Pandemic Critical Play

Formal Elements


Pandemic can be played with 2-4 players. There are different role cards in the game, that are randomly assigned to players and have a variety of special abilities.


Pandemic is a cooperative board game in which players are trying to find cures to four diseases that have broken out before any of several game-losing conditions are reached. 


At the start of the game, cities are randomly infected with one to three infection cubes; players are given a random role and player cards with cities on them (that can be used in a variety of ways depending on turn and ability). On each player’s turn, a player can take up to four actions, consisting of any of the general actions that a player can take (including moving to an adjacent city, curing one disease cube from that city, curing the disease), as well as any abilities from the role that the player has. After each player’s turn, new epidemic cards are drawn to populate new cities with epidemic cubes based on the rate of infection. At this point, breakouts can occur which have a recursive effect.


The outcome of the game occurs when the players have found a cure to all four diseases.


Actions are restricted to a certain number per-turn or to a certain situation (e.g. can only cure at a lab, need 5 of a kind to cure) in order to purposefully/meaningfully dictate player actions and make worthwhile dilemmas for players.


Resources included in this game are particularly the player cards, which can be used to cure a disease (5 of a particular kind, played by a single player in a city with a lab can allow a cure to be found). 


This game has players working not against one another, but cooperatively against the situation — primarily dilemmas of explicit choices that need to be made at each part of each turn.


The physical boundary of the board separates the game from the not-game, crafting an experience in which actual cities are infected in the game but not in real-life.

Pandemic Legacy

In Pandemic Legacy, all players are learning about the game at the same time, which allows players to get around the rulebook — which is a critical aspect of many board games, and definitely for pandemic (which has a variety of card types, roles, and situations depending on the desired experience). This changes the game experience significantly even from the opening of the box and reading the rules; now the experience turns into one where you are slowly unraveling the rules and how to play over the course of the game. One of the safety nets built into Pandemic Legacy is to open a particular package if the players lose 4 games in a row — this gives players reassurance (without much communication) and takes some of the pressure off when playing this version of the game. Overall, this version of the game changes the type of play from one that can be relatively mapped-out rules wise and optimized with the roles (to an extent, due to randomness), to one that is highly variable with conditions unexpected for any player along the spectrum of experience with the game.

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