Type: Co-Op / Push Your Luck

Time to play: 60 – 90 minutes (Teaching: 10-15 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (1 – 4 Players)

So, I have finally done it. I have completed Season 2 of Pandemic. It’s been an epic journey through the follow up to arguably the archetype of the legacy game format, and now it’s time to put my fingers to the keys and say a little bit about the game and the experience. However, I am going to try and limit the spoilers! No promises.

What can I tell you? Firstly, that this is just not the same game as the first season and it’s not the same as the base game. If you are opening the box hoping for Pandemic, or the mechanics of it’s various expansions, then you are in for a shock. This is a game with it’s own story and it’s own truly unique mechanics.

Okay, may that’s a step too far – the initial game is basically a reverse of the base game. You start by putting cubes out and the game takes them away. However this has implications for your strategy and as the game progresses you will have less and less cubes to put out – that’s no secret, you can work it out from the very first turn.

You are on a diminishing route to ruin from the start of the game and every step you take will try to pull you from the brink. How though? You will connect cities, search areas, look for help and all whilst trying to play the balancing game of Pandemic. A small map then, expands out infront of you. A network growing steadily.

Now, the more you grow the network the more you tend to a danger point – less resources, a bigger grid and more variance in the plague cubes that can arise. It even means that there are more pandemic event cards. The crushing part of this is that once a pandemic occurs the same cities recycle. With less resources this is very challenging.

We spread thin on the grid and tried to defend, but others might focus on greater defence for more strategic parts of the map. These are the kinds of options that are important. Meaningful choices that will change the map – I won’t say how!

Okay, so you are building a grid, you are passing a tipping point – clearly you hope that there is something out there to search for. What else can I say….. Well it’s a legacy games and you guessed it, that means stickers and destruction of cards. You will be modifying cards and losing cards along the way. I can’t say too much on how or why, but there’s more meaningful choices coming your way.

Perhaps one more thing then – the fear of death. Your characters will experience this along the way, you will have to scratch the little bar at the bottom of the character sheets and you will be terrified of revealing something the eliminates your character from the game. This is a perpetual tension that overrides short term tensions of the plague that is spreading throughout the land.

This is a truly challenging then, a game that races towards short goals whilst building an overarching plot. You will find paths that pull you into traps, opportunities that do not win you games but might win you the war. What choices you make is up to you, and how you manage your characters through an evolving world will be your story.

Is this game perfect? No, and I understand that this may sound like bad news after Season 1 hit the top of BoardGame Geek, and you were hoping this one would be even better. It’s not that game though. It’s a clever and intriguing game. It’s probably 15-20 hrs of game play with a rich story and an amazing ability to develop. However, it’s a co-op with no hidden information and a simple enough decision matrix to mean that you can have one player run the game. Also, it’s got just enough randomness to mean that a brutal and unforgiving game could easily happen during the course of your campaign.

The biggest problem though, is that it’s quite easy to get the rules wrong or even just take too long between games to remember the things you set in motion. We were most frustrated when we left big gaps, when we made mistakes but if you play this game in a short time frame you can really gain an incredible experience.

Last notes,

  • If you like co-ops this is a great follow on to Season 1
  • If you worry about getting the whole of the game experience – you will not get that here. You will miss bits
  • If you win, move to the next month and keep trying – it get’s harder!