and Gameplay

Each player needs to pick up a role card randomly, one reference sheet and a hand of cards to start the game. These cards will be used for travelling across cities, developing various infrastructure and curing diseases. 

The number of cards assigned to each player depends on how many participants are concerned. The card distribution format goes as four cards each for two players, three cards each for three players and two cards each if there are four participants. 

Preparing the Player Deck

At the start of the game in Atlanta, all the players need to place their respective pawn, which matches the role cards. Place the outbreak and infection markers at the first space on the tracks, respectively.

Players then need to shuffle the infection deck, after which three pawns and three cubes shall be drawn of an appropriate colour. Each pawn and cube needs to be placed according to the city.

Three more cards have to be drawn and two cubes to be placed in each city. 

The final three cards shall be drawn while placing one cube in each city. After all the cards are drawn, they shall be placed in the discarded infection pile.

Divide the player deck into four equal groups, with one epidemic card shuffled in each pile. The four piles of cards have to be placed on top of each other, which shall be ultimately used as the player deck.

If you want to increase the difficulty level, you may use five or six piles instead of four.

Once you are ready with the player deck, one who has been sick most recently will start the game. 

Choosing a Character 

Players have several character cards to choose from, and each card has different skills. Choosing which character you want to play after each game’s first infection might be a sensible idea after all the players have received their cards.

The roles available in Pandemic are as follows.

  • Dispatcher: 

This character has the privilege to move other’s pawns with their permission, as if it is their own. Besides, they can also move one pawn to others without even playing a card.

  • Operations Expert: 

The expert has the responsibility to build a research centre without using a card. This is also counted as an action.

  • Scientist: 

The character is capable of curing any disease with the help of just four matching cards. Not needed to be mentioned, this will cost a research centre and an action.

  • Medic: 

The character’s role is to omit all cubes of a particular colour while diagnosing a disease. All cubes of the cured disease, which are in the same city as the Medic, can be removed immediately (recently placed cubes are included). Throughout the game, this same process will carry on for all the players, not only on the Medic’s turn. Moreover, this will not be counted as an action.

  • Researcher: 

This character’s responsibility is to provide any preferable card to other players in the same city when the turn comes. Though this will cost an action, using it, the researcher can do the same on another player’s chance.

How to Take Actions on a Turn

Players are allowed to take a maximum of four actions on each of their turns. There are various options available for actions such as moving a pawn to an adjacent city, moving any city by discarding a card. 

There are plenty of other actions that a player can perform on their respective turns, such as:

  • A player may discard a card that matches his current city to move to any other location.
  • Moving between cities with research stations is also considered to be an action.
  • Players can discard a card according to their respective cities in order to build a research centre there.
  • Removing a cube after a disease is cured in the respective city.
  • Players may use an action to pass a card matching their city to another player at another location.
  • Discard five same coloured cards at a research centre to cure the disease of that colour.

Once a player has performed four actions, players shall draw two cards from the player’s deck. Majority of the player deck are city cards, although there are a few Special Event cards that can be played anytime during the game. 

Not to forget, there is a strict hand limit of seven cards imposed for all the players. There, when the cards of any player exceed seven, he has to play or discard some cards until there are seven cards left with him.

Drawing an Epidemic Card

Whenever a player draws an Epidemic card, he has to immediately discard it, advance the infection marker to a higher rating, draw the bottom card from the infection deck, and put three cubes in that particular city. After this, the players would like to shuffle the pile of infection discard and put it over the infection deck.

After the player cards are drawn, and any epidemic disease is resolved, players have to draw the same number of infection cards as the current rate of infection. 

Then a cube has to be placed on each of the revealed cities. Whenever a fourth disease cube is introduced to a city, it will be considered infected. That particular region would be suffering an outbreak, spreading disease cubes to the nearby cities.

Winning the Game

Pandemic, a collaborative game, can only be won together. Either all the players win, or they lose together. If they run out of the player deck, or the eighth outbreak occurs, or all the cubes of a particular colour are used up, the game is lost. 

