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I really couldn't wait to get my hands on Pandemic. It looked great. The early reviews looked pretty good, too. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun playing it too. I got caught up in the hype machine. I bought it as fast as I could, took it home, and have now played it about five or six times. And now, I'd like my money back.

Components:

The quality of the components and the cards are fine. The box is great. It's just not functional. Several people have mentioned that the pawns/cubes/blocks are too big for the cities. That may be the case, but it seems more likely that the board is completely wrong. Why just a tiny little circle to stick as many as three cubes, one oblong block (research station), and maybe a couple of giant player pawns? It gets overcrowded quickly, and if you get up to grab a drink and come back, your piece may have moved around a bit on the board. A Risk-style board with actual territory to contain the pieces would have worked far better. Just take a look at some of the pictures in here and it will make you wonder what the heck they were thinking when coming up with the board design?

Although nice hefty components are always appreciated, they have to be functional to matter. It's a little annoying to deal with the components. I have to give a "D" for lack of functionality.

Rules:

The rules are very straightforward.
1. You get four actions per turn
2. You can move, cure infections, trade cards, build research stations, or cure diseases - and there are varying ways to do this.
3. You draw two cards at the end of your turn. You can't have more than seven cards total.
4. You draw a number of infection cards equal to the infection rate. Each card represents one infection cube in a new city.
5. Epidemics mean that you shuffle all of the previous infection cards and place them on top of the infection stack, meaning you go through the same infected cities again.
6. If a city gets infected and already has three cubes, there is an outbreak - outbreaks are bad.
7. There are three ways to lose - a) too many outbreaks, b) run out of good guy cards, or c) run out of cubes of one color.
8. The only way to win is to discover cures for the four diseases by matching up a set of similarly colored cards.

There are some details as well as variable player powers. But the nuts and bolts is that it is an easy game to teach. Takes about 5 minutes to get going, and everyone will have a very clear understanding of the rules. I give the rules and their presentation in the game a big "A+".

Theme:

The theme is unique, but not particularly well executed. I like a little bit of theme in my games. The diseases in this game don't have names. Oh no! The scourge of the "yellow" disease. I hope that "blue" doesn't have another outbreak!. Nothing like making everything a generic colored cube to suck the life right out of the game. It becomes a mechanical excercise of removing and replacing various cube colors. It feels more like a board game version of the Bust-A-Move video game ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bust-A-Move).

The epidemic cards just mechanically list what you're supposed to do. There is no little story to go with them. It's just that when an Epidemic comes up, instead of adding a couple of cubes, you add a lot more cubes and shuffle some cards. There could have been so much more done with the theme, but it really isn't there. I can give high marks for the uniqueness of the theme, but low marks for poor execution. "C-"

Gameplay:

This game is a series of obvious choices punctuated by bits of uncontrolled chaos, followed by more obvious choices. Unfortunately in this game, everything is known at the start. There is one infection card per city on the board. The color of the city on the board is the same color that the infection will be. There is one card in the player deck for each city. That means 12 cards per disease. You need five cards of one color (disease) to be able to cure it. So, you realize early on that using a ton of the same color card to move around lowers your chances of finding that cure - so don't do that.

Also, the way the epidemics work is easy, too. You shuffle all of the cities that have already been infected back to the top of the infection deck. So guess what - you know where all the infections are going to happen. Just park your guys in those areas and cure away. There isn't any point to going into a location where the diseases haven't popped up yet, since the epidemic will ensure that the same areas get infected over and over. It does make the game more difficult, but it makes it extremely predictable.

