We saw the first in Z-Man Games’ latest disease-fighting series last year, and they haven’t disappointed with the second entry. This time we’re taking a trip to Europe to combat the rising infections in London, Berlin, Madrid and more. This continent’s people are going to need you to save it from disaster. But will you succeed or will the countries crumble under the might of three diseases…
Speed Is The Name
Pandemic Hot zone: North America brought quite a change in pace from the Pandemic we were more familiar with in the classic board game. It was a smaller game, so it earned an increase in speed, and this carries forwards to Pandemic Hot zone: Europe. This instalment is as fast and frantic as you’d expect for Hot zone, but the map makes it more challenging. Some places are quite hard to get to or lead to dead ends and this slows down your progress enough that it’s harder than North America. We found ourselves dreading going to Lisbon or Glasgow and if either come up early we know it’s going to be a tough game! But fear not; the game may be harder already but there’s a team of specialist disease-fighters standing by to jump into action.
Disease Fighters, Assemble
Last time we had four of the better-known characters, including Medic, Researcher, Generalist and Dispatcher. This time however they’re a bit more outside the standard ones everyone’s seen. The Pilot is very good at travelling across the continent quickly and can save a lot of time moving between the cities. And as a bonus, he can take someone with him each time too! Containment Specialist has the ability to remove disease cubes from cities just by entering them and can reduce the time you have to spend stuck treating in one place.
The Quarantine Specialist effectively protects any cities adjacent to her, including the one she’s in, and this can really help when surrounded by disease cubes! Finally, the Virologist has a unique ability that makes curing diseases easier, and we used this a few times when we played. Put together Pandemic Hot zone: Europe’s four characters seem a lot more exciting than North America’s, and they all work to make tasks quicker.
The Disease Has… Mutated?
In spirit of what’s quickly becoming a Pandemic Hot zone tradition, a new feature is included in Pandemic Hot zone: Europe: Mutation cards. Each disease has three possible mutations it can develop that make it harder to fight and cure. Resistant To Treatment requires two actions to develop a cure, wasting those precious turns you have so few of here, but honestly, it’s the easiest to get for a disease.
The other two different cards are not quite so pleasant… Asymptomatic Carriers increases the number of cubes placed on empty cities, ensuring it’s no longer as easy as quickly wiping a single cube off on your turn. Highly Contagious makes players draw extra cards if they’re working towards a cure. Both the latter two mutations are horrible if drawn early. They can hugely influence the game and you’ll quickly see it go from bad to worse! We’ve lost some games from mutations coming too early, so you’ll have to move quickly if you want to fight off these ferocious diseases!
Foresight Is A Gift, Use it!
To combat the brutal assault Pandemic Hot zone: Europe throws at you, the event cards don’t disappoint. The set of four you’re given aren’t anything to scoff at and they’ve made a big difference to some of our games. The focus seems to be on pre-empting what cards are coming and being able to respond ahead of time. Forecast lets you look at the upcoming Infection cards, with Resource Planning being the equivalent for the Player Deck.
These two can make a huge difference, especially if they come up straight after an Epidemic, letting you quickly respond to a bad situation before it can trigger any outbreaks. Call To Mobilize and Mobile Hospital grants more movements and let you cure disease in places you travel to, allowing you to quickly get a handle on a crisis before it overwhelms you. Used right, these events can turn the tables and they’re a very welcome addition to every game.
North America And Europe: Come Together!
As much as this is an amazing game like its prequel, it gets better. Pandemic Hot zone games are designed to be combined together, allowing you to mix and match the elements of Europe, North America and all the upcoming Hot zone games to make your own unique experience. The eight-event cards and eight different characters can be mixed, and you can play on whichever board is most appealing. The real challenge comes from the potential difficulty though. Europe brings Mutation cards, and these can be combined with North America’s Crisis cards to create a truly lethal combination that will take everything you have, along with some healthy luck to push you over the line. We haven’t tried to combine the games yet, but it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart…
Hotzone At Its Best!
You can combine some of the elements from multiple Hot zone games, but there is the one truly wild game variant you can try: Hemispheres Mode is a version for two players that uses any two different Pandemic Hotzone sets at the same time, and while there are only North America and Europe available at the moment, it will truly shine when more Hot zone games are released.
Hemispheres has you working together to fight off the diseases across both continents at the same time, each of you wielding a team of specialists that can work on your board but can also help the other player in their continent. It takes a lot of teamwork and coordination to effectively play two games of Pandemic at the same time, but it makes for a very fun and unique twist that isn’t possible with the base games. We haven’t had a chance to do it yet, but we can’t wait to give it a try with all the different combinations of events, characters and unique game features the different sets bring.
Pandemic Hot zone: Europe, Final Thoughts
This version of Pandemic Hot zone is an awesome addition to the first game in the new series and it allows so much potential when combining both games together. Even on its own though, Pandemic Hotzone: Europe is a phenomenal game with quite the gimmick to keep95+ things interesting. The new Mutation cards combined with the faster-paced gameplay lead to an almost rushed game but in a way that really gives a sense of urgency that fighting off diseases should bring! It’s not for the faint of heart but for those who want a more challenging experience than the standard Pandemic, it’s a brilliant opportunity. As more Hotzone games are released they’ll all continue to offer more potential combinations and that’s what the series is about. You can customise the difficulty and gameplay as much as you like, making for a perfect game for any group.