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I've looked at a lot of forum posts on several sites on Pandemic and it seems that there is a decent amount of luck. You may win 2 6-epidemic games in a row, then lose 3 5-epidemic games. I have no trouble at all with luck, but I'm curious:

What Pandemic strategies did you figure out after several games that help you get better win %'s on normal and heroic modes?

After reading through a large portion of this thread I've gathered a few things that are important. Any other suggestions on strategy are appreciated as well! :D

  • Know special combinations: when a disease is cured you can use the dispatcher to walk the medic around, which automatically cures any cubes of the cured color on those cities. Any other good combos you've discovered?

  • know when its worth it to eradicate a disease, and when to focus on curing diseases vs. removing cubes. How can I tell that? What other hard decisions are there that I should be aware of?

  • know the rules. I just found out that you can take cards from another player if they would be able to give them to you on their turn. So if you're on the same tile as the researcher, you can take any other their cards for 1 action each. Any other rule gotchas that make the game easier?

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IIRC, only the Researcher is allowed to give/take a city card on their turn. If it is another player's turn the Researcher special ability is not available. –  Ed Griebel Feb 7 '11 at 17:47
@Ed: that's not correct. In fact, the sample turn included in the rules specifically includes an example of using the Researcher's ability on another player's turn. –  BJ Homer Mar 2 '11 at 4:00
@BJHomer Some translated versions of the game gets that wrong. IIRC the correct rule is that the researchers can give cards in his turn, and other players can take cards in their turn. Ie. limitations on whose turns it is, but cards can only move away from the researcher. The researcher in some translation has the power to both give and take, but only during researchers turn. This gets weird in the Norwegian translation, because it is shipped together with the Danish. The card has both languages, and the text on those languages does not agree. –  Taemyr Oct 5 at 14:15

6 Answers 6

up vote 20 down vote accepted

A few points:

Movement is usually the most expensive action. Sure, you're getting closer to be being able to do something useful, but the moving itself isn't technically doing anything - it's just using up a turn. Because of this, if you go to a city with 3 disease cubes on it - strongly consider clearing them all off. If you don't, it just means you'll need to return sooner, and waste more turns getting there. The exception is late in the game - you're probably safe reducing it to the point where it cannot outbreak (ie. when there are two Epidemics only need to reduce a city down to 1 disease cube).

When you have an Operations Expert in play, build research stations liberally. There are lots of instances where you can save someone else 2 (or many more) actions at the cost of building 1 research station with an Ops Expert. Even something that seems like a 1 for 1 tradeoff is probably worth it, especially if your Ops Expert doesn't have any pressing needs. Late game, you might be able to save someone who has a cure (or is about to have one) 3-4 movement actions that they would have needed just to get to a research station. Build a station in the city they are already in.

I used to place one research station in the middle of a problem area, then fan out from it to clear the surrounding cities. Now I build one station at either end of a problem area, so I can enter on one side, sweep across the problem cities, and leave from the other side, without having to backtrack. (But don't leave huge gaps - I'm talking like: research station -> city -> city -> research station)

This might be obvious, but pay attention to how many cards of a particular color you've already played. Later in the game, you'll have to make decisions about which to keep. Keep the colors that you've discarded the most of, since there are fewer of them in the deck.

And when deciding what to keep: I used to think that it made sense to keep the cards that are furthest away from existing research stations. Now, I believe that it might be better to keep cards that are closest to research stations, since you'll be able to quickly get to that area, and you'll probably be there often since it's a problem area, you can use those cards for charter flights - which offer greater flexibility.

Also, wait as long as possible to make the decision of which color to go for (since you'll have to discard so you don't go above 7). If you have 3 red and 3 blue, don't even think about picking one and discarding the other. Get rid of whatever the 7th or 8th card in your had is. Even consider using a special, that is if it will provide a solid benefit at that moment. (An exception would be if another player has 4 red or 4 blue - then you know that they will be curing that disease, not you - so you'd probably rather keep those 2 yellow cards.)

I know I said movement is the most expensive action, but getting together 5 of one color is probably worse. It takes a TON of move actions to use the Share Knowledge action.

That said, if you have the Researcher at the start, find someone with two or more cards of one color, and give them more of that color. This will be the easiest chance you'll have the entire game to use Share Knowledge.

As for eradicating - I only do it if I can guarantee eradication in the next two player turns (using all 8 of their actions). No scientific basis for that really, but it's something that I have to be able to almost guarantee, given the state of the board (where an Epidemic is unlikely, or unlikely to stymie the attempt). The number of movement actions this will save you down the line is massive. This most often happens with the Dispatcher, Medic combo you mentioned. Also, don't eradicate late in the game (unless it somehow won't negatively affect your ability to cure the other diseases).

Plan ahead as much as possible, but be wary of Epidemics. Don't plan out 4 player turns ahead if an Epidemic is probably going to happen before then. Having a long term plan get interrupted (because of a new emergency) can be devastating.

