Pandemic - A Family Review

Save the world in Pandemic, the cooperative strategy game about being daring scientists and first responders during a global crisis. Travel from continent to continent, set up research stations, and cure diseases until the world is safe.
Pandemic - A Family Review

Save the world with your family, but not as super humans—as everyday scientists! This globe-spanning game was a blast to play with our older kids.

Although Pandemic is based on curing four worldwide diseases, our kids loved changing the diseases to other dangers. Why combat a microbe when you can pretend there are zombies and robots you need to eradicate?

Pandemic is a rules-heavy game, so be prepared to read the manual before explaining and to answer many questions during gameplay. We found the kids needed a lot of direction their first few turns, but they got the hang of the game quicker than we expected.

One special note—be thoughtful about “quarterbacking” while playing, by which we mean directing all the strategy. Because the game is cooperative and everyone can see all the cards, it becomes very easy for one person (let’s be honest, usually a parent) to direct everyone on how to play their turns. Although this may lead to the most efficient game, it’s less fun for everyone else! We found the most enjoyment when we discussed our game strategy as a team but let the kids direct their turns.

9yo: “I enjoyed having to work out the plan with my family and hoping I got the cards I wanted.”

A big plus about the game being world-spanning? Our kids got to see and read many global city names they weren’t familiar with! The game also has a great look (very early 00’s action/drama aesthetic, think Kiefer Sutherland), lots of tactile cubes, and little scientist pawns.

11yo: “It was pretty cool it had real-world places.”

Pandemic is one of the hardest cooperative games to win, but you can modify the difficulty level to your taste super easily. Our first session took just over 45 minutes on the easiest difficulty… and we won!

Gameplay can take a lot longer depending on the difficulty you set and the amount of player focus. We found that (with adult help) 9+ seemed pretty suitable. And if you’re dealing with teens, they’ll easily be able to play it independently. After the game? Our kids were wishing there was a Pandemic Junior version just for them.

Want a cooperative game that takes teamwork, luck, and strategy to win even half the time? Definitely pick up Pandemic.

Helpful Hints

  • Pre-read the game rules and plan out how to most clearly explain them to kid players.
  • The epidemic interaction with the infection deck is one of the coolest, smartest game mechanics around.
  • Want a different aesthetic? Try two other games built on the Pandemic System: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King or Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu.

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