Friday, September 2, 2011

Pandemic: My gateway game of choice

Pandemic is a co-operative game for 2-4 players by Z-Man Games.  It plays in about 60 minutes with a very easy ruleset that adds roughly 10 minutes to play time for new players.

Components: Given the scope of Pandemic’s theme (worldwide disease outbreaks), Z-Man has put together some very appealing components. The board (and box) are a hefty, matte cardboard. The cards feel sturdy, have a nice satin finish and can handle being shuffled. The disease markers are simple colored wooden blocks, but they work very well. Visually, the game is simple, crisp and striking.
Rules: Pandemic’s rulebook is laid out well and easy to follow. At just 8 pages, Z-Man has been able to not only explain all of the games mechanics, but also lay out a number of fantastic examples and illustrations.  The rules themselves do a good job of abstractly capturing the theme of the game with diseases sometimes raging out of control despite the valiant efforts of the disease control team.
Gameplay: As simple as Pandemic’s rules are, the game definitely requires players to strategize. Epidemics, outbreaks and infections happen at random, so you may find yourself scrambling to get halfway across the globe to administer a cure. Careful planning of your team's actions is crucial, but may open the game up to one player dominating the actions of others.  Z-Man states a 45 minute play time and I have found this to be pretty accurate, although new players may run closer to an hour.
Overall: Pandemic is a fantastic co-operative experience with mechanics that fit its theme very well. The game will work with hardcore and casual gamers alike and can be a great gateway to more complex boardgame concepts for the “Monopoly & Battleship” crowd.

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