Plague Inc: The Board Game is a strategic board game from Ndemic Creations based upon the popular app of the same name. Players for once aim not to save the world but instead kill it off by infection. To do this, players take up the role of potentially deadly pathogens, as they battling against each other to evolve. As the game progresses the various bacteria gain new traits to change from a boring type of bacteria, to become stronger and closer to a plague compared to a common cold. With a tagline of “Can you infect the world?” the real question to answer is would you want to try? Let’s find out!
A points system is used in Plague Inc: The Board Game to determine who is the most prolific bacteria/virus. Players earn DNA points as they spread around the world, gaining control of counties. To help them spread players can gain traits to evolve their pathogens. To aid travel players can become water bound or airborne, allowing travel from one continent to another. They can form a resistance from various climates. They can even become more lethal and increasingly infectious to spread quicker and cause death in counties easier. These come in the form of things from rashes and causing respiratory failures all the way through to hypothermia and internal haemorrhaging. The traits may sound gruesome but they can massively help players become that killer bacterial or virus.
When you unbox Plague Inc: The Board Game you will instantly see that all the components are all nicely kept in theme. While it isn’t stand out artwork, it is reminiscent of the app’s theming and makes cards very clear to read and identify. While I believe the card size could have been larger, the restrictions on the card size becomes apparent when you have multiple cards placed on the game board. Font wise for all the necessary elements that must be read it is of decent size. Even with near 20-20 vision I did have to look closely at the county cards to determine which city was which, however this makes no gameplay implication at all. One city is just the same as another.
The plastic hexagon pieces, which are the players’ infection tokens, have biohazard symbols on the top. This is a nice touch on the theming side and is something not immediately obvious from the back of the box. The use of four bright colors for the players just makes things instantly recognizable from player to player. Even the ‘death’ dice used for trying to kill countries comes with a slightly blood splattered look. My only major issue with the components after playing a good few games is the thin cardboard player mats. They are laid out well with a decent amount of room for the trait cards and they helpfully have the turn summary, so new players don’t have to keep referring to the rules. The issue is that, similar to card used for the game boards in The Resistance: Avalon, the player mats could have been on harder card. I can see players wanting to play this game a lot and the thin card used looks like it could be the weak link in the design that over time will damage first.
A decent rulebook is something of a must for any game to be enjoyed the first time, with first impressions always making a lasting impact. For Plague Inc: The Board Game we are in luck as it is extremely well written. It is easy to read, explaining the mechanics of the game. I hardly had to return to the rulebook but even when I did I was able to find the answer instantly, so it didn’t disrupt the flow of the game. It may have been nice to some gruesome sounding lore into the rulebook just to bump it up to awesomeness, nevertheless it is a solid rulebook that cannot be faulted.
The turn order is not only laid out but fully explained in the rulebook, and as previously mentioned is noted on the player mats too. In a given players go they do five actions: DNA, Country, Evolution, Infection and Death. DNA is the point scoring section, which helps you towards gaining new traits. Country is when a new country may come into play on the game board. Evolution is when a player can choose to spend earnt DNA points to become a stronger pathogen. Infection is when players’ bacteria spreads across the board and finally if they can the player tries to kill of a country.
Additional points are awarded for when counties are killed off, as well as events coming into play. Event cards can be played at a variety of times throughout the game, which not only adds variety into the game but offers players interesting ways to infect other cities and continents as they try to topple the human race.
Plague Inc: The Board Game is built around being played multiple times. Replayability is high with all the event cards, trait cards and country cards coming out in differing orders. The amount of each of these cards seems to be decent with only occasionally you having to shuffle the trait card discard pile, forming a new draw pile, in a game. The events cards and lower cost trait cards could be the only aspect to get samey on multiple playthroughs. This being said, with the cards shuffled you are never sure what you will be getting or what your opponents will have got.
So most importantly, is the game fun to play? Absolutely! Plague Inc: The Board Game takes the concepts set up in the popular app and translates it well into cards and boards. Competitively you will be sucked in from the start. Be warned the game can cause arguments as players team up against others to get an advantage or strategically screw over each other. The first few rounds of the first game a new player plays is a bit of a learning experience. This means that experienced players will be able to get an advantage if the cards allow them to but what game doesn’t have this to some extent? Past this it is all about maximising your chances, playing the right card at the right time and knowing when to try to screw an opponent over.
Ndemic Creations has already included a virus expansion, which plays almost the same to bacteria but with a couple of differing rules. I can see this being a way that they could further expand the game and add in even more replayability, maybe coming with additional trait and event cards to spice things up even more. With the hundreds of games out there the fact I will personally be looking out for an expansion like this should tell you all you need to know; I expect to be playing Plague Inc: The Board Game for plenty of time to come!
The game is for 1 – 4 players, with a solo game mode being laid out in the rules. However, I can only see myself playing the game in the future as a 2 – 4 player game as the competitiveness truly drives the game forward. While comparisons to Pandemic will be drawn this game is far from cooperative and players are actively trying to kill the world’s population, not save it. The biggest similarity, theme aside, is that I can see Plague Inc: The Board Game being a game players will deploy at many a board game night. Plague Inc: The Board Game is available now and has a RRP of £33.99.
[Editor’s Note: Plague Inc: The Board Game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]