It has been over 10 years since the first game of Pandemic was played. That’s a long time. It is by no means the first cooperative board game, but it is by far the most influential one to hit the board gaming scene and today we’re looking at the best Pandemic expansions and versions that have hit the market in the last decade (and beyond).
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Pandemic Expansions
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My first game of Pandemic was around the table with family and friends. We were playing the classic version for the first time and none of us knew that we had just opened up Pandora’s box. My very first run at the Pandemic board game (not uncommonly) was a loss. It wasn’t the epidemics or lack of disease cubes that got us either. We had run out of cards and were literally one turn short of victory.
I, of course, was completely hooked on the game. It was such an incredible shared story experience. Every player matters 100% in every game. Stupid things like building a research station in the right location or deciding whether or not to discard a card for movement can completely change the outcome of a game, and if played right, is never down to one person’s actions.
As I said earlier, though, 10 years is a long time. Rules have changed, boards have been added, and there are now multiple versions & expansions to choose from. In this article, we are going to guide you through the world of Pandemic in all of its forms.
If you haven’t played the original Pandemic board game, go get it right now and play it. Come back and read this article later. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.
We love Pandemic and even wrote an in-depth review of the original core game that you should check out if you haven’t given it a try yet.
#1. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
There’s a reason Pandemic Legacy sat the top of basically every gaming list for multiple years and has only recently been bumped off of BGG’s #1 spot by Gloomhaven.
Playing Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 begins as a classic game of Pandemic. After each game, players are prompted to read from a secret deck of cards that move the storyline of the game. Without giving away any spoilers, the world of Pandemic Legacy will get progressively worse and the diseases will become more and more virulent, causing destruction throughout the game.
You gotta live with the consequences
Each game of Pandemic alters the board in a permanent way. Cities can become particularly damaged during a single round of play and the damage is accounted for in future games. Whole sections of the board can become impassable wastelands. Each role card is a specific character that can die or become a hardened veteran, and all of the changes are lasting.
When we ran through our game of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, I, of course, ended up getting horribly maimed and dying halfway through the campaign… but I’ve still never had more fun getting wrecked by a board game.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 basically takes all the lessons learned from every version of Pandemic and recreates it all in one epic experience.
Red & Blue
There are 2 versions, and as far as I know, they are exactly the same. There might be a few slight changes, but talking to somebody who played the red versions (we played blue) there was no difference in outcomes and storyline.
I will admit that I shared the same reservations that everyone has about a legacy game and that is, of course, the limited shelf life of the game. It forces you to go back and destroy pieces of the game as you continue. It was a really weird feeling tearing up my first card, but I don’t regret it.
- For 2-4 Players
- 60 minute playing time
- Shape the world, the characters, and even the diseases
We played that one board game more times than a lot of games on our shelf. The experience was so unique that Kendra and I still talk about it.
If you still feel a little unsure, keep in mind that most board gamers will want to play, and one person doesn’t have to foot the bill. Four players dividing the cost of the game will cost about as much as going to the movies on a Friday night.
1 movie = 2 hours of entertainment per person
1 Pandemic Legacy Campaign = 12+ hours of entertainment per person
It has, to this day, been one of my favorite board gaming experiences.
#2. Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 created an amazing narrative that allowed players to experience everything Pandemic has to offer. They took all the lessons learned from previous expansions and created the perfect Pandemic experience (in my humble opinion).
Season 2 is a different beast entirely. It takes all of the events from Season 1 and fast-forwards into the future where the human race is dealing with the consequences and fallout of the events in Season 1. The world has been forever changed, and so too has the world of Pandemic. The game itself takes everything you know about Pandemic, the familiar rules, global map, diseases, strategies, and completely flips them.
Without giving any spoilers that you’d find on the prologue game, the world has been hurt. The last bastion of survivors is still combating the effects of one surviving disease and players will need to venture out after years of isolation to attempt to rebuild the world.
You’ll notice in your first game of Season 2 that the rules are vastly different. Instead of a growing number of disease cubes, players will need to manage a dwindling number of supplies. If the supplies run out, the territories and safe havens will become vulnerable to disease and outbreak.
- The epic follow up to the critically acclaimed Pandemic Legacy:...
- Presents a unique spin on the classic Pandemic formula, with...
- Embark on a Globe spanning struggle for the survival of humanity...
