On Sunday 15th May, 2016 I took part in a Pandemic Survival Regional Tournament at LvL Up Games in Bournemouth, hosted by Bag of Holding. Pandemic Survival is a 2 player variant of the game designed for tournament play with a goal of being the first team to either cure all 4 diseases or to be the last team alive.
Changes to the common rules are-
- No choice of Roles, every team has the same two roles.
- Constructed city and infection decks (don’t shuffle you city deck, or even joke about it, apparently that’s not funny….)
- Single infection deck shared by all players and read out by the TO.
- Timed rounds.
- No events that allow manipulation of the infection deck.
The format is pretty simple. Ahead of time the TO sets up the infection deck and city decks according to the scenario format, as supplied by Z-Man Games in the tournament kit. In 2016 my understanding that there were 6 different scenarios to choose from. Players, in teams of two decide which of the two roles they will play, the roles in the scenario I played were the Medic and Archivist but I strongly suspect that the roles vary based on the scenario chosen. All the tables are set up next to one another and each board is separated from the others by a screen (similar to an RPG DM screen) and has a little Outbreak/Cure counter visible so that everyone can see how close others are to winning or losing.
From there the game follows the format of standard Pandemic using rules only from the Pandemic base set with the only nod towards the expansions being, in my case, the use of the Archivist role. All teams start with the same cards for their hands so that the only variation between all teams is the skill level of the players which means that it is skill, and a little luck, that will decide the winners.
Play starts with the same role for each team, in my case with the Archivist who was played by my teammate, and each turn is timed to 90 seconds, which means teams have a maximum of 90 seconds to decide a players actions and complete the moves on the board before city cards are drawn and the TO reads out the infection cards. As each city deck is identical it means that every team will draw epidemic cards on the same round but whether those epidemics outbreak is mostly down to how the players have managed their individual board, I say mostly because, as happened at my event, bad luck can cause outbreaks with no way of stopping them.
My teammate and I have played a fair amount of Pandemic, he owns all the versions, aside from The Cure dice game, and we are currently playing through Pandemic Legacy (which is awesome, play it if you haven’t already) and so we had a fairly straight forward plan for trying to win. I, as the Medic would discard city cards to fly around controlling the diseases as they reached 3 cubes on a city and so threatened a breakout while the Archivist picked up my discarded cards and working towards cures.
We managed to get the first two cures pretty quickly and with only a couple of outbreaks, both caused by the TO immediately drawing the exact same card the was drawn from the Epidemic card as he drew for infection. Nothing can be done to prevent this, players have no action between the Epidemic card and infection. This was the ongoing problem for us as there was only one Epidemic that didn’t have this happen and as we’d failed to control a single other infection that caused an outbreak we were running a little behind.
In the end we did well, having cured 3 diseases we finally went out. For us it was two epidemics in very quick succession which infected a city with 3 cubes and we chose to leave it for a single turn because we would have won on the very next turn and we couldn’t figure out a way to reach it (we did later but hindsight and all that). Unfortunately when the next epidemic was drawn there was a 75% chance that the 3 cube city would outbreak and that would have ended our game, which it did. A fun little addition is that when you go out of the game you have a little Bio-Hazard sheet to place over your board which adds nicely to the theme of the game.
All in all the tournament took exactly an hour start to finish and the top team won by curing all the diseases winning a Pandemic Survival National’s round 1 Bye and a copy of Pandemic ‘The Cure’ each. It was a really fun session and something I’d be keen to try again.