After five years of Pandemic, hundreds of thousands of players have contracted the virus! To celebrate this milestone, Pandemic has been completely re-designed. With new artwork by Chris Quilliams (Clash of Cultures, Merchants & Marauders), Pandemic will now have a more modern look, inside and outside the box. With two new characters (the Contingency Planner and the Quarantine Specialist) face the game in ways you never thought possible as brand-new, virulent challenges await you!
Joshua Cappel (graphics and illustration)
Régis Moulun (cover painting)
Chris Quilliams (2013 edition)
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Pandemic is a great game with a unique theme, and while the game is beautiful the 'disease cubes' were begging to be unleashed into their non-cube form. I decided to make my own pathogens out of polymer clay to liven up the game. Here's how they turned out:
I wanted each pathogen to be similar to the art on the cards, but there were some limitations in making them "identical," so these were the designs I came up with:
In reality, this project took about 12 hours from start to finish, with about an hour added for prototyping. This project is probably reasonable for a beginner who's done some crafting before, or someone who has a lot of patience with learning new things.
Time: 9-16 hours depending on skill
Cost: $10-20 if you're starting fresh, but you will have lots of clay left over (and some tools). The actual cost of clay is closer to $5.
- 6 colors of Polymer Clay (red, black, blue, yellow, orange and white). I use Premo! brand, but you can use other polymer clays.
- Razor blade (preferred) OR sharp knife
- Non-permeable work surface (I use a dry-erase board)
- 1/4 inch round clay cutter (optional)
- Silicone shaper (optional)
Total # of Game Pieces: 96
Don't have time to make them yourself?
You can purchase these here!
Let's get started!
Start by making a small, round ball of clay about the same size as the original disease cube. You can adjust the size to your preference (quarter for reference).
Roll out a long, thin piece of clay at least 5 cm (2 inches) long and not very thick. Cut into 3 pieces about 1.5 cm each. It's okay if these are not identical lengths, they will be trimmed later.
Position your 3 pieces on top of one another so that they are crossing to form an asterix * shape. Press down lightly in the middle so that the center is partially flattened and the clay mixes.
Position the ball in the middle of the crossed pieces and push down lightly to secure it to the base.
Now we need to trim the "legs" so that they are equal lengths. You can do this with a blade or knife individually, but to speed things up you can use a 1/2" round clay cutter. Position the clay cutter over the pathogen body (round ball portion) so that it is centered within the cutter, and push down.
Next we will add the white details.
There is 1 large, central "donut" and 3 smaller donuts. Start with your center donut by forming a small ball about 3 mm in diameter (you can eyeball this). Position this in the center on top of your pathogen body and press down lightly to secure.
Using a toothpick (or similar item), push down into the center. This should expand your ball into a more flattened disk and secure it to the body.
Add your 3 smaller balls around the central donut equidistant apart, and press the toothpick into the center of each.
Voila, you are done with your first piece!
You can use a razor blade (or similar) to gently lift the piece up and move it to your baking sheet.
Only 23 more to go!
This one is the easiest of all!
Start by rolling a ball of clay so that when it is pressed down slightly it is about 1 cm in diameter. We want a slightly flat bottom so that it rests on the game board.
There are two different sizes for the orange details. You can eyeball this, or for consistency (especially across 24 pieces) you can roll out two ropes, one each of larger and smaller thickness.
I use 4 pieces from the large rope, and about 6 pieces from the small rope. Using a razor blade (or similar) cut pieces about 2mm long (4 from thick rope and 6 from the thin rope).
Roll these pieces into circular balls, then attach the 4 large ones to the body where you wish.
Use a toothpick to puncture the 4 large pieces. This should flatten them slightly and adhere them better to the body.
Finally, add the remaining small spheres around the body, pressing firmly enough to adhere the clay well.
After 23 more you are done with the yellow pathogens!
The blue pathogen has a body that consists of 3 "squiggly" ropes. The center is thicker than the two sides.
To begin, roll out two ropes, the large one of ~4-5 mm thickness, the small one ~2-3mm thick.
