Pandemic: 2nd Edition First Thoughts
By: John Kay
I remember the first time I played Pandemic. Upon opening the box, the game components impressed me a lot; very well made and nice looking. The game board is a big map, and I love maps; the artwork looked great; the cards felt nice.
When I opened up the 2nd Edition box I was initially disappointed. I didn’t like the smaller clear cubes, or the smaller pawns. I didn’t like the new artwork, though it looked good, I didn’t think it was as interesting as the old artwork. The board looked so … blue… and then I got over it.
Why is this game so compelling? I’m going to post just a few thoughts.
Whenever I’ve taught a group to play Pandemic, someone always comments on how they love that it’s co-operative; they love being on the same team instead of against each other. Conversely, there is always someone who dislikes the game for the exact same reason.
I like a mix of both. Sometimes I’m in the mood for co-operation and team-work. Sometimes I’m in the mood to destroy the other players. Sometimes I want to destroy other players on a team.
This game is one of the many co-operative dotting the board gaming landscape: games like Flashpoint: Fire Rescue; Shadows over Camelot; Defenders of the Realm; Yggdrasil; Castle Panic, and the list goes on and on. I’ve noticed a rise in popularity in these games, and it makes sense to me, since my personality tends to lean towards a friendly game instead of a competitive one. When you’re all competing against a board, it takes some of potential competition problems out, and introduces entirely new ones.
Saving the World, 4 actions at a time
Saving the world from disease has never been more interesting to me since Pandemic was released. And when it doesn’t seem challenging enough, you increase the number of epidemics, or use the expansion: On the Brink to stir things up a bit more.
Disease cubes dot the map, and spread throughout the game as you reveal infection cards each turn. The game becomes an intense and suspenseful game of damage control, as usually there are more cubes than you can deal with at one time, and fighting to control the cubes from spreading will sacrifice valuable time for researching, which involves collecting several cards of the same colour to assist in finding a cure for each of the 4 diseases before the games ends. The game has only 1 Win condition, and 3 Lose conditions. This keeps things challenging almost all of the time.
In some of the reviews on Board Game Geek, I found myself reading about people who dislike the game because it felt like a one player game, or a game where one person always takes over. I wondered about this; why were people disliking the game after playing it incorrectly? It’s not supposed to be one person taking over. The group you play with will greatly effect your enjoyment of the game, and co-operative games are only going to be fun when everyone actually co-operates and participates. Nobody should be controlling another players turn, that’s not how the game was intended to play. The game becomes more difficult when there are more players, but that’s part of what makes it interesting. This game has a rule of keeping cards hidden. This may seem counter intuitive since you’re all on the same team, but it’s meant to simulate the fact that you all have different ideas, and knowledge that can’t just be revealed, it must be communicated. Pandemic is a game of communication, and when players embrace this, it results in terrific play-throughs.
I’m impressed with Z-Man games, for getting this title published, and redesigning everything. I’m not completely impressed by the quality of the redesign though. Perhaps there will be future printings, but for some reason, this one, seems like a full redesign, not just a reprinting.
With ConBravo coming up in a few weeks, board game fans and geeks will have the chance to play the game in the open Table Tap area. ConBravo is going to be held at the Hamilton Convention Centre on the weekend of July 26th-28th. I’ll be there Friday night and all of Saturday, helping out with game demos.