Pandemic. For those not familiar with this board game, in Pandemic players work together to eradicate 4 diseases before they become a pandemic and end humanity.
The ideal number of players is 4, but our sessions were played with 3 players. As part of the setup, each player randomly draws a card from the "Role" deck. Each role card endows the player with a different ability. For example, the Medic can cure all diseases in a city in just one action, the Scientist can eradicate a disease using only 4 cards of the same color instead of the required 5 cards, etc. Therefore, playing with 4 players is most beneficial as you will have 4 different abilities contributing to the players' efforts to save the world. The rules are pretty simple and can be found here.
Pandemic allows you to control the game's difficulty level. If you want a heroic game, you include all 6 Epidemic cards in the Players Cards deck. If you want an easier game, you only include 3, 4 or 5 of the Epidemic cards in the Players Cards deck.
We played three sessions or games. The first was in heroic level - 6 Epidemic cards in the Players Cards deck. It resulted in total failure, which we placed on the fact that 2 of the 3 players had never played Pandemic before.
When we lost that first game, the fifth Epidemic card had not been drawn yet so we decided to play the second game in normal level - 5 Epidemic cards in the Players Cards deck. We lost this game even quicker than the heroic level game, lmao!
The third game was also in normal level. However, we now had a good idea of why we were losing. During most of the third game, we did a good job of controlling the disease outbreaks. By the time the fifth Epidemic card was drawn from the Players Cards deck, we had already eradicated one of the 4 diseases. This was a relief in the sense that there were still a good amount of cards left in the Players Cards deck and, being the game in normal level, we knew there were no more Epidemic cards to be drawn from the deck. We were feeling very confident that we would save the world this time around.
We did a good job of containing this last epidemic and already had the resources to cure 2 of the 3 remaining diseases left when... the 6th Epidemic card came out! WTF?? Yep, while one of the players was fetching some munchies from the kitchen and the other was opening a second bottle of wine, the buddy shuffling the cards inserted the 6th Epidemic card into the Players Cards deck without anyone else noticing. In the end, that evening we failed humanity 3 times in a row, but the 3 of us became addicted to the game.
Pandemic is a fun and challenging game because there are many ways to lose and only one way to win. If you run out of the markers that represent any of the four diseases, you lose. If there are 8 outbreaks, you lose. If you deplete the Players Cards deck without eradicating the 4 diseases, you lose. This means that players have to work together quickly and effectively to gather and exchange the resources necessary to eradicate the 4 diseases. However, at the same time they have to control the disease outbreaks because you lose the game on the 8th outbreak. The problem is that to control disease outbreaks - that is, to lower the infection levels in different cities so that diseases do not spread to adjacent cities - you have to spend the same resources that you need to eradicate the diseases. Thus, the more outbreaks you control, the more you delay in accumulating the resources needed to eradicate the diseases and win the game. However, if you do not control the outbreaks, they become increasingly frequent because each time you have more infected cities, and you lose the game with the 8th outbreak.
If you have the opportunity to play Pandemic, do not let it pass. In time, I may find a strategy that will turn the game into a boring one. Until then, Pandemic will be in my list of top 5 board games.