Cut the thick rope to be a bit longer than 1.5cm. Roll the ends slightly so they become somewhat rounded. Then use your hands to shape the rope into a gentle "S." It should be about 1.5cm long after bending.
Cut the thinner rope into two smaller sizes, one about 1 cm and one slightly less than 1cm. The sizing doesn't need to be perfect. If they are the same size that's okay.
Position the thinner pieces one either side of the main body. Adhere each of them to their respective sides, following the curvature of the main body.
The body is finished!
To add the white details, we need a thick and thin rope. The thin rope will be incredibly thin, about half the thickness of a quarter.
Cut 2 pieces of the thin rope, one for each side of the main body. The lengths should be slightly less than the lengths of your body sides. Adhere these to the tops of the body sides, bending them to fit the curvatures.
Cut the thick rope to be slightly shorter than your center body length. Adhere this to the top of the center body, bending it to fit the curvature.
You can use the remaining thick rope to cut 3 equal sized pieces that will be formed into balls and attached to the center of each white rope. Make sure you press firmly enough to adhere the clay well.
Aaaaaand you know the drill...
These are the most time-consuming of the set because the details are small and elaborate. There are many ways to simplify this design which would work just fine, so don't be afraid to experiment with it.
Shape an oval to your desired size. Mine came out to be 0.5cm wide and ~1.3cm long, but I eyeballed it mostly. Make sure you press these a bit harder to give them a flat base, as they will roll around otherwise.
Take a small ball of white clay and flatten it with your finger to make a disk (not super hard). You need the disk to fit in the top 3rd of the red base, and you'll probably need a lot less clay than you think.
Take a blade/knife and cut a few slits along the edges to form the "petals" you see in the image. Then lift the disk using a blade and place it onto the top of your red base, pressing gently to adhere it.
Use a toothpick to poke a hole in the center of the disk.
Next roll out a very thin rope of white clay. You'll only need about 2cm.
Cut 3 different lengths, the longest being about 1/3 the size of your red base, the next two being about 1mm shorter than the previous. You will overestimate the length of these, these are extremely short.
Position the longest one in the middle and the other two on either side. The bottom ends will be covered by disks, so they don't need to look good.
You can use the extra rope to cut 3 small pieces (same size) for the bottom "donuts."
Roll these pieces into balls and place them at the ends of the thin ropes, overlapping the ends and pressing gently to adhere. Then use a toothpick to poke a hole in the center of each.
OPTIONAL: You can use something to smooth out the ends and make these nicer. I use a silicone clay shaper brush, but you can use your finger nail if you have a steady hand.
And it's done!
The last of the bunch!
You can move these onto a baking sheet and bake all at once, since these are all similar thicknesses. Bake at the suggested temperature and time listed on your clay packaging (this differs by brand). *Premo! clay bakes at 275 degrees for 30 minutes per 1/4 inch of clay, so I bake these for 30 min.
I put mine straight in an ice bath after removing in the oven, but this step is optional (there are claims that this makes the product more durable).
A note on baking: Polymer clay companies claim it is safe to bake their product in your food-safe oven, but in the past it leeched toxic chemicals. Some people still prefer to use a separate oven for baking clay, like a small toaster oven. I have not found any peer-reviewed literature that testifies either way. I personally cook in my home oven, but the decision should be made by you and what you are comfortable with.
And that's it!
Your game pieces are now waterproof, paintable, varnishable, and surprisingly durable! Enjoy!
Don't have time to make them yourself?
You can purchase these here!
About the Author
My name is Alee! I'm an avid board gamer who loves to craft. I started upgrading my games in various ways and stumbled upon polymer clay 4 months ago. Since then I've been making tons of board game pieces and have fallen in love with the outcome.
When I'm not playing games or crafting I'm typically out rock climbing, backpacking, or watching space launches. For work I'm a molecular biologist, so I love science (of all kinds).
What's my favorite game? #X-ODUS: Rise of the Corruption
During our Wingspan giveaway, we asked for your go-to game for 3-5 players. More than 2,500 of you responded. Let’s look at the top games, each mentioned 30 times or more.
