Cooperative board games are, to use an overly familiar cliché, the Dark Souls of tabletop experiences. Designed to get players communicating and working together, they're usually some of the hardest games to achieve victory -- but among the most satisfying.
One of the best, most easy to understand ones out there is Matt Leacock's Pandemic, a game about eradicating four virulent diseases that are spreading around the globe. Taking on the role of one of seven different characters, each with their own unique special ability, you'll travel the world attempting to discover a cure for the diseases while simultaneously managing their spread.
Now the game's available for iPad for a very reasonable $6.99, allowing you to either take on the game's challenges by yourself by playing multiple roles, or through pass-and-play local multiplayer. There's currently no online option, sadly, but Pandemic's a game about quickly reacting to situations and communicating with your team members, so it's ideal for local play.
Pandemic's gameplay revolves largely around acquiring sets of colored cards in an attempt to cure the four similarly colored diseases. Acquire five cards of the same color and you can discover a cure at a research center, but each turn the disease is continuing to spread and infect cities around the globe, so you'll need to manage the infection rate as best you can. Should a city "overflow" from too much of a single disease, there'll be an outbreak to the surrounding cities, and the game will ratchet up its difficulty. Too many outbreaks and you fail. Too much disease on the board and you fail. Take too long and you fail. In other words, there are considerably more ways to fail at Pandemic than the single route to victory.
Pandemic combines strategic cooperative play with an element of randomness that comes both from the cities that get infected each turn and the roles you and your team choose. Different combinations of characters require very different strategies, and some make it considerably easier or more difficult than others. It's an interesting challenge to try and find the optimum team makeup, and then try and complete the game with other combinations. A variable difficulty level also allows you to customize the likelihood that the plan-destroying "Epidemic" cards show up, too; you're a better player than I if you can successfully defeat the hardest level.
The iPad adaptation of Pandemic does not currently include the On the Brink or In the Lab expansions, and is based on the recent reissue of the game with its revamped artwork. Response from App Store reviewers has been very positive so far, so if you're a fan of the tabletop version -- or indeed if you've always been curious but never tried it -- this looks like a safe download.
Grab it from the App Store.
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