Where Pandemic Season 1 was the culmination of the classic Pandemic games and expansions, Season 2 is the evolution of the game. It’s guaranteed to throw a few monkey wrenches into the rules, much more than Season 1 ever did.
#3. Pandemic: On the Brink
As far as expansions go, On the Brink is generally considered the first stop for any disease-curing enthusiast. It’s the first expansion for classic Pandemic. It introduces the usual suspects you’d expect from an expansion: new characters & roles, new abilities, but it also delivers one of the most dramatic shifts in any of the Pandemic expansions.
No more cooperation
For one thing, Pandemic, the game that skyrocketed cooperative board games to the stratosphere in terms of popularity, is no longer purely cooperative.
How do you change a cooperative game about CDC agents globetrotting and combatting a faceless disease? You add a terrorist, of course.
That’s actually really dark… I was not expecting that.
One of the variants that On the Brink introduces is a Bio-terrorist that is spreading a deadly fifth disease throughout the world. The bio-terrorist’s actions are completely hidden and tracked by pen and paper off the board. This addition changes the whole dynamic of the game, which now becomes a 1 vs. 4 situation.
The bio-terrorist will be sneaking around, spreading the purple disease throughout the world or sabotaging research stations. The bio-terrorist can be a subtle mastermind or a mad scientist, sowing pestilence wherever they go. Either way, players will need to decide whether dealing with the bio-terrorist is the priority or whether focusing on a cure is more important.
The bio-terrorist is a jerk.
This variant alone adds so much new gameplay to the game and completely changes the feel by adding a new competitive aspect.
It also mitigates the alpha gamer syndrome where one player dominates the decisions on the board. What tends to happen in Pandemic is that the experienced players will steamroll the newer players. That’s not fun for everyone, but the way the game works almost encourages that behavior. If you’re trying the Bio-terrorist variant then you can shove the more experienced player into the terrorist role, and allow the newer players to struggle against the board to make decisions for themselves.
After all, wasn’t it the shared experiences, extreme difficulty, challenge, and the hope for success against overwhelming odds that made us all fall in love with Pandemic in the first place?
The other variants that are added in On the Brink are new epidemic variants. Different epidemic cards can now be added to the game that could make a particular disease more virulent or more difficult to treat. For example, there’s a scenario where a certain disease color is so bad that players will have difficulty traveling through infected cities. This makes the already troubling task of moving about the board even more difficult.
If you want to challenge yourself further you can also play with the virulent strain variant. It takes one of the original diseases and mutates it, making it much more difficult to cure and deal with on the board. The deadly virulent strain mutation can challenge even veteran players.
If the competitiveness of the bio-terrorist is truly galling and you want a purely cooperative experience, you still can add the purple superbug to the game and eliminate the bio-terrorist component. This still adds the new elements without adding a 5th player. For the truly masochistic players out there, there’s also a new “legendary difficulty” with 7 epidemic cards.
- This is an expansion - Pandemic 2nd Edition is needed to use it
- Adds depth and complexity to the base game
- Adds new roles and events
Out of all of the Pandemic expansions, this is my favorite.
Personally, I actually enjoy the Bio-terrorist. I’m a huge fan of cooperative games but I also think that the thematic story it brings to the table is worth the offset of having an evil player, and its fun spreading the diseases for a change.
If you love Pandemic, this is the easiest choice for your first expansion. The superbug and new challenges offered in On the Brink adds a ton of replayability to the tried and true gameplay of Pandemic.
Oh! Did I mention that On the Brink comes with cute Petri dishes to store your disease cubes? I know, I’m a nerd, but it’s totally worth mentioning in terms of unique (and useful) components.
#4. Pandemic: In the Lab
For those of you looking for more of a thematic experience, In the Lab delivers.
In classic Pandemic when you cure a disease, it’s a matter of turning in a handful of matching cards. It works. It made sense within the game. It’s boring.
In the Lab drastically reworks how diseases are cured in Pandemic.
The Mini-Board (aka Lab)
This expansion introduces an entirely new mini-board that represents the lab where the diseases are actually researched and cured. There are multiple steps and sometimes there’s not going to be a way to develop a cure.
During the course of the game, players will treat diseases around the world, just like in classic Pandemic. Instead of returning the disease cubes to the supply pile, players can instead send them to the lab as samples. The lab board has several steps where players have an almost Mancala-like minigame to move the disease cubes through the board.