Wingspan has a player count (1-5) and a playing time (40-70 mins) that many people can comfortably get to the table. Published by Stonemaier Games, it also has fantastic art and lots of custom components. Read more about it in our review here.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Betrayal at House on the Hill plays 3-6 players in about an hour. As you play, you build the house that you are exploring. One of your fellow players will betray you, and you must use all of your skills to survive.
Century: Spice Road
Century: Spice Road is part of the Century series, each set in different centuries and focusing on the the major trading systems and routes of that era. It plays 2-5 players in 30-45 minutes.
Pandemic is a cooperative game, where everyone wins or loses together. Your team travels around the world working to discover cures for four diseases. Designed by Matt Leacock, it has inspired legacy versions, and historical versions such as Pandemic: Iberia.
Concordia is a peaceful strategy game of economic development for 2-5 players. Designed by Mac Gerdts, it relies on how you manage the cards in your hand. Each player starts with the same set of cards, and can add to them throughout the game. But take too many cards, and it may be too hard to get the card you need.
Viticulture is another game published by Stonemaier Games. Players must develop their vineyards and produce wine. It is a worker placement game for up to 6 players that plays in around 90 minutes.
Carcassonne was the winner of the 2001 Spiel des Jahres, and can be considered a ‘modern classic’ with such games as Catan and Ticket to Ride. It is a tile-laying game for 2-5 players that plays in about 45 minutes. Players score points by developing the playing area, then placing their followers in the cities, cloisters, and fields, and on the roads.
Catan is a game of building on strategic spots to gain resources, and trading for (or stealing!) the rest of what you need. First published in 1995, it’s still going strong. Recent re-themes include Star Trek and A Game of Thrones.
Lords of Waterdeep
Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city.
And here we had a big jump, with an almost 50% increase in responses:
7 Wonders is a game of card drafting, where players build a hand of cards by selecting a card and then passing the rest to the next player. Cards give players a benefit, such as a discount on building a future card, increasing military strength, or providing victory points. It plays up to 7 players in about half an hour.
And another big jump, with an even larger gap than the last:
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride was first published 15 years ago and won the 2004 Spiel des Jahres. It has since sold over 5 million copies. It’s easy to teach, has both a family-friendly theme and strategy, and plays 2-5 players in about an hour. Players choose train cards to build routes across the map to score points.
Number two on our list is yet another game by Stonemaier Games:
Scythe is one of the longer and more complex games on this list, but that hasn’t stopped people from playing it a lot. It’s a competitive 4X game set in an alternate history 1920s where players compete to gain fame and fortune by establishing their empire.
And the number one go-to game for 3-5 players is:
Terraforming Mars was a Kennerspiel des Jahres Nominee in 2017, and is currently ranked #3 on BGG. Players control corporations that are working to raise the temperature, oxygen level, and ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. When the three global parameters (temperature, oxygen, ocean) have all reached their goal, the terraforming is complete and the player with the most victory points wins.
More games, and a graph
30 or more responses made for a manageable list, but plenty of great games were mentioned.
Since the beginning of March 2020, the single most popular landing page on Board Game Atlas was a simple forum post by user JamesReid860 titled "Good games to play over Zoom". And with a view count of 40.8K views to date, it's clear that board gamers all around the world are searching for ways to combat the physical distancing created by COVID-19.
Below, I put together a list that includes some of the most popular games from that forum post. It also includes commonly suggested games I've seen around other board game communities. Hope this helps make your next remote game night a success!
"Roll n Writes"
Whether or not roll and writes are still in fashion, there's no denying that it's one of the most suitable genres for remote play. Its low barrier to entry comes from simple rules, barebone number of components to manage, and often printable player/score sheets you can find online. Oh, and its near infinite player count. It only requires one person with the copy to point the camera onto the board state, while all other players come ready with their player sheet and a pencil (or pen) in hand. Besides the fact that you're not in the same room, it creates the same atmosphere of fun, relaxing game time that invites plenty of casual chatting.
