Thursday, January 22, 2009 by Dave Blum

Okay, I’ll admit it, I have a weakness for game shops — and it’s not simply because I make a living running corporate team building activities and scavenger hunts.  I simply can’t help myself.  My local establishment here in San Francisco, Gamescape, is particularly tempting; not only do they have a pretty great selection, but their well-informed staff always knows the hottest board and card games.  On a recent visit there, I think I left with six games, (and relieved my wallet of $150).  Such is the cost of my game addiction. 🙂

One of my latest discoveries is a marvelous collaborative (or “co-op”) game called Pandemic, by Z-Man Games.  Good collaborative games are hard to find.  Most of products on the market are all about competition — think Risk and Monopoly.  But Pandemic is that rarity, a boardgame that allows all the players to work together against a common enemy.  In the case of Pandemic, the common foe is a world-wide epidemic.  The board looks a little like the aforementioned Risk: a map of the world, with cities connected by a spider web of thin, red lines.  Unlike Risk, however, the goal isn’t about acquiring territory; rather, it’s just the opposite:  trying to stop four deadly diseases from taking over the world.  The instructions state:

“You and your companions are highly-skilled members of a disease-fighting team…  Your team will travel across the globe, stemming the tide of infection and developing the resources you’ll need to discover the cures.  You must work together, using your individual strengths to destroy the diseases before they overtake the world.”

Pandemic is a hard game to win, just as in real life it’s a tough struggle for the CDC to stay ahead of epidemics.  There are times when all your players seem to be surrounded by red, yellow, blue and black cubes (each indicating a different disease); the “outbreak indicator” is nearing critical and the “infection rate” is at maximum.  Still, we’ve won the game a number of times!  Like in team building exercises, the key was:

1) Talking out each move with your teammates
2) Keeping the big picture in mind
3) Using all your resources
4) Delegating efficiently (each player has a special ability, like airlifting people or building research stations).
5) Remembering what you learned from previous games

I highly recommend you give Pandemic a try.  Unlike competitive games, you might actually feel closer to the other players afterwards!