New Actions & Increased Difficulty
After the disease cubes have moved through the lab, developing a cure comes next. Developing a cure comes in several stages. Players will have to add a certain number and type of disease cubes to research a cure, test it, and then release it worldwide. At first glance, it’s a little complicated. It will probably take veteran players a game or two to figure out the rules and then attempt to develop some strategies.
In the Lab drastically changes the game’s difficulty level. If a player tries to take too many samples to the lab, they run the risk of running out of disease cubes and that’s instant game over. There are just so many more things to juggle in an already overwhelming game, but it’s still one of my favorites.
If that’s not enough for you, In the Lab introduces several new variants as well as other goodies. The usual suspects of extra characters and abilities are included. Each one will have a unique power, and all are useful.
Competitive & Solo Play
The new game variant adds competitive play to the mix. The overall game itself remains cooperative, but in a “too close to home” example of art imitating life, players can split into teams and focus on curing the disease for fame and glory (points) and compete for a final score at the end of the game.
There’s even a new addition to the rules for solo play that doesn’t just have the player controlling multiple characters as well.
- This is an expansion - you need Pandemic in order to use it
- Adds depth and complexity
- Includes new roles, events and scenarios
I love thematic elements in board games and the new lab delivers 100%. It’s cool, intricate, and fits right in with the base game. I don’t play it with every game of Pandemic but when I play with a team of veteran scientists and emergency responders, we try to amp up the difficulty as much as possible.
#5. Pandemic: State of Emergency
State of Emergency adds new difficulty to the world of Pandemic but it also gives some newly-enhanced abilities to deal with the impending destruction of the human race.
The ever-rampant purple virus now has a deadly SUPERBUG variant that cannot be treated. WTF!?!?!?
How are you supposed to treat it? You can’t… at first.
The Purple Superbug
The purple superbug is going to rampage through the world and it cannot be treated until it’s researched. It’s researched like a normal disease, but 1 card that’s turned in has to include a city that is infected with purple. The research station that is used is then upgraded to a vaccine factory that produces vaccines. Players will need to pick up vaccines and then discard them on infected cities to remove purple infection cubes. Each vaccine removes only 1 cube.
Have no fear, though. Players will have a new ability to help slow the spread of diseases. Players can now quarantine cities and place quarantine tokens on cities. Quarantine tokens are double-sided showing the numbers 2 or 1. When a quarantined city is hit with a disease, instead of placing a disease cube, the quarantine marker is flipped to show 1 or if it’s already at one it is removed. The quarantine ability is the only way to slow the spread of the purple disease and is an excellent way to shore up some defenses in anticipation of a particularly bad epidemic.
To go along with these abilities, players will have access to new characters that complement the new variants well. Pharmacists will be able to cure diseases around the world, the colonel will be able to return quarantine tokens to full health, and the gene splicer can research the cure using multiple colors instead of just one.
The Hinterlands Module
The additional Hinterlands module includes 2 side boards to add to the game. Thematically, the Hinterlands are areas where diseases from animals can eventually mutate to humans and spread rapidly throughout the population.
Basically, there are 4 additional spots added to the board: one for each color. They are connected to multiple cities and if players ignore them and they outbreak, a large number of cities will be infected (4-5).
The last addition is the Emergency Event cards. The emergency events added are equal to the number of epidemic cards added at the beginning of the game. Each one has a different effect, either an instant effect or a lasting effect. They all have one thing common though, they’re all awful and they’re going to hurt. They’re similar to the mutation cards of previous expansions but normally affect everything, as opposed to a single disease.
- Adds new roles, events, and a new disease to Pandemic
- Not a standalone expansion. Pandemic required to play
- For 2 to 4 players age 13 and up
I personally thought the Hinterlands expansion was interesting, but not as game-changing as some of the other elements. It does add some difficulty and a whole new thematic element, but the Hinterlands remains apart from the main game. It’s a challenge, but doesn’t feel integrated enough to keep me invested.
The superbug, on the other hand, is just painful but is also a ton of fun to play. It’s my favorite part of the expansion. The amped up difficulty & challenge makes the expansion worthwhile.
The new abilities and quarantine tokens add more depth and replayability to Pandemic. This expansion adds more of what you’ve come to expect and love from Pandemic: challenging, brutal, cooperative gameplay.
#6. Pandemic: The Cure
The Cure is another standalone series of Pandemic. The major mechanics shift and rely on dice instead of cards.
