Getting Ready For a Pandemic – No Risk Gaming



As we enter the month of May 2020 all of us are getting used to a different way of living, working and socialising as the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 still aggressively spreads.  Although many of us are getting ready for a pandemic, a certain amount of normality is surfacing and there are also many selfish people either not following the Government guidelines or don’t realise how serious this is and causing global fatalities. 

A lot of countries and ourselves are still under some sort of lockdown and we’re all simply trying to stay calm and productive while living with this situation.


I’ve heard from friends and colleagues recently who are engaging in different, new and strange things to keep themselves occupied and motivated, during the crisis and are drawing animals, learning the guitar, home improvements, garden work, woodwork, online retail therapy, car maintenance and generally thinking outside the box with ideas. 


Instead of getting ready for a pandemic, I wonder if any of you will think inside the box and play the Pandemic board game while under lockdown and attempt to do your part in this global outbreak and save humanity.  Yeah, that’s right, Pandemic, a best-selling board game that does exist as some of you will know, created by Matt Leacock and first released in 2008. 


The sales for this game have spread worldwide as this is a very popular and familiar board game title.  Below I have highlighted many of the variations, expansions and concepts of the Pandemic franchise with their descriptions.  Play Pandemic board game and become a medic, despatcher or scientist attempting to stifle the spread of the strains, plan your moves through epidemics and work on a cure for worldwide eradication.






The core game and first release was in 2008 and was published by Z-Man Games.  The artwork to the cards and components was created by Josh Cappel and Regis Moulun.  The board layout depicts the world and its many main population centres. 


In Pandemic several virulent disease strains have broken out and infected the world population.  Players take on unique roles as disease-fighting specialists in their field of expertise and work co-operatively to win the game.


As cards are turned in favour of the viruses a few things can happen, more cities and areas can become infected, cities already infected can increase in strength and severity and worse case scenarios, epidemics can break out that spreads out each strain of virus to possibly uncontrollable levels.  It’s a challenge for players to not only stop the spread and contain it but work on cures and eradication methods simultaneously.


Players use their cards and limited actions wisely on their turn, discussing strategies with others.  They can cure areas, travel from point to point in many ways and exchange needed cards with other players.  Players will sometimes pull out a helpful event card that can use whenever needed. 


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In the 2012 release, Pandemic went through a reprint and the artwork was created and cleaned up by Chris Quilliams, this is the edition I now have over the original and I must admit the cards and design are a lot cleaner, brighter and “scientifically themed.”  The 2013 edition of Pandemic includes two new roles which are not available in earlier editions of the game.  Buy the original core game from Zatu Games.






Pandemic: On the Brink

The first expansion to the hugely successful, best-selling Pandemic base game was Pandemic: On the Brink and this was initially released in 2009 and published by Z-Man Games. 


The official artwork and design were created and done by Josh Cappel and Régis Moulun as with the first releases of Pandemic.  This also went through a reprint and cleanup, all the art and design redid by artist Chris Quilliams and it was re-packaged and released in 2013 in the same sized box as Pandemic.


As this is an expansion, it cannot be played as an individually boxed game and does require the base game to work.  Thematically this title includes some plastic Petri dishes for the virus cubes and accompanying labels for the lids, this feature alone is enough to want the expansion and store all your cube components safely in cold storage.


The game also includes some new character roles, new event cards and rules for a five-player game as the original core game was only for up to four players.  Besides plastic dishes, new challenges are included that makes the main game variable and a lot different.  Buy the first Pandemic expansion game from Zatu Games. 


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  • The Virulent Strain Challenge – This makes one of the viral diseases particularly deadly and works in unpredictable ways.


  • The Mutation Challenge – In Pandemic only four deadly strains are used in the game, this expansion now includes a fifth one that behaves differently than the others.


  • The Bio-Terrorist Challenge – Want to add some competitive edge to this cooperative team game?  Well, now you can pit one player against the rest.






Pandemic: In the Lab

The second expansion to the hugely successful, best-selling Pandemic base game was released in 2013 and published under Z-Man Games.  Once again the clean look and updated artwork artist from previous versions, Chris Quilliams worked on this title too. 


The main addition to this game is the extra boards that represent a working laboratory for players to go into with their pawns.  The idea of creating cures in the base game has been opened out a little into a whole sequencing activity behind closed bio-hazard doors.


Players can sequence, splice, take samples and test their cures in this new addition and is a little more detailed compared to the card collecting and drafting mechanism in Pandemic.  This title also includes further new character roles, new virulent strain events and a worldwide panic mutation scenario.  This expansion also comes with some great, novelty, coloured 3D vaccine vials to replace the original plastic ones in the base game, a nice extra.


