Pandemic: How To Play – Simplified


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You and your fellow team of specialists are in charge of stopping 4 diseases from taking over the world and wiping out life as we know it. You must work cohesively in this cooperative game in order to help cure and eradicate the diseases before it's too late. Be careful of the epidemics that come along with new diseases as they will make your job so much harder!

Looking  for a full review of Pandemic? Check out...
Pandemic Review

Note: These simplified rules for Pandemic are to help you decide if the game is right for you and your group, or to help you get started quickly…not to be all encompassing.

For Full Rules Download the PDF Here

Rules Overview

In Pandemic, you must stop the spread of 4 deadly diseases (represented by colored cubes) with the help up to 3 of your colleagues (4 of you total). Where your goal is to cure all 4 diseases before time runs out (more on this later).

Each player is randomly assigned a role (7 total) with a specialized ability to help you in your quest.

Pandemic Role Cards - Click to enlarge

Starting the Game

To start, you choose 9 random cities that get infected. 3 cities have 3 infection cubes, 3 have 2 infection cubes, 3 have 1 infection cube. Each player also starts with a set amount of city cards depending on the number of players.

All players start together in one city, Atlanta, at a research station.

Pandemic Game Board - Click to enlarge

You also chose the difficulty level of the game by deciding how many epidemic cards you want to play with (4-6) and these are shuffled into the stack in a certain way called Pandemic Shuffling.

What is Pandemic Shuffling?

Pandemic shuffling is a term used in Pandemic (and mentioned in various internet forums) to describe the way cards are added evenly to a deck.

You will divide the deck into similar sized portions equal to the number of cards you are adding to the deck (in this case epidemic cards). You then shuffle 1 card into each pile and then stack the piles to form the master deck. This ensures that within the first ¼ or 1/5 or whatever, you will get one of the cards. Then the next one is in the next ¼ or 1/5 and so forth. This allows games to maintain a randomness, but more of a controlled randomness if you will.

There is a chance you get 2 cards back to back, but is impossible to get 3 in a row.

Pandemic Game Play

During the game, all players are allowed to discuss with one another to develop a strategy, since this is a cooperative game.

Taking turns, each player does 3 things (see picture below)

1. Your ‘actions’ are highlighted on a nice little cheat sheet (see picture below). Basically, these actions involve doing something to help contain/eradicate/cure the diseases on the board. Whether that is flying to an infected city, building a research station, treating a disease, etc. See rule book for all the details.

Pandemic Action Cards - Click to enlarge

2. Drawing player cards. You are trying to get 5 cities (in most cases) of the same color in order to cure a disease. However, this stack is where your epidemic cards are located, which are what cause the mass spreading of diseases. There are also helpful cards in this stack that will help you in your fight (called Event cards).

3. Infecting city is when you pick more cities to get infected by the diseases. The amount of cities increases as the game progresses. Each city will get 1 cube of its own color when it is drawn. Once a city is drawn, it can’t be drawn again unless an epidemic card comes up. Then all infected cities are shuffled and put back on the top, yes I said the TOP, of the infection deck, ready to be picked again!

Notes here are that each city can only contain 3 of the same color cube, and if said city gets another cube of that color, an ‘outbreak’ occurs. Each connected city gets infected with 1 cube when this occurs. This is the stress and chaos of the game that makes it fun.

How to Win Pandemic

As mentioned, you are trying to cure all 4 diseases. This is done by having 5 city of the same color in your hand (or 4 if you are the ‘scientist’), being at a research station, and using one of your actions on your turn to do so. Seems pretty easy except there is only one city card per city on the board, and you can only ever have 7 cards in your hands. Plus, there are certain rules for trading these city cards with your fellow teammates. (Again, see full rules for details).

Don’t worry, after a disease is cured, it becomes much easier to treat infected cities!

A note here: You don’t have to eradicate (aka completely removed) each disease to win. Only cure it. Eradicating a disease (i.e. curing and then removing all disease cubes of that color), means that that disease can no longer come back.

How to Lose Pandemic

There are a number of ways you can lose this game. In no particular order:

  1.  If 8 ‘outbreaks’ occur. You lose.
  2. If there aren’t enough disease cubes left to put on the board when needed. You lose.
  3. You run out of player cards (aka city cards). You lose.

It is a race against time (in various forms) more or less in this game.

Pandemic made our list of top cooperative board games. To see similar games, check out...
Best Cooperative Board Games

It also made our top gateway board games list. To see similar games, check out...
Top Rated Gateway Board Games

For a video tutorial, see below:

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We are the HexaGamers. Six good friends that love all things game related that gets us together to enjoy each other's company.

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