Each character has a specific set of abilities in the form of customized color-coded dice. By means of the custom dice, certain players will be better at actions than other players, simply because of the odds on each dice.
Introducing the dice mechanic
It’s a very cool way of changing up the game and it works really well. The medic, for example, has die faces that allow him to treat 3 diseases, which is much higher than any other character, making him a good choice to help treat diseases that threaten to outbreak.
Speaking of disease… guess what they switched out disease cubes with?
Dice! Each disease color has a set of dice that when rolled, are placed on different tiles. If you roll a 5, place that die on the tile showing a 5. Each die has different odds on which country tile it lands on. As players treat and remove dice from the tiles, they’ll eventually make their way back to the disease supply.
Beware the dice gods
When players infect, they’ll pull random dice from the supply bag, roll them and allocate them. Just like in regular Pandemic: if you run out of dice, the game ends in a loss.
Players will still need to move around the board, and treat disease, but everything has been modified to account for dice and push-your-luck mechanics. If you make an offering to the dice gods before a game you can do some incredible things but if you anger the dice gods, you can quickly find yourself drowning in disease dice.
Epidemics are handled a little differently. At various set points in the game, players will move two trackers along the centerpiece of the board. These are the Infection and Outbreak counters. If they hit the skull marker, then everyone’s dead and it’s game over. There are also epidemic rolls that basically force players to roll a boatload of dice.
The only other thing that’s a little weird is the board; there really isn’t one. Everything is free-floating tiles that easily could have been made into a board. Instead, there will be a bunch of detached tiles that make up the playing area. I don’t understand why Z-man games went with this direction, but it works.
- Standalone game
- Dice-based version of the popular Pandemic board game
- Great replay value
So why do we need a dice version of Pandemic?
- It’s a lot of fun.
- It’s a much quicker game and is much easier to set up.
- It’s absolutely fantastic for a lower number of players 2-3.
If you consistently find yourself with only 1 or 2 other players in your game group and love the original Pandemic board game, I highly recommend The Cure. It gives a lot of the same elements that made us fall in love with Pandemic but in a much more simplified, cleaner, and quicker version. If I have 4 players, I will probably always choose classic Pandemic over the Cure, but if Kendra and I are hanging out alone, I’ll gladly pull it off the shelf for a game.
#7. Pandemic the Cure: Experimental Meds
Unlike all of the other standalone variants of Pandemic, The Cure has an expansion, and it’s a very well-thought-out expansion at that.
Like most expansions, there is a new set of roles and characters to choose from with corresponding custom dice.
The dreaded purple superbug returns
There are 2 major modules that come with this expansion. The dreaded purple disease makes its appearance in The Cure with awful, awful purple dice. The purple dice work like a normal disease, but each one has two special die faces.
- 2x: The 2x side forces a player to draw and roll additional dice and then reroll the purple dice. If you’re unlucky, you can sit there rolling 2x and then keep rolling more and more dice, all on one turn. It sucks.
- -1: Negative one, that sounds good right? NOOOOPE. Each negative 1 forces a player to reach back into the dice supply bag and remove a die from the game. Remember that if you run out of dice from the supply, you lose the game. If that wasn’t enough, you then have to reroll the purple dice.
If you really pissed off the dice gods in a past life then you could theoretically sit there and lose the game in a single turn with bad purple rolls.
The Hot Zones Challenge
The next module added in the expansion is the Hot Zones Challenge. The Hot Zones are new events that come in the form of green dice. The green dice will spread across the board and affect what happens on a space. More dice will be added to the game as the infection track moves further down.
There’s a 50/50 chance that the event will be good or bad.
- Some of the good effects can be moving a die for free, avoiding 1 biohazard roll, or a bonus to finding the cure.
- The bad effects can make it harder to move through areas or it can make you roll more disease dice (a lot more).
- For 2-5 Players
- 30 minute playing time
- Face dangerous new threats in Pandemic: The Cure - Experimental...
I was skeptical about the Cure from the beginning but gradually warmed up to it. Pandemic: The Cure – Experimental Meds just seals the deal for me. I’ve found that I really like the dice version of Pandemic, especially with 2 players. The fact that there’s also a SOLID expansion for it just makes it even better. I enjoy every component that’s been added and the additional character abilities are absolutely phenomenal.
