It all comes down to this. One chance. We have to cure this last disease, or the world will be overrun with another vicious outbreak. We've gathered these few samples. We wanted to get more, but we just didn't have...time. Good luck.
Usually, dice versions of established games are simplistic and unnecessary, so I was skeptical of a dice version of Pandemic. Would this version cure my fear, or send me into fits of coughing. Let's find out.
- 48 Infection dice--12 each in four colors
- 1 Infection bag
- 7 player pawns
- 7 Role cards
- 37 Player dice in seven colors
- 6 Region tiles
- 1 Treatment Center that includes an Outbreak and Infection track
- 2 syringes to track Outbreaks and Infections
- 1 CDC tile
- 10 Event cards
- 1 Cured Diseases card
Each player will rake a Role card and the associated dice. Then you set out Regions and seed them with 12 Infection dice from the bag. These represent diseases that are popping up. There are four colors of Infection dice, and each Region has certain colors of dice that can show up there, based on the numbers on their sides. Then shuffle up the 10 Event cards and set out three of them.
Much like regular Pandemic, each person is going to have a special Role with special powers, and on each person's turn, he or she will have actions to spend on moving and removing diseases and so forth. The difference here is that each person has a set of dice to roll that determine which actions the player can take. Each Role has its own set of dice, and each set of dice has unique sides on the dice. So a boat symbol lets you move to an adjacent Region. A plane symbol lets you move to any Region. A syringe symbol lets you put one Infection die from a Region into the Treatment Center, or one Infection die from the Treatment Center to the Infection bag.
There are a few variations on these--and some unique symbols--depending on the Role (for instance, the Medic has a symbol with three syringes that lets him treat three Infections with one action).
These custom Role dice are great. They're good quality, different colors, and just add to the experience.
So you'll spend dice moving around to Regions and moving Infection dice from Regions to the Treatment Center--or from the Treatment Center to the bag. Why is it important to move dice to the bag?
Because every player die has a Biohazard symbol on it, and if you roll one of those, that die is locked up, and you have to move the Infection rate up. When the Infection rate crosses a line on the track (every four spots), you have an Epidemic. During an Epidemic you take a number of Infection dice from the bag equal to the current Infection level, plus any dice in the Treatment Center, and roll them. Then you place the dice onto Regions that match the number on the die. As if that weren't bad enough, if a Region now has more than three Infection dice of the same color on it, you have an Outbreak! That means you take any dice above 3 on a Region and move them clockwise to the next Region. This can trigger another Outbreak, where you follow the same steps. And it'll keep on creating a chain reaction.
This is where we've lost most of our games. Those chain reactions will just wreck you, so you have to keep on top of the number of Infection dice out in Regions and in the Treatment Center. Because it's a dice game, there will be times you're sure you have a little breathing room to take care of things, and then someone rolls three Biohazards--and there's nothing you can do about it.
You can keep rerolling dice, as long as you haven't used it for an action already. And you can do it in the middle of your turn. So you could use a plane symbol to move to Region 3, and then reroll a ship symbol to try and get a syringe symbol. The risk, of course, is that you'll roll more Biohazards, which trigger the Infection track and lock up that die. So sometimes you'll just quit your turn "early" because you don't want to risk crossing a line on the Infection track and triggering an Epidemic.
The last good thing you can do on your turn is keep any specimen symbols on the player die, pair it with a die from the Treatment Center, and gather a "sample" of that particular disease. You can try to cure a disease once per turn, but you'll have to roll a 13 to cure it. If you miss the roll, you keep those samples and try again later--or you can give samples to other players when you're in the same Region at the end of your turn.
The last thing you have to do on your turn is Infect Regions. That means you draw a number of dice equal to the current Infection level (which increases as the game goes on), and roll them. You put them into Regions, which might trigger Outbreaks (just as can happen with Epidemics). Thankfully, each of the Infection dice has one side with a cross symbol on it, and any time you roll that, the die doesn't go out into Regions, but rather into the CDC. You can, at any time, spend the dice in the CDC to use an Event card, which let you do awesome things and cost varying numbers of dice.
Once you cure all four diseases, you win!
You lose by:
Running out of time: If the Infection track ever gets to the end, you lose.
Too many Outbreaks: If the Outbreak track ever gets to the end, you lose.
Too many infected people: If you ever have to draw an Infection die, and there are none in the bag to draw, you lose.
Pandemic: The Cure is hard. It's also fun. Lots of fun.
It's a game with a ton of dice, so sometimes you'll just roll poorly, and die. Also, some of the Roles are more useful than others, so you might have a combination that doesn't work as well, and you might die. We died the first few times my game group played. In fact, I didn't win until I played with my family, and we lowered the difficulty to the Intro level.
But that leads to one of my favorite things about it: My whole family can play. My youngest started when he was still 6, and now it's one of his favorite games. This ability to play with anyone means I probably like Pandemic: The Cure more than the original game. Maybe. At any rate, it's a top-notch version.
There's tension, anxiety, planning, luck, and a real feeling that you're barely keeping things together until you finally cure everything! Or you die.
The Final Verdict
The dice version of Pandemic is neither simplistic nor unnecessary. I wish all dice versions of regular games were this thoughtful, interesting, and fun. If you're looking for a new co-op for gamers or family, you've found the cure.
Thanks for reading!