Board Game Review: Plague Inc

Plague Inc has been an enormous success on mobiles and tablets, downloaded over 80 million times and evolving (pardon the pun) into the go-to game when it comes to trying to wipe out the entire human race on the move. It’s easy to see why; why bother playing a game where you save the world when you’ve done it a hundred times before? Plague Inc lets you create your own virus along with a hilarious name, and watch as it spreads from a single case through to other countries, continents and, if all goes well, the entire world. But it’s a lonely experience when you’re a race-killing virus, what we need is a way for you to wipe out the world alongside a couple of friends (because if there’s one thing that killer plagues hate, it’s loneliness).

Step forward the Plague Inc board game, giving you a whole new way to annihilate the entire planet without having to rely on world leaders to do it for you.

The idea of the board game is much the same as the app: start your disease somewhere and evolve, strengthen and spread it to as many places as possible to try and kill off as many countries as you can. Each player gets a random starting location somewhere in the world, a pile of coloured infection cubes and some starting evolution cards, and then it’s game on.

Your main goal through the game is to spread your virus as far as you can while also staying in control of various cities and prevent other diseases from taking over. Controlling cities by having the most infection cubes on them earns you points on each round, which you can spend on your evolution cards to make your bug even more badass than it already is. You might evolve to become resistant to hot temperatures, opening up the opportunity to infect hot countries; maybe you’ll gain the ability to spread on airlines or boats, letting you connect to and infect more cities away from your own continent. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll become more deadly, giving you a higher chance of wiping out a country when you earn the chance to roll the awesomely named “death dice”. There are loads of different ways to evolve your virus, and with the ability to use up to five of them at once you’ll be developing a different disease every time you play, which is a pretty cool way to go about things.

But what I really liked about Plague Inc was the fact you could play it with other people (clearly how it’s meant to be done) but also by yourself, taking on the game itself by following a short set of rules to take its turn through a series of city cards, infection cube placements and any dice rolls that need doing. I played a few games by myself, and it was a great challenge – the opposing infections can spread extremely quickly as a result of the game’s virus evolving far more rapidly than your own, and it’s a great way of sharpening up your tactics before letting yourself loose on your friends. A lot of games that have a tacked-on solo mode are difficult to enjoy, but this felt like it had been really well considered; I’ll certainly be going back to it again when I’ve got some time to myself. Game lengths were pretty decent too, and with all of our games (with between 1 and 3 people) we never felt like it was dragging, with a great point of excitement towards the end when all the country cards have been played and you’re trying to eradicate as many people as you can around the world.

It’s not without its problems though, and the main one is the evolution cards seeming a little wonky in terms of their value. To play one you need to move back that many points on the main score tracker, but at times it can feel like some weaker cards cost too much, while someone else can turn their moderate virus into a violent lung-bursting killing machine without much outlay of points. It’s fairly uncommon, but the opportunity for frustration is there. More frustration can come towards the end when you’re adding up the various scores, but also with a few ambiguities in the instructions – we never worked out if we should infect a country when initially placing it on the board, so decided between us not to bother for the sake of fairness. Whether that’s actually right or not I’ve no idea.

But let’s not take anything away from how much fun Plague Inc can be. There’s a fantastic theme running through the game, and the challenge of getting your fledgling little illness and turning it into (quite literally) a world beater never gets boring. The solo option works brilliantly, and while there are the occasional small issues to work through it’s definitely worth grabbing if you can, whether or not you’re one of the eight people in the world who never played its electronic version.

Plague Inc
Available Now, RRP £33.99
Find your local stockist here

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