#8. Pandemic: Iberia
Pandemic: Iberia is a special edition version of Pandemic. That being said, if you can find a copy of it, you’re lucky. It’s a collector’s edition with a limited one time print.
For us normal folk, who cares? Does it play well? Is it worth the hunt? Let’s see.
Pandemic: Iberia takes place in Iberia (Spain) during the mid-1800s. This version sticks to its roots by having players combat disease instead of eldritch horrors, water, or barbarians. Notice how I said combat and not cure. There’s no way to cure anything in 19th-century Spain.
The best you can do is to make everyone as comfortable as possible.
Wait a minute! That got a little too dark too quickly.
The Importance of Research…
Players will instead win the game if they manage to research all of the diseases. You do not get a bonus for researching a disease but you will win the game if you manage to research all 4 before everyone dies.
19th-century medicine may not be up to snuff, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Players will travel through Spain purifying water. You’d be surprised at the improvements in basic hygiene when you stop polluting the water supply.
…And Water Purification
Placing a purified water token acts similarly to the quarantine tokens from previous Pandemic expansions. Instead of placing them on a specific city, purified water is placed on the negative space of a board in between the cities. When any city touching that space gets infected, the purified water token is removed instead of placing a disease cube.
Forget about plane travel
To make things harder, the 1800s didn’t have plane travel. To move across the board, players need to travel by boat through the ports or, if they planned well, they can use the railroad. As an action, players can place a railroad tile. I highly suggest you start building up the rail early on in the game. Players can move to any space connected by a continuous railroad for 1 action. This makes it the best way to move around the board… but you have to build it up early before you get completely overrun.
Iberia is a very cool concept. It takes all of the classic Pandemic elements and then asks the question, “What happens without modern technology?”. The thematic elements, gameplay, and the components are all excellent. The rule changes to account for the historical era are so well done and make for a very interesting gaming experience. If you can find a copy, I highly suggest you pick it up.
#9. Pandemic: Rising Tide
The ocean is rising, the dikes are failing, and the water is rising.
Pandemic: Rising Tide has players facing off one of the most primal forces on Earth and attempting to push back an unstoppable force… water.
Maybe I’m overselling it a bit, but Rising Tide has a special place in my heart, due to my old Navy training. I used to do deal with some of the things in Rising Tide as a real job, and it’s tough, both in-game and in real life.
The base rules we know and love
The base Pandemic rules will be in effect here:
- 4 actions
- Dewatering & pumping (treating disease)
- Building a pump station (build research station)
- Building 4 hydraulic structures (curing disease & win condition)
- Storm cards (epidemic)
Multiple Scenario Modules
There are several scenarios that you can play. Each one has different win conditions and objectives which add to the game’s replayability and offsets the fact that this version is basically a one-off and won’t ever see an expansion.
The standard game has players building 4 massive hydraulic stations to save the Netherlands. Rising Tide will use most of the basic Pandemic rules concerning hand size, actions, movements, and building.
The Goal: Keeping the water in-check
The differences come in the way you deal with water. In classic Pandemic, you’re dealing with a disease spreading to adjacent cities. This time you’re dealing with water… and water is a very fluid force. The flow of water can be much more devasting. When there are 3 cubes of water on a location and an additional cube is placed, the water will flow outward. The surrounding spaces’ water levels will rise by 1 (up to 2), and then the surrounding spaces’ water levels there will rise by 1 (up to 1). This can make for a devastating waterfall effect, quickly flooding out large portions of the board.
Building dikes and dealing with storms
Players aren’t helpless, however. Players will be able to build dikes that hold back the water and creates barriers. With careful planning, players can ensure that the flow of water is contained. Every dike on the board prevents cubes from being placed on the board and prevents water from spilling over to other tiles, but they will be damaged and destroyed throughout the course of the game.
It’s a very interesting concept with multiple ways to play. Included in the game is a variant that adds civilians to the board. The objectives can be switched to save civilian lives instead of building the hydraulic stations, giving the game a fair bit of replayability.
The Achilles heel of Rising Tide is the dike pieces. They’re an interesting component, but a complete pain in the butt. Imagine Catan roads, but at the slightest knock of the table or someone with long sleeves reaching across the table, the dike pieces go flying across the board. There are a ton of spaces that they can go so if they’re knocked about, it can be hard to remember where they go.
