Flashback Friday - Pandemic - Do you still play?

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Pandemic board game

Pandemic, Matt Leacock's smash hit co-operative game that "launched a thousand flabby imitators," is 10 years. 

 

Michael Barnes describe it thusly, "In Z-Man Games blockbuster smash hit Pandemic, players are trying to stop wooden cubes from spreading over a map of the world.  The players must band together to end four different strains of the most virulent, insidious infectious disease ever known to mankind- CUBE CONFUSION.  Symptoms include a generalized inability to experience fun, an allergy to dice, increased weight gain, and sexual arousal caused by the scent of painted wooden cubes.  Generally spread by exposure to internet board game discussions and chiefly affecting middle-aged men, Cube Confusion was first discovered by Dr. Steven Weeks and has yet to be recognized by the CDC as the major public health threat it represents."

 

Matt Thrower declared "It’s possibly the ultimate family game, easy to get into, difficult to beat and free from the acrimony that unfortunately creeps in to competitive gaming even in the most loving families."

 

What camp do you fall in? Love it? Hate it? Give it a weak 7?

 

You can find all our reviews and articles about Pandemic in its listing in our Board Game Directory (click here)

There Will Be Games Pandemic board game
For more information, reviews and articles on Pandemic click here

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MattDP's Avatar
MattDP replied the topic: #276978 06 Jul 2018 08:35
Personally, I've soured on it since I wrote my opinion. Back then, co-op games were still a relative rarity and having one with such wide appeal was great.

On repeat plays, I came to dislike the sense of predestination. If the deck shuffle is against you, you're screwed. It doesn't matter how well you play, what decisions you make. It's a game that exists, lost, before you've even taken a turn.

And nowadays it has better competitors. The D&D adventure system games are just as easy to get into and much more fun to play.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #276979 06 Jul 2018 08:42
Along with Dominion, Pandemic is the game I used to play obsessively that I never want to play again. I have seen everything they have to offer me, even with expansions. They served their purpose and supplied lots of enjoyment. Now I'm done.

Pandemic Legacy was a lot of fun, although the act of playing very elaborate Pandemic did drag it down for me.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #276980 06 Jul 2018 09:17
I played Pandemic once about a decade ago and disliked it. The game mechanics didn't support the theme well, so the whole game felt like arbitrary procedural work. The friends that I was playing with coached each player on their turn, and all fun was murdered.
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
SuperflyTNT replied the topic: #276981 06 Jul 2018 09:23
We still play it from time to time but nothing like the daily or weekly play we used to. We just broke out the Cthulhu version last week (or the week prior?).

It's pretty much saturation that keeps us from playing it. There's only so many times you can play anything, even a deterministic puzzle game.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #276982 06 Jul 2018 09:23
I've never once played Pandemic. I have played Forbidden Island which I'm told is essentially the same game. Forbidden Island I bought on clearance at Barnes & Noble for like $5 and would definitely still play it.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #276987 06 Jul 2018 09:34
This has been a loaner game for me for a few years now, and I always get very positive reviews when it comes back. I have the first edition which I think is a little prettier.

My most recent loan went to non-gamer-gamers, people that love board games but have never been to a board game store and haven't seen what's available on the Internet. They are blissfully happy in their less-informed state, and my recommendation of Pandemic to them was the kind of discovery that would happen pre-Internet when you learned of such things word-of-mouth. Every discovery is more magical when it's rare knowledge.

They very much enjoyed Pandemic and were really struck by how hard it was. They had played forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island, which are about a 50-50 shot on any particular play. Pandemic is HARD for your first few plays. It sets a higher bar. They kept it for weeks, beat it exactly once.

I still enjoy the game but it doesn't come out much. I think all my buddies are done with it. As co-ops go, it's about the best in the euro end of the genre.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #276989 06 Jul 2018 10:42
I know several families that play it frequently for exactly the reason that Matt stated in his first review:

It’s possibly the ultimate family game, easy to get into, difficult to beat and free from the acrimony that unfortunately creeps in to competitive gaming even in the most loving families.


