If you've not tried the Pandemic board game before, you need to remedy that immediately; it's a stone-cold classic for a reason. In fact, this strategy epic has dominated many of best board game lists since it launched in 2008. Despite the grim subject matter, it's also one of the most fun board games I've played in years. It's unique and satisfying. Accessible yet tricky to master. That makes it perfect for a lazy night in with your friends and family.
Time to play: 40-60 mins
Set-up time: 2-5 mins
Avg. price: $40 / £30
United we stand
A co-op race against time for two to four players, the Pandemic board game tasks you with nothing less than saving the world. A clutch of diseases threaten to overwhelm civilisation, so your job is simple - hunt down the cure before it's too late. Although doing so is a matter of gathering the right cards, winning won't be easy. Coughs and sneezes answer to no-one, and infections can tumble into neighbouring cities like dominoes if too many gather in one place. Worse still, yet more pop up at the end of every turn. The result is a sense of urgency that's like a psychological shot of espresso. You'll need to move fast or be overwhelmed.
This is where most of the game's drama can be found. Should you focus on the cure or work to keep that infection rate down? No matter what you choose, teamwork is essential. Everyone's got a skill that may just turn the tide if used correctly (the Medic can remove all infections from a location at once, for instance), so good communication spells the difference between winning and losing. That's what makes Pandemic one of the best cooperative board games around; you succeed or fail together, and it won't be down to luck.
Built to last
Pandemic's got plenty of longevity, too. Besides being playable in a group or as a board game for 2 players, infection locations are randomised at the beginning of each game. That means you never really know what you'll be facing. In addition, it can be made harder or easier thanks to a clutch of 'Epidemic' cards that are hidden within the main deck. Upon being drawn, these increase the number of infections in play. The more you choose to have, the more difficult things will be. In other words, Pandemic is good value for money.
There are always expansions to fall back on if you get tired of the base game, too. These add extra layers of challenge to Pandemic by introducing new mechanics, throwing in a pesky bioterrorist who spreads disease from the shadows, and more. On top of that, the Pandemic Legacy edition strings consequences from one session to another while adding secret objectives; the result is a game that's entirely your own. There's even an apocalyptic follow-up in Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. Set seventy years after the world's come to an end, you've got to rebuild what's left of society. Oh, and don't forget the seven (!) other spin-offs set throughout history.
If nothing else, the sheer volume of add-ons proves why Pandemic should be on your radar. In fact, its popularity is the most convincing seal of approval you could get. Many claim that it's the best board game for adults, and you know what? They may be right.
Want a new board game? We'll be here each week to let you know about a tabletop gem you should definitely try. For example, we recently took the deliciously evil Blockbuster: The Game for a spin before trying out Tomb Raider Legends: The Board Game.