Diseases aretroubling humanity probably forever. Even today, although we have a lot of drugs, modern appliances and previously unimaginable possibilities. But this goes hand in hand with negative impact of hectic modern times – overwhelmingly rapid spread of diseases due to intercontinental flights. Previously, viruses and bacteria remain more on the spot, but it has the more dangerous impact on human lives in that location.
We can do it better, yes we can. Duo of Jesús Torres Castro and Matt Leacock gave us this chance with new iteration of Pandemic series board games, newly subtitled Iberia. Release of the game was financially supported by Z-Man Games and whole work was presented at fair Spiel 2016 in Essen. Illustration of new version was done by Atha Kanaan and Chris Quilliams. Distribution is ensured by Esdevium Games.
Box offers a sunny view of the drama in disease beleaguered Spain, showing a nurse and a doctor. As members of the second Royal philanthropic expedition, we set off to a crime scene and investigate diseases, that are decimating the population. We will try to help as our forces suffice. As our environment will serve us game board with cities around the Iberian peninsula connected by roads. There is also space for decks and two scales as usual.
But players will begin their setup with cards. First, you have to choose your character, including his specific role and therefore get some special ability. They also get a few random city cards. Remaining package is then divided and each part is fitted with one outbreak card. Number of these at the same time determines difficulty of the match.
Second deck with infection cards is shuffled and used to infect starting nine cities – three are given one cube, three will receive two cube viruses and last three get full exposure with three cubes. Besides board are placed railway and water tokens as well as remaining colored cubes of diseases. Start of both scales (outbreak and spread of infection) is equipped with an indicator and microscopes are placed to show unexplored diseases. Each player places his pawn in one of the cities on cards in his hand.
Setup is thus indistinguishable from classical Pandemic. Players always have four action points available, that allow them to move on the map between citites using connections or cure one disease cube in the city, where they stand. Players can also pass card to each other, but must meet strict conditions (same as Pandemic).
But that’s moment, when similarity between actions of both games are disappearing. First and foremost, heroes have the option to build rail on one road. It costs one action, where player creates a railway connection by placing token on road between two cities. Future transport of all players involved in the match can benefit from it. Wherever railways are continuous through several cities, doctor can use rail to get anywhere on tracks with one single action.
Players can prevent disease from spreading by prevention. Well, at least temporarily. For this purpose, Iberia introduces a new concept – regions. These are areas enclosed on all sides by roads. Every city neighbors with few wedges, which expand into regions and their number is dependent on number of road leading into the city. Players can by discarding card of a city add two tokens of treated water into any of neighboring region to their pawn. Whenever a new disease cube should be added in any city in bordering region, players discard a token of clean water instead.
Instead research station, players are building hospitals in here. And to do this, player needs exactly card of that city, where he wants to build. Researching disease (remember, at that time they could not truly heal illnesses!) Players needs to visit hospital of corresponding color. And, of course, he needs to discard five cards of the same color, before he can move one of indicators to a position of success.
At the end of the round, player draws two cards from a common deck. Finally, top two cards from a special infection deck are revealed and infect two (or even more later) city with one new disease cube. Illness is spreading!
During drawing city cards, which will improve choice for next turn, joy may be ruined by running into one of epidemic cards shuffled into this deck. This means, that city from bottom of the deck is revealed and three cubes are added there. Then, all already used infection cards are shuffled and placed back on top of the deck. All these cities were already drawn, so they can be already having some cubes on them at that point. And that may result into another outbreak.
Game continues by players watching helplessly spreading the disease and try to at least minimize its impact. There is no cure. When they research all four enough (just like in the classic game), they have secured victory. Equally well, teams can lose, if they experience eighth outbreak. Likewise, as failure counts also running out of cards in drawing deck.
Pandemic: Iberia looks very similar to its predecessor. If you sit down to it and player classical Pandemic, you might even not notice the difference except for different maps. Fortunately, you’ll find a number of interesting new components in the box.
First one is railway. Its here to compensate for generally slower and more difficult transport. And building tracks is crucial, we can tell you that! This brilliantly simulates missing aircraft or cars, so players must rely on much more limited options. Players will greatly appreciate trains, which are whizzing over their fixed routes back and forth. And it allows you to travel any distance in one action point. And it is a weapon, that should definitely not be underestimated by doctors.
Very important is also possibility to purify water. Initially, you feel like you do not need them. But as more and more epidemics and cubes appear on cities, players suddenly have in their hands a powerful weapon. This is way to defend against chance and feeling helpless. At least not in this regard, because desperation is ahead coming for elsewhere. Game is considerably more difficult to win and have a fundamental difficulty, that needs strong nerves and flawless planning.
Like with other games in Pandemic series, players have to collaborate and make decisions about everything as a team. This is obviously foundation for success, because every step and every action counts and can sometimes be missing somewhere else.
Basic movement offers also possibility of traveling on water. But you will only use it in desperate situations, because it involves spending a card from your hand. And discarding is not something you plan to practice, particularly at the start of the game. Difficult decisions are waiting for players in this regard, because there is a limit to their hand size, set to seven. If it is exceeded, players must choose cards to retain and discard the rest.
Characters and their abilities of course take into account new possibilities. Therefore, there are now number of interesting new characters, who can work with railways or water purification. Players should choose their representation for the game very carefully.
Even event cards help players during game. These are mixed into a deck as well as in Pandemic Legacy. Basic game itself is already very interesting due to railways and all those elements, difficult (as we wrote), but on top of that, really cleverly themed. Game excellently adheres to its topic and historical interpretation.
All the more surprising is, that the rules also include two special variants. First adds migration. While cubes still represent illness, they are simultaneously infected individuals, who with each turn move towards nearest city with a hospital. This creates a very demanding cascade effect. Exceeding the number of cubes in result of movement does not equal to new outbreak. Instead, patients flee to neighboring cities and players can freely distribute their cubes.
This version is simply great. Players still have to fight the disease and everything, that goes with it. But on top of that, cubes are moving each round (at least as seen by infection), which carries quite a lot of handling and thus a longer pause between turns. This is a one and only drawback of this variant.
Second variant offers a special (and real) diseases, each with its own specific properties. Some spreads faster, while others have a sudden onset. Authors have shown some effort in this, representing real diseases and they certainly deserve praise for that. You suddenly feel like living few centuries back. Pandemic: Iberia is perfectly variable game. Length is no different and it will take between thirty and forty-five minutes of your time. Number of players is better to be higher, because players can manage a larger area (mostly at start, without railroad) and better fight constantly emerging infection.
Pandemic: Iberia is another attempt to embellish fight against diseases. Search for drugs and walking on the maps will snowball with new rules and it all gets, again, really interesting. Players this time can not heal, but only suppresses symptoms, use water to slow it down and rail to move quickly. From previous text is probably obvious, that we welcome Iberia with enthusiasm and we are pleased, that Pandemic phenomenon continues.
Pandemic: Iberia is standalone box with its own map and diseases. It takes place on the Iberian Peninsula in history, where they had no technique. Medicine is not so advanced yet and doctors do not know, how to treat those strange illnesses. Diagnosis is only in its infancy, but players try to research and gather intel on the sickness raging in Spain. And because of new things to do and experience, Iberia is great cooperative entertainment, that will really test your skills. It offers several variants and players must fully concentrate. Pandemic: Iberia is excellent variant, which is sufficiently different.