Friday, November 09, 2007

A Short Rules Preview of Pandemic

In one of my early blogs for Gone Gaming, I listed a few hypothetical games that I wished someone would create. One of my hypotheticals was a game I called NGO (Non-governmental organization) in which players try to stop famines and cure plagues to earn victory points. Now, I’m not so arrogant as to think that Matt Leacock was inspired by my blog to create Pandemic, the upcoming co-operative game from Z-Man Games. But I can at least congratulate myself for being ahead of the curve in predicting what kinds of new subject matter game designers will find interesting.

Z-Man has made the rules for Pandemic available on-line, and when I saw that it was a co-operative game, I knew I had to take a look. There are all too few co-operative games, and some of them (Arkham Horror) can take a long time to play. Pandemic has only about eight pages of rules, and the rules claim that the game can be played in forty-five minutes.

Up to four players can play Pandemic. Each player is a disease control expert who is trying to contain four different pandemics that are spreading around the world. If the players can restrain the spread of disease long enough, they may be able to find cures for the diseases and win the game. If the diseases get out of control and spread to too many cities, the players will lose. At the beginning of each game, each player gets a special power that they will use to modify some rule of the game in their favor. During the game, players move around the world-map game board, and treat disease in afflicted cities while trying to get the cards they need to find a complete cure for the global plagues.

Pandemic is basically a set-collecting game. If a player’s pawn is in a city with a research station, the player may discard five cards of the same color to cure a disease of that color. The player with the Scientist ability can cure a disease with only four cards of the same color.

Players get four actions per turn, and these can be used to move a player’s pawn, build new research stations, or to treat disease (remove cubes) in the city that the player’s pawn occupies. Normally, a player may only remove one disease cube per action, but once a cure for a disease is found, players may remove all the cubes of a cured disease from a city by spending just one action.

Although players will eventually be able to cure all four diseases, they may not have much time. Each turn players are required to draw cards that spread the infection of one or more diseases to cities listed on the cards. Wooden cubes of four different disease colors are placed on city spaces to represent the spread of contagion. The big problem comes when new disease cubes are supposed to be placed in a city that already contains three disease cubes of that color. In that case, an outbreak occurs and disease cubes spread to every adjacent city. Outbreaks in one city can trigger outbreaks in adjacent cities in a deadly chain reaction.

One sign of a good co-operative game is the ability to increase or decrease the difficulty level of the game to suit the experience of the players. In Pandemic, players may add more Epidemic cards to the deck to increase the difficulty of the game.

At least two of the most popular co-operative games are heavy-theme games taken from pop culture sources (Lord of the Rings and Arkham Horror). It will be interesting to see how the gaming community reacts to a co-operative game that isn’t inspired by works of fantasy, legend or horror. I am looking forward to trying Pandemic.


Fraser said...

This sounds interesting, I'll have to keep an eye out for it.


Backspace said...

Wow, like Fraser said, this looks very interesting.

MrHen. said...

Agreed, your preview makes this sound awesome.

Kris Hall said...

Well, good. I wasn't sure anyone was reading these rules previews.