Ten years ago, a game was released for the hobby market. It was cooperative, set on a disease ridden Earth, where players were tasked to save humanity. In a fast moving industry where games get only a minute amount of time in the spotlight Pandemic has shone through. The series has seen multiple spin offs, including critically acclaimed legacy editions which helped kickstarted a genre of board games. While a new version may have just released, this is Pandemic 10th Anniversary Edition from publisher Z-Man Games – showing how the iconic game can be elevated via metal, plastic and wood.
Let’s get this out the way in case you are reading the review expecting to hear of any new additions that change the gameplay. This anniversary edition is for all intents and purposes a aesthetic change, featuring component upgrades and a couple of extras that do not impact the way the game is played. Due to this, the much loved core experience of Pandemic remains unchanged, and you can check out how the game plays in our review of the regular edition here.
Before even cracking the box open there is a big, weighty, change. Instead of a regular game box Pandemic 10th Anniversary Edition comes in a metal, carryable, flat first aid kit shaped case. The box itself has metal catches keeping it closed, a handle and bits at the back to enable gamers to hang it up in pride of place in their gaming room. One slight annoyance is that the base of the box is not flat, due ot the lid design, so it cannot stand up perfectly vertical on a shelf. Though, if this will impact you is all to down to how you choose to store it. If a game box was to attract attention this metal box does the job, as it is distinctive and captures the theme of the game perfectly.
When you get the lid open it is instantly obvious this attention to upgrading the game continues. When originally playing the regular edition I never had an issue with the sizing of the board. This was until after playing Pandemic Legacy Season 1 where the significantly larger board made things such as cube placement around cities less fiddly. Included in the anniversary edition is an enlarged board, from the regular edition. It comes with new artwork making the game have less of a dark web feel to it, and more of a globe in danger vibe.
Gone are player pawns, replaced by some detailed miniatures of the seven playable characters. This includes the Quarantine Specialist and Contingency Planner whom were only added in when the second edition of Pandemic was released back in 2013. These miniatures come unpainted, though are of decent quality that could easily be painted, with coloured bases that match the player cards.
For reference, the character designs come from the second edition of the game. Despite being the same character artwork as that edition the player ID cards have also seen an improvement, being bigger in size and in an actual ID style, with the how to play reminders on the reverse. The decks of cards have also seen new artwork commissioned which makes them a touch clearer to read where the city is, via the map, but are otherwise as good as the regular edition. In the image the anniversary cards are on the left with the regular edition cards on the right.
There is one aspect that has split players, as to whether or not it is an upgrade. Z-Man Games was so pleased to announce that the game would feature wooden cubes. Yet, to some, they are no better than the more modern looking transparent coloured plastic cubes found in the regular version. This becomes odder when considering the 1st edition also had wooden cubes. It seems this is more of a sideways move than forward, though it is hardly a negative. One aspect not included in the base game are petri dishes. These were included in the On The Brink expansion and in this edition are there to simply hold the four types of disease cubes.
This is very much only the base game, and while there is room for expansions in the box they are absent. This seems a peculiar choice as the cards in the special edition are that bit nicer but would stick out like a sore thumb from those introduced by the “regular” style expansions. Z-Man’s advice on this is to “set aside the anniversary cards and instead use your existing player and infection cards”. Basically, only use the special cards as a basic game deck for when introducing the title to new players. This is a huge shame as gamers must resign themselves to leaving components they’ve paid a premium for in the box.
Apart from the debate about wooden cubes, every aspect of Pandemic 10th Anniversary Edition oozes premium and quality. Right from the get go it does exactly what you’d want from an anniversary edition, even including a little commentary piece from designer Matt Leacock. Leaving the gameplay untouched was a wise idea, for a game that is loved by so many. This being said, a few special event cards would have gone down well – especially if it referenced curing the world for the past 10 years in some way.
There is a compatibility issue for those that own the expansions, rendering the new art style on the decks of cards annoying for some, while wonderful for others. This is the only aspect that taints Pandemic 10th Anniversary Edition for a super fan of the series, whom will most probably own these very expansions. If this anniversary edition, which is fully blinged out component wise, is worth the money for you, is a question I cannot answer – we are all different. You can get almost the same game experience from the regular edition. However, if you can warrant the price tag this is a rather glorious metal box to have on your gaming shelf and is a pleasure to get to the table!
[Editor’s Note: Pandemic 10th Anniversary Edition was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. Check the special edition out your local UK board game stores, find your local store here]