While certainly not the longest game out there, busting out a game of Pandemic can still take up a hefty chunk of time. If you could play a fast paced version of Pandemic that gives you the intensity of the original game, but in half the time, would that get your attention? That is exactly what you get in Z-MAN Games’ Pandemic: The Cure. Using dice instead of cards, race the clock to move disease cubes into the Treatment Center and get them off the table, bottle up disease samples, find cures, and save humanity. Let’s take a look at this dice game and what you can expect to see in this Z-MAN release.
Pandemic: The Cure comes in a box comparable to the size of the other Pandemic games, but a little bit thicker. Inside, you’ll find the following:
- 1 Rulebook
- 48 Infection dice (12 of each color)
- 1 Infection bag
- 7 Player pawns
- 7 Role cards
- 37 Player dice in 7 colors
- 6 Region tiles
- 1 Treatment center (Contains Outbreak/Infection tracks)
- 1 Outbreak syringe
- 1 Infection rate syringe
- 1 CDC tile
- 10 Event cards
- 1 Cured Diseases card
Many of the roles and Events will look familiar as they are borrowed and similar from the Pandemic games that we know and love. However, each role has new abilities that relate to a dice rolling game.
Jumping right in: Place the Treatment Center on the table with the 6 Region tiles surrounding it in clock-wise order. Set the Infection Rate syringe to the desired setting (this will determine how long you have to find your cures), and the Outbreak syringe on 0. Mix the Infection dice in its bag and draw 12. Roll these dice, then place them in their appropriate spaces (i.e. all 3’s go on 3, all 5’s go on 5, etc). If any dice rolled result in the cross symbol, re-roll until they display a number. Place the CDC tile and Cured Diseases card near this set up, then shuffle the Event deck. Draw 3 cards and place them face-up next to the Event deck. Randomly deal each player a role card, have them take their appropriate dice and place pawns on Region 1.
Player turns go as follows: Roll dice and take actions (see below), Give samples, Try to find a cure, and Infection regions.
The results of these dice rolls determine what actions you may take this turn.
- Fly – may move pawn to any other region
- Sail – may move pawn to an adjacent region
- Treat – Remove an Infection die from your region to the Treatment Center, or remove a die from the Treatment Center back to the Infection bag. When a cure has been found, you may take ALL dice of that color and move them to the Treatment Center, or from the Treatment Center to the Infection bag.
- Collect Sample – bottle a disease sample (place the Collect Sample die on a die of your choice in the Treatment Center and place it on your role card). This die will stay “locked up”
Other results you may encounter based on what specialist you play include, and their card will tell you what these symbols mean. A result that you want to avoid is the Biohazard result. As soon as it is rolled, the Infection Rate syringe gets moved along the Infection track, and the dice cannot be re-rolled. When the Infection Rate syringe reaches an “explosion” space on the track (see photo below), an Epidemic occurs.
The last step, Infect Regions, is when the player takes a number of dice from the Infection bag equal to the current Infection rate, roll them, and place them on their appropriate Regions. All 1’s go to Region 1, all 2’s to Region 2, etc. All cross results go to the CDC. These are spent to use Event cards which are available to all players at all times in the game. Many of these events will be familiar from the board game, but are worded differently for the dice game.
When an Epidemic goes off, all dice from the Treatment Center plus the number of dice from the bag equal to the new Infection rate are rolled. All cross results go to the CDC, all numbered results go in their appropriate regions on the board. Then you’ll check for any Outbreaks.
At any point in the game, an Outbreak occurs if there are more than 3 dice of the same color in any region. For example, if there are 3 red dice in Region 6, and another red 6 is rolled, an Outbreak occurs. The Outbreak syringe moves along the track, and the red 6 that was just rolled is placed in the next region in clockwise order: in this case, it’d go to Region 1. Multiple Outbreaks can occur in a turn.
Other things you can do in the game include giving samples you’ve bottled up to other players as long as they are in your region, and finding a cure. After rolling your dice and collecting samples, a player may take all of the bottled sample dice of the same color and roll them. Cross results count as 0 and do not move to the CDC. If the faces result in 13 or higher, you have cured the disease! If cured, place one of the die rolled and place it over its colored disease on the Cured Diseases card, place the remaining infection dice matching that color from your roll, other player’s samples, and the Treatment Center back to the Infection Dice bag. Otherwise, they remain as samples until your next turn. These dice can still infect regions in future turns, but you’re able to better treat diseases once a cure is found.
If the Outbreak track reaches 8, the end of the Infection track is reached, or a player cannot draw dice from the Infection bag, the players lose! Find the cures to all 4 diseases to win the game!
Is This Game ‘The Cure’ Pandemic Fans Can Get Behind?
Perhaps it is the quick set-up, but my overall impression of Pandemic: The Cure is that I -almost- like it better than Pandemic. While fate is left more to chance with die rolls than with a deck of cards, I find that it comes with the same difficulty and strategic placement that is needed in Pandemic, but makes you think ahead a little more. I can tell you that we have lost more games than we’ve won,regardless of difficulty setting. In fact, it is useful to teach new players the basics with The Cure, and then move them on to the original game.
The pieces are of good quality, we’ve had no issues with breakage or faulty components. The thing I’d change about the game is that the box is much bigger than I expected, or than it probably needs to be. The box’s dimensions, height and width, are the same as Pandemic or its companions, but it is deeper. However, I think the game reasonably could’ve fit in a much smaller box. This does not affect game play or my overall impression of the game. My suspicion is that we will see expansions in the future such as new scenarios, maybe more specialists, or even a terrorist like On The Brink.
Using your dice is important in this game, especially when it comes to bottling up samples. Yes, your dice may be tied up for a while as you roll for a cure, but if your fellow specialists are working to help you collect samples, they may not be tied up for as long. Travel was somewhat frustrating, as I seem to rarely get the transportation I need. So frequently I need to book it around the board, but I only get ship icons to move to an adjacent location.
Each specialist has variable abilities which make each game that you get a new person a different experience. As with Pandemic, the Medic is, in my opinion, the most useful specialist to have in the game. We played a few without him, and even won once, but things were much more difficult. I really do wish eradication existed in this game like the board game, though I can see how removing the cured dice from every roll would be a pain.
Normally, using dice in a game like this would really frustrate me, and frequently they betray us. However, diseases are persistent and are known to randomly pop up, even when you think you’ve wiped it out. For this reason, I think the dice game is closer to a realistic epidemic. But does that make it a better game? That depends on your mechanic preference. I am not anti-dice games, but the randomness of the dice outcomes in this game make me love and hate it. I’ve had games last less than 10 minutes because of it, which can be frustrating. But for those that don’t have an hour to dedicate to the original board game, which is difficult to beat as it is, this could be a nice fit.
Pandemic: The Cure retails for $49.99 MSRP, which I think is a bit steep for what comes in the game, but I’ve seen it frequently on sale through online retailers. If you want that real thrill of luck that you’d face in a real-word crisis, Pandemic: The Cure will give you that element, without taking a lot of your time.