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Pandemic: Rising Tide is different enough to offer a ton of new strategies and gameplay, but it’s similar enough that a veteran Pandemic player will instantly recognize the base rules and be able to get started with only a brief explanation.
I like the theme and I even really like the look of the board. Some people say it looks drab and depressing, but it goes well with the theme. My only issue is that I don’t like spending 20 minutes every game trying to figure out where the dikes are supposed to go after I inevitably send them flying across the board.
#10. Pandemic Fall of Rome
Webster’s Dictionary defines “pandemic” as:
(Adj.) Occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.
(Yup, I went there.)
Pandemic: Fall of Rome decided to use the adjective form of pandemic instead of the noun, which refers to disease.
In Fall of Rome, the disaster occurring and affecting the large portion of the populace is the barbarian incursions devastating the Roman Empire.
This is a completely new theme on the series and takes a bit of creative license to shoehorn into the Pandemic line of games, but the real question is, “Does it still make a fun game?”
Similar Mechanics, New Objectives
There are mechanics that are similar to the Pandemic series, but the strategies and objectives are admittedly different.
Let’s take a look at the similarities first.
- Players take turns and get 4 actions.
- To move from port to port players can discard a card matching the color of their destination.
- To build a fort, players discard a card of the same location.
- Every turn, players will be drawing cards from the invade cities deck (the infection deck).
Ok so a lot of mechanics are similar, but the objectives and way that you play are very different. The invading barbarians need to either be completely eliminated from the board or they need to be allied with Rome. Instead of curing diseases, players will need to use equal parts diplomacy and violence to save Rome.
Barbarians, Legions, and Diplomacy… Oh my!
To actually fight, players need to recruit legions and position them throughout the board to stop barbarians. The legions act similarly to quarantines from previous Pandemic games. When a location is overrun by barbarians, players will remove legions from the space first before placing barbarians.
As players move around the board, they can take up to 3 legions with them and drop them off along the way. This positioning is extremely important throughout the game. As the game continues, barbarians will be invading on all sides and the only way to slow them down or stop them is to build forts and place legions in the way.
Each barbarian has a different color and a set starting point. During the invasion step, barbarians push outward from that point and spread throughout the board. It’s a little weird at first to understand how they move, but after seeing it happen once or twice in a game, it starts to make sense.
Players who’ve never played Pandemic are going to be a little lost on the first rules reading, but any veteran Pandemic player is going to feel right at home with a 5-minute rule explanation.
- Fall of Rome is the third title in the popular standalone...
- Recruit the Roman Legion to battle and defend your cities
- Work together to forge alliances and enlist barbarians
Now that you have a very general idea of what’s happing, the real question is, “Does Fall of Rome stand on its own or is it just a reskinned clone?”
I honestly think it works. The general system and rules are similar, but the thematic elements do work well together and they took all of the lessons from previous versions of Pandemic and made a very tight game. The rules are clear and concise, it’s a cooperative game, and there is a high difficulty that is genuinely fun.
#11. Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Everything needs a Cthulhu theme, right?
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is a standalone game that replaces diseases with cultists and eldritch monsters.
The major goal of the game is to close 4 gates to the other worlds before Cthulhu awakens and plunges the world into madness.
A Map of Cities & Gates
The map is… difficult to navigate. There are 4 distinct Lovecraftian cities to explore and adjacent cities only have one entrance, making it a bit of a pain to get around. Players can risk taking sanity damage by traveling through the gates, but the goal is to close gates so it will become progressively harder to move around the board.
Most of the same Pandemic actions and rules will apply. Removing cultists costs actions just like disease cubes, but the larger Shoggoth figures that will wander around the board cost 2 actions to indicate a harder fight.
The Ancient One
There is an Ancient One track at the top of the board that will wreak havoc throughout the game. When prompted to flip over one of the Ancient One cards, bad things will happen, usually involving spawning additional cultists and shoggoths. The last card on the track is always Cthulhu and if he ever awakens, it’s game over.
The player characters all have stats in this version. Each player has a sanity level that lets them perform certain actions like special abilities and traveling through gates. Players don’t necessarily die, but if they lose all their sanity the character card gets flipped over showing a weaker version and are considered insane. Closing a gate can return sanity to players, so all is not lost. If all the characters go insane though, then it’s game over.
