Pandemic has a special place in my gamer heart. It is the first modern board game I played (I had already tried Carcassonne and Catan at this point) that really captured my imagination and made me think, "Wow - we can do this with a board game?? What else is out there??"
Pandemic is the game that is responsible for me doing new things with old friends, meeting great new friends, having an owned games list over 200 (and a previously owned game list approaching 1000), and for writing these silly game reviews.
When I heard on the Dice Tower that a Pandemic dice game was in the works, I was definitely interested. I obviously love Pandemic, but I also really enjoy cooperative games and dice games in general. I was also excited when I heard about Pandemic: Contagion - the idea of playing as diseases sounded neat, and I wanted to see what Z-Man would do with that concept.
As I mentioned, in Pandemic: Contagion, players are diseases, trying to infect and kill off as much of humanity as possible. Countries are represented by cards, which players will be placing their cubes onto - each cube represents that disease infecting 1,000,000 of that location's population.
On a turn, a player will have two actions available. Players can draw cards (Incubate), infect a location card, or mutate their disease. Cards are the currency of the game, and come in 6 suits - one matching each continent in the game. In order to infect a new city, a player must discard two cards matching the color of the city, but to spread an infection where a player already has her disease present only costs 1 matching card.
Mutating your disease means discarding cards in order to move up on 1 of 3 tracks. The first two tracks dictate how many cards a player draws and how many cubes she places each time she takes an Incubate or Infect action, respectively. The last track, the Resistance track, symbolizes how resistant a player's disease is to the effects of humanity's medical and epidemiology communities. Each round, a new event card will be revealed. If the effect is negative, being higher up on the resistance track means a disease will be less affected by the event.
Players will score points by having the most or second most disease cubes in a city when the total number of disease cubes meets or exceeds the total population of the city.
Play continues in this way until either the event deck runs out or when there are only two city cards left. All remaining cities are scored and the player with the most points wins!
Pandemic: Contagion is not a bad game. It is also, unfortunately, not a good game. I really like when games have upgrade tracks that each player can move up to individualize how they will play the game. I was hoping that this is where the interesting decisions in Contagion would be. Unfortunately, Pandemic: Contagion does not have anything interesting here. Not much changes from game to game, and although I haven't played the game over 10 times, I would feel pretty confident in saying players should always upgrade their Incubation ability, then their Infection rate, and then their Resistance level, if they feel like it. In all of the games of this I've played, the first few rounds consisted of everyone taking the same exact turn - Incubation action then grade Incubation track.
The game starts to get interesting once a few players decide to stop upgrading and get infecting the board. But even then, the game doesn't have much to offer. There are some interesting decisions to make when infecting, since the player who places the cube that triggers a scoring gets a one-time special action, but that's about it. Even the once a round global events deck is rather boring.
Pandemic: Contagion is a very simple card game with a neat theme. It is inoffensive enough, but I found myself bored while playing it. I can't recommend it. 5.5/10.