Cooperative gaming is all the rage these days, and if you’ve been wondering what it means to play “cooperatively,”  Pandemic is a great introduction. The game takes 2-4 players around the world in order to fight the spread of four diseases (represented by plastic cubes): blue, black, yellow, and the pernicious RED! I don’t know why, but every time I play this game the red disease ends up biting us all in our fannies.

The game recommends ages 8+, but you have to know your audience. Pandemic requires analytic thinking and the first play-through will take longer since you are learning the rules. I love playing this with my friends, but it was not a hit with either my or my fiance’s families, who are more interested in traditional card games.


Once you get started, be warned! When you lose, your self-esteem will take a blow. Losing when you are one turn away from victory is a bitter, bitter feeling. And don’t even get me started on the Bio terrorist expansion pack. (I have banned that expansion in my house, because it has been known to ruin relationships!) It’s all in good fun though, because the tension of the game play is what keeps you coming back for more. You can’t just stop playing if you haven’t won yet!

So the big question is: how did the game do in its representation of women? Pretty darn good! I give it  15/15 points using the Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity.


Not offensive to women = 1 pt

The game did not offend me in any way. The only time gender is even a factor is with the artwork on the box and on the “role” cards. In both cases the game makers were conscientious in their depiction of women.

Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts

In this game all players are protagonists, and they have seven “roles” they can choose from. The roles themselves are gender neutral, but four of the seven role cards do depict women in the artwork. Those roles are Dispatcher, Quarantine Specialist (my personal favorite), Researcher, and Scientist. In other words, it does a great job promoting women in STEM. In addition, the power of the cards is well distributed, with the pairing of the cards being more important than any one card by itself.

Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts 

The game play does not necessitate discussing any player or role’s gender, so two women can play the entire game together without talking specifically about a male character in the game.

Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4 pts

The game play is fantastic. The tension of losing really looms over you. I much prefer playing cooperative games rather than adversarial games, because the teamwork required gives your party or group of friends a good vibe and fosters great memories.

“Do you remember that one time when Karachi blew up and triggered three other outbreaks?!”

“Why would you bring that up?!”

“Do you wanna try beating it again on the hardest setting?”

“Oh, alright…”

You’ll keep going back for more.

Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts

This game does go above and beyond general board games in its honest and diverse representation of the “roles.” This is especially important in the current “chilly” climate women face when entering the STEM field.

So that’s the situation with Pandemic. Now go and add it to your Christmas list!

Have you ever played Pandemic? Share your thoughts below!


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3 thoughts on “You Can Cure a Disease and Have Fun at the Same Time

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