Pandemic, now this brings back a few memories and if you’ve ever played board games, you’ve probably heard of it too.
Back at the start of the 2014 I reviewed the original Pandemic game and was less than enthusiastic about it. I didn’t hate the game, but I felt it suffered from a few flaws that made it fall flat compared to all the other Co-Op’s I own which I love to bits. Now, why then. is it still in my collection? Well. it’s a great game to teach to new gamers and despite its flaws I still enjoy it. I also now own the latest expansion “In The Lab” and the game is actually boosted a lot in terms of theme although the expansion does make it a lot more complex.
There seems to be a major trend lately for publishers to release dice versions of games that already exist. Bang, Nations, Race for the Galaxy, Through the Ages and many more have had the dice treatment and for the most part, they tend to act as a decent counterpart or in some cases a direct replacement. Dice hate me on a regular basis, but I love games with custom dice and so the prospect for a potential improvement on Pandemic for me was a solid one. Can replacing the cards with dice resolve the issues I have with the original? Someone pass me the bag…
Designer: Matt Leacock
Publisher: Z-Man Games
# of Players: 1-5
Play Time: 30 Minutes
A New Breed of Diseases… Send in the CDC!!!
The premise of Pandemic The Cure is the same. Diseases have spread all over the world and it’s your job, as a team, to control the spread and eventually cure all four diseases. Previously you used cards and collected sets to do it, but this time you are collecting sets of dice.
During setup the various continents, represented by circular tiles and each relating to a single side of a die, are laid out. Then lots of infection dice are rolled to show the initial spread of the diseases. There are four colours – red, blue, black and yellow and each colour has differing numbers on them to reflect the likelihood that they’ll appear in certain continents. When the diseases have spread, each player then takes a role-card and a set of dice customised for their role.
On each turn, the player rolls their role-dice and discuss the results with the group. Results can include the ability to treat diseases, move around the board, collect samples and finally, increase the outbreak rate. You can roll the dice as often as you like, but of course doing so increases your chances to rolling hazard symbols and causing outbreaks.
The aim of the game is to cure four diseases and players can collect samples from treated dice by “locking” their own dice on to them. At the end of their turn a player can roll all the sample dice and if they roll 13 or more, then the disease is cured and play continues. Locking these dice for samples means you’re rolling less dice on a turn, but then less dice means less outbreaks.
Play continues until all four diseases have been cured or the players lose. A loss can happen by either causing too many outbreaks or by running out of a particular disease’s dice in the bag when required.
What’s in the Box??? The Best Tools For The Job!!!
Pandemic The Cure has a fairly high price point; however, the reason is fairly clear when you open the box. You’ve got a decent cloth bag, some standard tiles for the infection rate and continents, some sturdy and thematic badge role cards, but then you see the giant collection of shiny dice. Every role has their own unique stash of dice with different faces on them, some of which have abilities that only they can utilise.
On top of that there’s the disease dice, a motley crew of near transparent colourful dice which feel good to roll – except for the fact that rolling infection dice is always a bad thing on a global level! It’s clear the price point was determined by the custom dice, but even so, it’s quite expensive for essentially a simple dice game so I’d probably recommend you try this one before you buy, just to be on the safe side. Given that it’s a Pandemic title though, it probably won’t be an issue to find someone with a copy!
A New Type of Treatment… But is it Effective???
Pandemic The Cure is simple and light, but there’s no shortage of tension brought on by rolling all of those dice. Rolling your own dice can have disastrous consequences for epidemics and a bad roll from the infection step can cause multiple outbreaks. You’re never safe on any turn, no matter how certain you believe it, and that’s a big plus point there. The game is involving and gripping, although using dice creates its own issue: – randomness.
Going in to Pandemic the Cure, you have to be aware that the dice will control a lot of what you do. Your goal is to mitigate the dice enough so that you can achieve your goals, but accept that the game is quite swingy at times. You could steamroll the game one day (and likely will on the easiest difficulty setting) and then get swarmed with diseases in no time at all the next play. However, that’s not to say that you don’t have choices to make. As a group you are very involved and the decision of whether to keep rolling your dice is one which can be regretted many times over.
With All the New Stuff…Is the Old Method Redundant???
As always with re-implementations there is the big question everyone is asking. “Does this replace the original?” As far as I’m concerned, only one flaw remains from the original – the Alpha Gamer – it’s entirely possible that some players will try to dictate the game for you, but it’s less of an issue here than before.
Other than that, the original Pandemic and Pandemic the Cure play very differently from one another. Pandemic has its randomness, but veteran players can plan ahead with the stacking of the infection deck. The original game felt more like a puzzle than a co-op, a puzzle which I preferred to play solo on the IPad. Pandemic the Cure, however, is a lot quicker and a typical game can wrap up in less than 20-25 minutes if the players know what they’re doing and no game should take more than about 30 minutes. A full game of Pandemic, on the other hand, can easily take an hour which doesn’t include the set up time!
For speed reasons alone, I would more than likely replace the original Pandemic on its own with this Pandemic the Cure, but it lacks the complex options and variation that the Pandemic expansions bring to the table. You have several roles to choose from, but other than that, there really isn’t a lot of variety in this game. Of course, I’ll put money on there being similar expansions on the way – for most of them all you need is some more dice!
The Final Verdict – Is This the Cure??? Or is More Research Required???
Pandemic The Cure is a nice little re-implementation of the classic co-op game for those who want something more simple and quick. It retains the tension and even adds more to some degree due to the random factor of throwing dice and the push your luck element of re-rolling your dice as much as you like. The custom dice are very good quality and you get a stronger feel for your role here than in Pandemic due to not only the special abilities, but the different facings on the dice.
That being said, it’s quite light and considering Pandemic wasn’t exactly heavy; it may be too light for some. Veteran players were able to be partially strategic in the original game due to the “stacking” of the infection cards. In Pandemic the Cure, other than improving your odds with the dice in the bag, you have to accept that bad rolls could screw you over regardless of your decisions. Also, repeat plays may get stale fast with the lack of variety in the game so this is something that is fun to pull out every now and again rather than a game that will see regular play.
Pandemic The Cure could be a replacement for those who only own the original Pandemic, but otherwise I think this can co-exist fine with an expanded Pandemic that has more complex options for the game. That is, at least until Matt Leacock somehow converts “In the Lab” into a dice expansion for this…
You Will Like This Game If:
• You already like Pandemic – it gives a similar feel to the original.
• You felt Pandemic was a bit clunky and time-consuming – this is quick, easy and fun.
• You want some added tension as a result of using dice instead of cards.
You Will Not Like This Game If:
• You’re worried about the increased random factor – you are chucking dice after all.
• You prefer the complexities that exist in Expanded Pandemic.
• The alpha player syndrome affected your appreciation for Pandemic – it’s still present here.
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I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.