Designer Matt Leacock’s Pandemic is probably the best introduction to modern board gaming around. It’s cooperative and easy to teach to new players. Publisher Z-Man Games announced a new version, Pandemic: Hot Zone - Europe, on Thursday and put the game up for pre-order. If you want to try it out, a free print-and-play version is available right now.
Both games in the Hot Zone series — Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America and Pandemic: Hot Zone - Europe — and are completely free to print and play at home. All you need is a color printer and some scissors. A 17-page PDF includes the rules, cards, and the map. To use them both together, you’ll need the special rules for combined play, a mode called Hemispheres.
Pandemic: Hot Zone - Europe is smaller, easier to carry around, and faster to play. But it also adds more variety to the traditional characters and powers found in the base game. It’s also fully compatible with Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America, which was released last year.
“Each set (on its own) is a simple, straightforward, condensed experience,” Leacock writes. “But when you mix them all together, the number of character, event, and challenge combinations simply explodes. You can play with a mix of characters and events on any board and add whatever mix of challenges you like for additional variety or difficulty.”
Pre-orders for Pandemic: Hot Zone - Europe are available on the Z-Man Games website for $19.99. Thursday’s story also teases four additional titles in the series. No word yet on when they’ll be announced.
If you’ve played the vanilla version of Pandemic before, or find that you really do like this smaller, more portable one, you should also consider the ultimate upgrade — Pandemic Legacy. It’s a campaign-style game that evolves over the course of 12 sessions, and it even has sequels that tell a compelling story all their own.