During the Pandemic, I fell in love with Pandemic – the Board Game, of course!
This exciting board game existed well before the COVID19 Pandemic hit, but like many other families stuck at home and in desperate need for entertainment, it was perfect timing to get familiar with this timely game!
My husband and our oldest boy love board games, but I never warmed much to them. In the year of constant surprises and adaptation, things changed and I changed! Who would have thought that a board game skeptical like me would get so hooked?
How to Play Pandemic?
Pandemic is a collaborative game where all players – up to four – team-up and play against the ‘disease’. The background for this game is the world – the board is the world map – where four types of viruses spread through.
At the start of the game, each player takes up a specific role with a special ability. For example, the ‘quarantine specialist’ can quarantine the city where they are plus surrounding areas, stopping viruses from spreading in that part of the globe.
As the game progresses, players move their pawn around ‘the world’, picking up cubes (diseases) and trying to cure and or eradicate the four terrible viruses. You win if you manage to cure all viruses.
Pandemic Board Game Roles
There are seven roles to choose from: dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher, operations expert, contingency planner, or quarantine specialist. Each character has a special ability and it is a good idea that you take advantage of that.
Extensions and Variations for Pandemic
The base game of Pandemic allows up to four players. As a family of five – playing a game designed for four – we initially played the game by getting two players sharing one role. It worked reasonably well and, being a collaborative game, we all joined the strategic conversations (and arguments!) to decide on what needs to be done.
Nevertheless, once it was obvious that we all loved Pandemic, we bought Pandemic On The Brink which allows up to five players. It was an excellent decision.
The Pandemic On The Brink extension also introduced some exciting variations: more diseases, mutation challenges, virulent strains and more event cards! The game can also be played with an ‘evil’ character: the bio-terrorist! In this case, instead of a fully cooperative game, one player becomes the bio-terrorist adding another layer of difficulty.
I must say I prefer playing Pandemic as a fully cooperative game without the evil character, but our oldest boy loves it. The option of having this addition is still very welcome as a way of diversifying the game.
Those are optional and you can choose the level of difficulty you feel like playing – the more epidemic cards you play with, the harder it gets. At the easiest level, you have four epidemics.
Pandemic is such a great game, that you often feel you just can’t get enough. Luckily, there are fantastic lots of expansions (original game is required) and stand-alone variations (original game is NOT required). As far as expansions are concerned, we highly recommend:
Expansions are add-ons to be played with the original Pandemic. On the Brink and In the Lab both include more roles and more scenarios. Pandemic On the Brink takes the number of players up to 5 and In The Lab takes it up to 6. You can play the Lab version cooperatively or as two teams! If you love Pandemic, they are both wonderful expansions and can even be used together. If you are new to Pandemic, we do recommend you get familiar with the original game first.
Pandemic stand-alone variations are completely independent of the original board game. You can buy and play these variations without the original game, it is a good idea to start with the original game to get familiar with it. The most popular variations include Pandemic Legacy and Pandemic Contagion.
The Legacy version is particularly recommended for those who love an epic (and long) adventure as it can go as far as a 12-month campaign. Our kids are not interested in it (suggested age is 13+), but for grown-ups who love Pandemic, it is easy to get hooked! We highly recommend it for regular friendly catch ups and social clubs based on playing board games. Warning: many players claim to get ‘withdraws’ after a campaign is finished!
Pandemic Contagion is variation with a fun twist: instead of fighting diseases, players represent the diseases and they play against each other (it is non-cooperative) with the goal of exterminating humanity! The Contagion version is a quick one hour (or less) game, recommended for ages 13+.
Educational Benefits of Pandemic
Let’s face it, kids spend far too much time on screen. I am guilty of that too! The fact that they are playing a board game is a big win on its own. If you’re looking for a board game that has an ‘educational purpose’, Pandemic won’t disappoint. Here are some of the benefits I have noticed as a parent:
- Concepts relevant to epidemiology – this game (plus all the news they heard) prompted lots of questions from our kids around ‘What is an epidemic?’, ‘What is quarantine?’, ‘What is the difference between an outbreak and an epidemic?’ ‘What is the difference between treatment and cure?’ – Needless to say that these questions led to conversations about the COVID Pandemic
- Teamwork requires work! You need to agree and negotiate your next move and arguments can arise. But if you want to have a chance at winning, real cooperation is the only way to go.
- Geography – Thanks to Pandemic, the kids (and I, to be honest) have learned that Kinshasa is the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo! The world map and all the ‘destinations’ included in the map provide a fun way to learn about geography.
- Strategy – what is our next move? What should we prioritise?
- Risk Management Skills – what happens if we leave this disease ‘untreated’ until the next round? Can it spread to other parts?
- As skilled members of a disease fighting team, you and the other players work together to keep the world safe from outbreaks and epidemics
- Pandemic is a cooperative board game in which players work as a team to treat infections around the world while gathering resources for cures
- 2 – 4 players
- 45 minutes
If you are after other board games that promote science education, check out our complete guides to:
For more information on cooperative board games – where players play together against the game, check out our best two-player cooperative board games article.
Last update on 2021-01-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API