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Pandemic is a cooperative board game designed by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man Games in 2007.  Pandemic is based on the premise that four diseases have broken out in the world, each threatening to wipe out a region. The game accommodates 2 to 4 players, each playing one of five possible specialists: dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher, or operations expert. The game is unlike most board games in that the gameplay is cooperative, rather than competitive. Through the combined effort of all the players, the goal is to discover all four cures before any of several game-losing conditions are reached.

Three expansions, Pandemic: On the BrinkPandemic: In the Lab, and Pandemic: State of Emergency, co-designed by Matt Leacock and Tom Lehmann, each add several new roles and special events, as well as rule adjustments to allow a fifth player or to play in teams. In addition, several rule expansions are included, referred to as "challenge kits".

Pandemic is considered one of the most successful cooperative games that has reached mainstream market sales, condensing the type of deep strategy offered by earlier cooperative games, like Arkham Horror, into a game that can be played in a limited time by a wider range of players.

How to Play[]

The goal of Pandemic is for the players, in their randomly selected roles, to work cooperatively to stop the spread of four diseases and cure them before a pandemic occurs.  Pandemic setup consists of a game board representing a ne


twork connecting 48 cities on the map of the earth, two decks of cards (Player cards and Infection cards), four colors of cubes (each representing a different disease), six Research Stations, and a pawn for each player. The Player cards include cards with each city name (the same as those on the board); Special Event cards, which can be played at specific times to take beneficial actions; and Epidemic cards. Infection cards consist of one card for each city on the board and a color of the disease that will start there. At the start of the game, Infection cards are randomly drawn to populate the board with infections, from 1 to 3 cubes for a number of cities. Players start at Atlanta, the home of the Centers for Disease Control, and are given a random role and a number of Player cards. On each turn, a player can take 4 actions, consisting of any combination of the following:

  • movement, as per the following four options:
  • between interconnected cities (car and ferry travel)
  • to a city that the player holds that Player card of, discarding the Player card (direct flight)
  • to any city if the player is currently in one of the cities they hold the card of, discarding the Player card (charter flight)
  • from a city with a research lab to any city with a research lab, without discarding a city card (shuttle flight)
  • sharing information with another player, by being in the same city as that player and either giving or receiving the Player card representing that city
  • treating one unit of infection from a city that the player is presently in, removing a cube from that city
  • constructing a research lab in a city that the player holds the city card for (discarding that card afterwards)
  • finding the cure by being in a city with a research lab and holding five Player cards of the same color. Finding a cure does not stop further infection of that disease until all cubes of that color are removed from the board; from then on, drawing an Infection card of a color that is eradicated will result in no change to the board's state

On conclusion of the turn, the player draws two Player cards, reducing their hand down to seven cards by discarding Player cards and/or immediately playing Special Event cards.[4] If either draw is an Epidemic card, the player draws a card from the bottom of the Infection deck and places three cubes on that city, puts that card into the Infection discard pile, reshuffles the discard pile, and places it back on top of the Infection deck. After the two Player cards are drawn (epidemic or otherwise), a number of Infection cards are revealed, and one cube of the indicated color is placed on each city drawn. Should a city already have three cubes and a new cube is to be added, an Outbreak occurs, and each interconnected city gains one cube of that colour. This can create a chain reaction across many cities if several already have three disease cubes on them.

The game is over if any of the following occur:

  • more than seven Outbreaks occur (a loss for the players)
  • there are no more cubes of the specific disease color when they are needed during Infection or Epidemic (a loss for the players)
  • there are no more Player cards to be drawn (a loss for the players)
  • the players discover the cure for all four diseases (a victory for the players)

To aid in winning the game, players are given roles that allow them to alter the above rules. Five roles were introduced with the core game, but additional roles were added through the game's expansion. For example, the Medic is able to treat all cubes in a city with one action or, once a cure for a disease is found, can remove cubes of that color without spending an action, while the Scientist needs only four cards of the same color to discover the cure. The players are also helped by the Special Event cards, which allow for similar one-time actions, such as direct removal of a few infection tokens or immediate construction of a research lab.

Pandemic requires the players to coordinate their efforts to win the game, specifically in gathering and sharing the necessary cards to discover cures while moving in coordination around the board and preventing Outbreaks in an efficient manner.


Pandemic Gameplay Runthrough

Revisions and Expansions[]

On the Brink[]

In 2009 the first official expansion was released, featuring several new roles, rules variants for a fifth player, new Special Event cards, and new challenges for the players.

There are eight Role Cards in this expansion, including a revised Operation Expert card and a Bio-Terrorist card, which pits one player against the rest of the team.

The challenges include a fifth disease, Mutation, which must be cured or not present at the game board when the players score for victory. Another challenge is the Virulent Strain, which makes one disease particularly deadly, replacing standard Epidemic cards with new ones. Each such card represents a special nasty effect that this particular epidemic has on the game play.

In the Lab[]

This is second expansion, released in the summer of 2013, with a new game board that allows players to research disease cures in a laboratory. The goal of this activity is the same as in the base game—to find cures for diseases—but this time with an added research aspect. Players can also use new characters and new special events included with the expansion. In addition, it added a one-player mode, and a team play mode, in which teams of two compete to be the most effective team. In the Lab requires both Pandemic and On the Brink to play, and also requires replacement decks if using the first editions of Pandemic and On the Brink.

State of Emergency[]

A third expansion, released in March 2015, adds new roles and events and three new challenges: The Hinterlands, Emergency Events, and Superbug. The expansion is compatible with the two previous expansions, but neither is required. However, the purple disease cubes included with State of Emergency make the set included in On the Brink redundant.


A second edition of Pandemic was released in 2013, with new artwork and two new characters: the Contingency Planner and the Quarantine Specialist.  Some prints of the second edition had an error with a missing line between Lagos and São Paulo and edge-to-edge printing on cards.

A second edition of the On the Brink expansion was released in 2013.

Replacement decks[]

The Pandemic base replacement deck updates the first edition of Pandemic to its second edition.

Compatibility pack #2 updates the first edition of the On the Brink expansion to its second edition.

The In the Lab expansion (released after the second editions of Pandemic and On the Brink) requires the second edition(s), or the first edition(s) along with its compatibility pack(s).


Z-man Games has released free-to-download scenarios, with changes to the base game. Various scenarios are set to be released.

As of April 2016, the officially released scenario list is:

  1. Isolation 
  2. Government Shutdown

 The latest rulebooks and scenarios list can be found on the Z-man Games Pandemic product page.


Three spinoffs or alternate versions of Pandemic have been released or announced by Z-Man Games, all of which are stand-alone games and are not compatible with the original or with each other.

Pandemic: The Cure[]

Pandemic: The Cure is a dice-based game that uses a similar rule set to the original board game but strips down the number of cities and leaves the outcome of turns up to chance via dice rolls.

Pandemic: Contagion[]

Pandemic: Contagion puts players in the role of the diseases and unlike the base game is non-cooperative. The object of the game is to eradicate the human race by spreading infections.

Pandemic: Legacy[]

Pandemic: Legacy is a new version of the base game released by Z-Man Games, similar to Risk Legacy, in which the game board changes permanently through each game played, and takes place over the course of a year. The game was released on October 8, 2015.

Links and References[]

BoardGameGeek Review

Official Rules