• majesticunicorn

Pandemic: Rapid Response

Updated: Sep 13, 2019

- The most stressed out fun you'll ever have

Players: 2 - 4

Playing time: 20 minutes

Designed by: Kane Klenko

Published by: Z-Man Games

The world is in turmoil. Countries around the globe are in desperate need of food, vaccines, water and other supplies and it's up to you to deliver to them. New from the Pandemic universe is Pandemic: Rapid Response. It's faster, dicier and way more intense than any other cooperative game out there.

What's in the box?

- 24 dice (6 each in 4 colours) - 4 player pawns - 20 supply crates - 1 plane with stand - 24 city cards - 4 reference cards - 15 crisis cards - 1 plane board - 1 sand timer - 9 time tokens - 1 waste marker

It's easy to see that this is a high-quality game, from the game pawns to the cards, but what really stands out are the dice. They are gorgeous and unlike any other dice I've seen in a game before. They are the most used and important part of the game as you spend the majority of the time chucking them around, so I'm extremely happy that designer Kane Klenko opted to make them solid and all the icons easy to read.

If I had to suggest one improvement it would be to add some sort of icon to the time tokens. Just like the waste token has the recycle symbol on it, it would be nice to have a sand timer or clock symbol on the time tokens. Is it that important? No. Am I having to be picky because of all the components being so great? Yes.


The main aim of the game is to deliver all of the supplies to various cities in need. Players must ensure they complete an airdrop in the required time or they fail the mission entirely. For each successful airdrop, players are rewarded with an additional two minutes on the timer in the form of a time token.

Cards are drawn to determine where the airdrops are needed and which supplies are required. There are five types of supplies to be gathered: Vaccine, Food, Power, First aid and Water. To gather the supplies, each player has a set of six dice each. Each side is printed to show each of the different supplies and a plane symbol which is used to move the plane, but more on that in a second!

You may know and love the Pandemic games already in the series and while Rapid Response shares some similarities with these fan favourites, there is one key difference. This instalment is played in real-time, which means that the timer never stops running. While players still get to take it in turns to play, they must do so as quickly as possible. There's no time to stop to discuss strategies, these cities need their supplies and they need them fast.

The Rules

During the setup, shuffle the role cards and deal one to each player. This will determine which room on the board the player will start in. Each role also gives the player a special ability. The player who last travelled on a plane gets to go first.

When all players are ready to roll, flip the sand timer and start gathering supplies. At the beginning of your turn, take all of your dice and roll them. I highly suggest some form of dice tray for this to keep your dice contained. It's really hard to keep your dice under control and you'll end up scrounging for them at the end of your turn. I spend way too much time under the table looking for a rogue dice.

After rolling your dice, you can choose to use them to do a few things: move around the plane, fly the plane to different cities, assign your dice to rooms on the board, and activate rooms for their effects. You can use as many dice as you want per round and you are allowed to re-roll dice up to two times unless you have an ability that says otherwise.

To move your pawn into a different room you can choose to spend any dice. The image shown on your rolled dice determines what other actions you can perform. To fly the plane around the edge of the map to different cities you must roll and spend one dice with a plane on it to move one space. To assign dice to a room you must roll the specific symbol for that room. For example, to gather electricity you have to roll and spend one dice with the lightning bolt symbol on it. Any dice that have been assigned to rooms are then classed as locked and cannot be taken back until that room is activated. This means that if you choose to assign three dice to a room, on your next turn you will only roll three dice instead of the full six.

Each room has four resources available of that type. When activating a room you either retrieve one, two or three resources depending on how many dice are in the room. After activating the room and receiving the resource (action cube), place the resource in the cargo bay which is located at one end of the game board. The process of gathering resources also generates waste aboard the plane. After you move resources to the cargo bay you can then retrieve all of the dice that were located in this room. Firstly, roll them and however many of them show a symbol with a circle around it (plane, water, food), move that many spaces on the waste tracker near the cargo bay. If the waste tracker ever reaches the skull at the end, the missions are lost and you lose the game. Players can reduce waste by using a turn to spend their dice to do so.

When players have gathered the required amount of resources for delivery, they can choose to activate the area and deliver to the current city the plane is on. All resources that are used can go back to their original rooms, ready to be gathered again. If players fulfil all of the airdrops in the allowed time, the mission is a success and players have won.

And that's the base game! When you have experience with the game, you can adjust the difficulty accordingly. There are four to choose from: Easy, Normal, Veteran and Heroic. Each difficulty means you will have more airdrops to complete but in the same amount of time. As well as this, there are also Crisis Cards that you can introduce and these add an extra layer of depth and difficulty to the game. Every time the sand timer runs out, as well as losing one time token, you must also draw one Crisis Card. These are usually inconveniences that force you to give up a resource or pushes your character to a different room etc.


  • A great cooperative game that is fun and quick to play. It's easy to learn and though it can be a bit confusing at first, as soon as you start playing, everything becomes clearer.

  • There is a great sense of all in it together as all players need to be pulling their weight to get the missions completed. One player can't pick up the slack of others as there simply isn't enough time for that.

  • It's a great change of pace from original Pandemic. It's close enough to the original game that it feels familiar but the new mechanics definitely give it a fresh feel.

  • It's an extremely high quality game, all of the components are made really well and for the price point this game retails at you're getting a pretty good deal.

  • It doesn't suffer with the 'alpha gamer' issue that a lot of other cooperative games have. The gameplay is way too quick to discuss strategies so each player is able to do what they feel is best in their turn.


  • If you're not a fan of stressful games and don't like to be put under pressure then this game is definitely not for you. The entire gameplay embodies chaos as you're constantly fighting the time.

  • You need to play this game with the right crowd of people. If you have a group of people that aren't really into it then it's not going to work.

  • It doesn't allow you to think through a strategy. So if you're someone who likes to really get into a strategy and think it through then probably wouldn't get on with this game very well.

  • The Crisis Cards are more of a hindrance than anything else, they don't really add anything to the game and are usually not too difficult to deal with.

  • There isn't a great deal of replayability within Rapid Response as once you've played it a few times you get everything there is to get from the game.

Final Thoughts

Theme - Pandemic: Rapid Response does a great job of making the players feel like they are really trying to deliver supplies to people in cities of need. The fast paced actions and down to the wire nature makes you believe that you are working together to avoid disasters around the world. The theme also encompasses Pandemic wonderfully without it being just another regular Pandemic game. I think designing this game to be played in real time was a perfect touch and makes it unique to other cooperative games out there.

Complexity - the great thing about this game is that you can make it as easy or as difficult as you want. There are four different difficulty levels and in my experience with them the easy is very easy if you and the other players know what you are doing and Heroic is extremely difficult (I'm still to beat this). There are also the Crisis Cards but even then you can choose to keep them out of the game to keep it simpler. So whether you're looking for complexity or not, it doesn't really matter because you can tailor Pandemic: Rapid Response to suit you at the time.

Replayability - when you've played this game a few times, you know what you're doing and you've added the optional Crisis Cards there's really not much else it can offer. You tend to do the same things with each time hopefully getting faster at doing it. I think it's a great warm up/filler game but the replayability is pretty low for a cooperative game.

I enjoy playing Pandemic: Rapid Response and it gets a lot of play time on my table because it's quick and it's fun to introduce the chaos to people who have never played before. I would recommend it to you if you're looking for a new real time Pandemic experience but for a cooperative game I think I would prefer to play something with a bit more replayability such as games in the Forbidden series.

*Pandemic: Rapid Response was not gifted in any way to me and this review is not in association with Z Man Games.

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