In 2007, designer Matt Leacock brought us a little game you may have heard of called Pandemic. If you haven’t played this absolutely phenomenal cooperative game, then you owe it to yourself to give this one a try. Since its release, Pandemic has been nominated for dozens of gaming awards, spawned 3 different expansions, garnered a 5 Star review here on Board Game Quest and also found a permanent home in our Holiday Gift Guide. To say that Pandemic has been a runaway hit would be an understatement.
Today, we are going to look at Matt Leacock’s newest offering in the Pandemic universe, Pandemic: The Cure. This dice rolling game is not an expansion to Pandemic, but a new game that stands on its own all while staying in the spirit of the original game. Did Mr. Leacock strike gold again with Pandemic: The Cure? Let’s find out!
Pandemic: the Cure is a cooperative dice rolling game for 2-5 players that takes about 20-30 minutes. Pandemic: The Cure plays best with any numbers of players.
Once again the world is under siege by a host of 4 different diseases. You and your fellow players are a team of specialists that’s been assumed to save humanity. No, you’re not traveling to space to drill a hole in an asteroid. During this game, you will be racing around the globe trying to keep the disease filled hotspots in check all while trying to discover the cures.
Each turn you’ll be rolling your dice, taking actions, and infecting the planet. Meanwhile, diseases will be running rampant around the world, causing epidemics and outbreaks. If you and your fellow players can contain these viruses long enough to discover the cures, you’ll win. If the diseases overrun the planet, it’s game over.
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of components in Pandemic: The Cure. The first thing you will notice is the thick plastic ring that comes with the game. This serves as the game’s tracker for both the infection level and the outbreaks. It also acts as the treatment center (more on that later) in the game. Two plastic syringes will be used to mark the player’s progresses on the infection and outbreak tracks. This was a nice thematic touch, one of many in Pandemic: The Cure.
The infection dice come in four different colors, each with their own unique faces. Each color of dice have only certain numbers on them, which means that they will be landing in specific regions only, upping the chance of an outbreak. This was a nasty design choice by Mr. Leacock that I wasn’t expecting.
On the player’s side, there are 7 different roles to choose from, each of which comes with a colored pawn, a role card (that is thematically cut to look like an ID tag) and a set of unique dice. Each player’s role card will show what faces are on their dice and what the special symbols mean. I love that each player has a unique set of dice, it really made my want to try every different role.
Finally the game comes with a stack of event cards and some cardboard location circles. I’m on the fence if I would have rather had a full game board vs. the simpler included circles, but they work well enough (if not a little abstractly). Overall though, Z-Man Games did a great job putting this game together from the bits inside to the thematic touches on the game box.
How to Play:
If you’ve played Pandemic before, you’ll notice some similarities between the original game and The Cure. To get started, the “board” is laid out with the treatment center ring in the center and the 6 continent discs surrounding it in numerical order. Grab 12 infection dice from the bag and roll them, placing them in the appropriate continents. Each player collects their role card, pawn and dice and you are ready to begin.
On a player’s turn, they take the following actions:
1. Roll dice and take actions: Roll all of your dice. Any dice that show biohazard symbols are set aside and the infection track moves one space forward for each symbol rolled. If you get to a new section on the infection track, an epidemic occurs. When you have an epidemic, take all dice from the treatment center and enough dice from the bag equal to the new infection level and roll them. Place those dice on the appropriate regions. If any region now has 4 or more dice of the same color, and outbreak occurs.
When you have an outbreak, any dice in excess of 3 are moved to the next region clockwise. This can also cause a chain reaction of outbreaks. For each outbreak, move the tracker up one step.
A player can then take any actions showing on their remaining dice. The four standard actions are:
Fly: Move to any other location
Sail: Move to an adjacent location
Treat: Move a die from your region to the treatment center (inside the ring) or move a die from the treatment center to the bag.
Collect Sample: Take a die from the treatment center and place it on your role card with the die used to collect it. This die is now locked with the infection die until the disease is cured.
There are other role actions that are explained on the relevant ID cards.
A player can reroll their dice as much or as often as they want, but they run the risk of rolling another biohazard symbol (which can’t be rerolled).
2. Give Samples: You may give your collected samples to another player in your region.
3. Find a cure: Roll all the dice of one color on your role card. If you get a total of 13+, the disease is cured. If not, the dice are returned back to your card.
4. Infect: Grab a number of dice from the bag based on the infection level and roll them. Place them in the numbered region that matches what was rolled, checking for outbreaks.
Players also have access to 3 different event cards on their turn that they can purchase from the CDC. These are bought by infection dice that have rolled a “cross” symbol. These do things like letting a player reroll a dice, moving a pawn or even skipping the infection phase.
After a player has finished their turn, the next player clockwise takes their turn. Play continues in this manner until the players have either cured all four diseases or lost in one of three ways: No more dice in the dice bag, the infection track reaches its end, or the outbreak track reaches the end.
