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Pandemic Two Player Review

Important Note:

All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game at two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


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To start this board game blog, unfortunately, we’re going to be talking about a game you probably are tired of hearing about, especially right now and I apologize for that. Strap on your masks and get ready for A Pair of Meeples’ first review, its going to be a rough one. We hope you enjoy our Pandemic Board Game Review.

Pandemic Board Game Review

8.5 out of 10
Pandemic Board Game Review Key Information

Is Pandemic good for two players? Definitely

This game gets the highest approval from both my wife and me,  especially if you are just getting into board games.  The ability to work together, the high variability of every game, and the excitement and tension always make for a fun time with your partner.

Theme: 8/10
Replayability: 8/10
Components: 7/10
Conflict: 0/10
Fun: 7/10

Husband’s Rating
9 out of 10
Wife’s Rating
8 out of 10

Pros

Good quality components, art, and theme

Simple rules, and easily teachable

Fairly quick setup and playtime

Truly cooperative(as long as you let it be)

Well Balanced

High Variability From Game to Game

Cons

Prone to quarterbacking and analysis paralysis

Potential for unwinnable games

Game Experience:

Pandemic, yeah I know why would anybody want to think about this game, especially right now, but this is the game that introduced us to the hobby before we even knew this was going to be our hobby.  I remember it distinctly, my little brother receiving it as a gift and playing the game with our family at the time, everybody enjoyed it but nobody seemed extremely excited about the game and they were not itching to play again quickly.

Secretly though I wanted to play again, but you know, didn’t want to force anyone else to play again(except my wife maybe), so after everybody else went to sleep I grabbed the game to play another round with my wife, we got absolutely destroyed but it was a blast and then we played again cause we just wanted that satisfaction of winning and had fun again, but I don’t even remember for sure if we won or not but that didn’t matter, Pandemic gave us one of the most fun nights we had had in a while but it was 4 in the morning and decided we better act like adults somewhat and get some sleep.  

And that was our first foray into modern board gaming and then nothing. I went back to school and my wife went back to work, our lives got busy and we just forgot about board games for years. We didn’t play any games other than the unspeakable flimsy cardboard boxes in our closet that most of us wouldn’t play at this point unless we were too intoxicated to say no, that we would pull out occasionally and try playing. 

You can only play a never-ending game of monopoly so many times with your spouse before you get the sense that the next game is going to send you into a never-ending fight with your spouse, and by that I mean a real argument, not just an argument over fair trade value as your wife takes every single property you own to pay for your debts from landing on Park Place with hotels and still wants to continue playing so she can destroy you even further. No, we really do love each other, Monopoly just does something to people, even people who love each other.  

So between having good old classics to play, hectic schedules, and no copy of Pandemic of our own we were not really pushed towards the hobby for quite some time.  Right before our real-world pandemic hit though, my wife gave me a present, which as you can guess, was our very own copy of Pandemic.

Man, how ironic it seems now as I type this, months before our world would change drastically that is the first modern game we get, but at the same time I am so glad she did because it has led to so many hours of fun spent together especially during times like these when it is a little harder to be happy.  I do not think she knew what she was getting herself into when she bought Pandemic for us(looking at you, multiple giant bookshelves of games), but I think she also enjoys it, or at least I tell myself she does, it’s not just because she loves me.

Ok… now actually onto the game discussion. For us, Pandemic was the perfect gateway game.  The art, the theme, and the co-op nature of the game is what made it just click for us.  My wife and I are not too fond of conflict so working together during a board game was a breath of fresh air and knowing nothing about modern games at the time, was something we had never really experienced before. 

So if the reason you are not into board games is because of their competitive nature and are thinking about giving it another chance, you cannot go wrong with getting Pandemic to dip your toes into the hobby, but be warned you’ll probably end up jumping all the way in once you find that first board game for you and your gaming partners.  

