Things We ❤️: Pandemic the Board Game

A doodle sits at a table, holds up a copy of "Pandemic," and says "Y'all ready for Game Night?!" as other doodles cheer, wearing shirts that say "Public Health" and "Health Nerd."

Nerd alert! Imagine there’s an outbreak of 4 new deadly viruses, and you and your friends are a team of public health specialists. If your outbreak response strategy succeeds, you eradicate the viruses and save the world. But if it fails, the viruses take over the globe and humanity is wiped out.

That, dear readers, is the premise of the board game Pandemic. The game unfolds across a map of the world, and you make moves — like building a research station or eradicating the disease in a particular city — to contain the outbreak. But all the while, you and your fellow geeks (er, teammates) draw cards that worsen the outbreak and “infections” build up in different cities.

Pandemic is a cooperative game, meaning everyone works together to win. Players take on roles with special skill sets — dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher, or operations expert — and strategize with other team members to win. But biology and time are working against you — if your team can’t contain the outbreak quickly enough, you all lose the game. Oh, and the human race is lost to a pandemic.

Besides being a fun game to play, Pandemic is also a nice reminder of what successful public health initiatives look like. Public health is an interdisciplinary field — and most of the successes we’ve seen have been the result of true collaboration and effective teamwork. After all, improving public health requires education, medical care, policy, communication, outreach, research…

And you know what they say about the spelling of the word “team.”

The bottom line: Play Pandemic to appreciate how much of a team effort public health strategy really is — you just might save the world.


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