Hey PI-Fans,

We’ve got a new release in the form of Pandemic: Hot Zone – North America, a fast playing version of the popular board game Pandemic!

You can grab your own copy here!

And what better way to celebrate the roll-out that to have a familiar face pop in to review it?

Take it away, Jack!

– Kenneth, Games @ PI Manager

The parts tray isn’t part of the box contents, but we agree that Jack’s got a good thing going with this nifty add on.

The word ‘pandemic’ has recently been added to everyone’s lexicon, with the Coronavirus running rampant globally. To combat this, businesses have been shut down, public spaces closed, and we’ve been encouraged to self-isolate. Not the most fun of times.

Looking on the bright side, however, I’ve been able to spend more time with my family and I’ve been introducing them to board games. One of these games has been Pandemic: Hot Zone – North America, the latest addition to the Pandemic franchise. Here’s my take on a game appropriate for the world we live in today.

TLDR: Portable and easy to grasp, with full 2-4 player support. Definitely worth picking up if you don’t already own a Pandemic game. Worth considering even if you have Pandemic, for shorter and snappier games with a smaller footprint perfect for those who do not have a dedicated gaming table.

Out of the box, the main differences between this and classic Pandemic are obvious: it is smaller and there are only 3 colours of viruses.

I put the moving bits into a plastic organiser I had lying around. It is unnecessary, but I feel it helps with managing all the small components. Alternatively, I would personally recommend ziplock-ing the different coloured cubes separately when storing! Every bit of speeding up set-up is welcome, especially with a game that is meant to be played in a short time-span.

Each player picks a character from four available ones, and then the game is set up. Without running into too much detail, the setup is decently quick and on my second solo game, it took me just two minutes to fully prep the board.

Yes you read that right, I played this solo. It is always an option for cooperative games, and a good way for you to familiarise yourself with the flow of the game.

Playing with my family, I first did a run with my younger brother, who is 14. We lost promptly as the deck ran out of cards, one of the loss conditions, but it went extremely smoothly, taking only a single turn before mechanics were learned and the conversation was about strategy for upcoming turns. A single turn is as simple as performing actions, drawing player cards, and then drawing infection cards. Yet even the best laid plans often go awry, as drawing two epidemic cards on your turn can quickly turn into a loss should you not respond immediately.

We ended our two-player session with 2 losses under our belt, and resolved to eventually beat this game. The difficulty spike from the crisis cards are also quite dramatic, as when I played solo later that evening, I was immediately hit with a sanitation failure on my first turn, resulting in the pace of the game speeding up immensely. I lost, of course. (My current record is 0-5, for those keeping interested.)

I think the game lives up to its predecessors’ reputation, and will definitely provide adequate challenge to all but the most hardcore of board gamers. Co-operative games tend to be more difficult to beat, and this is no different. As with all other games, the journey is more important than the destination, and I definitely recommend sharing this journey with others at home. It was definitely a frictionless experience and I did not mind losing while spending more quality time with family, working towards a common goal. Definitely.

Let’s keep the pandemic to the gaming table. Stay safe and healthy guys.