Best International Game for 2009

After much deliberation, Boardgames Australia is very proud to announce the winner of Best International Game for 2009.


published by Z-Man Games

designed by Matt Leacock

Pandemic is part of a whole new genre of games where players co-operate to defeat a mutual threat: in this case a number of deadly diseases spreading across our planet! Up to four diseases will be spreading from city to city across the globe. You will have to take on the role of a scientist, dispatcher, medic or operations expert and use your special skills to contain disease outbreaks while racing to find a cure for each disease. The game ends with victory if you manage to find a cure for every disease, but can (and often does) end in disaster with a pandemic overwhelming the civilized world.

The board is a map of the world, and players can drive, catch ferries or fly between cities. Sydney is the only playable city in Australia, so it looks like Melbourne, Perth and the rest of Australia can rest easy without fear of major disease outbreaks! On your turn you can take four actions which include travelling, building a research station, researching a cure, or treating disease in the city you are located in. Most of these actions require you to play a card, and careful gathering and then sharing cards with the other players are the key to success. After trying to help fight the disease, your turn ends with you acting as The Infector – starting infections in new cities and potentially causing outbreaks or epidemics. The four diseases don’t have names but that has never stopped everyone we’ve played with identifying the different colours with particular diseases – real or hilariously invented!

Despite its topic, the game is great fun. The challenge of working together to solve a problem is an unusual and rewarding format for a boardgame. The rules are fairly simple, and the fact that everyone works together makes it a great family game. The difficulty can be set differently for each game, so as you improve, you can increase the difficulty. Beating the game on the Heroic level engenders an amazing sense of accomplishment among the players.

Here’s what the judges said:

I can think of no other game that I have played more times with more different people and always with everyone having a great time!”

“The first time I played Pandemic, we lost. We immediately played it again and lost. And again…we won! Then we set it up and played it for the fourth time…”

“The compact box and simple components are deceptive: here’s a game that offers lots of tension, and replayability in spades. Imagine trying to work together with other players to quell infectious outbreaks that threaten to overwhelm the world. Failure to cooperate spells doom for the players.”

“What is so unique here is the theme: current, topical and thought-provoking. You can actually sense yourself barelling across barren stretches of the planet to deliver life saving cures.”

“If the reason we play board games as a family is to enjoy spending time together, learn to co-operate, find out things about each other, and share plenty of conversation, then Pandemic should be at the top of the play-list!”

Looks like the Blue disease is spreading out of control!

Pandemic is for2-4 players, and is fun with any number, though the discussions are usually more lively with more players. It is readily available from specialist game shops (see our list of retailers).

You can see lots of pictures of the game and look at the rules at the Z-Man games site.

This was a  bumper year for games. The full shortlist is here, and especially commended are Aquaretto and Witch’s Brew.

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