"Players will become architects in the American 50's as they use combinations of cards and actions to construct the American dream real estate." (Also pictured at the top)
Tip: Players who are either unable to print out a player sheet or prefer digital can download the app and fill out the sheet digitally: iOS, Android. If it's an option, I'd always recommend going paper and pencil since that's the big part of the fun and relaxation.
"Players roll the Route dice and must then draw the subsequent results on their individual Route boards. Players score points for having long interconnected Routes, as well as connecting the entry points to their board, plus having Routes through the center of their boards."
"Each turn two ten-sided dice are rolled to make two 2-digit numbers. For example, a roll of 3 and 7 creates the numbers 37 and 73. All players write each of those numbers in a state on their map. The regions they can write in are restricted by three cards turned up in the middle of the table.
At the end of the game, each player draws a route on their map, starting with a low number and visiting adjacent states with higher and higher numbers. Players get a point for every state they visit.
Unlike roll and writes, word-based games may not support as high of a player count, but it's an ideal choice for large gatherings if you want people interacting together and getting to know how each person processes information. And while there are tons of word games out there, here are some of the best games to rise to the top (note that these games require hidden information and will require a bit of creativity and coordination work than roll and writes. I'll offer some tips for the harder ones).
"Just One is a cooperative party game in which you play together to discover as many mystery words as possible. Find the best clue to help your teammate. Be unique, as all identical clues will be cancelled!"
"The two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their CODENAMES.
The teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin."
Tip: Have the player with the copy of the game setup the camera to give a top down view of the board state. Have all players download the Codenames Gadget App. The two spymasters for the round can generate an identical key card by entering the same code on the app (see images below).
"Wavelength is a social guessing game in which two teams compete to read each other's minds. Teams take turns rotating a dial to where they think a hidden bullseye is located on a spectrum. One of the players on your team — the Psychic — knows exactly where the bullseye is, and draws a card with a pair of binaries on it (such as: Job - Career, Rough - Smooth, Fantasy - Sci-Fi, Sad Song - Happy Song, etc). The Psychic must then provide a clue that is *conceptually* where the bullseye is located between those two binaries."
Tip: There was a recent post on Reddit where a user shared automated PowerPoint slides to help facilitate the game for remote play. This is the hottest word-based game around so don't glance over it! You can also check out Shut Up & Sit Down's latest review for their take on the game.
Bluffing games can be a hit or miss depending on the player's personality. You should really give this game a try though. One of the simplest, pure form of bluffing games around that's easy to DIY. You may be surprised to see who in your group has the biggest gambling spirit, or someone you probably shouldn't trust as often!
"Players will hold three rose cards and one skull. Add a card to the pile in front of you, and when you feel lucky, announce your challenge and declare how many cards you will flip. Cards that show a rose are safe, but if you expose your opponent's hidden skull, you lose one of your own cards. Keep your cards to the bitter end to win this clever game of deception and perception!"
Tip: Use coasters if you have them handy. Just make sure they have clearly distinguishable "front" and "back" sides that you can use as a rose/skull. You could also have the players bring out the artist in themselves and DIY the skulls and roses for fun.
With all that's happening around the world, maybe it's time to try out a game where you work together to accomplish the same objective? Note that these games will still require fiddling around to get the right camera view that captures the entire board state and the cards that each player has "drawn". The person who owns the copy will have to be more than willing to coordinate each player's moves, which will be quite frequent to be honest.
"Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!"
Tip: Make sure to turn on some music to accompany the game! It will be a nice way to maintain a bit of the tension that gets lost from not having the tactile element of gameplay. Go to the linked game page and click on the melodice link to help you choose.
Pandemic (or whichever version you have really)
"In Pandemic, several virulent diseases have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand."
Tip: Similar advice as Forbidden Island. Plus, especially given the current times, be courteous and respectful of other players' decisions throughout gameplay. Besides, if a player makes a bad move, it will make the gameplay more "exciting".
If All Players Own a Copy
The games I'd recommend for this situation are similar in nature to roll and writes. Less player interaction, simultaneous turns, somewhat solitaire-like, but have satisfying gameplay. Here are the games that have been mentioned the most often. Games in this category may need a tiny bit of house ruling to address issues like limited resources and other minor issues, but it should work quite seamlessly.