So, if the players successfully cure all four diseases before any of the losing conditions occur, they win the game.

How to Play Pandemic Board Game – Video Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions About Pandemic

What are the best strategies for winning the Pandemic board game?

Pandemic is a strategic game, and will require thinking and perception depending on the situation. However, here are some strategies that you may follow:

  •  Unique combinations

After curing a disease, the dispatcher can be used to move around the medic. This will eventually clear all the cubes of the cured disease colour on the cities which the medic has visited.

  • Timing

You will need to learn when eradicating a disease will be most effective. Besides, a player must be aware when a disease has to be cured and when the cubes of that colour shall be removed. To achieve excellent timing, you must practice playing this game, and it will provide you with a good perception of how to strategize the actions.

  • Knowing all the rules 

There are so many rules to play the Pandemic board game. While some of its rules are meant to increase the difficulty level of the game, others can be used to our advantage. 

For example, a player can take cards from others if they are able to give a card on their turn. Thus, if a player is on the same tile as the researcher, he or she can take any of their cards which shall cost one action each.

Do fewer players make Pandemic more difficult?

The Pandemic Board Game is ideal for four players. Too many excess or fewer players will make it difficult to win the game. If it is played between two players, it will be hard to get a medic on the board. 

Besides, they will need to stay closer to each other in order to share information; therefore, they will be able to cover only a small region.

On the other hand, with too many players, the deck will obviously run out quickly.

What is the role of the sixth epidemic card in Pandemic?

Pandemic is generally played with just four epidemic cards. The fifth epidemic card surely adds to the thrill of the game and makes it more exciting. But the sixth epidemic card is meant to make things really hard for the players. You will need exceptional strategies to win the game with six epidemic cards. 

However, there might be a seventh epidemic card as well. The eighth card is the final epidemic card, and when it is introduced, the game is lost. Mere strategies and good gameplay might not help you win Pandemic with seven epidemic cards, and you will need some extra luck on your side.

In Pandemic, why is there an extra step of eradicating a disease after it has been cured?

Eradicating a cured disease will release some pressure off the game board. All of the infection cards of a cured disease remain in the deck, so if a disease has been eradicated, any infection card that corresponds to that disease will not have any effect even if a player draws that card.

It is true that eradicating a disease after curing it is a troublesome process, but it does have some advantages of its own. Since no more cubes are placed after their respective disease has been eradicated, there is no risk of an outbreak, and pawns can be moved freely across the board.

While playing Pandemic, is there a way to eradicate a particular disease before finding a cure for the same?

Many people are not aware of why there has to be an eradicating process even after curing any disease and always try to find an easier way around.

The answer is ‘NO’. You cannot eradicate a certain disease without finding any cure for it. If you simply remove all the cubes of a particular colour without a cure for its disease, it will be against the rules of the game. 

However, there is a very simple process to find a cure for any disease. You’ll need to discard five cards matching with the disease you want to cure at a research station.

Similar Games to Pandemic You Might Like

A person who is fond of board games like Pandemic will definitely enjoy Ghost Stories. It is another exciting cooperative game that is played together as a team against the game itself. Like Pandemic, in this game, the players will either share a common victory or face defeat together as a team. Compared to other board games, Ghost Stories is more difficult and complex. 

Another fun-filled and exciting board game is Saboteur. Though it is quite similar in format, unlike Pandemic, this game involves dwarves, dragons and Saboteurs – which is fun and at the same time very strategic. In this game, the dwarves are miners who are looking for gold inside mines.

We would also suggest you play Space Alert next, another collaborative and survival game. It is as interesting as any other popular board games. Players take up the role of crew members travelling through the Galaxy while protecting their spaceship for ten real-time minutes.

Want to try out some more cool games? Check out our guide to Forbidden Desert rules or the latest collection of exciting board games rules to know more.

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