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In Pandemic: Contagion you take on the role of a virus. Not the sneezy achy, have a bowl of chicken soup and feel better… virus. We are talking population extermination strength virus. Each player on their turn may choose a city and infect it by placing colored cubes representing their virus on City cards. Once the number of infection cubes (from any and all players) reaches or exceed the population of that city, that city and all the folks living there are eradicated and the player who placed the most virus cubes on it scores points equal to its population. Runners up score a bit less depending on the size of the city. The game lasts 12 rounds from a programmed Event deck. After a final scoring round, the player , eh I mean the virus with the most points wins. And we all lose.

How to Play[]

Set Up[]

Each player chooses a color and takes the matching player board and Petri dish which contains 15 disease cubes. Being a virus, each player has three Mutations to track during the game: Incubation Rate, Infection Rate and Resistance. One cube is placed on level 1 on each of these tracks. Next Shuffle and deal 4 Contagion cards to each players and place the rest aside. Shuffle and place a number of City cards on the table face up based. The number of cities differs based on the numbers of players… eh viruses. Each player then places one disease cube on a city of their choice – just to get things moving.

Finally, the Event deck is programmed – randomly choosing nine of the 12 Event cards, and three of the 6 WHO (World Health Org.). The Event deck is built bottom up with one WHO card then three Event cards and so forth until the 12 card Event deck is built.


At the start of each round, the top card from the Event deck is revealed, read and resolved. Each player resolves the effect on the event card and then each player in turn may take two out of three available actions.


Draw Cards[]

Simply draw into your hand a number of cards equal to the Incubation mutation level. If you have more than nine cards, you have to discard down to nine.

Infect a City[]

In this phase you can place a number of infection cubes on a city equal to your Infection level. To infect a New City, you must discard two Contagion cards that match the color of the city you want to infect. If the city is already infected by your virus, then you must only discard one card of matching color. The first player to infect a city places their cubes on the top row of the City card. Subsequent players place them one row down and so forth.

Mutate your Disease[]

Each player or disease has three different mutations. They each range in strength from 0-4. This more or less defines your abilities or attributes as you make your way across the world infecting us lowly homo sapiens. Each player begins the game with each Mutation at strength 1.

  1. Incubation: This mutation’s level represents the number of cards you may draw when you choose the Draw cards action.
  2. Infection: This mutation’s level represents the number of cubes you may place on a city when you choose the Infect a City action
  3. Resistance: This mutation’s level represents the number of, disease cubes or Mutations that are protected from Event and WHO cards.

To Mutate your disease, discard a number of Contagion cards equal to the next level of that mutation and move the cube up one level.

The Event deck[]

At the beginning of each round an Event or WHO card is upturned. And each player must resolve its effect. Event cards

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can have positive or negative effects that will affect the spread of your disease. WHO cards always have a negative effect to your disease (or a positive effect for the world because they want to cure the diseases and slow your progress). This is where your Resistance mutation comes in. You may decrease your Resistance level one for each cube or card that is affected by the Event or WHO cards.

Sometimes a New City icon appears on the Event card. If so, draw a new City card and add it to the table face up. In addition, a Skull and Crossbones icon may also appear on an Event card. If so, all infected cities immediately score. This is called Death Toll Scoring. In this case, the player with the most disease cubes on a City card scores the lowest number on that City card, and no one else scores. Death Toll Scoring only occurs when the second, fourth and sixth Skull and Crossbones icons is revealed in the Event deck.


Besides the Death Toll Scoring, most of the games points are scored as soon as the number of Disease cubes on a City card equals or exceeds the population of that city. (The large number in the City cards’ upper right). The player with the most disease cubes scores points equal to the population of the city. The player with the second most disease cubes on the city scores the next number down, and finally the player with next most disease cubes scores the third number. Scores are tracked on the score board for each player and the city card is flipped over to show that, alas, no more human life populates it. (ulp!).

Game End[]

The game’s final turn begins when the last WHO card is reveled from the Event deck, or when there are two City cards left face up on the table. Players complete the final round, and then move to final scoring.

After the final round, players complete one more Death Toll scoring round for all infected cities. They then add to this the cumulative total of each of their mutation levels. All these points are tracked on the score board and the player with the highest score wins. And the world as we know it will never be the same!


Learn to Play Pandemic Contagion

Links and References[]