Fans of the Pandemic board game are already aware of the intense challenge needed to save the world from deadly viruses. Now iPad owners can experience the same pain and frustration of losing an entire continent to an outbreak.
Pandemic was originally released in 2008 by Z-Man Games and is often considered one of the best co-operative board games. It also has a reputation for being a very difficult game as well, especially using the higher difficulty options included. Players are tasked with saving the world from an outbreak of four different viruses that have attacked the world’s major cities. By taking on the roles of various specialists (scientist, dispatcher, medic, researcher or operations expert), players have to work as a team to save the planet before all is lost.
Earlier this year, Z-Man Games announced that they have created a new studio, F2Z Digital Media Inc., to develop digital versions of their board games. Pandemic marks the developer’s first project, a daunting task considering the moderate complexity of the game’s mechanics. Fortunately, the fledgling studio has successfully produced a solid recreation of the beloved game.
In case you’ve never played…
Pandemic is a 2-4 player co-operative game that requires teamwork to stop the spread of four different viruses and cure them before a full pandemic occurs. Many of the world’s largest cities are represented on the game board, connected to each other via a grid network that allows players to move quickly across the globe. Each player receives four actions per turn, which can be used to:
Move to an adjacent city (or fly to any city if you have the appropriate card.)
- Trade cards with other players in the same city as yourself.
- Treating an infection in a city.
- Constructing a research lab in a city (if you own that city’s card.)
- Discover a cure (if you own five of the same color of card.)
Players collect and use cards with the city names printed on them and are color-coded with the appropriate virus for that region. At the end of each player’s turn, they receive two of these cards and then draw from the insidious Infection deck. Each city is featured in this deck, and each time a city is drawn, a virus counter is placed there. If a city receives more than three virus counters, an Outbreak occurs, spreading the virus to all connected cities. If you’re not actively quelling the spreading infections, it’s very easy for the situation to spiral out of control.
By collecting five of the same color Player card, a player can cash them in at research stations to discover a cure for that particular virus. Victory is achieved by discovering all four cures; unfortunately, there are multiple ways to lose. Players lose if:
- More than 7 Outbreaks occur
- There are no more cubes of the specific disease color when they are needed during the Infection or Epidemic phases.
- There are no more Player cards to be drawn.
Thankfully, Pandemic features a robust tutorial that walks players through every facet of the game. Each game piece and resource are explained as you encounter them, and there is a helpful hint system that gives suggestions if you are confused about what to do. Even after the tutorial concludes, there is an “Introductory” option that if enabled, the game will continue to offer occasional reminders of rules. Pandemic can be very challenging even on the easier difficulties, so these hints can be a valuable resource for newcomers to the game.
One of the biggest aspects that can make or break a digital board game is its presentation. Fun tabletop games such as Tikal and BattleCON suffer in their digital counterparts due to poor design, either from the user interface or the lack of a solid tutorial. Thankfully, Pandemic greatest strength is its stellar presentation. All of the art, from the character portraits to the game board itself, is beautifully recreated on the iPad screen, especially if you have a Retina display. The game utilizes smart visual cues to indicate the different items that need to be addressed by the player, such as virus cubes spinning around infecting cities, or exploding colors when an outbreak occurs.
The soundtrack also greatly enhances the experience, ramping up as the tension builds; I highly recommend putting on some headphones if you’re playing a solo game to truly appreciate the fantastic music and sound effects.
The world map even has a fun parallax effect when swiping around the board. The level of polish and presentation is certainly some of the finest I’ve seen yet.
Even though it is co-operative in nature, the game is playable by yourself by taking control of multiple characters. Multiplayer is limited to pass-and-play; there is no option to play online, unfortunately. It’s an understandable decision, as the level of coordination needed to succeed would be challenging over the Internet, but it is a slight blemish on an otherwise spotless finish.
If you’re wanting a convenient way to play Pandemic on-the-go, or if you’re hoping to try the game out before purchasing the physical edition, there’s no better experience than Pandemic on the iPad. It’s a worthy addition to any iOS gaming library, and it sets the bar for all digital tabletop games in the future.