We are not one of those families. I played it when it first came out and hated it. Although I do like Defenders of the Realm, and just played that recently. I have Forbidden Island on iOS, which I sometimes play to kill time.
Saul Goodman's Avatar
Saul Goodman replied the topic: #276990 06 Jul 2018 10:43
If I never played another game I'd be perfectly fine with it. I think of Pandemic the same way I think of Dominion: games that are now just mechanics in other games. Pretty rad stuff when it came out but definitely showing it's age.
I still keep my copy around to break out with family or anyone else who casually like to play boardgames.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #277000 06 Jul 2018 11:29

Shellhead wrote: The friends that I was playing with coached each player on their turn, and all fun was murdered.


Pandemic has a reputation for one person taking over and bossing every one around each turn. I don't see that person as being bossy. I see them as simply being the first person to state the obvious. In a tactical game, when there is only one optimal choice, you really have no choice; you merely have the illusion of choice.
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
SuperflyTNT replied the topic: #277002 06 Jul 2018 11:32
I think that in that time, the best of the co-op Euros is still Red November.
Gregarius's Avatar
Gregarius replied the topic: #277004 06 Jul 2018 11:39
I really liked it when it came out, and even though I haven't played it in a long time, I would play it again. Unfortunately, Pandemic Legacy left a bad taste in my mouth. My group really enjoyed playing through that, but I grew to hate it by the end. I think I'm more tired of the whole co-op genre than I am of any particular game in it.
Colorcrayons's Avatar
Colorcrayons replied the topic: #277014 06 Jul 2018 12:05
I still maintain that 'games' of this ilk are puzzles, not games.

Puzzles are solved.
Games are played.

Much like solitaire, this puzzle can be absolutely not solved if the deck is against you.

And the entire enterprise is further ruined by the alpha gamer dictating to everyone else how to solve this puzzle.

Nope. Not a game.
Colorcrayons's Avatar
Colorcrayons replied the topic: #277016 06 Jul 2018 12:08

ubarose wrote: In a tactical game PUZZLE, when there is only one optimal choice, you really have no choice; you merely have the illusion of choice.


FTFY
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #277029 06 Jul 2018 13:19
I played it once on my tablet and the Cthulhu version once, neither plays sent me off to buy either version. I have enough co-op games to play if we do want to do a co-op that I would play before I'd consider this, but would sit down and play it when at another group.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #277049 06 Jul 2018 17:32
I played Pandemic once and I swore it off after that. I understand it’s importance as a breakthrough in co-op game design, but I don’t really like co-op games and Pandemic is like a greatest hits package as to why that is.

I also can’t really overlook what it inspired, that “Stuff Happens Across the Board and You Deal With It” genre. There’s a couple of good games in there, but most of it is garbage.

I do like Ghostfightin’ Treasure Hunters/Ghostbusters Protect the Barrier, the new Buffy (which is dry, but a rock solid design that I adore) and Defenders of the Realm.

TL;DR - I’d rather read Comic Sans than play Pandemic.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #277051 06 Jul 2018 18:08
I'm done with pandemic for all of the afore mentioned reasons.However, I would be tempted to play Legacy: Season One if the price was right. Feel like I'm missing an experience when it comes to playing it.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #277054 06 Jul 2018 18:43
The best and most interesting/interactive part of pandemic is naming the cubes and making up back stories for them.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #277058 06 Jul 2018 21:45
For all our griping, I do think there are a couple of really good design flourishes that helped Pandemic be a big hit. The way the diseases spread when there's an outbreak is genuinely cool and thematic, as is the way the diseases keep popping up in the same places.

Those elements are in service of a game that is ultimately simplistic and predictable, but that just means this game exists best as a casual experience. It remains one of the big gaming hits of the past decade, and I do think it deserved that mainstream success.
Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #277070 07 Jul 2018 10:02
Like I've said repeatedly, will never request it, but will always play it when asked to. It's just good, fun game, and probably still, in principal, the best co-op in this manner: extremely minimal aspect of player controlling the enemy (enemy phase is short, and totally automated, with no decision on player side) that generates interesting situation during player's phase. The ratio is just unbeatable.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #277072 07 Jul 2018 10:38
I prefer the "Defenders of the " games, and Eldritch Horror.
Jarvis's Avatar
Jarvis replied the topic: #277074 07 Jul 2018 10:55
I feel like I’m one of the outliers here in that I still play it. It’s a favorite or family and friends, of which these would be considered th casual gamers. It’s not a game I would bring to a board game weekend/convention, but with family it’s guaranteed to be played at least once during the trip.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #277076 07 Jul 2018 11:16
Pandemic has broken the barrier into mainstream games. When I say I play board games, I’m now as likely to get the response of “You mean like Pandemic,” as I am to get, “You mean like Monopoly.”

