Pandemic’s latest iteration (Rapid Response) sees the game swap its map-based shenanigans for the skies. Instead, you're in a mega plane that can dispense vital aid all over the world. To do so, players will roll dice against the clock in order to meet the specific needs of various cities around the world. This is a real time co-operative game from Kane Klenko, who has previous experience with real time dice games in Flatline and Fuse.
The game comes with some gorgeous marbled dice and the usually array of recognisable city cards and characters with unique powers. The board represents the inside of your plane and around the outside is the track that shows you where in the world you currently are. Inside the plane you are resented by a pawn in the same colour as your dice. On your turn you roll your dice, with up to two re-rolls, and use them for various actions. You can use any icon to move into an adjacent room, the plane icon can be used to move the plane and drop supplies and the rest of the icons are all linked to one of the five machines.
To place a dice and use the machine you must be in the same room. Each machine has similar placement rules with a certain amount of dice having to be placed at once ranging from 1-3. Once you have met a certain level the machine produces a cargo cube which you move to the cargo bay. A quick roll of the dice used will tell you how much waste is generated. Waste is one of the ways you can fail the game, the other is running out of time.
Each player will get ample opportunity to be involved due to the turn like structure of Rapid Response. Multiple players can contribute to the same machine, so you have to work out whether you best efforts are spent helping at the same machine or wondering off to do something else. Completing a city gives you extra time whereas having to turn over the egg timer results in another city card being played to the board for you to help. Once you are used to saving the world you can add in challenge cards for extra difficulty.
Pandemic: Rapid Response is a different take on a familiar world, but one that is true to its roots.
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 20 Minutes
The scene is set in a futuristic aircraft. You, and up to three other players, are workers, responding to crises around the world and saving humanity in different cities. Your tasks include creating emergency supplies and then flying to the needy city. As if that’s not enough, all of this needs to be completed within a certain time otherwise all is lost.
Aside from being a co-operative game involving familiar cities, this is not in the standard Pandemic genre. It is a fresh, fast-paced adventure with plenty of tension and little down-time between each turn.
Rapid Response is played on a moderate-sized board that represents a plan of the aircraft. Different zones correspond to the areas where the varying resources may be generated. Players move throughout the plane completing tasks as needed. The location of the plane and the crisis cities are symbolised around the board and the airplane token moved between cities as needed. The board is made of sturdy card. Players familiar with Pandemic will recognised the coloured cubes that represent each emergency resource. The cards and pieces are of good quality.
Each player has six dice. They take turns in rolling these up to three times. Depending on the outcome, the player may use some dice to move around the airplane, fly to another city or start to build resources. Some of these actions will generate a variable amount of waste. This waste must be managed and recycled as failure to keep on top of this also leads to losing the game. How this game gets exciting is that all of these actions must be completed before the sand timer runs out otherwise all is lost.
Rapid Response was released at the end of June 2019. My family and I thoroughly enjoy this game. Set-up takes moments and a whole game is always completed in 20 minutes. As soon as the game gets under way the crisis cities and requirements are revealed. There is little time for excessive discussion of tactics. As experience and skills improve so the game can be made more challenging by the addition of new cards, random challenges and increasing the number of cities to be visited.
This game reveals who responds well under pressure. Seeing the sand-timer run through, coupled with the variability of the dice rolls means blood pressure is certain to rise. As time runs out decisions become more chaotic and rushed, mistakes are made and the possibility of defeat looms.
Final Thoughts on Pandemic: Rapid Response
Rapid Response clearly shows that when time is limited the maxim “perfection is the enemy of good” is certainly true. Over-analysis to work out the optimum move inevitably leads to failure through time pressures. The need for speed, and the fact that each player controls their own dice and character, means this game avoids the alpha-player problem of some co-operative games. There is a great sense of achievement, not just in defeating the challenges, but doing so within the time frame.
This is a great game. It is quick, frantic and fun. It avoids the over-discussion of some co-op games. If the game wins (which it often does), you immediately want to try again, perhaps with different characters. Pandemic: Rapid Response is easy to teach to new players who might be novices to co-op games. Its rules are straightforward and the simple set-up and quick game play means there is never a dull moment. Although it is marketed as a game for 2-4 players, one could even play it as a solo, timed challenge.
As a dice rolling game this is a great fun. It often makes it to the games table as a filler. It is very re-playable as every game is different, leaving you with a palpable sense of relief as well, if successful.
If you want a simple game that can leave you slightly breathless with a rapid pulse then this is for you. For my family, it’s one that will stay in the games collection.