Ultimately, I have a feeling (and so did those that I played with) that the choices we made during the game had very little to do with the outcome. If the deck is stacked in a certain way, it's going to be tough to win - i.e. all the red infection cards are toward the top, and all the red cure cards are toward the bottom. If the deck is stacked in a more even way, it will be quite easy. But there is always a "best course of action", meaning the game kind of plays itself. Sure, the players need to interact with one another, but everyone always says the same thing... "Hmmm. Looks like there are a lot of black cubes out there. Guess I should take care of that," or how about, "Hey, I have four red cards. Does anyone have a fifth that they could get to me before next turn?" The various roles that people take make it even more obvious what each player's choices should be. If you're the medic, you probably shouldn't be building research stations. If your the dispatcher, you probably shouldn't be out curing diseases. If you're the researcher, you should probably stick pretty close to the scientist. And if you're the scientist, you probably shouldn't spend a bunch of cards.

The decisions really come down to this - Should I cure the disease in Karachi, or in Tehran? Should I keep collecting Blue cards, or Red cards? And you know what? Whatever decision you make early doesn't matter, because you have no idea what infections or good cards are coming up next. After you get your first epidemic, your decisions are obvious because you know EXACTLY which infections are coming up next. Only the order of infection changes.

With four players, the game almost plays itself. Everyone has a role, and it's obvious from turn one what they should be doing. With only two players, the choices are slightly more varied, but the cures are easier to get since the cards aren't divided up among four people - only two.

I can't say the word "mechanical" enough times in this review. The gameplay feels like a series of mechanics, rather than a game. The gameplay gets a big ole "F".

Parting Shot:

If you turned this into a drinking game, it might be a pretty good one. Without heavy amounts of alcohol, it's no fun at all - at least not with the folks I have gamed. I think this game would appeal to white-collar workers who enjoy meetings at the office. In your typical office, everyone knows exactly what they're supposed to be doing, but some people still like to get together and talk about it anyway. If you are one of those, then Pandemic is for you. If you can't stand office meetings, you may want to find another way to kill thirty minutes. Since I loathe office meetings with a passion, I have to tilt the final overall grade to "F+". I gave the + because the rules are nicely presented, and the materials used to construct the game were pretty good.

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the original post is gone, and the user along with it, so I posted a copy of it

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all the reviews have been all positive, it iis nice to see the other side of the coin. I have wondered about games where you work together, I prefer AT games where it is about killing the other guy ( or hurting him ).
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Jeff Jackson
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OK, one time Randy Beaman had to take baths with his brother. So one time his little brother took a potty in the bathtub .....and now Randy Beaman gets to take showers alone. 'K, bye.
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Wow. Too bad you didn't get too much, if any, enjoyment out of Pandemic. The game has had quite the opposite effect on our group. We have been engaged EVERY play. For the record, we are a lousy 0-5 on Normal mode. Admittedly, that may be part of the appeal - getting our first win.

Is the game scripted? Yes. Are there tough decisions? No. But most Co-op games answer similarly and our groupd kinda expected that going in, so perhaps our expectations were lower than yours.

Either way, nice job explaining your disappointments in the review!

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James Tyler
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I'm not sure I exactly follow the path of the criticism of this game. You primary complaint seems to be "What you need to do to win is determined by what has happened on the board." IE, it the players intellects versus the random factors of the decks. You compare it to an office meeting at the end of your review. But what I guess I don't follow is how exactly that differs from other board games, especially games of a cooperative bent. Certain things happen; your team has to react to those events; if you make the right choices, you all don't die. Your other criticisms (how the same cities come up in the epidemic role, which is actually INTENTIONAL seeing how that's the only way you can lose by outbreaks was a personal favorite) just strike me as short-sighted in the end. Maybe I'm just blind because of how much I love this game, but your assessment just didn't seem terribly illuminating in any way.
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Jody Ludwick
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It's always good to hear from both sides of the fence.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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WhiteKong wrote:
jjacjackson wrote:
Is the game scripted? Yes. Are there tough decisions? No. But most Co-op games answer similarly and our groupd kinda expected that going in, so perhaps our expectations were lower than yours.
I disagree that all co-op games are necessarily scripted. I thought Pandemic would be something along the lines of "Shadows over Camelot" except with diseases. Even without a traitor, Shadows is a way better game. Pandemic left me bored to tears.
You're certainly entitled to your opinion of the game, though I would strongly disagree... Shadows Over Camelot has some nice group decisions and is a great group experience, but it doesn't offer much to the individual at all. Once it's underway and you're on a quest, what is it besides just waiting around for a while until your turn comes up so you can play one card to the table to a fairly obvious place each time? Pandemic is much more engrossing and exciting, methinks. You may know what cities are coming up in general, but not exactly when, and that can make a big difference. You are always thinking ahead and looking for the best options of what to do. In Shadows, you're looking ahead and thinking, "I'm going to play a Holy Grail card... I sure hope a Despair card doesn't come up." And then on the next turn, "I'm going to play another Holy Grail Card. I sure hope a Despair card doesn't come up." Etc.

