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Pandemic (2008)

BIOTERRORBIBLE.COM: The game "Pandemic" is another clear indication that a bio-terror generated pandemic is on its way.

Date: 2012
Source: Wikipedia

Abstract: Pandemic is a cooperative board game designed by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man Games in 2008.

Pandemic is based on the premise that four diseases have broken out in the world, each threatening to wipe out a region. The game accommodates 2 to 4 players,(five with the expansion pack) each playing one of five possible specialists: (dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher or operations expert). The game is unlike most boardgames as the gameplay is cooperative, rather than competitive. Through the combined effort of all the players, the goal is to discover all four cures before any of several game-losing conditions are reached.

An expansion, "Pandemic: On the Brink" (co-designed by Matt Leacock and Tom Lehmann) adds several new roles and special events, and rules adjustments to allow a fifth player. In addition, several rules expansions are included, referred to as "challenge kits".

The goal of Pandemic is for the players, in their randomly-selected roles, to work cooperatively to stop the spread of four diseases and cure them before a pandemic occurs. Pandemic setup consists of a game board representing a network between cities on the map of the Earth, two decks of cards (Player cards and Infection cards), four colors of cubes (each representing a different disease), five Research Stations, and a pawn for each player. The Player cards include cards with each city name (same as on the board), Special Event cards that can be played at specific times to take beneficial actions, and Epidemic cards. Infection cards consist of one card for each city on the board and a color of the disease that will start there. At the start of the game, Infection cards are randomly drawn to populate the board with infections, from 1 to 3 cubes for a number of cities. Players start at Atlanta, the home of the Centers for Disease Control, and are given a random role and a number of Player cards which are kept face up throughout the game.

On each turn, a player can take 4 actions which consists of any combination of the following:

1. Movement, either between interconnected cities (car and ferry travel), to a city that the player holds that Player card of (direct flight), or to any city if the player is currently in one of the cities they hold the card of (charter flight). The latter two options require the player to discard the city card. A player at a research lab can also travel to any other research lab on the board.

2. Sharing information with another player by being at the same city as that player and either giving or receiving the Player card representing that city.

3. Treating one unit of infection from a city the player is presently in, removing a cube from that city.

4. Constructing a research lab in a city that the player holds the city card for (discarding that card afterwards)

5. Finding the cure by being in a city with a research lab and holding 5 Player cards of the same color. Finding a cure does not stop further infection of that disease until all cubes of that color are removed from the board; from then on, drawing an Infection card of a color that is eradicated will result in no change to the board's state.

On conclusion of the turn, the player draws two Player cards, discarding their hand down to seven cards. If either draw is an Epidemic card, the player places three cubes on the city from the bottom of Infection deck, puts that card into the Infection discard pile, reshuffles the discard pile, and places it back on top of the Infection deck. After the two Player cards are drawn (epidemic or no), a number of Infection cards are revealed and one cube of the indicated color is placed on each city drawn. Should a city already have three cubes and a new cube is to be added, an Outbreak occurs and each interconnected city gains one more cube of that color; this can create a chain reaction across many cities if several are already have three disease cubes on them.

The game is over if any of the following occur:

1. More than 7 Outbreaks occur - a loss for the players.

2. There are no more cubes of the specific disease color when they are needed during Infection or Epidemic - a loss for the players.

3. There are no more Player cards to be drawn - a loss for the players.

4. The players discover the cure for all four diseases - a victory for the players.

To aid in winning the game, players are given roles that allow them to alter the above rules. Five roles were introduced with the core game, but additional roles were added through the game's expansion. For example, the Medic is able to treat all cubes in a city with one action or, once a cure for a disease is found, can removes cubes of that color without spending an action, while the Scientist only needs four cards of the same color to discover the cure. The players are also helped by the Special Event cards which allow for similar one-time actions akin to the roles, such as the direct removal of a few infection tokens or immediate construction of a research lab.

Pandemic requires the players to coordinate their efforts to win the game, specifically in gathering and sharing the necessary cards to discover cures while moving in coordination around the board and preventing Outbreaks in an efficient manner.

Elements of Strategy
Players can, and should, share as much information as possible, in order to come up with a unified plan for fighting and curing the diseases. There is no rule against "talking the table", and in fact it is encouraged; the only rule is that players may not show other players their cards (though they may tell other players what cards they hold).

Players should exploit the advantages of their role. For instance, the Operations Manager can set up Research Stations without having to discard cards, so in the early game it is often good to have that player traverse the board, setting up Research Stations in advantageous locations, allowing players to fly between them without discarding cards. Similarly, the Medic can far more efficiently treat and cure diseases, so that player's primary task should be treating "hot spots" to prevent outbreaks, and if able the Medic should travel through cities with cured diseases to attempt to eradicate them. This can be done in conjunction with the Dispatcher, who can spend their actions and cards to move other players around the board. The Scientist and Researcher often make a good pair; the Scientist needs one fewer card of a color than other players to discover a Cure, and the Researcher has more freedom in giving cards to other players, so they can work together to accumulate enough cards of one color in the Scientist's hand to discover Cures rapidly.

Each player should attempt to make the most use of their actions in any given turn. Though "burning" (skipping) an action is allowed, and can be advantageous in keeping a player in a strategic spot (perhaps to meet another player in a later turn), if there is any way the Player can find to use that action productively and still end up in the proper place, it should be done. Treating disease in a city a player must move through is usually a good and readily-available use of "spare" actions, as is any opportunity to make use of a player's special ability. This is particularly important in games with more players, as each player will get fewer turns during the game.

Players should keep track of discarded Player Cards (the rules allow the discard piles to be examined at will), and be judicious about using or discarding city cards. The base game provides no mechanic for recovering discards, and there is only one card for each city in the deck, so in the absence of a Research Station or other special event, a city can only be flown to or from by discarding that card once. This also means that there are only 12 cards of one color in the game, of which five are needed to cure each disease (four if the Scientist discovers the Cure); if more than 7 of one color are discarded without having cured that disease, the game cannot be won because there are insufficient cards remaining to discover the Cure for that disease.

Players should generally do everything in their power to prevent Outbreaks. Outbreaks occur when a city would have more than three disease cubes of a color placed on it through some game action; instead of placing the cube on the city, a cube is placed on every adjacent city (connected by a red line), possibly causing a chain reaction if one of the adjacent cities also has three cubes. Outbreaks hasten the end of the game in two ways; by advancing the Outbreaks tracker, and by depleting the supply of disease cubes of that color. Players can usually avoid outbreaks by prioritizing treatment of cities that have three disease cubes (even removing one or two cubes is helpful), and by keeping track of the cities infected since the last Epidemic; those cities cannot be further infected until the next Epidemic except via an Outbreak of an adjacent city.

It is generally advantageous to eradicate at least one disease as early as possible. A disease that is eradicated, by finding the Cure and by removing all disease cubes of that color from the board, cannot (in the base game) reappear through Infection or Epidemic for the rest of the game; any card of that color drawn from the Infection deck is ignored. This confers several advantages to players; they can focus on fewer cities at risk for infection, there is a chance that at least some of the cards drawn in any particular Infection phase can be ignored, and if the disease is eradicated early enough, the remaining cards can be used to fly to cities in that color that are adjacent to a region where a disease is still active, saving the cards of the active color for discovering the Cure (Wikipedia, 2012).