Board Games

Beating the Fever – Pandemic: The Cure


Play report for the 2015 Challenge: Play 10 Games 10 Times Each 

Sorry for the delay. I took ill with a respiratory infection just prior to President’s Day weekend. It was a doozy, too. While it’s been observed (with varying degrees of accuracy) that I am a poor and pitiful sick person, by all accounts I was down for the count for three solid days. Just as I started to feel better, and as viruses are wont to do, it spread to my oldest daughter. All of this, coupled with a furious work schedule, combined for a lack of anything productive and a game night last week where I just wanted to forget about things for a bit, immersing myself in gaming for a while. Nothing better to forget the woe’s of family illness than a rousing game based on stopping a global pandemic. It’s been said that art imitates life, but recently our lives have imitated the Pandemic series of games, so it felt right. Plus, I was only two games away from completing my ten plays for the challenge I posted about on January 5 (2015 Challenge: Play 10 Games 10 Times Each or What Will I Look Like 100 Plays Later?). Three plays (one more than needed to complete the challenge) and a few days later, I thought it would be nice to document my thoughts.

Is that Dr. Elliot Reid?

Is that Dr. Elliot Reid?

I’ve actually played the game closer to 20 times as I received it as a Christmas gift and knocked out a half-dozen or so plays over the holiday. The fact I had multiple plays in before accepting the challenge speaks a lot to the potential of the game and its replay value. I am a fan of Matt Leacock’s games for sure. I don’t even mind that Pandemic is frustratingly difficult. It’s been argued that if you don’t have time to play a full game of Pandemic, that you could just set up the board, then have someone walk around the table, kicking everyone in the groin, and get the same sort of pit in your stomach feeling that you get from getting pummeled by the game. I happen to like Pandemic, certainly more than any kick in the groin. Even though it’s quite difficult, I am consistently fascinated by how the games mechanics play out and how it makes you feel; the gravity of the in-game situation is definitely not lost on the players. In fact, I think it does what it’s supposed to so well, that everyone interested in gaming should play it at least once and I think it’s a fine addition to any collection.

Pandemic: The Cure, synthesis that experience of the board game, maintaining very familiar mechanics, but produces a much more accessible and in my opinion, overall more enjoyable game. Here is the game description from Z-Man Games website:

“Each player takes on a different role that has its own unique set of dice and abilities — and players must take advantage of their specializations if they are to have any hope of winning the game. Players can roll their dice as often as they like, but the more times they re-roll for the perfect turn, the more likely the next epidemic will occur.

If, at any time, any region is infected with more than three dice of a given color, an outbreak occurs, spreading disease into an adjacent region. If too many outbreaks take place, or the rate of infection gets too high, all the players lose. If, however, the players can discover the cures to the four diseases, they all win and humanity is saved!”

Here are some of my thoughts after completing my challenge objective. You can also find the game sessions logged on my GeekList for the challenge, Roll and Groove’s 2015 Resolution: 10 Games Played 10 Times Each (Hardcore).

Set ’em up Joe: The set up and take down time for the game is super fast.  The website says less than a minute. I think it’s longer, but not by much. For me, this is something that increases the replay value, both as a solo experience (covered later) and with gaming groups. You can count it against my gamer cred, but I am inherently lazy and as much as I like playing Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island, if I am itching to play a game at 8:00 at night, it’s almost immediately off my list due to set up time (sorry Ignacy). Pandemic: The Cure can be on the table and ready to play in minutes AND it’s a satisfying experience.

I will not title this section, Dice, Dice Baby: I like dice. A lot. I am still prone to buying a polyhedral die or two when I am at the local game store, even though I rarely play D&D anymore. I have a jar of dice in my game room. This game has dice and lots of them. Small dice that are specific to each role in the game, as well as the infection dice that help determine the fate of the world. CDCMore importantly, I feel like dice tend to open the door to people who don’t usually game; giving the appearance of a game that is more familiar to something they have played before. The dice in this game suck you in with that familiarity, but then show you a game that creates fun in taking risks and reacting to the luck of the roll. It makes the game visceral and accessible. For me, it also helps mitigate the Alpha Gamer conundrum that the Pandemic board game is prone to suffer from. They can bark orders all they want, but the best strategy in the world might be thwarted by the roll of the dice. Sometimes games imitate life…

You won’t go blind: I enjoy games with a satisfying solo experience; playing solo is something that doesn’t bother me, on the contrary, I really enjoy it. There are even games like Agricola, that I believe I appreciate more as a solo experience than against other players. While Pandemic: The Cure isn’t technically a solo experience, the fact that it is co-op allows you to play multiple roles (I usually play two) without that awkward conflict of pretending you don’t know what the “other player” is doing. All of Matt Leacock’s games play well this way and Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are two that I regularly put on the table for this very purpose.

It’s easy to roll with the roles: Each one of the roles feels distinct from the other and what is impressive is that I haven’t found a role that is critical for a win. The Scientist gives you +2 to your rolls when trying to find a cure, and the initial thought might be that the role is a powerhouse, but it is certainly no guarantee of a win (thank you again, luck of the dice). In going through my 10 plays, at least at a glance, there is not a role that runs through all the victory plays. The other thing that is nice is there doesn’t seem to be a role that makes players heave a heavy, “oh well” sigh when they draw the card; no black sheep.

Then there’s that strategy thing: I feel like the game plays deep without feeling heavy. It’s a different kind of strategy than the its board game counterpart; more around reacting and mitigating the results of the dice rolls. Whenever dice are involved, I believe too many people are quick to dismiss the experience as luck based. While it would be dumb of me to argue that there is not a heavy amount of chance, the game is designed for you to react to what it gives you. Your ability to adjust, combined with a bit of good luck, is critical for victory. It also makes the game feel fresh every play.

All of these factors meld together to create a game that I am glad was on my list and is certainly a value as far as cost vs replay factor. Pandemic: The Cure is accessible, quick, and less heartbreaking than its virulent board game counterpart. Almost 20 games in, it’s as fresh as it was the first time I played the game.

5 replies »

  1. Great write-up, man.

    I am also a huge fan of this game and I think you did an excellent job of summarizing what makes it so accessible and fun.


  2. Still have yet to play this one. As is evidenced by our respective blogs one of us plays more D&D than Board games 😛


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