That being said, I love Shadows Over Camelot for what it is, but I think it has a much higher potential for boredom and rote playing than Pandemic.
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Steve Zamborsky
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WhiteKong wrote:
jjacjackson wrote:
Is the game scripted? Yes. Are there tough decisions? No. But most Co-op games answer similarly and our groupd kinda expected that going in, so perhaps our expectations were lower than yours.
I disagree that all co-op games are necessarily scripted. I thought Pandemic would be something along the lines of "Shadows over Camelot" except with diseases. Even without a traitor, Shadows is a way better game. Pandemic left me bored to tears.
Shadows over Camelot is so unthematic; nowhere in Arthurian legend is there any documentation of the number "4".
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Greg Cox
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Nice review and I agree with others here that it's refreshing to see a different point of view about a game being raved about. The only bit I thought was not quite right was your 'parting shot', it's a sly put down on people who like the game and, I mean, what is wrong with office meetings anyway!?
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Sheamus Parkes
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Zambo wrote:
WhiteKong wrote:
jjacjackson wrote:
Is the game scripted? Yes. Are there tough decisions? No. But most Co-op games answer similarly and our groupd kinda expected that going in, so perhaps our expectations were lower than yours.
I disagree that all co-op games are necessarily scripted. I thought Pandemic would be something along the lines of "Shadows over Camelot" except with diseases. Even without a traitor, Shadows is a way better game. Pandemic left me bored to tears.
Shadows over Camelot is so unthematic; nowhere in Arthurian legend is there any documentation of the number "4".
Other than it shall not be used since the counting shall cease at 3. 5 is right out.
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Champion Eternal
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I like your review for its frankness.

As usual, on BGG, people who like the game one is commenting negatively on will come out in force to defend it to the hilt. Stick to your guns, you'll be fine.

More frank reviews please.
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John Farrell
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Zambo wrote:
Shadows over Camelot is so unthematic; nowhere in Arthurian legend is there any documentation of the number "4".
Ahem. "Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three."

Thank you for your review WhiteKong, I'm actually more interested in Pandemic now.
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WhiteKong wrote:
Also, the way the epidemics work is easy, too. You shuffle all of the cities that have already been infected back to the top of the infection deck. So guess what - you know where all the infections are going to happen. Just park your guys in those areas and cure away. There isn't any point to going into a location where the diseases haven't popped up yet, since the epidemic will ensure that the same areas get infected over and over. It does make the game more difficult, but it makes it extremely predictable.
Fun read. I can definitely see where you are coming from. The game works very well for me but I am fairly easy to please.

Just 2 comments:

1) The statement above needs just one more detail to be fair. When you draw an epidemic, you draw one new city that gets infected with 3 cubes right away. So, this is unpredictable and can throw a nice curve ball on your script.

You also make it sound that it is easy to "park your guys" on the affected cities. They can be spread all over the board and it is not very likely you can safely cover all of them and you have to figure out how you can take the least amount of damage. This is a good feature on any game.

2) I was also a little let down by not having the names of the diseases but, in the end, I think it was a great decision. This is a family game and it could be uncomfortable to people to be talking about diseases from the real world that may have affected or killed loved ones. Or, maybe, a given player might be even suffering from the disease. A lot of people have TB and HIV for example.

