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October 20, 2014 / Jett

Pandemic: The Cure Review

Pandemic: The CureThrow on your Hazmat suits, kids. The smash-hit board game about curing four deadly diseases before they ravage the world returns as a dice game in Pandemic: The Cure. As such, both games follow the same premise and are similar in many respects. However, making the transition from a board game to a dice game has turned The Cure into a faster and somewhat more casual affair. Hoping that this game will surpass its legendary predecessor may be asking for too much, but does it stand out on its own as a fun and unique take on the tried-and-true formula?

Let’s start with the dice, as they’re the most distinctive part of this package. The game comes with dozens of them, though they serve two primary functions. One group of dice is used to represent the four different diseases. The rest of the dice correspond to each character in the game. In order to make every character unique, each character’s set of dice is different, which allows for them to have unique abilities. Before the game starts, each player collects their character’s dice set, while all of the disease dice go into the infection bag.

FullSizeRender(1)Unlike the original game, the world map game board has been set aside for a series of modular components. The ring-shaped piece is the Treatment Center. This is used to track the infection rate and outbreaks. Also, the empty space in the middle is used to store disease dice once you’ve treated them from a region. Unlike the board game, which featured dozens of different cities, Pandemic: The Cure simplifies things greatly by only using six regions; each of which have their own little circle. Placed to the side are the CDC headquarters, which is used to store cross dice, event cards that can be bought with cross dice, and a cured diseases card that is used to track your progress.

Setting up the game is a breeze. All of the bits are laid out as prescribed in the instructions. Then, you draw 12 dice from the infection bag and roll them. You’ll place all of the dice on the six different locations based on the number rolled on each die. Once that’s done, you’re ready to play!

Your ultimate goal as a team is to find the cures for all four diseases before the infection rate is too high, before too many outbreaks occur and before the infection bag runs out of dice. You’ll do this by treating diseases in different regions, which puts the disease dice into the Treatment Center. Then, you’ll collect multiple samples of the same disease type. Once you have three or more dice of the same colour, you can roll them after you’ve done all your actions for a chance at curing that disease. If you roll 13 or more, you’ve successfully cured that disease. If you come up short, you’ll have to wait till your next turn to try again. As you can imagine, this can get really tense after a series of failed attempts.

As if doing all of that wasn’t stressful enough, the diseases continue to do their dirty work throughout. At the end of each turn, you must take dice from the infection bag and infect regions based on the numbers you roll. If three or more of the same colour land in the same region, an outbreak is triggered. Each time you do this, all of the extra dice of that colour move clockwise to the next region and the outbreak counter is increased. If moving the excess dice causes there to be more than three of the same colour to exist in that region, you’ve just set off a chain reaction, which increases the outbreak counter and moves the excess dice yet again.

Pandemic: The Cure

The scariest cruel twist of fate is the epidemic, which is triggered by rolling too many biohazards. When this occurs, you must take all of the dice from the Treatment Center and a handful of dice equivalent to the infection rate and redistribute them across the different regions based on how you roll them. If you had a stockpile of disease dice sitting in the Treatment Center when this happens, these epidemics can make your situation turn south real fast.

Just like the board game version, teamwork is crucial if you want to have any shot at winning. Each player has different strengths that are conveyed through a special ability that appears on their character card. Each character’s dice also feature different die faces. Certain characters are more likely to score specific actions, while others have access to powerful actions that are unique to them. For instance, when the Contingency Planner rolls a cross, they can use it to take a disease cube from a region or the Treatment Center and bank it in the CDC to spend on special Event cards. My personal favourite character is the Generalist, as they can to roll seven dice and their first biohazard roll never counts. As a means of speeding up the process of curing diseases, you can also give your samples to another player if they’re in the same region. Finding ways to work best as a team regardless of how bad the circumstances may be makes this one an entertaining challenge throughout.

One aspect of The Cure that got lost in translation was the original game’s sense of gravitas. It was amazing to to see a world map filled with disease cubes spread across dozens of different real-life cities, as it gave the game a real sense of scale. Since the world in The Cure is simplified so dramatically, that feeling of having the actual world on your shoulders is greatly muted to the point where you simply refer to them as regions one through six. If you’ve played the original board game before, it’s a bit easier to create that feeling yourself, though if you’ve never played classic Pandemic, this isn’t going to hit home nearly as hard.

Pandemic: The CureThis was a real bummer at first, though I learned to get over it. Pandemic: The Cure makes a conscious decision to sacrifice that aspect of the game in order to improve or differentiate itself in other ways. For instance, simplifying the world map makes for a game that moves notably quicker. Unlike the original game, which for us ran between 45 minutes to an hour, The Cure takes between 20-30 minutes to complete. In hindsight, I never feel like the original game ran too long, though I do appreciate how this dice game gives me that sensation in a shorter time-frame.

I also love the way that dice dictate your actions. In the old game, it was very easy for one or two gamers to take control of everything, or for the team to sit and stew over every single move. Here, everyone is kind of at the mercy of the dice. Taking away some of that control goes a long way towards letting everyone make their own decisions. Sure, you can re-roll until you get the perfect set of actions, but you’re also putting the team at risk of landing biohazards in the process. Having the dice in play lends itself more towards going with what you have, which also makes the game move quicker.

In a weird roundabout way, my primary complaint about the game not feeling as grandiose as its predecessor works to its advantage in other ways.With the original game, the stress of it all wears me out after one or two consecutive games. With The Cure, the game moves so quickly and it’s not as stressful overall, which makes it easier to play over-and-over. It ends up feeling like a slightly more lightweight game, but within the context of this dice game, it totally works.

Pandemic: The CureOnce I got over the fact that this isn’t classic Pandemic, I grew to really like Pandemic: The Cure based on its own merits. You still get most of the disease-fighting thrills of the action, but in a game that moves quicker and makes great use of dice as a gameplay component. If you’ve played the original a ton and want a fresh take on the Pandemic formula, The Cure is just what the doctor ordered. My only caveat is that if you haven’t played the original, I highly recommend playing that first to fully grasp what this dice game is trying to do.


One Comment

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  1. INK1ing / Oct 21 2014 3:06 PM

    This looks like a nice addition to the Pandemic family although I am mostly interested in the new Legacy game that is coming out. I think it’s great they kept the style of the original too.

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