The World of ‘Pandemic’

by Apr 13, 2021Olaf's Corner

The world is facing an outbreak of four diseases that are spreading rapidly…

Elite scientists, researchers, operations experts, contingency planners and quarantine specialist from around the globe are teaming up to overcome this challenge. Their goal: To slow the spread of these viruses and to eventually find a cure.

No, I did not steal this intro from the front page of this paper, I am talking about the board game Pandemic.

Pandemic is considered one of the most successful cooperative games of the mainstream board gaming market, in part because of its simple, accessible ruleset. The basic game will usually play in about one hour. It was created by designer Matt Leacock and was first published in 2007. Leacock, then a designer at Yahoo, was reportedly inspired to create the game after the SARS crisis of 2003. He decided on a cooperative format after he realised that competitive games were putting too much of a strain on the gaming evenings with his wife. After all, the charm of any cooperative game is that the other players remain your friends while the events of the game become the enemy.

Since its conception, the game has sold millions of copies and has spawned several expansions and differently themed variants. Most notably Pandemic: Legacy, which tells an elaborate story through several sequential plot-driven plays in a movie style fashion.

So how does the Pandemic work? 2-4 players randomly select roles which will give them unique abilities suited to the game’s task. They are working together cooperatively to stop the spread of the viruses and to eventually cure them before the pandemic has spread too far.

The game is centered around a game board which depicts a map of the world with 48 cities that are connected via a network for movement (by land from one to the next, or by air for larger distances). The diseases are represented by coloured cubes which increase in numbers as the infections spread. Players receive and play cards with each city name (the same as those on the board) on them, which can be used in various ways like curing a disease or travel. On their turn, a player can take up to 4 actions out of 8 possible choices. After taking their actions, the player draws two new player cards. Now it is the game’s turn: A number of Infection cards are revealed (their number increases throughout the game) and one new cube is placed on each city drawn. Should that city already have three cubes, an outbreak occurs, and each interconnected city gets an additional cube as well. Gameplay now moves to the next player, and so on. Players will win the game if they are able to cure all four diseases. They lose if the 8th outbreak occurs, or if they run out of cubes or cards to be drawn.

Pandemic requires the players to coordinate their efforts to win the game. They display their cards openly and they can (and should) discuss plans and strategies freely. Efficient teamwork greatly increases the chance of a win.

Matt Leacock and Olaf Pyttlik in 2017


It was just a matter of time before I would dedicate one of these columns to Pandemic. Yet I struggled to find the right moment to highlight what is unarguably the most successful cooperative board game of all times. After all, we are in one of those rare moments in history where we are actually living in a scenario that was conceived as being a purely hypothetical situation. As we struggled our way through the events of the last 13 months, it seemed counterintuitive to discuss a game that simulated something that we experience every day in real life. But this assumption overlooked one crucial point: Pandemic is about saving the world from a disease outbreak. It does not promote despair but hope. It emphasises the need and the ability to work together in order to overcome a crisis that can be felt around the world. Furthermore, it puts us, the players, in a position of control, rather than that of a passive and helpless bystander. No matter how challenging the puzzle might be, it is possible to solve it through teamwork, communication and determination.

if you haven’t had a chance to experience this game for yourself, I recommend you give it a try. There might never be a timelier moment.

Here are some notable titles form the Pandemic series

2-4 players, ages 8 and up

The original base-game. Players work together to stop the spread of a world-wide viral outbreak.


2-5 players, ages 8 and up

The first expansion to the original game. It includes new event cards, new role cards, rules for five players, and optional game challenges to increase the difficulty of the base game. This requires a copy of Pandemicto play.


PANDEMIC: LEGACY (Season 0, 1 or 2)
2-4 player, ages 13 and up

If you are an already experienced player and you are looking for a larger Pandemic challenge, then this might be a good choice for you. A story unfolds through about 18 consecutive games. Each outcome will permanently change the board and rules. The box comes with hidden compartments which will introduce new playing pieces, stickers or other surprises. A truly unique board gaming experience that is best enjoyed with other players who are able to commit to regular gaming sessions until the game is completed.


1-5 players, ages 8 and up 

This stand-alone variant takes players back in history to the time of the world’s greatest empire: Rome. A weakened military has left the borders open to invasion from countless tribes such as the Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Vandals, and Huns. As you march through the Roman Empire, you must recruit armies, fortify cities, forge alliances, and face off against the invading hordes in battle. It comes with a solitaire mode in which the player takes on the burden of being the Emperor and commands three different roles to try to protect the city from the invading hordes. 

2-4 players, ages 14 and up

Experience that classic Pandemic gameplay in the Cthulhu universe. Beings of ancient evil, known as Old Ones, are threatening to break out of their cosmic prison and awake into the world. Everything you know and love could be destroyed by chaos and madness. Can you and your fellow investigators manage to find and seal every portal in time? Hurry before you lose yourself to insanity.

Want more?
Check out our full line of Pandemic titles:

Are you intrigued to try a new 2-player game? Here are my top suggestions:


2-4 players, Ages 8 and up.


Work together to save humanity from a viral outbreak.

Pandemic: On the Brink

2-5 Players, Ages 8 and up

Pandemic - On The Brink

Introduces more challenges and play up to 5 players.

Pandemic: Legacy

2-4 Players, Ages 13 and up

Experience the game in epic poprtions

Pandemic: Fall of Rome

1-5 Players, Ages 8 and up

Travel back in time to ancient Rome

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

2-4 Players, Ages 14 and up

Pandemic - Reign Of Cthulhu

Experience the classic game in the Cthulhu universe.

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