"Toadstools, Mandrake, and African Death's Head Hawksmoth, Oh My! It is the 9-day Quedlinburg festival of quack doctors. Purchasing good ingredients for your brew can help you make the best "healing" ointments in the land, winning you fame and fortune! You can use that fortune to buy even more powerful ingredients to put into your pot. But be careful, one ingredient too many and your potion will explode!"
"In Tiny Towns, your town is represented by a 4x4 grid on which you will place resource cubes in specific layouts to construct buildings. Each building scores victory points (VPs) in a unique way. When no player can place any more resources or construct any buildings, the game ends, and any squares without a building are worth -1 VP. The player with the most VP wins!"
Tip: Unlike the way it looks, Tiny Towns is actually quite mean. The remote play will likely eliminate this aspect as players won't be able to observe one another's board state and try to ruin a good pattern. Actually, scratch that. If you really want to retain the usual dynamics of the game and don't mind not seeing each other's faces, then all players should point their camera toward their board.
Lastly, I wanted to give recognition to games that I wouldn't have thought of but were mentioned frequently enough that I thought it worthy to share.
"Have you ever had the desire to walk the streets of Victorian London with Sherlock Holmes in search of Professor Moriarty? To search the docks for the giant rat of Sumatra? To walk up Baker Street as the fog is rolling in and hear Holmes cry out, "Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot!"? Now you can! You can enter the opium den beneath the Bar of Gold, but beware, that may be Colonel Sebastian Moran lurking around the corner. You can capture the mystery and excitement of Holmes' London in this challenging and informative game. You, the player, will match your deductive abilities against your opponents and the master sleuth himself, Sherlock Holmes."
Tip: The publisher, Space Cowboys, have "material for remote play" available on their website. Here's the direct link to the google drive that contains the necessary resources. And here's the link to a comment by a Redditor who explained how his/her group approached playing this in remote.
Dungeons and Dragons
To be honest, I've never tried. But, it's been one of the most widely mentioned tabletop game options to play over video chat. Makes a lot of sense actually, and perhaps this may be the right moment for people who have been hesitant to jump on board!
And we're done! I hope at least one of these games will work out for your remote game night with friends and family. Stay safe everyone!
This thought came to me from another post, so I thought I'd ask: What's your go-to gateway game when playing with people unfamiliar with modern board games? Of course, this will most likely vary depending on the person/people you're playing with, but I'm always curious to see what you guys find successful.
For me, here are some that are always hits (and again, I wouldn't play some with certain people):
- Survive: Escape from Atlantis
- Camel Up
- Castle Panic
- Colt Express
- King of Tokyo
I know, I know...that's a big list. But again, each of these fits well with a specific personality. The thing all these have in common is that they're relatively simple to learn, yet are very engaging, and I think that's important. What do you like to pull out for new gamers?
I had 2 game nights this weekend one with 4 players and another with 6. Pandemic with 5 epidemic cards was beat on the second attempt after the first game had us with the zombie apocalypse in 3 rounds. We brought another person into Ticket to Ride using the France board for our first 5 player game. After that we flipped the board over and got one of my nephews to play for a 6 player old west round. Sushi Go! is still popular with the girls so we did a couple rounds of that between games.
Our board game time got cut into with my youngest sister wanting to play Just Dance which turned into a 5 hour event I will be recovering from for the rest of the week. I think next game night is going to be Catan and Forbidden Island. How did everyone else fair? New people? New games?
[Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1]
[Betrayal at House on the Hill, Wingspan, Pandemic, Viticulture: Essential Edition, Ticket To Ride, Century: Spice Road, Concordia, 7 Wonders, Catan, L...]
[Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition, Forbidden Island, Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases,...]
[Pandemic, Pandemic: The Cure, Pandemic: Iberia, Pandemic: Legacy Season 1 (Red Edition)]
[Pandemic, Expancity, Castle Panic Board Game, Codenames, Tokaido, King of Tokyo, Survive Escape From Atlantis 30th Anniversary Edition, Colt Express, ...]