Pandemic: Back For Round Two!
Z-Man Games released the board game Pandemic back in 2008 and it has been a huge success ever since. It has won numerous awards and spin-off Pandemic: Legacy was the highest-rated board game of all time in 2019! The main game has had three huge expansions and remains hugely popular. It’s no surprise Z-Man Games have done something else. Enter Pandemic: Hot Zone. A new series of Pandemic board games designed for use alone or combined together to create some truly unique games! The games are all being released over time, and today we’ll take a look at the first of them, Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America!
Pandemic Hotzone: A Fast And Nimble Child To The Original!
Hot Zone - North America is designed as a smaller and quicker version than the original Pandemic. It certainly lives up to both of those factors. The game box is a tiny little package that’s perfect for taking on a trip; we found that games rarely last more than about half an hour, including setup. There’s a variety of ways the game is quicker than its predecessor. The one that stands out is the removal of one disease from the game entirely.
The original Pandemic had red, blue, black and yellow diseases. Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America has removed the black disease to leave three diseases instead. The game board is smaller as a result, but this makes sense given that the board is only one continent and not the whole world! The game obviously then takes less time and is less complicated. This means younger players or those who haven’t played a Pandemic game before should have no trouble.
Smaller Equals Easier, Right?
So if they removed one of the diseases then surely it can’t be as complicated or difficult. Well, depending on your experience that might be true. We played the original Pandemic and its expansions extensively so we have plenty of experience playing. We found it to be easier than the original, mainly due to the characters. Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America gives you four familiar characters, all of which have abilities that make them unique. We found these to be some of the best characters from the Pandemic roster. They made the game easier to win.
Another strong point that makes Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America easier is the map size: a much smaller map makes it a lot easier to get to places quickly, and no location is ever far away from someone. For a beginner to the Pandemic games though, the game might be harder, as we knew a lot of the useful tricks from our past experience, and you can do a lot of the same things in Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America.
So What’s The Deal With These Characters You Mentioned?
The Pandemic games have always featured a selection of characters that players use as their piece in the game, with which they move around and fight the diseases. Each character always has unique abilities that make them all enjoyable to play and no two characters feel the same. Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America brings you four of the characters that Pandemic veterans will be familiar with.
The Medic is skilled at treating the disease and can remove cubes faster than any other character, making them good for control when outbreaks happen.
The Researcher is the one helping cures happen faster, with their ability that lets them give cards much more easily than other characters. They’ll make sure other players have the cards they need to cure diseases.
The Dispatcher has been slightly altered for this game, but he specialises in moving other characters around the board to put them in the best places to act on their turn.
Finally, you have the Generalist- with five actions instead of four, she’s the jack-of-all-trades and she can be wherever she’s needed most. My personal favourite has always been the Medic for how well he treats diseases, but others in my playgroup really value the Researcher too for how quickly she lets you find cures.
What Else Does Pandemic Hotzone: North America Change?
We’ve already talked about the character roster and reduction of diseases from four to three. There are also only four Event cards, and it looks like each Pandemic: Hot Zone game will have four different ones that you can mix and match. It includes three Epidemic cards and they are used in every game you play of Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America. For those who liked the interchangeable difficulty of the original game though, there is still something for you to enjoy here.
Crisis cards are a new feature introduced, and they can really make the game difficult at times! You can add either three or six of the seven Crisis cards if you like, and these bring a variety of undesirable effects into play. Some of them do things like spreading infection cubes or increasing the Infection Rate, but the worst ones are the persistent ones. The Planes Grounded card stops you from using Direct Flight and Charter Flight, making it harder to travel around the continent; the Limited Options card reduces your hand size from six (the standard in Pandemic: Hot Zone) down to five, making it a lot harder to cure diseases. Both these cards remain in play until another Crisis card is drawn, and these can be complete game killers at times!
Pandemic Hotzone: Look To The Future!
As mentioned earlier, several different games are going to be released in the Pandemic: Hot Zone series, each focussing on a different continent and bringing unique rules and cards to the field. North America is the first, and Europe was released recently. North America brings Crisis cards as an added difficulty, whereas Europe adds Mutations that make the diseases more dangerous. Where the games get more interesting is when you combine boards in the new Hemispheres game variant; we won’t talk much about it as we haven’t played this or the Pandemic: Hot Zone - Europe game yet, but this adds a way to connect the different Pandemic: Hot Zone games, and more variants and unique rules will likely appear as more Pandemic: Hot Zone games are released, and we look forward to playing each and every one of them!
Miniature Pandemic: Final Thoughts!
Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America is essentially a smaller version of the original Pandemic, but it brings new rules and conditions that its precursor didn’t feature, and these make it feel like just as much fun as the main game. While we thought it was easier, the Crisis cards add a good challenge and can make some games very difficult. What really stands out though is how the different Pandemic: Hot Zone games will combine, and we can’t wait to play them together and see what new challenges appear. This game is a perfect start for new players and veterans alike, and no doubt the future Pandemic: Hot Zone games will have the same versatility.
The characters are just as unique and fun as in the original game, and it will be interesting to combine characters from different versions of Pandemic: Hot Zone in the future. It’s a very good game now but it will become truly amazing when it combines with others to reach its full potential! So what are you waiting for? Get out there and save North America from the diseases ravaging the continent!