I really think it was the right thing to do.

I really mean it when I say I enjoyed your review. You make good points and you make the positive reviews more believable.
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Dan Conley
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Brad...thanks for the honest and forthright review. I haven't gotten a copy of this one yet. My FLGS is supposed to have one for me and, since they're actually in another TOWN soblue , I haven't gotten there to see if it's waiting for me.

It's refreshing to read "the other side of the coin" on this one! Almost everything I've read has been positive. I somehow missed in THOSE reviews that the diseases are actually COLORS. Are we playing CANDYLAND here?!?

Thanks again! I'll chime back in if this ever hits our game table.
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JP LaChance
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I take it you couldn't stop the virus either.

Shouldn't be sore, it's only a gameshake
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C Lloyd
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Not sure why un-named diseases are such a big deal. This way, you're not limited to the disease of the moment. Just make up real or creative diseases as the mood suits. Red could be Asian Bird Flu, or The Red Death. Or just the red disease. We didn't have any problem with just trying to cure four un-named diseases, differentiated by color.
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James Bentley
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Don't hold back, tell us how you really feel.



No game is going to satisfy everyone, that's just the way it is. I personally think Pandemic is great, great fun and look forward to playing it as often as I can.
But that doesn't mean I expect the next guy/gal to feel the same way.

And that's okay.
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Brian M
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Quote:
There is always a best course of action.
Moscow is suffering from a serious outbreak of a disease with 3 cubes. You know its coming up sometime, but not when. You can get there...or you can go the other way to trade your Red card to another player and complete the research she needs to find a cure. Do you have the time to make the trade? Can you afford not to? Pick wisely...one turn either way can often make the difference in this game. What's the best course of action?

Pandemic is, so far, the best co-op game I've played. Easy and fast to play, highly thematic. Its very engaging, as you all really get into planning together, and the tension as the outbreaks grow and the risk increases makes for a very exciting game.

(And I really agree with Ronaldo on why its good to NOT have the diseases named. Besides, that also keeps it from feeling obsolete when we find a cure a cure next year )
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Stephen Shaw
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Just a weird observation -- I am starting to learn that the more games I play and own, the less I am able to predict whether or not I will like them. Unlike the OP, I REALLY didnt think this game idea was appealing AT ALL, and I certainly didnt think that my group would get into it.

I was wrong. I love it, and the group cant get enough of it. Exactly opposite experience.
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Alexander B.
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I pretty much agree.

I played the game 6 times in about 1.5 hours with 3 very smart players.

I got excited about it a bit at first, but as each tumbler clicked into place in terms of how to get the priorities right, I found myself thinking that in a few more games, once what to do next is pretty clear, the luck-factor will be all that is left of the game.

Sure, each role plays a bit differently. But the priorities on what has to be done next never really changes. Epidemic cards hitting early in their respective deck segments, along with--to a much lesser extent--the starting setup of the diseases, will largely determine the difficulty of the game.

Even though we lost all 6 times (once by only 2 turns), I don't have much of an urge to play this game any more.

Yes, it takes skill and teamwork, and yes, I love co-op games, but this one feels like after a few more plays, it will be fairly obvious by 3/4ths of the way through the deck if we got the luck that is also needed to win or not...

...not bad for a co-op game, but not something that has held my interest, sadly.

There is an interesting learning curve that we all enjoyed... having climbed most of it though, I can't see what is left to explore in it.

The harder levels? I don't think so. My guess is that once everyone is clear on the priorities and everyone is doing all they can to deal with those priorities, the harder settings won't add skill, only more luck to determine if it even *possible* to win at all on a given game.
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Rupert Rupinette
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Ronaldo wrote:


2) I was also a little let down by not having the names of the diseases but, in the end, I think it was a great decision. This is a family game and it could be uncomfortable to people to be talking about diseases from the real world that may have affected or killed loved ones. Or, maybe, a given player might be even suffering from the disease. A lot of people have TB and HIV for example.
This is easily remedied by using fictional disease names.
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In this thread: "The Black Disease - Revealed!" all four diseases have been deduced by comparing their 'watermarks' to actual disease images.