I have to agree with Matt’s original assessment in his first review. It’s a solid family game.

I just personally don’t care for it.
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #277078 07 Jul 2018 11:34
I have somehow managed to avoid ever playing this game. I just never had any desire. Mostly my contrarian nature is to blame. All the screaming adulation it got when it came out and then again with it's legacy iteration pushed me even further away from wishing to experience it.

I do like Defenders of the Realm which I hear tell is the same mechanics but then I'm more drawn to dragons and orcs and flying griffons that you can ride as opposed to "Crotch Rot Blue" or "Lingering Painful Death Orange".
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #277087 07 Jul 2018 12:36
There’s stuff out there now that is objectively better with the same level of investment. For me, that’s grounds to sweep something under the rug.
GoTeamVenture's Avatar
GoTeamVenture replied the topic: #277090 07 Jul 2018 13:57
I played original Pandemic two or thee dozen times and all of Pandemic Season 1. I still think it’s a good game but it’s not something I would suggest playing anymore.

The only Pandemic game I still own is Pandemic Iberia. I would rather play it and Pandemic Rising Tide over original Pandemic these days. I think they are both good games for people who still want an experience similar to original Pandemic but feel like they are done with the original game. Iberia and Rising Tide both have some variants/mini expansions you can choose to use that add a little more flavor to both games.

I would also rather play Defenders of the Realm over Pandemic but have not played it in a couple years. My wife likes the art style and a couple we game with sometimes really like the game so I have kept my copy.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #277134 08 Jul 2018 20:56

Colorcrayons wrote: I still maintain that 'games' of this ilk are puzzles, not games.

Puzzles are solved.
Games are played.

Much like solitaire, this puzzle can be absolutely not solved if the deck is against you.

And the entire enterprise is further ruined by the alpha gamer dictating to everyone else how to solve this puzzle.

Nope. Not a game.


Years ago, somebody at this site had an important insight about the difference between euros and ameritrash. In a euro game, something random happens (a tile flip, a card draw, etc.) and then the player makes a decision with perfect knowledge of the outcome of that decision, not counting lack of knowledge of future turns. In an ameritrash game, a player makes a decision and then there is a random determination of the success of that decision.

With respect to co-op games, an ameritrash co-op is a game, but euro co-op is more like a puzzle, due to the timing of the randomness. And that automatically puts the euros at a disadvantage in terms of entertainment value, because solving a puzzle as a group is less fun than playing a game, and the perfect information enables both alpha player bossiness and analysis paralysis. Fun murdering, in short. I will even go a step farther and say that the perfect information aspect attracts control freaks.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #277137 08 Jul 2018 21:23

Shellhead wrote: I will even go a step farther and say that the perfect information aspect attracts control freaks.


And people who like solving puzzles.
DarthJoJo's Avatar
DarthJoJo replied the topic: #277139 08 Jul 2018 21:45
Pandemic was my first boardgaming love. I got it for Christmas in my wife’s second year of med school, and we near played it every night for two months during dinner. We haven’t played it since finishing Legacy Season 1 over a year ago as she has even less time these days, but I’m looking forward to our next play, whenever that is.

To those who keep saying it’s not a game but a puzzle and less because of it, I don’t get it. You say there’s near perfect knowledge and thus always optimal plays. Naturally someone sees these plays best and dictates everyone else’s turns to win.

But that assumes the only way to have fun is to win I disagree with that, even in a co-op where everyone can win. I still remember our first game with my brother-in-law. We thought we had the game on lock. With nothing obvious to do on his turn, he moved to Jakarta for a vacation. We lost three turns later when he was too far to stop a cascading outbreak in Seoul.
Colorcrayons's Avatar
Colorcrayons replied the topic: #277143 08 Jul 2018 22:57
It's not less of a thing because it's a puzzle.

I personally don't enjoy it, but then again I don't enjoy puzzles in general, though there are exceptions.

For some reason, so called "alpha gamers" are attracted to this game, when they should be playing it solo. But the same could be said for a lot of games. I recall a horrendous experience with Mansions of Madness before the game ever was released with such a gamer.

I think of puzzles as more of a solo experience, and while others could be involved in resolving it, doesn't meant they should.