Let’s jump right in to it. Pandemic: The Cure is a fun game that is also not afraid to kick you in the teeth. I’ve lost track of how many games of Pandemic: The Cure I’ve played, but I’m fairly sure that I’ve lost most of them. It’s in that way that Pandemic: The Cure definitely captures the spirit of the original Pandemic.
As much as I like to keep game reviews self-contained, I think comparisons to Pandemic are inevitable, the games just share too much in common. The theme, the roles and even some of the mechanics in Pandemic: The Cure are a clear throwback to its award-winning sibling.
Even with the similarities, Pandemic and Pandemic: The Cure have very different play styles. Pandemic is a very strategic game where you will be discussing, thinking and optimizing your every turn. It’s a pot of water where you are slowly waiting for it to reach the boiling point.
To contrast that, Pandemic: The Cure is a cup of water you’ve tossed in the microwave…with a sheet of tinfoil. As strategic as Pandemic is, I’ve found Pandemic: The Cure to be a much more tactical game. Because of the wild nature of dice, the game state can change greatly from one turn to the next time you get to roll the dice. It’s in this vein that you will be more so reacting to your situation on your turn then carefully orchestrating a 5 turn plan like you would in Pandemic.
I think it’s that dynamic nature that helps separate Pandemic: The Cure from it’s older brother. If you like a lot of excitement in your games, if you enjoy tactical gamers where you have to assess the game’s situation at the start of each your turns, then Pandemic: The Cure is your baby. The press-your-luck nature of the dice will tempt like that little devil that sits on your shoulder. Sure, you just need one more sample jar action, why not roll again. Then BAM! You get smacked in the face with another biohazard result, which of course triggers an epidemic. For some people, (myself included), this kind of excitement and variety can make for really fun game.
But others might take issue with the greater amount of luck in Pandemic: The Cure. At the end of the day, it’s still a dice game, so your actions will be limited to what the dice offer you. In Pandemic, if you want to move twice and treat a disease and pass a card, you do it. In Pandemic: The Cure, you have to pray to the dice gods that you get the results you want. That’s ultimately what makes Pandemic: The Cure more tactical than strategic. It’s hard to pre-plan when you are not even sure what your options will be.
So is Pandemic: The Cure a better game than Pandemic? My gut reaction says, probably not. Pandemic: The Cure is fun, it’s exciting, and at times, maddeningly frustrating, but I think it will always take a back seat to it’s older brother. Pandemic is just to elegantly designed to be dethroned, even by a game as well crafted as Pandemic: The Cure.
But that’s OK. Pandemic: The Cure doesn’t have to be the best disease fighting game on the market. The question really is when should you reach for Pandemic: The Cure over Pandemic. In addition to the above tactical vs strategic reasons, another reason is play time. Pandemic: The Cure can easily be played in 20-30 minutes (including setup). That never happens in Pandemic except when you spectacularly lose in an early round.
Pandemic: The Cure also helps curtail the “quarterbacking” problem that’s incredibly prevalent in Pandemic. Because Pandemic is so strategic, is very easy for the “alpha gamer” to take over and start dictating what each player should do on their turn. That’s a lot harder to do in Pandemic: The Cure because each turn is so self-contained. Players have no hands of cards and are limited to what the dice roll offers them on their turn. Players will be reacting to the game state and need to apply their rolls as they happen. While there will still be some quarterbacking in Pandemic: The Cure, it will definitely be at a lesser extent.
If you are averse to getting you butt kicked by a game, then you probably want to steer clear of Pandemic: The Cure (or really any Pandemic game). This wild ride can be quite unforgiving at times and, due to the nature of the dice, even some of the most well laid plans can go out the window in few short turns. We’ve had at least one game where we thought we were doing well, only for some really bad rolls to sink our futures. Some people can’t really handle the “swingy” nature of dice games, and Pandemic: The Cure is no exception.
That said, Pandemic: The Cure provides a lot of variety with its 7 unique roles, its quick play time, and it’s more portable nature. I’ve even seen photos of this game being played on an airplane! I think Pandemic: The Cure makes for a great game when you don’t have the 60+ minute to dedicate to Pandemic, but still want to take on these diseases.
At the start I asked if Matt Leacock struck gold again with Pandemic: The Cure, I’d say the answer is a resounding yes. Pandemic: The Cure is a fun, quick and tactical game that acts as a nice companion to Pandemic. Whether or not you need to own both is up to your and your love of cooperative (or dice rolling) games. For me, I’ll be keeping both in my game library for a very long time.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, you can get it for about $36.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – A great new way to look at Pandemic, this dice rolling game captures the spirit of the original, but gives you a whole new way to play it.
• Highly tactical game will keep you on your toes
• Great components with a thematic touch
• Minimal “quarterbacking” in this cooperative game
• Difficult to win, but still a lot of fun
• Portable nature allows it to be played anywhere
• Dice can be prone to wild swings of luck
• No where near as strategic as Pandemic