Love Pandemic but ready to try something new? Curious if there are more games out there or overwhelmed by the sheer number of games you could try? Check out these 9 Epic Games Like Pandemic!
When deciding which game to feature as I continued my “Games Like _X_” series, I thought it would be smart to highlight a game that turns the concept of a board game completely on it’s head.
That game? Pandemic!
Now before we break this game down into its individual parts as I have done with Games Like Ticket to Ride and Games Like Settlers of Catan let me first defend my claim that this game is revolutionary.
Whenever I’m talking to non-gamers, Pandemic is a game that I quickly bring up once we’ve made it through the whole “No… not like monopoly” conversation. And with almost 100% certainty I can say one phrase and have their undivided attention:
“This game can take you and 3 friends on…and beat you all.”
Please understand, I’m not saying Pandemic is the first collaborative game to ever make an entrance into the board game market place. However, I will claim that among the new-gaming crowd who uses Target as their game dealer, it does have higher name recognition than any other collaborative games on the market.*
(*Completely made up statistic, backed with no scientific proof).
So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s break down Pandemic into 3 of it’s core elements, and see if we can find that next game that you, or your new gaming friends should try out.
1. If You Like Saving the World…
One of the key aspects of Pandemic is it’s theme. Players work together to save the world’s human population from certain destruction. Pandemic is not the only game that uses this “Let’s be heroes” core theme. In fact there are many games out there where players work together to save the world, or portions therein, here are three.
In Flash Point Fire Rescue, players work together, racing to rescue 7 to 10 victims from a structure fire. While it may seem simple, much like how the disease cubes get out of control in Pandemic, “fire” wreaks havoc over the board in Flash Point Fire Rescue.
Pathways get blocked, fire spreads, and the building gets progressively damaged and unsafe.
Also similar to Pandemic, players take actions on their turns choosing to move, extinguish fires, move emergency vehicles, and others! Players lose if 4 victims don’t make it out alive, or if the building collapses. Everyone wins if a 7th victim is rescued and everyone goes home a hero until the next time!
In Zombicide your curing diseases much like Pandemic…if those diseases are zombies and by curing them you mean…killing the already undead. I don’t know about you, but if there are 100 zombies coming my way, I’m going to want them gone just like I’d want the Ebola virus eradicated!
Players each take the role of a survivor (with unique abilities) and work together to to accomplish goals all while…um…removing some of the Zombies from the board and evading others.
To win the game you’ll have to find weapons, keep the army of the un-dead at bay, gain skills, and complete the goals of the scenario you are playing! Fair warning, this game is a little more complex than Pandemic, but on the flip side, you’ll be prepared
if when the Zombie apocalypse begins.
Can you disarm all the bombs in time?!
FUSE takes the co-op style of Pandemic and adds the element of “real-time” game excitement.
Each bomb is represented with a card that displays a dice combination (Fuse includes 25 custom dice). Players roll dice, decide collectively where they go, roll and repeat over and over. Because each game only lasts 10 minutes (the timers are counting down) you will viscerally feel the stress level go up in the room. The mechanics are easier than Pandemic. The task… may just blow up in your face.
2. If You Like Adjusting The Difficulty Level…
One of my personal favorite elements of Pandemic is that you can take a nice leisurely stroll through the game using just 4 epidemic cards. Or, you can crank the difficulty all the way up to try to achieve legendary status by putting in all 6 epidemic cards.
It’s this combination of increased difficulty with brain burnery puzzling that makes pandemic an experience you can simply replay over and over again.
Before I jump into the games I’d like to feature in this section, I should point out that Flash Point falls in this category as well. But I promised you 9 games, so I’m not going to cheat and count that one twice.
The Lost Expedition is a punishing 2017 release.
Your group of explorers have been tasked with finding Legendary explorer Percy Fawcett who disappeared while searching for El Dorado. But you soon realized that your search was over, and you need to get out of the jungle or you will all be missing as well.
Manage your resources: food, water, and ammo. Try to keep everyone healthy. And attempt to escape with your life.
Players work together to play cards, carrying out the selected cards mandatory actions, choosing between the “either/or” actions, and deciding whether or not you should complete the optional actions. Most actions will cost you – and many give you little or no benefit.
In the easy version of the game, you only need to move your group 6 spaces to safety. In the hard, you have 2 additional spaces that you need to move.
As of this writing, I have yet to win the game on easy.
No…it’s not the 1970’s, and no, I’m not recommending a roll and move game. From my not-super-popular opinions about dice you should know that I would never do such a horrible thing. 🙂
Actually, Stop Thief! is not just a reprint of the 1970’s nostalgia classic, it is a complete restoration of the game. The mechanics have been changed – the graphics have been updated, and it looks just plain fantastic.
In this competitive game, players (as private investigators) try to catch thieves and earn cash rewards. Investigators receive audio clues from an included smart phone app and move their pawns around the board using movement cards trying to apprehend the criminal.
Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of apps merging into the board games, but I have to admit, this app looks really sweet!
The best part of this app is that it makes the difficulty level of the game completely adjustable! You can play it on easy with your younger children, or you can put it on hard, and make some other settings modifications to play it with a group of adults. The difficulty level is quite literally…in your hands.
If you picked up your copy of Pandemic at your local Target, then there’s a good chance that you saw this game sitting there as well. Forbidden Island is another cooperative board game created by the design genius Matt Leacock. (If you don’t recognize that name, go look at your Pandemic box.)
Forbidden Island is simple, and beautiful.
Players take turns moving around the island (that is set up with tiles at the beginning of the game), trying to collect artifacts and get back to the helicopter before the cursed island sinks into the sea. As time passes, more and more island tiles sink, making players choices both simpler, and harder at the same time.
Much like Pandemic you can feel your game stress level start to rise as you go from believing you had everything under control, to realizing that you might be hopelessly stuck on an island as it falls into the sea.
And of course, in a similar style to pandemic, you can adjust the difficulty of this game as well. The game comes with a water level “gauge” which, like the epidemic track in pandemic, tells you how many tiles will get flooded each turn. Want a tougher challenge? Start the game with a higher starting water level….good luck!
3. If You Like Having “Actions” To Spend on Your Turn…
In all of my “Games like _X_” posts I usually pull one or two mechanics out that are a little bit more obscure. By that I mean, a “hardcore gamer” may look at what I list below and think these games are nothing like Pandemic. And to that end, I would like to re-iterate what I said in my Games Like Settlers of Catan post:
So, I’m taking this one aspect of Pandemic and showing you three games which use that element.
The mechanic of “Actions” or choices of what you can do on your turn as opposed to a scripted turn sequence. In Pandemic you get 4 actions and 8 options for what to do with them. These games, take the concept of “action points” and run in different directions (Many of the games mentioned above also have this in common with Pandemic):
Burgle Bros. is a game that I have not yet had the chance to play. However, it is really high on my Tabletopia “let’s try this out” list!
(Tabletopia is a digital gaming platform that let’s you play board games with friends in a 3-D digital environment. You can read my thoughts about it here.)
For some reason though, as I was writing this post I completely forgot about this game, so I want to give a big shout out to Spencer of the Married with Boardgames podcast who brought this one back to my attention when I was talking about various action point games.
Burgle Bros. is yet another cooperative game, but instead of trying to do something awesome, like save the world from diseases of epic proportions, players attempt to pull off a robbery, evade guards, and escape off the roof in their getaway helicopter without getting caught.
Each player has useful abilities that are unique to them, and of course players have 4 actions on their turn, with 5 action types to choose from.
In Takenoko players get to move a Panda around the table!!! Really, that’s all you need to know. 🙂
Other than the obvious draw of the cute Panda mini, the actual object of the game is to grow bamboo by cultivating, irrigating, and growing 3 different varieties of the plant. Sounds collaborative, but it’s actually competitive! Quick aside, this game is super cool because it is 3 dimensional, with the pieces of “bamboo” growing up off the board throughout the game!
Ultimately, players are attempting to collect sets of bamboo in various ways. Players have 2 action points on their turn and decide between 5 different available actions. The winner will be the player that manages the board in the most efficient manner, collecting bamboo, garnering victory points, and getting bragging rights over everyone else.
Alright, full disclosure – most of the games on this list are pretty close to the difficulty level of Pandemic. Railways of the World steps you up a notch….or two or three in the difficulty scale. I always like to throw a game like this into the mix when I’m making these lists.
But, if you are up for a good, 2 to 3 hour strategy game, and you like the idea of getting to choose your actions on each turn, you might want to check this one out.
In Railways of the World you compete against other train barons to build your rail empire; deliver items across the country; upgrade to bigger, faster trains; play your role in developing growing cities; and ultimately, walk away with the most prestige!
Another dissimilarity this game has from the other action point games I mentioned here is that on your turn you only get to do one action. Not 4 like Pandemic. However, I think you may find this is a strength to this game and not a weakness. You’ll find yourself adjusting your strategy when it’s not your turn and having to choose just one action allows you to plan multiple turns in advance.
Now, if you are looking for a good game to just sit down and play with your family, and the only game you’ve played so far is Pandemic, this may not be the one for you. However, if you have a group that is hungry for new challenges, I highly reccomend you take this one on!
You can also read my Railways of the World Review.
BONUS: Actual Games LIKE Pandemic
Pandemic has become so popular that the designers and publishers have teamed up to make multiple expansions for it:
They have also created several stand along games that use the Pandemic as it’s base for theme, or mechanics, but add a little extra flare here to spice things up.
And last, but most certianly not least, they have released a Legacy version of Pandemic. If you’re not sure what that is, you can read this post about Legacy games. If you and your family or friends love playing Pandemic over and over, I highly suggest the Legacy edition! It puts a HUGE twist on a great game.
More games like _(Fill in the Blank)_: