Pandemic: The Cure Review – Solo Perspective

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Pandemic: The Cure board game

The world is under attack by four deadly diseases–grab your carry on, your radiation suit, and get ready to save the world or die trying!

Pandemic: The Cure Review – Overview

Pandemic: The Cure is a board game for 2-5 players designed by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man Games.  It is based on its’ sister game, Pandemic, but utilizes dice to represent the diseases instead of cubes and dice are also rolled to determine what actions each player can take. It plays much faster then its sister game at around 30 minutes per game.

How many invisible friends do I need to play?

Out of the box it is not technically playable by 1 player but as with many cooperative games the solo player can very easily play 2, 3, or even 4 roles and cooperate with themselves to try(emphasis on try) to save the world.

Does this play like Monopoly?

The goal of the game is to cure each of the 4 diseases before the world’s population becomes too infected or too many outbreaks occur.  Each player will roll there custom dice on their turn and use a Yahtzee mechanic to keep or re-roll their dice and push their luck.  Every die has a bio-hazard symbol which locks the dice once rolled and causes the infection track to advance.  Every 5 times the infection track moves it causes an epidemic which adds more and more diseases dice to the board.  This is the primary form of push your luck in the game as players must decide if they want to risk re-rolling some or all of their dice to get better or more useful results while risking infecting the earth further.pandemic: the cure review

The Good, the Beautiful, the Dice

The components are top notch, other then the pawns which I will mention below.  The dice are standard size, easy to read, roll well, and have not showed any signs of the symbols or pips rubbing off even after 10+ plays.  The ring board thing goes together and comes apart faster than you can say “lickty split” and everything else is what we have come to expect from most publishers, slightly worse then what FFG puts out, but still way way better then the ’80s. The fact that you get custom dice for each role is amazing.

Learning the game is about as easy as learning subtraction.  The rulebook is short, beautiful to look at, and easy to read.  The order of the definitions of outbreaks, epidemics, infections, etc. might be in a strange order but there are only around 2-3 sentences explaining each so it is not a big deal.  I set the game up based on the instructions and read through the other 2 pages and was up and rolling within 10 minutes total.  After 2 games you shouldn’t ever need the rulebook again unless you are cryogenically frozen for 20 years and forget the rules to all your games(the horror!).

The play time is a solid 20-30 mins once you know the game, and for once, the box isn’t lying!  Yes, the game does have a lot of luck, as you would imagine with this many dice, but as a lot of people know the more you roll dice throughout a game the more the luck seems to even out and the less impact horribly unlucky rolls have.  Sure, you can still roll all bio-hazard symbols the turn before you are going to solve the final cure and lose, but hey that’s thematic(and statistically improbable)!  And that just makes you want to set the game up again and crush those diseases into yesteryear.

 Complaints and Criticisms

I have two complains with the game; one minor and one major.  The pawns for the different researchers could have been something less boring.  This increases the price tag, can be added later, or can be found at retailers like Meeple Source; so I can live with that.

The much bigger complaint I have with the game and the one that is particularly relevant for the solitaire player is that the game simply does not scale – difficulty wise – with the number of players/the number of roles being used.  If you are playing with 2 or 4 roles, nothing about the game changes.  The number of infection dice rolled per turn does not change, the setup does not change, the amount of samples that can be held at any one time does not change, nothing.  In all my playthroughs with varying number of roles I have found that playing more roles does tend to make the game easier.  More roles allow more samples to be held at any one time while still allowing a good amount of dice to be rolled for other actions.  Since nothing scales, having as many special abilities as you can by playing with max roles allows the most strategic options and the most flexibility.

The cooperation is also easier because the chances of you being near or on the same space as someone else and able to give them a sample by pure coincidence increases the number of roles you have.  I think the solution might have been having the # of infection dice rolled per infection symbol be equal to x + # of roles or something that scales.  I understand this would increase the learning barrier and could be confusing to new board gamers but might help smooth out the difficulty curve.  Perhaps this could be added or implemented in an expansion.  Mr. Leacock is a very talented designer, and you know there is going to be expansions for this, so I am optimistic.

With that being said, the game is not broken or poor with a certain number of players – far from it.  It is simply that the difficulty is vastly different depending on that factor.  Once you know this, you can actually use this to your advantage and slowly lower then number of roles you use once you are winning regularly and then up the difficultly level and go back to four roles and start the process again.  My point is that this hurts the solitaire/solo player because typically when playing games where you have to player multiple characters, roles, sides, etc. the less overhead and less you have to manage and keep track of the more immersed you can become in the game and in turn, the more fun you have.  The solo player tends to want to play as few as roles/characters as possible and Pandemic: The Cure might not accommodate that as well as it could.

Pandemic: The Cure Review – Final Thoughts

This is still a tremendously fun game despite my complaints and one worthy of being on your radar if you are solitaire player.  I would put this in the same category as Friday, Roll Through the Ages, and D-Day Dice.  It is a 30 minute, hard to beat, high luck game with solid thematic elements despite some theme being abstracted for play time’s sake.  These qualities make it the perfect weeknight after work game where you are too tired to play a brain burning Uwe Rosenberg farm simulator and don’t have enough time for an epic Mage Knight adventure but don’t want to watch trashy T.V. with your significant other.

If you hate games where you have to play multiple characters such as Sentinels of the Multiverse or Flash Point: Fire Rescue I would still give this a look because the characters are not that difficult to manage because they only have 1 or 2 special abilities and some are passive or are simply tell you what a symbol on their die does when rolled.

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