Pandemic Review: An Infectious Board Game for All [Gateway Game Series]

Pandemic is a cooperative board game where players try to stop the spread of disease around the globe. The game was released in 2009 to critical acclaim and has continued to grow in popularity. To many, it is considered a modern classic, and it’s one of my recommended gateway games.

Pandemic Board Layout via Z-Man Games

What is the Gist of Pandemic?

Pandemic is a co-op game designed by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man Games, with the main idea being taken from the 2002-2004 SARS outbreaks. Officially, it supports 2-4 players, but as with many coop games, it unofficially plays well solo.

In a game of Pandemic, everyone works together to cure four diseases that are spreading around the world. Players each have unique roles that give them certain abilities, but they can only stop the spread by working together. The game can be played in an 45-minutes to an hour, and it’s suitable for kids as young as 10-years-old. It’s also one of my favorite games I’ve ever played!

Overall game rating: 4.5 out of 5

Game Overview

There is an outbreak of four virulent diseases around the globe. The players are the specialists in fighting the disease. The game starts with the view in which players are positioned at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, and virulent diseases have already been spread in the nine major cities worldwide. Some major population centers are shown on the game board.

The seven roles are dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher, contingency planner, operations expert, and quarantine specialist. Every player can take one out of four possible actions. Players choose the role with the help of a deck of cards. Another deck of cards helps the player control the infection spread.

Different Player Cards in Pandemic via Z-Man Games

Players have to move around the board and cure the disease from nine major hotspots by taking actions wisely. If you don’t move fast, there is a fear that the epidemic will defeat even the cleanest cities that are not yet infected with the disease.

The players must restrict the disease from spreading out while finding the cure at the same time. All this has to be done in rapid succession and with great harmony.

The first impression:

Pandemic gives the first impression of being a highly enjoyable and thrilling game featuring group work dynamics instead of competition. Rather than fearing the other players, you ally with them in your attempt to stop the disease before it is too late. The game is pretty hard to get in the first few attempts, and it takes time to master.

Game rulebook and actions:

The rulebook clearly explains all the actions needed to be taken. Though the game itself is challenging and difficult to understand, its rulebook will help you know all the details. 

Pandemic Event & Infection Cards via Z-Man Games

For actions, the player who has the highest population city cards will go first. Every player has his turn divided into a total of three phases. The three phases are player actions, drawing player deck cards, and infecting cities. 

The game offers four actions to use from 8 possible actions on every player’s turn. Reference cards help the player remind him of actions that he can perform. The player can perform the same action more than once.

The Gameplay of Pandemic:

The gameplay is chaotic at times, often puzzling, but always exciting. So be ready to explore the thrill.

A player can have a maximum of seven cards in his hands.

The player with the highest population city cards begins the game, and all other players act on their turn in clockwise order. Each player can choose from basic actions as well as special actions.

The basic actions are drive/ferry, direct flight, charter flight, and shuttle flight.

The special actions are building a research center, treat a disease, share knowledge, and cure disease.

A cure marker is displayed on the area where the disease has been cured. When all cubes are removed from the board, the disease eradicates, and the player flips the cure marker. No disease cubes enter the board once the disease is eradicated.

When a player picks a card, cubes are stacked, and a disease outbreak accelerates all over the connected cities. Once the outbreak marker has reached the last space, the game ends, and the players lose the game.

Epidemic cards intensify the disease. Event cards are not part of the actions and can be played at any time when needed.

Things in a game of Pandemic can seem grim at times, but the power of everyone working together keeps things hopeful. This is the real beauty of this game, the teamwork.

The end of the game:

The moment players find a cure for all four diseases; the game ends on a winning note. As it’s a co-op game, every player wins.

While there is only one way to win the game, there are three ways to lose the game.

The game ends immediately, and players lose the game under the following conditions:

  • A player needs to add the same color cubes to the board, but unfortunately, no cubes with that color are left.
  • When outbreak markers have finally reached a skull symbol on the outbreak indicator, this happens when eight outbreaks have occurred.
  • A player must draw a card, but not enough cards are there in the player draw pile.

Theme of Pandemic:

No doubt, the game has an attractive theme—although I’m certainly more triggered by it after living through COVID-19. The graphics work is relatively good. The game board is a world map in which 48 cities are connected in a network. There is plenty of space for players and city cards on the board. Players are given the mission of saving the world, which can only be accomplished with teamwork.


There is nothing extraordinary in its design, but a well-worked idea is visible. The design is a decent colored world map that looks attractive. No gigantic animals, spaceships, machines, or wizards are shown over the box. One can use it in training sessions to understand the concept of epidemiology.

The deck cards add complexity to the game and make it more interesting. The unique roles, cubes showing diseases, rules to follow, and the group work make it overall a very creative game.

The game’s best elements:

  • Its thematic design makes things interesting, and you continuously get a chance to explore a new story and a unique situation every time.
  • As it’s a co-op game, once the play starts, tension develops between members. One blames the other, and one appreciates the other. A continuous transfer of advice and hatred goes on. When members win the game, the glorifying feeling of victory and gratitude compels them to love this game. And if they lose, they get right back to win the next trial.
  • Team pressure forces the members to think of new strategies. When that strategy works, a pleasant freshness spreads around. This game never lets you get bored once you become its master.
  • The infection deck keeps everyone alert during the game, and everyone waits for the perfect event card to come. The unique strategies and plot twists created by epidemic cards keep everyone on their toes.
  • The game works well at all player counts. You’ll enjoy it whether you’re a group of 2, 3, or even 4 players (solo works too!)

Final Thoughts:

If you’re looking for a game that will challenge your thinking and problem-solving skills, Pandemic would be an excellent addition to your collection. You can find it at your local game store, as long as they’re not closed due to the pandemic! We hope you have fun playing this great game with your friends and family.

Overall game rating: 4.5 out of 5

Pandemic Board Game (Base Game) | Cooperative Board Game for Adults and Family | Ages 8+ | 2 to 4 players | Average Playtime 45 minutes | Made by Z-Man Games
  • STRATEGY GAME: Players must work together playing to their characters' strengths as they plan their strategy of eradicating the diseases before they overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks. A truly cooperative game where you win or lose together.
  • COOPERATIVE BOARD GAME: Only through teamwork will you keep the world safe from outbreaks and epidemics. Your team must work together and plan carefully to stem the tide of infection while working toward finding the cures.
  • WORK TOGETHER AND SAVE HUMANITY: Four diseases threaten the world, and your elite team of specialists must find a cure for each of them before it’s too late. Everyone must work together applying their unique character skills to benefit the team—and the world.
  • GIFT FOR ADULTS AND TEENS: Pandemic is the perfect Christmas or birthday gift for anyone who loves a bit of problem solving! A perfect way to bring together friends and family, be sure to check out our full line of Pandemic games!
  • NUMBER OF PLAYERS AND AVERAGE PLAYTIME: This easy to learn family and adult board game can be played with 2 to 4 players. The average playtime is 45 minutes.

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