Small Home Gaming: Pandemic

Hi all, Chris here. We’ve talked about hobbies in the past, but with everything that’s going on around the world and people self-isolating (including us), I thought it would be nice to touch on one of our favorite hobbies with a little more depth: tabletop gaming.

Tabletop gaming has had something of a golden age over the last ten or fifteen years. Gone are the days where Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Risk reigned supreme. Games today come in an astonishing variety of sizes, themes, genres, and play times.

We’ve mentioned our love of tabletop games before, but with this segment I’m starting a Small Home Tabletop Review series. While there are plenty of great reviews for nearly every game on the market, I’ve noticed that no one really talks about how much space different games take up. For this reason, I will be reviewing games with play area in mind and hope to provide a better idea of how much space is roughly necessary to play each game.

To start off our series let’s look at one of our absolute favorite games:

Playtime: ~1 hour
Players: 1 - 4
Age: 8+
Digital Version: Yes


Designed by Matt Leacock and released back in 2008, Pandemic is a co-operative game that tasks 1-4 players with curing four diseases that are spreading throughout the globe (represented by colored cubes). Players start in Atlanta and watch as the first big wave of disease envelops parts of the map. On your turn, you get four action points for your character to spend. Just about anything can be an action: moving, treating disease, curing disease, and more all cost action points. Once you have taken your four actions, you draw two city cards to increase your research capabilities (trying to get a quintuplet of the same color). Finally, to end each turn, you draw cards from the Infection deck and spread diseases to those cities.

It sounds easy enough. It’s not. Leacock has struck a wonderful balance with Pandemic. Diseases are aggressive and have a nasty habit of coming back just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on them. Hotspots will erupt, containments will fail, and research can be slow and stubborn. Success in Pandemic comes with good communication and teamwork. Sometimes it feels as if you’re behind through the whole game just to pull out a last second victory. Other times things seem well in hand until a series of unexpected events puts you back on the brink, fighting to stay alive. In most of these scenarios, Pandemic feels almost alive.

Spatial Requirements:

Pandemic was at the forefront of the board game renaissance, and as such it has a lot of similarities with board games of the twentieth century. Between two and four players sit around a single, medium-sized game board. The board itself has dedicated locations for the Player Draw deck and Infection deck. It doesn’t provide dedicated space to put the infection cubes, but we just use the box lid for those.

One of the reasons we like Pandemic so much is that it’s not a large game. We don’t really have room for a large table, so we use an old, full wood cabinet door (we just call it the board) as a playing surface laid out on our IKEA FRIHETEN sofa. The board we put our games on is roughly 23” x 27.5”.

Pandemic’s game board forms the main play area with the majority of ancillary components sitting on the board around the main play area. The game box lid gets set beside it and measures around 9” x 12”. All told our Pandemic setup sits comfortably in the neighborhood of 30” x 30”.

Final thoughts:

Diane and I have played Pandemic dozens of times and have played games with two, three, four, and even more players. This is a wonderful game with a compelling theme for really anyone who has at least one person to share it with. While it doesn’t really teach any specifics about how to handle real pandemics, it does illustrate the power of teamwork in fighting off a pandemic (plus it’s a good primer on basic geography).