The pics suggest they are:
Blue - Avian Influenza (H5N1)
Yellow - Typhus/Yellow Fever
Red - Smallpox
Black - Ebola


HTH,

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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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WhiteKong wrote:

Theme:

The theme is unique, but not particularly well executed. I like a little bit of theme in my games. The diseases in this game don't have names. Oh no! The scourge of the "yellow" disease. I hope that "blue" doesn't have another outbreak!. Nothing like making everything a generic colored cube to suck the life right out of the game. It becomes a mechanical excercise of removing and replacing various cube colors. It feels more like a board game version of the Bust-A-Move video game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bust-A-Move).

The epidemic cards just mechanically list what you're supposed to do. There is no little story to go with them. It's just that when an Epidemic comes up, instead of adding a couple of cubes, you add a lot more cubes and shuffle some cards. There could have been so much more done with the theme, but it really isn't there. I can give high marks for the uniqueness of the theme, but low marks for poor execution. "C-"
We can all agree to disagree about the gameplay aspects and how interesting or involving they are, and that's fine... but I'll have to call a big hypocrisy charge on the above section when I look at the games you've rated 6 or higher and consider how well many of those games represent their themes (answer: many of them not nearly as well as Pandemic), and how many of them have generic colored bits as part of their gameplay (answer: many).
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Good review I think. It doesn't snipe, it just states a different aspect. I'm still very interested in trying this, if nothing else because I think my wife would like to play it with me, which automatically bumps it to the top of the wishlist.

So I'm only upset you've already gotten a trade in hand
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Cameron McKenzie
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WhiteKong wrote:

The best course of action is ALWAYS to limit the number of cities with three diseases. Always - every time. That doesn't mean you can't take a chance and do something else, but if there are never any cities with three cubes in them, you never have to worry about outbreaks. If you never have to worry about outbreaks, you really don't have to worry about losing.
Wrong. You can lose if you run out of cards in the player deck. There's only 12 cards of each color in the deck, and if you are running around treating cubes the entire game and not ever arranging to exchange cards, you will spend so much time at the hand limit that you'll throw away a lot of cards and it's entirely plausible that no players will end up with a set of 5 of a specific color before the game's end.
Did you only play this two player or something?
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Alexander B.
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MasterDinadan wrote:
....

Wrong. You can lose if you run out of cards in the player deck. ...
Yup. We lost by epidemics twice, to running out of a cube color once (was absurd distribution of red cards on top of the deck), and 3 times to cards running out.

The cards running out is really the main problem in most cases because, indeed, it's pretty easy to stop the chain-reactions from causing epidemic problems in most cases.

There are various choices in the game, but the main one seems to be when to break up the 3s and when to focus on trading cards.... not exactly scintillating play at that point.
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Friendless wrote:
Thank you for your review WhiteKong, I'm actually more interested in Pandemic now.
I'll add some impetus then. Pandemic was significantly developed and playtested at one of the gaming groups I frequent (SB-Boardgamers). To an extent I've watched the game grow up and move its way out into the world.

While there are neat mechanisms in the game, simply, I don't see anything actually appealing in the gameplay. It is clearly to the players direct incentive (ie assists their victory opportunity) to fully reveal their hands at all times, in which case the game immediately becomes calculable. The only aspect left which can't be determined is the random card order -- and that's what will ultimately determine the game, not the player's decisions. The actual game decisions are either obvious or irrelevant with the rest of the game being determined by the luck of the draw/shuffle.

I understand that some may hinder their own chances of winning by not being so blatant about their cards, but they are doing precisely that: reducing their own chance of winning in the hope that a game might emerge. I've mostly concluded that Pandemic isn't really a competitive/challenging game, but rather a guided experience that the players wander through, play-acting at decisions and enjoying the ambiance.
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