- Classic Pandemic gameplay with a horrific twist
- Over 10 old ones with unique powers
- Custom die and figures
The game itself is probably the prettiest Pandemic game on the market. The components, artwork, and board are all gorgeous and fit the theme extremely well. The shoggoth tokens are awesome-looking. There’s a reason everything has a Cthulhu variant; it has so much excellent imagery to work with and it really does make for an aesthetically-pleasing game.
The big question is, “Is this just a reskin of Pandemic?”.
Pretty much… sort of.
It’s a reskin, but the few extra bits added make it feel worthwhile. The sanity abilities and the change from disease to Cthulhu works. If you don’t own either this version or the original, you’ll get a similar experience with each. If you like all things Cthulhu, you’ll absolutely love it. If the theme isn’t your thing, go with regular Pandemic. The additional expansions and rule changes to classic Pandemic makes the original a smarter buy.
Fun Fact: I really enjoy Cthuhlu-inspired games, but I still think H.P. Lovecraft’s writing is garbage.
#12. Pandemic Contagion
Pandemic: Contagion is the complete oddball in the Pandemic series of games.
The theme is basically the only similarity and even then, it’s completely turned upside-down. Players are now the disease and the goal is to destroy as much of the human population as possible.
The rules, mechanics, and gameplay are completely unique and nothing at all like classic Pandemic. If you were looking for a variant or expansion, this is not the game. If you love Pandemic and want to see another perspective of global eradication through disease, then this is the place for you.
The Goal: Be the nastiest disease
Contagion is not cooperative at all. Each player will become a virus and mutate throughout the game in order to kill people.
I actually really like the player boards. Contagion uses disease cubes to mark down levels on one of the three tracks to show:
- Incubation: Number of cards you can draw
- Infection: Number of cubes you can infect cities with
- Resistance: Defense against World Health Organization (WHO) events
Instead of a whole map, players will draw cards from a deck showing which cities are available to infect. Players score points depending on who put their cubes on first and who has the most disease cubes.
So… this is Pandemic in name only. It’s a completely different style of game. If you really like Pandemic and are a completionist, I’d say give it a try. If not, there are plenty of Pandemic variants and expansions that give a much more vibrant and strategic experience than Contagion.
#13. Pandemic: 10th Anniversary Edition
Has it really been 10 years?
The 10th Anniversary Edition of Pandemic is an awesome-looking box of goodies. The first thing you’ll notice is that it comes in a super-cool tin medic box. It reminds me of old school WWI field medic kits.
The board is much prettier than the original version. It’s double the size of the original board with full-color printing. It’s colored like an actual map instead of the dark black and blue theme of the 2008 version.
All of the card components have been upgraded to heavy card stock and the printing and colors are very well done. You won’t find any flimsy tissue paper here.
The Petri dishes are well done and the disease cubes are wooden. They’re still cubes. This is probably the only thing I don’t like about the 10th-anniversary edition. I’ve seen 3rd party tokens shaped like bacteria and viruses that looked really cool, so seeing cubes is a bit boring for a big, expensive anniversary set.
One of the cooler elements that comes with the set is the fully-modeled miniature for each character, which is much nicer than a generic pawn.
Misprint or New Challenge?
There is a bit of an elephant in the room when you look at the collector’s edition… and the publisher is trying its darndest to ignore it. The collector’s edition board is missing a line that connects Bangkok with Ho Chi Minh City. Previous versions have these two spaces connected but they’re not in the collector’s edition. There’s also no verification if this is a conscious change or a misprint and the publishers are ignoring the problem until it goes away.
- The original Pandemic game has sold over 1.5 million copies...
- Limited release anniversary edition comes in a custom metal case,...
- Detailed plastic figures and large ID cards PA the character...
If you’re a big collector or legitimately aren’t worried about the premium price tag, you may want to look into it. If you’re not a hardcore fan you could get an original copy plus several expansions for the same price as the collector’s edition.
Pandemic is fantastic. It’s one of my favorite games and has been a game night staple for years now. Start with the base game and you’ll quickly see why I love it. For expansions, they’ve done such a great job that the best way to get them is in order of release.
Each one is modular, so you can literally pick and choose which parts of the expansion you want to play. Doing that adds even more replayability to a game that already has a long, long shelf life.
Give them a try and I guarantee you’ll find something that you like.
I hope you enjoyed this article. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best Pandemic expansions.
If you see anything I missed or just want to talk board games, we’d love to hear from you.
Leave a comment below.