Toy Corner

Review of Pandemic Iberia

by Joseph Gough on Mar 08, 2024

Review of Pandemic Iberia

Hey, I won't lie - back in 2016 when they announced Pandemic Iberia, my heart skipped a beat. As a huge fan of the original Pandemic and all its expansions, I was kinda nervous that I might miss out on this special edition release. But guess what? It turns out I had nothing to worry about. Phew!

Pandemic Iberia Review

Delving into Pandemic Iberia was, in a word, thrilling. This version, thankfully, didn't disappoint. Notably, Pandemic Iberia does not demand the base game to play, a first for any Pandemic rendition. This had me wondering: could it hold up to the Pandemic brand and legacy?

The answer was a resounding yes. One feature that particularly captivated me was the enhanced power of events. Indeed, each new mechanic in Pandemic Iberia was intelligently crafted, the designers cleverly incorporating elements from the game's setting in 1848 and the nascent stages of medicine and travel.

Though I've never engaged with the original Pandemic, reviews and photos left me unimpressed. The game board felt unremarkable. The diseases are nondescript. Yet, Pandemic Iberia managed to sidestep these issues, rendering a game that was anything but mediocre.

In terms of availability, initial fears of limited stock and a fast sell-out in Australia were soon assuaged. Not only was the game still in stock months after its release, but it was also later reproduced, speaking volumes about its enduring popularity.

Clever gameplay, gorgeous components, and a distinct theme only beginning to take shape in 1848 - Pandemic Iberia has it all. Above all, it managed to continue my love affair with the Pandemic brand.

What’s new in Pandemic Iberia?

In Pandemic Iberia, you're thrown back into the turbulent era of 19th-century Spain and Portugal. The setting alone is unique, bringing with it infectious threats of yesteryears such as typhoid, dysentery and smallpox. The nostalgia is reminiscent of Pandemic Legacy, yet tinged with the perilous conditions of the past.

The gameplay mechanics have evolved, introducing new challenges that truly enliven the experience. The inclusion of city cards and battle rolls introduces a whole new layer of intrigue. Every city you occupy comes with consequences and opportunities. On the one hand, you can find yourself facing potential losses, and on the other hand, you might score tangible victories against the barbarian enemies.

Furthermore, the simplicity of Rome's fall is well simulated in Pandemic Iberia, though it carefully sidesteps political or economic factors. Nevertheless, the constant menace, the sense of a gathering storm with every turn, creates an ongoing sense of urgency. Barbarians continue to advance, and your failures can result in their rapid growth, pushing you into a defensive position in the city.

There's a new plot mechanic too, named Forge Alliance. It's a strategic component that brings backroom dealings to the game. In this scenario, you, along with another player, can agree to swap city cards. This process introduces the potential for deeper strategies, as you receive an opportunity to either give away a card that matches your current city or take one from the other player.

In essence, Pandemic Iberia continues to hold onto the spirit of its original brand but doesn't shy away from reimagining the rules. This game offers intrepid gamers a fresh angle, steeped in history and sprinkled with unique strategic challenges.

Gameplay Mechanics

Moving beyond the visual charm, Pandemic Iberia does a fantastic job with its gameplay mechanics too, gifting players a fruitful experience without becoming overwhelming or tedious.

While the base Pandemic game was already an established hit, Pandemic Iberia builds further on those mechanics with the introduction of railways and purification tokens. Players are tasked with building railways that allow swift travel across the map, a development reflective of the era's advancements. The need for strategic placement and effective management of these two components add a valuable layer of depth and innovation to the traditional gameplay. For instance, with smart usage, purification tokens can turn the tide of the game, offering players a way to stifle disease spread in specific regions.

Speaking of diseases, the way they are managed is another integral part of what makes Pandemic Iberia distinct. Historically, during the 19th century, diseases couldn’t really be cured, only understood and managed, and this game represents this aspect quite well. Players can't purge diseases from the board as in the base Pandemic game; instead, they research them. While this doesn’t stop the virus from spreading, it adds to the end-game conditions and paves the path for a different strategy, thus enriching the player's decision-making process.

And one can't forget the travel restrictions in place due to the game being set in the 19th century. The absence of aeroplanes means players need alternate modes of transportation. They can travel along coastlines by boat, or else move swiftly through built railways. Compared to the base game where air travel offers more mobility, in Pandemic Iberia, players are tasked with juggling limitations and finding effective ways to navigate the map. Building and using railways becomes a vital component of the game's strategy, giving a unique dimension towards effective resource deployment.

Pandemic Iberia isn't about adding new complexities; it's about enhancing the gameplay experience with the clever incorporation of themes and mechanics rooted in a specific timeline. The game mechanics strike a fine balance between challenge and playability. And it does this all while avoiding the trap of becoming just a reskinned version of Pandemic, but instead a historic and strategic powerhouse in its own right.

My Thoughts on the Game

I've found Pandemic Iberia to be an engaging twist on the classic Pandemic format. Its strategic depth is enhanced by the addition of railways and purification tokens. The game's focus on disease management, rather than curing, reflects the historical backdrop of the 19th century, adding to its authenticity. The travel restrictions present a unique challenge that's both fun and thought-provoking. I believe that Pandemic Iberia has successfully captured the essence of the era, offering a distinct and enjoyable gaming experience. It's a game that's sure to delight both new players and seasoned Pandemic veterans.