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The Meeple Guild: Pandemic among best co-operative games

Expansions and re-themes all worth a play
pandemic game
Pandemic plays a lot like you are trying to stem the tide of a disease like COVID-19.
YORKTON - When a group of guys get together at a gaming table the bravado and competitiveness can surface rather quickly. 

The core of our little ‘guild’ has been playing for a rather long time. My son was just a wee tot when he sat on my knee rolling my dice for Dungeons & Dragons, and a couple of others that still join in were there back then too, but we are still competitive to the point of argument over rather minor things. 

So when we first delved into a co-operative game it was a bit of a departure, although an RPG usually relies on players co-operating to succeed. 

But on a board, well that was new. 

We were lucky that our first co-op game, where we really needed to work as a cohesive unit to beat ‘the game’ was Pandemic. 

From designer Matt Leacock, Pandemic was first released in 2008, and the game met great reviews. 

Simply put, Pandemic is a great game which pits up to four players against the game itself. In this case you are working to quell a worldwide pandemic (which maybe didn’t resonate as much in 2008 as it does now). 

The game is not easy to win, which is both frustrating and enticing. It can be downright maddening to lose before really getting started, or to be mere moves away from victory only to have one of the lose conditions kick-in. 

Of course back to our generally competitive nature, we generally just restart with hopes of doing better. 

The game released in 2008 is now one that is easily a modern classic, and there are not a great many games I’d assign that moniker. 

However, Pandemic has actually gotten better through the years. 

Things started with some expansions, which are now common enough among games. The add-ons were all right, although far from stellar. 

But, when Pandemic: Iberia released in 2016 they sort of cherry-picked the best ideas from the expansions, upped the art and changed the era of the game, and generally created a better version of the original game. 

The game has also been reworked several times with new rules and themes, while keeping the base idea of co-operating to beat the game, with the odds against you remaining intact. 

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu released in 2016, Pandemic: Rising Tide in 2017, and Pandemic: Fall of Rome in 2018, all have their own flavour and are well worth playing as an alternative. 

Then there are the legacy versions of Pandemic, which really have an RPG feel to them. Players again face the challenge of beating a pandemic, but as you play each module the game alters to the point of adding stickers to the board to change the original lay-out, and tearing up certain cards never to be used again. 

Legacy games are generally one play through and done forever, but it’s still typically eight-10 hours of play time so the value is still high, and the fun higher. It is just awesome seeing the game actually change as you go through, sometimes ‘winning’ a module, often failing. 

There are now three ‘legacy’ games, season one and two, and then a season zero came out in 2020.  

Our group loved the experience of Season one, and are in the midst of season two, which has more board changes involved and is harder in general, but still loads of fun. 

Season zero will be a must have too. 

There are a lot of options once you play Pandemic and fall for it, but every one of the varied expansions and re-themes is worth playing. A winner for nearly 15 years now.


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