You Absolutely Need to Play Pandemic With Your Teens

The Pandemic board game is a popular, intense, strategy-based game. It’s one of the best cooperative board games for teenagers and families that we’ve played.

Four diseases have broken out around the world and players must work together to cure and eradicate them before everyone becomes infected. Sounds kind of familiar, huh?

Luckily, this is a fun game, not real life and teens have the opportunity to stop the outbreaks from infecting too many people – no masks required.

Close up of teen girl holding five cards from the Pandemic board game in her hand over the gameboard.

Pandemic Board Game is Perfect for Family Game Night

We play this game frequently as a family and it’s always a ton of fun. It takes about an hour to play, which is why it’s good for a game night. Don’t worry though, everyone will be so focused on eradicating the diseases, time will go by quickly.

The goal of Pandemic is for players to work together to find a cure for four diseases while trying to stop them from spreading across the world. As the infections grow, players race from city to city, trying to stop the outbreaks.

And trust me, those diseases spread through neighboring cities like wildfire. One minute your board is sparsely dotted with disease cubes and the next you can barely see the map.

We’ve had a lot of success curing the four diseases, however, we haven’t always eradicated them.

The challenge of the game (and part of the fun) is that there is not a single path or strategy to winning Pandemic. There are a number of variables involved, so every time you play, it’s a bit different.

This is one of the reasons why it’s the perfect family game night choice if you have teens.

How to Play Pandemic

Each game includes:

  • a world map gameboard
  • 5 pawns
  • research stations
  • cure, outbreak, and infection game pieces
  • 96 disease cubes
  • game cards – infection, player, role, quick reference

After you set up the board according to the instructions, each person will choose a role card, the corresponding pawn, and 2-4 player cards depending on the total number of players.

To make the game more cooperative, have people keep their player cards (city cards) face up on the table so everyone can see them. You’ll use these cards to cure diseases and travel to and from cities, so having them visible makes it easier for players to work together.

Each of you will take on a character with a special skill during the game, based on the role card you choose.

Examples are:

  • dispatcher – can move everyone else’s pawns
  • scientist – is able to cure a disease with four matching cards
  • medic – has the ability to wipe away all cubes of the same color when treating diseases

For the first few times you play, I would recommend letting everyone choose their own role card. You’ll find that some are much more helpful during the game than others, depending on your strategy.

Role Cards in Pandemic Board Game

All players begin with their tokens in Atlanta at the research station.

Now it’s time to infect the board. After shuffling the infection cards, one person will choose cards from the top and place the corresponding colored disease cubes on each city chosen. This will be repeated two more times.

Then you’ll randomly add four epidemic cards to the player cards and put the pile on the board.

The outbreak has begun.

Each turn consists of three steps – draw, action, and infection.

Draw Cards

To begin each turn, players draw two, player cards from the deck. If one of the cards is an epidemic card, instead of a city card, players will add disease cubes to a city before continuing on.

Players are allowed a total of seven city cards, so you’ll be choosing some to discard during your turn.

Take Action

The next step is to take action. During their turn, players take up to four actions. These include:

  • moving to or from a connecting city
  • traveling to a further city with a corresponding city card
  • removing a disease cube from a city
  • giving a card to a different player
  • setting up a new research center
  • discovering a cure


Finally, players need to set off new infections. They do this by choosing two to four infection cards (depending on the infection rate) and placing a disease cube on each city from the cards.

While often this is a harmless move, if any city ends up with three cubes, it sets off a chain reaction outbreak that needs to be handled immediately.

To cure a disease, a player must get to a research station and play five matching cards.

In this game, either the players or the diseases will triumph. Cure all four diseases before the disease cubes or player cards run out, you win. If not, the pandemic claims victory.

Collage of five images from the Pandemic Board Game.

Things to Keep In Mind When Playing Pandemic Board Game

  • Don’t forget that each player must have a total of seven cards. I can’t tell you how many times I looked down and realized I was playing with only a couple of cards because I forgot to choose more during my turn.
  • Remember that to win, you need to cure the four outbreaks, not clear the board of disease cubes. Focus your energy on finding cures instead of wiping away every infection.
  • Try to keep the number of disease cubes on any city low because when you turn over an epidemic card, you’ll add three cubes to a city. If there are already cubes on the city, you’ll immediately set off an outbreak.

Game Variations You Can Make

  • To make the game less challenging:
    • Let players choose their own role card at the beginning. This will allow you to build a team with the best special skills, giving you a slight advantage.
    • Have all players lay their cards face-up on the table so everyone can see them in order to strategize together.
  • If you want more of a challenge:
    • Choose role cards at random, so you won’t know what skills you’ll have available as you start the game.
    • Add more epidemic cards to the deck of player cards in order to have more outbreaks to deal with.
    • Players can keep their cards hidden from others. Everyone can still talk about the cards in their hands, but without the ability to see them, strategizing is a bit more challenging.
Close up of Pandemic board game set up for playing.

Why Families with Teens Need to Play Pandemic

There is a reason why this game has been a top seller for over a decade – because it’s just that good. Seriously. It’s one of the best cooperative games for families on the market.

The old saying is true when you’re playing, there is no I in team. Players win or lose together. Everyone must participate and work together to build and execute multiple strategies in order to beat the game.

Will you race to find a cure or will you spend your time trying to keep the infection rates down? Travel between cities can take a lot of moves, so can you minimize movement and spend your turn removing disease cubes?

Winning is more about strategy than luck. So the better a team communicates and works toward a common goal, the better chance you have of beating the Pandemic.

I love the fact that no one is ever sitting around waiting for their turn. In order to save the world, players need to strategize together constantly. In fact, sometimes your turn consists of just handing your city cards over to other players so they can make a big move.

There’s a sense of urgency present throughout the entire Pandemic board game, which helps to keep everyone engaged.

When the diseases overtake the board and you run out of time, don’t be surprised when everyone starts yelling to play again right away. It’s an addicting game and players will want to beat it.

Additional Games for Families

If you’re looking for even more tween-approved games for your next family game night or even a fun thing to do on a snow day, here are a few that we play regularly.

  • Double Ditto is a fun, quick-thinking game for families.
  • Teen board games like Catan, Risk, and Telestrations are perfect for adults and teens to play together.
  • Family board games like Blurt!, Rummikub, and Scattergories are games that everyone can play.
  • Ready for some light-hearted fun? Check out these funny board games for older kids.

Must-Have Family Strategy Board Games for Older Kids

Catan The Board Game, Multicolor7 WondersForbidden Island – The Cooperative Strategy Survival Island Board GameRavensburger 26295 Disney Expandable Strategy Game for Kids & Adults Age 10 Years and Up-Which Villain are You


  • Race to build a civilization in Catan.
  • Build your city in 7 Wonders and work to make it superior to others in the Ancient world.
  • Take an adventure to find four sacred treasures in the game, Forbidden Island.
  • Bring out your inner Disney villain by playing Villainous.

Pandemic is an excellent cooperative strategy game for both teens and families. One you should definitely have in your game closet.

Have you ever played Pandemic with your teen?

Megan Zechman
I love homeschooling! Learning is a way of life for our family. Most days you will find us exploring our Central Florida community, having fun while learning. I am constantly looking for new and interactive ways to engage my older children.
Megan Zechman
Megan Zechman
Megan Zechman

Latest posts by Megan Zechman (see all)