Pandemic Strategy Primer

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you think there may be opportunities for improving your Pandemic winning percentage. If that is the case, you have come to the right place. If you play the game perfectly, you will win just over half of the games you play on the hardest difficulty. This is intended for the base game, but a lot of what is discussed applies to the expansions as well. For the in-depth text version, keep reading, otherwise the brief video version is immediately below.

General Tactics

The two most important tactics are:

  1. You must find a cure for at least one disease within the first 3 rounds. If you cannot do this, you will probably lose, but you have a small chance of winning if you just hold everything off and get very lucky with the card drawing and just happen to draw most of what you need for the cures. I call this the “hold down the fort” strategy, but it will only succeed with lucky draws, so it should only be used as a last resort.
  2. Once you get to two rounds left in the game, you must stop and plan out your remaining turns so that you obtain the rest of the cures. If you wait until you have 1.5 rounds left, it’s probably too late because a couple of your disease-fighters will only get one turn left, which would require them to get the remaining cards for their cure and get to a research station.  This will be very difficult.

Roles

Turn order is VERY important.

Operations Expert

The best thing you can do with this role is to throw down research facilities whenever you have an extra action and can either help someone cure a disease faster or are in an area of the world without a research facility. This role was terrible before he was much improved in the rebooted version of the Pandemic base game.

Researcher

This is probably the best role to have because the ability to transfer cards to anyone who needs them is so critical in curing disease.  They should not be using cards for transportation unless absolutely necessary because they can give them to someone to help cure a disease at some point in the game.  Also, they will never be at a point where they need to discard cards.

Dispatcher

This role is pretty much equal to the Researcher in best-ness.  Moving around the board is the greatest action point sink, so providing the ability to move more efficiently is incredibly important in speeding up your disease-curing/treating.  Moving one player to the location of another player is AMAZING.

Medic

The Medic is a close third in importance to the team.  Shipping him off to the most disease-ridden cities in the game will, if nothing else, make all the players feel a little less depressed about the current state of the world.

Scientist

This role is great, but not a necessity.  To be able to cure a disease with 4 cards instead of 5 is a very nice luxury.  They should not be using cards for transportation unless absolutely necessary because they are the primary disease-curing force on the team.

Contingency Planner

Depending on when the event cards come up in a game, this role can be either ineffective or a godsend. When playing this role, events should be used sooner to allow for the Contingency Planner to grab them and use them again. This will free up space in players’ hands too!

Quarantine Specialist

This role should head toward the most disease-ridden areas of the map, primarily in a city connected to any 3-cube cities to prevent them from outbreaking, but also in areas where you expect/know disease will spread.

Turn Order

Dispatcher -> Medic

When the Dispatcher goes before the Medic, he can move the Medic somewhere and then he can just go crazy treating/curing disease afterwards.  It is effectively 2 full turns of disease-treating, which is sometimes needed when all hell breaks loose.  After a cure has been found, the Dispatcher can just use the Medic as a vacuum cleaner to vacuum up all those cubes on the board.  If the order is reversed, the Dispatcher doesn’t really want to move the Medic because there might be more important places to cure by the time it gets to the Medic’s turn.

Researcher -> Scientist

If the Researcher is immediately before the Scientist, they can move to the Scientist’s location, give them cards they need, and the Scientist can bang out those cures.  This cannot be used very effectively if the Researcher goes immediately after the Scientist because the Researcher has to give them whatever cards they have on their turn and then 6 more cards are drawn (in a 4 player game) before it gets to the Scientist’s turn, which may have been useful to her.

Dispatcher->Researcher->Scientist

The awesome 3-role combo, which doesn’t happen very often, is Dispatcher->Researcher->Scientist so the Dispatcher can move the Researcher to the Scientist’s location from anywhere on the board.

Transportation

Finding optimal transportation between cities is paramount in Pandemic.  If you cannot do this, you will lose.  Treat every action you have like gold.

Make sure to use all methods of transportation at your disposal.  It is easy to forget about some of them, particularly the Charter Flight.  You should use all methods (Drive, Direct Flight, Charter Flight, and Shuttle Flight) in every game of Pandemic to travel optimally.

