Tabletop Spotlight: Pandemic – Reign of Cthulhu


The Tabletop Spotlight is on Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu. This is one NASTY virus…

Hey BoLS Readers! Are you a fan of playing Pandemic? I happen to be a pretty big fan of the game. Drake from Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy brought over a new edition for me and I gotta say, I like where this game is heading. It’s Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu!

If you’re not familiar with the Pandemic franchise, here is a quick synopsis:

Four Viruses have begun to spread across the globe. It’s up to you and your team to stop the spread and fine the cures to all 4 viruses before time runs out. You’ll have to deal with outbreaks, logistics, and the possibility of cascading effects in this cooperative game of strategic worker placement and resource management.

Pandemic is know for it’s challenging and cooperative gameplay. Because you’re working together with the other players the game has many built in loss conditions and only 1 way to win – Find all 4 cures before time (aka the deck) runs out. Now, what does Cthulhu have to do with that setting? Well, I’m glad you asked!

In Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu you have to seal 4 portals and defeat the cultists who are attempting to summon the Elder Gods. If you don’t stop them before Cthulhu arrives, well…Madness. But this game is more than just a copy of Pandemic with a Cthulhu skin, it’s got some cool new mechanics to keep you on your toes.

The first big thing is that your investigators can actually go crazy – there is an “insane” track that you have to keep up with. This is a massive shift from Pandemic because in the base game, the crisis team was pretty much immune to the effects of the viruses. The second big thing is that every time an Eldar God is summoned a new permanent effect takes place and none of them are good. You also have to deal with the cultists who can cause you to lose the game if you ever run out of them to place. There are other differences between the two (the board is another big difference) but I won’t list them all here. I’ll just say that this game does play very different from a traditional game of Pandemic, but it’s not so different that veterans will feel out of place.

Z-Man Games did an great job with the components and game board – this ain’t their first rodeo when it comes to materials! I would even go so far as to say that the miniatures they added to this set are leaps and bounds ahead of the blocks they used for the original Pandemic. It’s a welcome improvement for sure. Also, all the other materials have that Lovecraftian vibe to them – it’s all just slightly creepy if you look at it and start to notice all the subtleties the artist included. It’s good work.

Overall, the game play is an appealing new twist on a tried-and-true classic and the components really tie everything together nicely. If you’re looking to “get out of the lab” and start striking out at the abyss then you should definitely check out Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu – in stores (and online) now!

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu


Beings of ancient evil, known as Old Ones, are threatening to break out of their cosmic prison and awake into the world. Everything you know and love could be destroyed by chaos and madness. Can you and your fellow investigators manage to find and seal every portal in time? Hurry before you lose yourself to insanity.


Lovecraft meets Pandemic? Sign me up!

  • silashand

    Picked this up last weekend. Can’t wait to give it a try. Hope they make a Legacy version as well.

    • Sebastien Bazinet

      Tried Pandemic two weeks ago at a game pub and found it mechanically fun even though the theme was pretty meh for me. Cannot wait to try this one though. Hope it’s as good as Mansions 2nd edition!

      • silashand

        Pandemic: Legacy is IMO much better, but once you have played it through you can’t really replay it unless you wait a long time so you don’t remember what happened previously. Its advantage though is you end up playing between 12-24 linked games in a row in which wins/losses affect what follows. We played it over Christmas last year and loved it. That’s why I say I want them to do a Legacy version of the Cthulhu one as well. If they do I will *so* pick it up.

        Besides, how many board games does anyone actually play more than a dozen times anymore (barring some classics like Risk, etc.)? There are so many good games available now it’s hard to stick with only one or two.

    • JPMcMillen

      Dude, it’s Cthulhu. Those people were lucky to survive the first time with their lives and sanity (mostly) intact. Nobody would get through a second go.

  • Nubu

    As a side note, once pandemic has seen one play through it has zero replay value.

    • Sebastien Bazinet

      Like all BG it depends on your group I would say

      • Nubu

        Replay value of a game is based on many things but none of those are related the group. This is why it’s called the replay value of a game, not group.

        • rtheom

          No, it very much has to do with the group. In particular, their willingness to try new actions and strategies can have a big impact on how a game plays. The game’s purpose is to provide a chance for variety of actions and options. In Pandemic, it’s the sheer randomness of what’s going to be hit next that provides this and people’s ability to plan ahead.

          • Nubu

            How is a feature in a game a feature in the group? That is your argument after all.

          • rtheom

            Because a game can provide your group with options to mix up the way the game plays. There will almost always be a “best” option, it’s just too difficult in game design to create something where every option is completely equal, but a game succeeds when the options are similar enough not to make that choice obvious or easy to make. Pandemic succeeds in this by the way the diseases are dispersed randomly across the world based on the card shuffle. But because all of the diseases play the same way, there’s no obvious disease you must deal with first. It provides your group with a basis to begin discussing what the best plan of action is, without directly guiding it. “We’ve seen a bunch of black cards so far, so that shouldn’t happen again, but what if…” That’s the basis for great replay value in a team game right there. And where, if your group spends too much time analyzing the game by, say, counting the actual number of black cards, or memorizing the order of the cities, you can lose a lot of value in the way you play the game right there.

          • Nubu

            Well, those are features in the game. Essentially what you are saying is that if the players deliberately aim to not play the game as a team or to win and disregard the repetitiveness the game has more to offer. Ok. Erm. Let’s compare Pandemic to other things.

            Boardgames that in my opinion have a great replay value are, for examples:
            – Tsuro (super simple, repetitive af yet does not suffer for it)
            – Lords of Xidit (you can calculate things all you want and it does not suffer for it)
            – Game of Thrones (literally one random element, everything else is calculation)
            – XCom (closest comparable game I know, not repetitive, can not be calculated)
            – Forbidden Stars (within 10 games this game can not offer new stuff, yet not repetitive)
            – Neuroshima (offers nething new after couple of games, yet not repetitive.
            – Spartacus (has one flaw which is that simple people are unknowing king makers)
            – Blood Rage (everyone knows almost everything the board has to offer and yet can not read the game to the point of having just one smart move per action)

            These are all games that are either more repetitive than Pandemic or less so, none of these suffer from the repetitiveness unlike Pandemic and every one of these is an intellectually engaging even after multiple games unlike Pandemic.

    • rtheom

      Yeah, this is definitely dependent upon your play group and how much time you’re willing to spend calculating the absolute best moves possible. I find that if you don’t do much of that and just let people make their decisions on their own, the game is a lot more fun each time. It’s definitely just as replayable as any other board game, like Risk, Catan, Agricola, etc.

      • Nubu

        The simple act of basic communication and teamwork reduces the game to no replay value. Blokus is a freaking replay gold mine compared to Pandemic.

        • rtheom

          Again, I think your gaming group is probably a lot more mathematically minded and much more willing to discuss all options before acting than others are, such as my group. Another BIG problem with Pandemic and similar team games is you might have a group with the one guy that tries to direct and override everyone else’s actions with the path he “knows” to be best. The game gets very boring very quickly when that’s happening, so maybe see if that’s the case with your group.

          But, if you’re looking for something to mix it up, you just gave a great idea. Don’t communicate with each other. Let everyone make their own decisions. It’s reasonable to believe communication would be extremely difficult in the Pandemics experienced in the game.

          • Nubu

            Well, we do not count things but will not do obviously dumb actions.

            If you do not communicate within the group you will lose. It’s as simple as that.