Which Pandemic Game Should You Choose?
Where to start with the bestselling cooperative board game series
Since it was first published in 2008, Pandemic the board game has inspired new editions, spin-offs, variants, and expansions galore. With so many different ways to play the bestselling cooperative game, which one is right for you? We’ll walk you through the key points and differences between our most popular Pandemic titles, so you can get to saving the world right away.
For the classic experience, pick up a copy of the game that started it all. The 2008 hit cooperative game from designer Matt Leacock is by far the biggest bestseller in the series. Players work together, move around the board, and share research to discover cures for four diseases that threaten the globe. Cure all four to win, and don’t let too many outbreaks cost you the game.
Bonus: Add the On the Brink expansion! While there are a few expansions available for the Pandemic base game, On the Brink is by far the fan favorite. Pandemic is normally a 2-4 player game—though solo rules are also available—but On the Brink includes the ability to add a fifth player. It also adds the Virulent Strain mechanic, where one of the four diseases becomes a more aggressive mutation and a bigger challenge to cure. All of the content in On the Brink can be mixed and matched or added all at once, whenever you’re keen to spice things up.
And, if you get enough people together (at least 4), you can even try your hand at a competitive Pandemic tournament. Learn how to run a Pandemic tournament over Zoom from the man who started it all, Matt Leacock.
Pandemic: Hot Zone is the shorter, more portable younger sibling of the original Pandemic. Because of its shorter play-time and smaller footprint, it’s easy to learn and especially approachable for new players and family game nights. Each Hot Zone title focuses on a specific part of the world, and some cards can be mixed and matched between different Hot Zone games to vary the challenge. Pandemic: Hot Zone – North America is the first in the series to be released, and more are on the way!
In the Pandemic universe but completely different mechanically, Pandemic: Rapid Response is a real-time game that players must win within a 20-minute time limit. Players take the roles of different experts on an international crisis response team, whose job it is to deliver the right supplies to a number of disaster-stricken cities before time runs out. Players take turns in order, so you have to act fast and avoid too much discussion. If you’re looking for a game to get your heart racing, look no further than Pandemic: Rapid Response.
With the recent release of Pandemic Legacy: Season 0, the Pandemic Legacy trilogy is complete! If you’re a seasoned Pandemic player or simply want a more narrative experience, Pandemic Legacy is for you.
As with other Legacy games, all three seasons of Pandemic Legacy are played over multiple sessions and your team’s unique choices determine the course of the story, causing rules and components to change permanently as you play. We recommend starting with Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, as it features the most similar gameplay to the Pandemic base game, but you can also start with Season 0, the prequel, and play through the three seasons chronologically. It’s all up to your preference!
If you enjoy a cooperative challenge but the medical theme doesn’t interest you, might we recommend a Pandemic System game? The Pandemic System includes games like Iberia, Rising Tide, Fall of Rome, and Reign of Cthulhu, which all feature similar cooperative mechanics as the original Pandemic, but are rethemed and adjusted to fit their unique historical or fantastical settings. For instance, the goal in Fall of Rome is to prevent the collapse of the Roman Empire, while the objective in Reign of Cthulhu is to seal all four gates before H.P. Lovecraft’s Ancient Ones awaken and destroy the world. There’s a Pandemic System game for every player!
Roll for a cure in this dice-based game inspired by the original! Similar to Pandemic, you and your team win or lose together as you attempt to find cures. But, the results of your dice rolls will determine what actions you can take on your turn and how the virus spreads to different regions. You’ll also collect dice of each color as samples for your research, and then roll them to discover a cure. Play the odds to save the world!
And finally, this last Pandemic game isn’t cooperative at all. The only player-vs-player game in the series, Pandemic: Contagion might come off as a little dark. Instead of working together to prevent outbreaks, players take the roles of competing viruses and try to score the most points. If you want to play a Pandemic game, but you’d rather play a competitive game than a cooperative one, Pandemic: Contagion is the way to go.
This is just a small selection of the most popular Pandemic games and expansions available. To browse all Pandemic titles, check out the full line of games. How will you save the world?