Game Overview:

In Pandemic you are attempting to stop four deadly diseases from spreading all across the world, that’s totally not relevant to our current state of affairs at all is it?  You will be working together moving your characters back and forth through all the major cities trying to find cures all while destroying the viruses and trying to keep them under control and prevent outbreaks, but the game always seems to somehow throw a wrench(or should I say a whole bunch of colorful cubes) into your well thought out plans at the worst time, and that is what makes the game so great.

The initial starting conditions for the diseases are randomly generated at the beginning of every game making each game unique and the strategy you attempt to use is often very different each time.  Oh and you only have a limited time to cure the diseases which adds an extra layer of tension to the game.  All of this comes together to provide a very enjoyable game that allows for very satisfying wins and also narrow losses that just make you want to set up and play again.  

 

Pandemic Rules Summary:

Pandemic can be played with 2-4 players taking roughly 45-60 minutes per game with player count not drastically affecting game length. First, players will take a unique role card which each have special abilities.  All players start in the same spot on the board, a research station in Atlanta and prepare to try and save the world.  At the top of the board, the infection deck( made up of all the cities on the board) is shuffled and placed which will decide the initial disease locations and all future disease cube placement. 9 cards are drawn from the infection deck creating a board that looks something like this,(yeah I know, scary).

Pandemic Board Game Initial Starting Board
Here is an example of what the board can look like at the beginning of the game before you take any actions.

 At the bottom of the board is where the player deck goes which includes colored city cards and a few special cards that provide a little extra help to the players. First cards are dealt to each player from the player deck and then the deck is separated into 4, 5, or 6 sections depending on difficulty, and an epidemic card is then shuffled into each section, and then all sections are stacked. 

This ingenious mechanic gives the game a higher chance of the players not getting screwed instantly and drawing all epidemic cards in the first few turns.  When Epidemic cards are drawn they make you draw a new city from the bottom of the infection deck and place 3 disease cubes on that city then put all of the infection cards that you have already drawn back on top of the infection deck.

Pandemic Board Game Epidemic Card
Drawing Epidemic cards can happen quite quickly if you’re unlucky, which we were during this game.

This is what turns the game from a walk in the park to having everyone at the table gripping their hair staring at the board with faces of sheer terror as cities that already have 3 cubes get drawn from the deck again.  That’s because if this happens during the game an outbreak will occur causing cubes of that color to spread to all connected cities which can cause even further outbreaks to occur. 

Also as you draw more epidemic cards you will slowly have to draw more infection cards per every turn which makes outbreaks even more likely to happen.  Too many outbreaks occur and you lose the game but that’s not the only way you can lose in Pandemic.

Example of an outbreak in Pandemic the Board Game
This outbreak happened in Bogota making the outbreak meter moving down and causing a yellow cube to be placed in all connecting cities.

To win the game you and your partners will have to successfully collect five of the same color city cards(4 if you’re the scientist) drawn from the player deck and discard them while at a research station to cure the disease of that color.  You will have to be careful with how you manage cards though as you can only keep a max of 7 cards at any time, and with city cards also being able to be discarded to travel faster throughout the board makes deciding what to keep and what to discard all that more difficult.

All of this can lead to another loss condition, which is running out of player cards.  This time constraint really makes every decision matter a lot and adds some very tense final turns. It is not uncommon for us to pull out a hail mary play for the win with only a few turns in the game left(we may take three times as long planning those turns) and at the same time have games where a turn or two more could have gotten us the win.

There is also one more way you can lose a game of Pandemic, which is by running out of any color of disease cubes. This means if you need to place more red cubes but can’t the game immediately ends and you have to admit defeat.   This loss condition is something that creeps up on you throughout the game and if you don’t manage your actions well and treat diseases that are running low on cubes to get them back in the supply you will almost certainly lose. 

As you can see there is a lot in this game working against you, but that’s what makes it such a challenging and satisfying experience as you perform the perfect moves together to win. Below is an example of how hectic the board can become midway through a game.

