- Designers: Matt Leacock & Jesus Torres Castro Artwork: Atha Kanaani & Chris Quilliams
- Publisher: Z-Man Games Players: 2 – 5
- Ages: 8 and Up Time: 45 Minutes
The original game of PANDEMIC has become a major favourite of strategy board games players since it first arrived on the scene in 2008. Since then it has been followed by a whole, long list of Pandemic Games: On the Brink (2009); "Infection" Express (2009); In the Lab (2013); The Core (2014); Contagion (2014); Legacy Season One (2015); State of Emergency (2015); Promo Roles (2015); Reign of Cthulhu (2016); The Core Experimental Meds (2016); GenCon Promos Z-Force Team Member/Game Convention(2016); Survival Promos Crisis Mitigator/Relocation Specialist (2016); and finally Legacy Season Two (2017). Iberia was a 2016 release; from my understanding all of these versions have become very popular with core strategy games players. I played the original game back in 2008 and because of the group I played it withI didn't enjoy it. At the time I blamed the game for my disliking it and I haven't played any of the aforementioned versions because of that first time of playing. I don't usually make such snap decisions but the chance to play (any version) and so the years passed and Pandemic became a game that rarely crossed my path; the chance to play only came up a few times and I always had another preference available; and then I played Pandemic IBERIA.
In IBERIA the players take on the roles of specialists in the world of infectious diseases, mainly Cholera, Malaria, Typhus, and Yellow Fever, with distinct abilities to help prevent infections turning into outbreaks. The roles available are: Agronomist, Politician, Nurse, Railwayman, Royal Academy Scientist, Rural Doctor and Sailor. We have played many times with combinations of each and have come closest to winning when we have had both the Agronomist (who can place water purification tokens into an area adjacent to where he is) and the Railwayman (who naturally is proficient in building Railway Tracks.
The game is a cooperative where either the players win together or they lose together; there are no single winners and if the players do not work together there is no chance of a Team victory. When I first played Pandemic I was being told by other members of the Team that I must do this and I must do that. Perhaps they were trying to be helpful but it came across to me that they were playing my game for me and that I was only there to take up a chair, basically sit still and let the others do what was "best" for the team. I may just as well have not been there and that is what was foremost in my mind everytime PANDEMIC was mentioned.
As I was given a copy of IBERIA to review it meant that I couldn't ignore that disturbance in my brain, I had to play it, and more than once or twice, and then a few times more. The more we played the closer we came to beating the disease but most times, not every just most, our defeat was in our failure to manage the deck; it expired when we were on the cusp of victory more than once.
PANDEMIC IBERIA is for 2-5 players but is in our opinion best played with three or four players only because with 2 players there aren't enough suggestions and with five players we found it a bit too distracting when all players had different ideas. It is supposed to last up to 45 minutes once everyone knows the rules but unless you put a timer on each player's Turn games are quite likely to run past the hour mark.
So as I have said I only played PANDEMIC once and I haven't played any of the other versions, though, like most players I think the Cthulhu version looks like it would be insane, thus I cannot make comparisons between any of them and PANDEMIC IBERIA. The idea of the game is that as members of a health organisation in the mid 19th Century you are out to research the four most actively infectious diseases and thereby prevent them from breaking out into an epidemic across the country. You are not out to eradicate these diseases, Malaria for example is an Endemic, but simply control them. You do this by moving your heroes (anyone who chases diseases to study them is a hero in my eyes) to the towns where there is an infection and removing some or all of it by your inherent skills.
There is only one way for the players to win and that is to study and successfully research all four diseases. There are three ways they can lose; one is, as I have said already, the card deck expires, the second is if the Outbreak Token reaches the last space on the track and the third is if you are unable to place Disease cubes on the board. There are four Research Tokens on the board that are moved into a same-colour circle when their Research is complete.
The game revolves around the player Turns which allow 4 Actions, the Drawing of 2 Cards and Infecting or adding to the infection of as many Cities as the current Infection Rate shown by a marker on the board. The Actions a player can take are:
Move: by Carriage along a road, by Boat on the lines connecting City - solid or dashed lines, by Train to any City connected by Train lines or by Ship from Harbour to Harbour.