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Some good points! However, clearing all three cubes to avoid coming back is part of what I meant in my answer about worrying about outbreaks a bit too much. Likewise, 8 turns is way too much for an eradication. –  Neal Tibrewala Feb 1 '11 at 16:06
As for clearing all three - I view the strategy of moving around and clearing one cube (while leaving two cubes remaining) from all of the danger cities as a strategy that "worries about outbreaks too much". In my view, it's better to clear all three, risk an outbreak somewhere else, knowing that you won't have to come back later. Also, there has to be a threshold somewhere as to the number of actions spent eradicating that makes it worthwhile. Might be less, but you can imagine needing 8 future actions attending to a disease you already eradicated. Depends on the exact situation of course. –  Ryan Feb 1 '11 at 16:23
Usually once I have cured a disease it stops being a problem and I have to spend very few actions to prevent outbreaks there. I only ever eradicate if it takes at most one player's turn, and sometimes even then I still don't. –  Matt Oct 1 '12 at 11:34

It makes a massive difference to use the contingency planner to allow you to have two goes at the Commercial Travel Ban. Use the New Assignment to change a player to contingency planner if he is not one of your starters.

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What expansion does this apply to? None of those mechanics exist in the base game. –  Gordon Gustafson Jun 23 at 18:03
This is when playing with the expansion. –  Adrian Jun 24 at 3:20
On The Brink: Roles and Events –  Adrian Jun 24 at 3:30

step 1 is to be aware of role synergy.

The dispatcher can move the medic through a cured disease and clean it up.

The dispatcher can bring people together to share knowledge. this works extra well if one of them is the researcher.

The dispatcher can send the operations person to someone else's square to build a research station so a disease can be cured.

Bringing the researcher to the scientist is a good idea.

The quarantine specialist should be near hostpots, and adjacent to many cities as possible at once. Stopping outbreaks simply by being nearby is a GOOD thing.

DON'T FLY TOO OFTEN! this is the biggest mistake in the game. That colored card you used to fly may have delayed your cure. Of course sometimes a hotspot really needs to be dealt with now, so your hand may be forced. DO your best to not set back the cure! Once you have determined that the card you want to use to fly is not needed to get the cure, feel free to use it.

Don't spend city cards to create research stations if the operations expert is around to make them for free. If there is no operations planner to make them for free, then you will need to spend city cards on them to help get your cures.

Keep a count of player cards drawn. You will then know if an epidemic is due or not. Also keep track of city cards that have shown.

If you MUST discard, try to NOT discard a card that may be needed for a cure.

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Pandemic is an interesting game, with an interesting luck curve. Actually, on heroic levels there's less randomness in the game than on normal levels, since fewer black cards will come into play in the game. The players, therefore, have more predictability and can plan better.

One of the most important read the rules trick is that the rules state that this is not a game of memory and players are encouraged to look at all available information. This means that when you're about to reshuffle black, study the cards. The plans formed should not be about the cubes on the board, but the cards about to be drawn from the top.

Combine that knowledge with the cubes on the board to make the plan. Count the number of black cards that come up in the reshuffle pile to know when to switch to playing it safe.

A corollary to this, is that most strategic players overestimate how bad outbreaks are. The only really bad thing is a chain-reaction outbreak. For heroic games, consider the outbreak counter a pool of resources to be consumed. Don't worry about it until it's halfway used. Time spent early curing disease is far better than time spent on 3 cube cities, since it's far cheaper to clean up after the disease has been cured.

Finally, curing is everything, as that's the only way to win. Don't waste time treating or worse, eradicating, if you can productively move game state towards a cure.

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re: eradicating - While I'll agree that eradicating is often not worth the effort, if you're lucky enough to be have the chance to cure and eradicate a color early game, it can be a massive help (and worth the detour). –  Allen Gould Oct 3 '12 at 18:49
Can be, yes, but it's risky early as you don't know yet how often that color will be coming up. This is why i suggest it only for a player who can't help make progress toward the next cure that turn. –  Neal Tibrewala Oct 4 '12 at 14:02
True, it all depends on how much effort it'll take to eradicate. (I've had a few games where it was pretty much "on the way" to get an early sunset; some games the color didn't come up much, some games became a cakewalk). –  Allen Gould Oct 4 '12 at 15:28
@JefBray are you sure? I thought once you found a medicine of a color, and eradicated the last cube of that color, the disease can not come back anymore. New cards of that color are to be discarded? –  Konerak Jan 2 '14 at 12:50
Eradication is a game term. It specifically means eliminating all cubes from the board AFTER you have found the cure. At that point no cubes of that color can ever come back. However, simply removing all the cubes of a color is NOT Eradicating the disease, if you haven't cured it yet. –  Neal Tibrewala Jan 3 '14 at 21:33

I think the biggest thing is just to not worry too much about outbreaks. Chained outbreaks are bad, but which is why you want to watch out for cities with three of a color (and especially adjacent cities with three of a color) but it's often better to just let outbreaks happen rather than spending a lot of effort preventing it.

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It's true. Make sure you pay attention to your vocabulary. Treat disease. Cure disease. Eradicate disease. I do agree that you should not try to eradicate a disease if it will cost more than two turns. However, eradication does have major advantages. Once you have eradicated a disease you now welcome the drawing of the eradicated color card during infect disease, simply because no more disease cubes can be placed on an eradicated country. Eradication will also narrow your movement down to the areas where diseases still need to be cured, which is better for treating areas without having to worry about moving far across the map to treat others.

Regarding player roles and roles working well together: special attention should be payed to each role. Not using a player role to your advantage is a big mistake in this game and is a sure way to lose consistently. I've played games where, especially in the instance of the contingency planner, where roles were not effectively used. This game is about taking advantage of every possible scenario, so critical thinking with player roles in mind is a must. I like how roles can be used in conjunction with each other like the dispatcher/medic combo. The dispatcher can move the medic over cured diseases and cure all in one move. Another one would be the scientist/researcher combo. It would be in the best interest for these two to stay close to each other since the scientist only needs four cards to cure a disease.

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