Pandemic | The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

I’ve had a cold, so it does seem appropriate to be writing about a cooperative game regarding curing pandemic illnesses.

This game actually came up in a conversation earlier in the week. Someone I know played the game and made the comment to me that they played it and won “without cheating“. This was a jab because there is a game that I do play with house rules (besides Monopoly because – Free Parking!): The Lord of the Rings. That game was created in 2000. It won awards, but I argue that it was because of novelty – there were not many cooperative games at that time. That game has some definite design flaws. I might discuss it at another time.

I took a poll on Twitter to see what other people think about house rules, and here are the results.

Anyway, I talked to my husband about Pandemic and when we would have played it with them. We can’t recall having any house rules for it, but when we played with the aforementioned party last … we had one extra player. We had 6 instead of the 2-5 listed on the box. This made the game a little easier than it normally would be.

My husband and I decided to play the game just the two of us and see how it would go. I honestly think it might be easier to play with two players. We almost won. We were one turn away from winning when we lost *and* I was pretty tired and sick when we started the game last night. We finished it this morning because #parenting. If we had played straight through, then I think we would have probably won. When we picked back up, we played a few rounds before remembering cures were the goals, not eradication.

Here’s the Breakdown:

  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 45-60 minutes
  • Age: 8+
  • By: Z-Man Games

Now for my assessment of its accessibility, engagement, and mechanics.


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Accessibility

Despite being a game about diseases, you don’t need to know anything about epidemiology to play this game. The ages are listed as 8+, and I agree: it’s simple enough that a child could understand. The diseases are just colored cubes – they don’t even have names or descriptions as to whether they are even viral, bacterial, or fungal.

Bonus: since it uses a world map, it could be pretty educational about geography.

The colors are bright for diseases, but the colors for the player tokens are muted and pretty similar so it might be a game for the EnChroma glasses.

There character, action, and event cards are the ones with most text. The action cards just serve as a reminder of the available actions a player may take during their turn. The player and infection cards have larger text. Most of the cards’ text is pretty easily legible, except for the epidemic card: it’s more stylized.

⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑🌑 Mechanics

For this being the base, original game, I would assume there are improvements in the many, many expansions. Game play wasn’t bad – it was okay.

Somehow we managed to avoid any outbreaks in this game. I remember previous games where we were far less lucky!

The game is pretty simple. On your turn there are four actions available to you. After your four actions, you draw back up (there’s an immediate hand limit of 7), and then the infection spreads according to the infection rate (listed at the top of the board).

The characters are diverse and each have unique abilities. It seemed like in past games that the Dispatcher was extremely useful. I played the Contingency Planner and it actually was better than I expected.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑 Engagement

As a cooperative game, there is a lot of opportunity to discuss and recommend what other players can do. The board changes with the end of each turn, so your plans may not see fruition.

Also, event cards may be played by any player at any time as indicated by the card.

It is an engaging game with the right company. I have, however, played it with people that probably weren’t used to cooperative games, and it was a hot mess of bickering at points.

In Conclusion:

This game seems to be everywhere. If you haven’t played it, then it can be really fun with the right crowd.

As with most things in life, it’s not always about what you do but sometimes the company you are keeping. At the same time, my husband and I know some people we’ve played games with would think that it was overly complicated and too long.

It’s available at Amazon (like most things).

Happy Gaming! Play on!

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