Sunday, September 8, 2013


As I am constantly trying to find activities for my sons and I to do together, I look out for games of various types which would fill certain niches in our list of needs. While my personal preference is for miniatures games, my current living conditions and my sons' visitation arrangements do not allow us to always break out the minis, terrain, rules, dice, etc., as my landlord does not fully embrace our taking over the kitchen table for three hours or more at a time.

This is the primary reason why our All Things Zombie campaign has been on a temporary hiatus (but we keep discussing what we want to do with it).

One of our needs is to have a game that plays in under an hour, including set up and take down, for weekends where our schedule is filled with yardwork, housework, or family gatherings. This need has been tested and met by Pandemic, an interesting product by Z-Man Games.

My local game store has about 120 boardgames available to rent at $5 a night. Should a person then decide to buy the game, half of their rental fee is applied towards the purchase amount. In my case, I had the fiver from the remnant of my recent figure sale. Having watched the Tabletop episode where the game was played, I decided that my younger sons (the game is 1-4 players without the expansions) and I would give the game a testing out. We are glad we did.

The game is a cooperative contest to cure four deadly diseases. All the players start at the CDC in Atlanta, with each having a role (which determines what special abilities are in play), and also cards which match cities on the map. These cards are used for movement or for curing a disease (takes 5 of same color). There are event cards, which give the players other special, one use, abilities. The players take turns to perform 4 actions (movement, place a research center, exchange information, treat a disease and cure disease) in any combination or repetition that they desire. A player can move four times, or move and cure a disease then move twice more, or treat a disease one or more times and then move, etc.

 photo d2d5fa3d-10db-4d45-9b8a-0bc4a46e89ff_zps84098e3b.jpg
While the quality of the photos are not great, you can easily see the components of the game as well as see some of the action in the following pics.

The above photo shows the start of our game. Each player has been given his "role" and also his starting cards. The four diseases have been spread as per the start up rules and we are ready to take the first turn.

 photo ba29a908-7018-4098-ada7-d5aeee3d0528_zps621e5dcf.jpg
The very first player card turned over was an Epidemic card. In the beginner game, only four of these are contained in the player deck. So, it was bad luck (!...and when we played it a second time, the next day, the first card was again an Epidemic card!!) for us.

We also suffered our first outbreak in Johannesburg, which was another piece of bad luck. One of the conditions for the players losing is having 8 outbreaks occur. We did place another research center in SE Asia as we needed to be able to move around without spending a card as well as have an accessible means of curing diseases.

 photo d3e592d1-dbc7-4349-a1df-26cf076612f7_zps6e275d49.jpg
Not a bad turn for us as we were able to eradicate the black disease. Eradication means that no new instances of that disease can happen. Of course, to win we have to CURE all four diseases, so eradication is great, but not a game winner on its own.

I was playing as the Medic, whose special ability means I can remove all instances of a disease when I treat it at a city I am in (normally, one cube is removed per treat action). Thus, I was helping out the people in South America survive the dreaded yellow disease.

 photo a7ccd2f7-1ca8-40f3-ac03-f788fc0161f6_zps9ec76e22.jpg
Another outbreak, but this time it was the red disease in SE Asia. Outbreaks not only help you lose, but they also increase the rate of infestation. At start, two cards are drawn from the infestation deck (top right corner) every turn. One cube matching the color on the card is placed on the city on the same card. A fourth cube is never placed, but instead, an outbreak occurs which then causes all adjoining cities to receive a disease cube and also advancing the two associated markers on their respective tracks.

 photo 9e008902-00f4-4f8d-8fd4-330202c4cf97_zps436fa908.jpg
We chase down the red disease, trying to eradicate it, while also trying to exchange information so that we can get it cured.
 photo 92cbd3db-0c81-4048-a86f-8407c57f358c_zpsf85f4d5d.jpg
Except the red disease proves too wily for us. It is at this point that we realize we are about to lose. The cards with the + sign on their backs are essentially our timer. Each player takes 2 at the end of their turn, but when a player cannot take his 2, the game ends and the players lose.

 photo 0ec873a2-c0a7-4f0e-824f-a9812611bf15_zps88e6d55a.jpg
Finally! We cure red, but it can still spread. Unfortunately, we are not even close to curing a second disease and we're getting desperate.

 photo 9ec4b2fb-6327-48cb-a7d7-f1bb995aa119_zps780e511e.jpg
And the game ends with a player loss!

We had fun with this first game and ended up playing a second game on Saturday afternoon. We also lost that game, again on the beginner difficulty, but we almost won that game having cured three diseases. We lacked five cards in the player deck for a win (as it would have given us enough time to transfer cards and cure the yellow disease).

Overall, we had fun with the game and it is going on our family wish list for Christmas. There are two expansions for the game, which increase the number of players to six, add a bio-terrorist, more roles, and other rules and additional mechanisms to the game.

BUT WAIT, there's MORE!

For those who like to play zombie miniature games, this boardgame has a perfect system for running a zombie campaign. Instead of diseases, treat each cube as an instance of zombie infestation. When at a city, each disease cube is a scenario that must be played and won, to remove a cube. Different colored cubes can be used to adjust the types of zombies in the scenario (if your game differentiates between slow, ragers, etc.)

When a disease has been eradicated, just assume that the locals have figured out a way to deal with any zombies that do  pop up. When cured, the source for that particular zombie scourge has been dealt with, leaving the players to mop up and stamp out any zombies who happen to show.

If the players lose, well, they either ran out of time to save humanity from the zombie hordes, or the zombie outbreaks were enough to overwhelm the human defenders.

Check out the game for yourself!


  1. I've had my eye on this one for awhile. Nice review of the game and a great idea for cross purposing for an ATZ campaign. World War Z anyone?

    1. Yes, World War Z was certainly on my mind as I wrote the post. I almost tied it in directly with the campaign idea.

  2. Replies
    1. It sure was. Where much of the fun came in was the active discussions of planning how to beat the game. My nephew observed part of the second session and got into it to the point that he suggested ways that we could beat the game in the last round. Unfortunately, his zeal was not matched by his grasp of the details and his suggested required that we had an extra action for a player.

  3. I like the sound of the game and the fact you can rent boardgames as well, great idea!

    1. The game is fun, but does require careful planning. Our mistake the first game was to not share information (takes actions) soon enough.