Pandemic Mid Game Board Example
An example of how hectic the board can be midgame, diseases can move into other areas if certain cities have an outbreak(see top left).

Playing Two Handed

When you play Pandemic with only two players, you could choose to play two handed. This means each player would take an additional role card and have a second character to play as. This sounds a lot harder than it is, and if you are fairly familiar with the game, playing this way shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

This method of playing makes Pandemic a bit more dynamic, difficult, and varied than just playing the standard way with two players. This is actually the way we play pretty often due to the increased difficulty and options it provides.

Overall Conclusion:

All of the above come together to create a really great game that’s tense, fun, and exciting.  The multiple loss conditions provide that feeling of impending doom quite well, even if the colorful disease cubes don’t really scream “scary and deadly disease”. Other than the not-so-scary cubes though, the theme comes together great and you do feel as if disease is spreading uncontrollably across the globe and you’re doing everything in your power to stop it.  

Is Pandemic Good For Two Players:

This game gets the highest approval from both my wife and me,  especially if you are just getting into board games.  The ability to work together, the high variability of every game, and the excitement and tension always make for a fun time with your partner. The fact the difficulty is easily changed is a nice feature too since sometimes we want a less stressful game and other nights we want to watch the world burn knowing we might be able to squeak out a win.

This game is also quite high on our list because the game flow and rules are simple enough that is it not that complicated to play 2 handed(4 characters with just the 2 of us playing them) which makes the way we play more variable and the game harder but sometimes also allows for more interesting decisions to make.  In this co-op, since you usually make all the decisions together nobody feels like it’s mostly their fault if you lose and everybody feels satisfied when a win is achieved.  

This game may not make it to the table as often as it used to as we have gotten deeper in the hobby, but it will likely never leave our shelf because it is a great game and also is quite special to us being one of the first modern games we owned. 

Summary:

A great game at 2-4 players that is unique every time, and truly makes you feel like you’re working together as a team to try and save the world from 4 deadly diseases. Simple rules and quick playtime make it great for beginners but the option of choices to make also make it great for more experienced gamers, the perfect “gateway game” in our opinion.

Pros

  • Good quality components, art and theme.
  • Simple rules, and easily teachable
  • Fairly quick setup and play time.  If variable starting conditions are likely to lead to a loss you will lose fairly fast and will be able to set up  and try again without feeling like you wasted the whole night just to be destroyed by the game.
  • Truly cooperative where every decision is usually talked out completely, making everyone feel included and active even when it’s not their turn.
  • High variability from starting conditions and role selections which leads to lots of replayability.
  • Well balanced, usually winning doesn’t feel impossible.

Cons

  • One player can take control over all the decisions (quarterbacking), making the game feel lackluster to other players.
  • Decisions can take a while depending upon the player(analysis paralysis) but there are other games much worse.
  • Once you determine the optimal way to play the game becomes a little too easy to win(not alway the case though).

Pandemic Board Game (Base Game) | Cooperative Board Game for Adults and Family | Ages 8+ | 2 to 4 players | Average Playtime 45 minutes | Made by Z-Man Games
Pandemic Board Game (Base Game) | Cooperative Board Game for Adults and Family | Ages 8+ | 2 to 4 players | Average Playtime 45 minutes | Made by Z-Man Games
Pandemic Board Game (Base Game) | Cooperative Board Game for Adults and Family | Ages 8+ | 2 to 4 players | Average Playtime 45 minutes | Made by Z-Man Games

We hope this Pandemic two player review has helped you.

Our reviews are not paid reviews, but some games are given to us, we do not let this affect our opinions in any way. This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases. This helps cover our site's costs and allows us to continue reviewing games.


Pandemic Digital Editions and Apps

There used to be a digital implementation of Pandemic available on android, ios, steam and a few other platforms but in January of 2022, Asmodee delisted the game from all stores. This was unannounced initially but after it happened Asmodee stated that this digital version of the game was pulled due to the app being too old and declining performance.


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