Treating Disease

Do not worry about cities with 1 or even 2 cubes on them. Having a city with 3 cubes on it is FAR worse than having one with 0, 1, or 2 on it. Send your people out to knock those 3-cube cities down to 1 or 2 cubes. You’re really just trying to “hold down the fort” until you can find the cures.

You are often faced with choosing between two different cities with 3 cubes on them. You can’t get to both of them so you have to choose one to knock down to 1-2 cubes and one to leave for another turn in hopes that it will not be drawn from the infection deck. These are the factors you should consider when deciding, in order of importance:

1)      Is one city closer to the top of the infection deck? If so, and you do not expect to draw an epidemic, treat that city. Or, if you highly anticipate an epidemic card to be drawn on this turn, choose a city that is in the infection discard pile instead of one still in the deck.

2)      If they fall into the same category for #1, choose the one connected to the most 3-cube cities.

3)      If they again fall into the same category for #2, treat the one with more vectors to other cities.

4)      If the cities are still even, flip a coin… and pray.

If you find a cure for a disease early in the game, try to eradicate it, but if it’s later in the game, don’t worry about it and just try to get the other cures unless eradication is fairly easy.

The Infection Deck

Knowing the contents of this deck is INCREDIBLY important.

Keep in mind (or memorize, if possible) which cards are on top of the infection deck so you can preemptively cure diseases there, keep them from outbreaking, and keep your disease-fighters close to them.

Once the infection rate gets up to 3 and 4, this gets much harder, but before then, you should know every card that is near the top of this deck so you know where to position your forces.

Special Event Cards

Save these until the later stages of the game unless you risk utter devastation if you do not.

Play One Quiet Night and Resilient Population immediately after an epidemic card is drawn, especially if it is when the infection rate increases to 3 or 4.  Pretty much never use this when an epidemic card has not been drawn.  If you feel this is required, you are doing something wrong.

Use the Forecast card after an epidemic card is drawn, but before the infection cards are drawn.

Airlift should usually be used when you need to get someone somewhere to give a card to someone about to cure a disease, often in conjunction with the Dispatcher.

Cures and Eradication

If you do not have 5 of every color of uncured disease in the collective hand of the disease-fighters, this is a problem.  Do not use too many cards for transportation purposes until that color disease has been cured.  Once you have at least 5 of each color disease, you now have a chance to win the game.

If you have 3 or more of a particular color card in your hand, you might want to start making your way over to that part of the world to make it easier for other players to give you cards to complete your set of 5. (or 4 if you are the Scientist)  This is less important if you have a Dispatcher on the team.

It often makes sense to just go for an all-out cure strategy near the end of the game if your outbreak meter is not too high.

If you cannot eradicate a disease in the next two consecutive turns, do not bother and work towards finding cures and saving cities from outbreaks.  Eradication is great, but spending an entire round to do it is a waste.

Tuning Your Strategies

You won’t win every game when you start playing.  In fact, you will lose most of them.  If you notice yourself losing from the Outbreak Meter every time, make sure you focus on making sure no city ever has 3 cubes on it when you draw from the infection deck (or as close to this as possible).  If you always run out of player cards, focus more on curing diseases quicker and improving your turn efficiency.  If you always run out of cubes of one color, make sure you aren’t concentrating too much on a particular disease.  Once you fix the source of your losing one way and you start losing another way, that’s good!  Now fix why you are losing using your current tactics.

Conclusion

You have to remain adaptable in every game when the deck throws its worst at you.  You have to be able to weather the storm and cure those diseases because chaos now often means a reprieve in the near future.

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6 thoughts on “Pandemic Strategy Primer

  1. Wow!. Definitively the best guide to become a better player when playing Pandemic. I just printed and reading it like a bible!. Love your site.

    Like

  2. Hi.
    Typo in Dispatcher section. ‘On’ vs ‘one’
    “Moving on player to the location of another player…”
    Thanks for the advice.

    Like

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