Build Railroads: place a Railway tile onto a solid line connected to the city you currently occupy.
Build a Hospital: limited to one per colour, any player can build any colour but they must be in the correctly coloured City to do so (the Map is designated into four regions, one in each colour).
Treat Disease: When a player's Hero is in a City (either starting there or moving into it) they can use an Action to remove one Disease cube from the City.
Share Knowledge: Give a City card - of the City you are in - to another player or Take the card of the City you are in from another player.
Research Disease: This can only be done if you are at a City with an Hospital, you have to discard five cards of the same colour as the City/Hospital. Obviously each Disease can only be Researched once effectively.
Purify Water: Discard any card that is the same colour as the City you are in and place 2 Water Purification Tokens into an adjacent area or Discard a card of the colour of an already Researched Disease and place 2 Water Purification Tokens into an adjacent area.
The last thing you do on your Turn is to Draw two cards from the Player Deck and lay them face up in front of you. If one or both (it happens on rare occasions) cards are an Epidemic then follow the instructions on the card including the really nasty part of PANDEMIC IBERIA; where you reshuffle the discarded card deck and place them on top of the current Draw Stack, thus ensuring that previously drawn Cities where there is already likely to be some infection are going to get more infected and possibly begin an Epidemic by spreading to the Cities directly adjacent to it. Note that when an Infection spreads it can possibly cause an Outbreak. Infection spreads quickly. The cards you draw are placed in front of you ready to be used to build, to be swapped out or given away or help create the necessary Research set. As already said if you draw an Epidemic card you have to activate all of its actions which won't be very nice towards your chances of winning the game. If you draw an Event card - these are more fully explained on pages 10 and 11, you can possibly use it immediately or hang onto it to use when you believe the time is right. If you haven't realised it by now PANDEMIC IBERIA is a race against time and the game's mechanics is the timer.
At the beginning of the game take some time to read through the character's abilities and then, as a group, decide on whcih ones you require. You can play "hard core" by shuffling and dealing the Heroes out randomly but our experience of this has lead to some players being disgruntled with whom they have been given and not wholeheartedly playing the game from thereon in.
The Diseases are represented by coloured small wooden cubes. Some Cities begin the game with three cubes and others with two or one; Cities may NEVER have more than three cubes of the same colour. If one was supposed to get a fourth, or more, cube then the infection has spread into an Outbreak and additional Disease tokens are placed onto the adjacent Cities possibly causing more Outbreaks; Disease spreads like the Butterfly Effect.
The Front Cover, RULES and ROLES take up just 8 of the Rules Booklet's 12 pages, the other four pages contain variant challenging scenarios. The first of these is the INFLUX of PATIENTS Challenge which uses the specific Patients Challenge reference card, limited purification tokens, and counts the infection cubes as Patients who can be moved towards the Hospitals. However Hospitals can only look after 4 Patients before they are overrun and the Patients run out into the streets spreading the Disease quicker than a normal Outbreak. Why would players build Hospitals if they can cause more problems? Well the answer is that they allow the use of Purification tokens and the removal of Disease cubes, so it's a sort of Catch-22 situation.
The HISTORICAL DISEASE Challenge brings the Disease cards into play which make the Diseases a lot stronger, they spread faster, and therefore they are harder to defeat; this is ridiculously difficult to win but I bet you will get a real satisfying adrenaline buzz if you manage it; I haven't even come close!
A lot of players aren't too keen on cooperative games but they seem to be very popular to designers at the moment. Of those I have played in the past few months PANDEMIC IBERIA has been the most interesting and definitely the most enjoyable; and although I never thought I'd be saying that about a PANDEMIC game I have now learned why it is so highly regarded. There are a number of dilemmas for players throughout the game and it is with these that the Team should be totally together when deciding the best course of action. For example you may find that you have to give up a card of the city you are in to perform a character's special action which could help the Team, but by giving up that card you might find your self unable to complete another Action, it's these "if only" decisions which cause a lot of the after game discussions.
PANDEMIC IBERIA is a game I would recommend as a starter even if you haven't played Pandemic before, mainly because the rules are brief and well written and the game theme is fun, interesting and to be honest a little bit scary (and this isn't even the Cthulhu edition).