Pandemic: Contagion
by Carey Grayson
published by Z-Man Games

With the release late last year of Pandemic Legacy, a year-long saga of battling four nasty diseases around the globe, the popularity of the cooperative game Pandemic has surged. The original game spawned several expansions and spin-offs, and Pandemic: Contagion is one such title.  In Contagion, though, the tables are turned - instead of battling the nasty things, you *are* the diseases and your goal is to wipe out more cities than your opponents.

How We Came to Play:
Susan: We really liked Pandemic, but it's a tough game to play with just two people (unless you each play two roles, but there's no way we can ever keep that straight!) We saw this title and it definitely caught Susan's biological eye.


Mike: I’m pretty sure we swiped this up in one of our famous brick and mortar binges at Modern Myths in Mamaroneck, NY. These take place quasi annually when there’s down time between weekend morning game paying and evening BBQing. As must be evident, we are pretty obsessively focused on gaming with our free time when we are together! (We DO make time for eating and drinking tho! Trying to play a game with Susan when she’s hungry is like playing pattycake with a caged lioness!)

...or 3 uncaged and angry lionesses!


This Reminds Us Of
Susan: There’s obviously a lot of similarities to Pandemic in terms of some of the basic design. It also of course reminds me a bit of Plague, Inc, the app game (whose board game version was just hugely successful on Kickstarter).


Mike: The lexicon is the same as Pandemic (same universe) and the goals are the same as Plague Inc, but the play mechanic of this title is fairly unique.


Infect me!
Game art:
Susan: The basic style mirrors a lot of what was created in Pandemic.  The cards that you're drawing are simple colored ones that match the regions of the globe.  What I love, though is the little Petri dishes where you hold your little disease cubes - it's like I took my lab supplies home to make a game...which would be pretty gross, come to think of it.


Mike: The art is nicely designed if not terribly interesting. Seems to me that you could do more with the art on the city cards, but it’s clear that they are intent on lining up with the look and feel of the original Pandemic so I can’t be mad at them. Additionally, Petri dish thing is pretty cool.


PUT A LID ON THAT DISH!!!!


Best part:
Susan: One of my favorite things about this game is how they crafted the 2-player experience for it. It involves a "neutral" player.  Sometimes he beats us both. The scoring of the cities is dynamic and keeps the game very strategic.

Mike: My favorite part of this game is the strategy involved with being the 2nd or 3rd virus to infect a city. Doing so puts pressure on your opponent in ways that can be advantageous to your game. If your virus is the one that “closes out” a city, you get an added advantage with is denoted on the card. Strategically closing out cities even though you may not be the player that get’s the most points for it, can really improve your lot with regard to the infections you have spread on other cities. It’s clever way to level the playing field against an aggressive opponent!

...as shown above.


Worst part:
Susan: This game wins the prize for having oodles of subtle rules that we screwed up multiple times (see below). I think we mostly have it now...I think.


Mike: The “end game” trigger (having two cities left in play) is inelegant. Seems that there should be a better way to do that. It’s a big part of an overarching feeling that the game is probably too short! Just as you start to get some momentum going the game suddenly ends. It’s abrupt and treads on my overall endgame satisfaction.


Mistakes we made:  
Susan: So many! It became downright comical how many times we had to completely stop the game and start over.  Let's see. We had screwed up the fact that as you advance your infection statuses that you need more cards every time. I think we screwed up the “New City” action on one of the early rounds. We even screwed up the way the 2-player game works in not using the neutral player. Just the other day we screwed up the end-of-game trigger.


Mike: Yeah all of that. Funny thing is we don’t seem to get better at not making the same mistakes each time we play. It’s embarrassing really.

So wait, how many cards do I need to infect a new city again??


Play again?  
Susan:This is one that we've often pull out to play for the past year.  It's relatively quick and it's strategic enough to be interesting but not overly heavy.


Mike: Yes. We will continue to play and screw up this game in perpetuity! It is our cross to bear. But honestly the game is really fun. I’m always asking to pull it out and play when we have a tight window. I’d like to see some expansions or rules changes to get a little more out of what is an excellent base game and mechanic but it’s still satisfying enough to bring out!



#BoardGameHaiku
Mutate my disease
To become more infectious
Taking down New York!

Click play on the video below to learn how to play, then pick up a freaking copy!