Game Reviews

Pandemic: The Board Game

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Pandemic: The Board Game

As our planet gets increasingly overcrowded and our major economies grow weaker, it seems as if mankind could be brought to its knees by a particularly contagious bout of the sniffles.

It's that potent fear that inspired the original Pandemic boardgame back in 2008, and it remains a compelling premise here in Pandemic: The Board Game for iPad.

A plague on both your continents

Yes, this is based on a boardgame, but don't think Monopoly or Risk. Well, do think of those, but also mix in equal parts Plague Inc. and that film where loads of Hollywood stars die of the flu.

Contagion! Thank you.

Actually, going back to that Plague Inc. reference for a second, Pandemic: The Board Game kind of plays like the flip side to that little gem. It's like you're the opposing team, scooting around the same world mad putting out virus-shaped fires.

It's just that the dice-rolling, card-collecting elements are pushed to the fore a little more here. The result is a pretty complex game, but F2Z has done well to walk you through each stage with a nicely executed tutorial section.

Travel sickness

Unusually for a boardgame conversion, Pandemic: The Board Game plays as well in single-player as it does in multiplayer. In fact, we prefer it solo.

You take control of a team of up to four characters, each specialising in a particular field of disease control. Each member gets four moves per turn, which can be used to move to an adjacent city and/or alleviate one of the four colour-and-area-coded diseases that can take hold there.

Each player also receives a random allotment of City cards, which can be used in a variety of ways. You can trade one in for the ability to fast-travel to the featured city, or travel to that location through other means and build a research centre there (which facilitates more fast travelling, among other things).

If one character collects five City cards from a single area she can then travel to a research centre and find the cure for the related disease. Indeed, the only way to win each game is to find this cure for all four diseases.

Call a doctor

That's made massively tricky, even on the easiest difficulty level, by a number of threats. Outbreaks can hit at any time in-between turns, whether through turning over an Outbreak card or accumulating enough individual disease points.

Outbreaks in turn spread disease points to immediately adjacent cities, which can then trigger further outbreaks.

With limited moves and often vast distances between your players, it's a logistical nightmare requiring sound decision-making, careful coordination, and a fair dose of luck.

It's helped by each character's individual skills. A medic can completely clear a city of disease in one move, for example, while the dispatcher can move other characters in lieu of her or himself.

With seven roles to squeeze into only four slots, it's a challenge just to find the right balance of teams.

Communal diseases

As we've mentioned, Pandemic: The Board Game arguably plays better as a single-player game. This can be seen in both a positive and a negative light, depending on how social you're feeling.

The idea of a cooperative boardgame is an interesting one, but it lacks the immediate competitive thrill of the classic adversarial model. When each decision needs to be a matter of consensus anyway, it often feels like a dictatorial one-man approach is quicker and, well, more fun.

Of course, the potential for pitting four brains against the task and formulating a winning strategy will be a tempting one for some, but we suspect that such players will be in a minority.

Regardless, as a single-player slice of ultra-tense, super-tough global strategising, Pandemic: The Board Game is not to be sniffed at.

Pandemic: The Board Game

Pandemic: The Board Game is a tense and tricky strategy game that's surprisingly well suited to solo play