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When playing a four or six-player game, players can choose to compete individually or on rival teams, which is again a nice extra to have as an option.  Pandemic: In the Lab requires the base game as stated to play and two of the three scenarios included require Pandemic: On the Brink.  Buy your copy of Pandemic: In the Lab from Zatu Games.






Pandemic: State of Emergency

In between some of the other Pandemic game variations and releases, another further expansion to the main game was released in 2015, saving the world just got a little bit harder. 


Published by Z-Man Games and all artwork and design credited to Chris Quilliams, once again this Matt Leacock and Thomas Lehmann game brings to fans another three interesting challenges to merge into the popular game as well as newly themed character roles like the veterinarian, colonel and gene splicer.  Add further challenges to your Pandemic game and get your copy from Zatu Games.



  • The Hinterlands Challenge – Similar to the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001 which caused a crisis in British agriculture and tourism, this challenge sees the diseases spread from animals to humans.


  • The Emergency Events Challenge – In the base game of Pandemic players could use some really helpful event cards, in this challenge though unpredictable events have nasty consequences on the game and could shake things up a bit.

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  • The Superbug Challenge – This challenge adds a further fifth viral disease that threatens the world and cannot be treated.  To win the challenge, the superbug needs to be eradicated and cured using vaccine doses and by using quarantines to stop the spread and fighting the deadly threat.  Things just got tougher!






Pandemic Franchise

There are certainly a lot more Pandemic titles from the franchise released now since the first few expansions I remember, after looking into the facts and researching this article. Above, I’ve mainly focused on the main game and board which just keeps getting bigger with each new expansion, creating further characters, challenges, player options, playstyles and strategies.


I wanted to feature the other titles below though and not in any particular order.  These titles are a combination of new dice-rolling mechanics, role-reversal scenarios playing as the deadly diseases instead and many different settings, like in ancient Rome, Iberia, North America, Netherlands and the world of Cthulhu.  These titles are available below from Zatu Games.


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Road to Recovery

My journey and thoughts about Pandemic are positive.  I did own the very first edition once but updated when I saw the new artwork, design and contents.  I do believe that the very first 2008 edition is out of print now and only for purchase via auction and game sites, social media or the second-hand market.  The reprint is a lot nicer though. 


I never got around to buying any of the expansions but I have personally played them.  They certainly do add a little more challenge to the game, more roles and coloured pawns to choose from and extra components adding value to the game like the glass 3D vials and Petri dishes.


Considering the theme of the game is a bit “doom and gloom” it plays brilliantly and is one game where all players need to have their thinking heads on and watch the card deck as the end game can be a close call as I’ve experienced many times.  In one of my gaming circles, when I first introduced the game, the wife to a friend of mine wanted to keep playing continuously until we got the cures and loved it so much they brought the base game and two expansions at the same time. 

People just don’t like losing and relish the challenge – I think that’s the ingredient that makes this game so good and a big hit.


I wanted to emphasise here at this point that I was warily creating this, and didn’t want to write this article/post insensitively during the real-life COVID-19 pandemic, and do feel for all the families out there who have lost people due to this deadly outbreak. 

The last time I checked, the UK alone was over 20,000 deaths – within a few months, this fact alone scares the hell out of me! 


Try to read this article as inspiration to stay indoors, stay safe, adhere to any lockdown guidelines and get this board game out with the family or your partners, see if you can beat it and make a difference to the world around us.  Thank you for reading this article, I hope you found it of some help or interest. Please feel free to drop a comment about these titles, the written content or even your own experiences with this genre of game.


2 thoughts on “Getting Ready For a Pandemic – No Risk Gaming

  • 29/06/2020 at 11:56

    Wow I never thought that this kind of game ever existed. This is very timely because the Pandemic is not yet over. I heard that some countries are reverting back to lock down because of the second wave. I wish I had known this before to make some fun during the boring Pandemic quarantine period. This game surely will give fun to the whole family. I’m considering to buy one of these days. Thanks for posting.

    • 29/06/2020 at 13:32

      Many thanks for visiting the site and commenting on the article Brian, every word is appreciated as it’s nice to know what others are making of the work I’m producing and the topics I’m writing content about. Writing this post was a tricky decision at the time as I didn’t want to come across as insensitive to people’s losses. As you mentioned above I was trying to promote a little fun and cheer to all and keep boredom at bay during any quarantine set-up.

      The idea to play this appropriate title was quite apt and gives the players a chance to save the world from a global Pandemic themselves. The article gave me a chance to present this great, best-selling game to the reader and also show how far the franchise has spread into other related titles. From a real world angle, since the article was published, things here in the UK are changing and a “new normal” has begun.


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