Pandemic: In the Lab - Board Game Box Shot

Pandemic: In the Lab

| Published: 2013
134 58 8

In Pandemic: In the Lab, the second expansion for Pandemic, you will use a new game board that allows you to move the pawns in a laboratory. The goal of this activity is the same as in the base game – finding cures for diseases – but this time in a new way. Behind sealed bio-hazard doors, scientists race against time to sequence diseases, take samples, and test cures.

Pandemic: In the Lab includes four new roles, new Virulent Strain events, and a Worldwide Panic Mutation scenario. Players can compete individually or on rival teams (when playing with four or six players). Can your team work together in the lab to save humanity?

User Reviews (6)

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Intermediate Reviewer
98 of 105 gamers found this helpful
“An excuse to wear a lab coat?”

Second expansion to Pandemic and first that actually adds something to the game other than scenarios (and better storing system for the cubes). Does it rise to the occasion or do you end up feeling like you just contracted rabies?

To be a scientist or not to be? (Summary)
This expansion adds to existing base game and On the Brink expansion, but to top that it actually adds own board, the Lab challenge. New is the team game mode, but somehow that feels really strange to play, but I’ll return to that.

Virulent strain challenge gets two additional cards to add on existing deck. Mutation challenge also gets two new cards, which replace the original, and 12 cubes are added to Mutation challenge. Rules also change for Mutation. It makes more of an challenge, which is good if you’re into that kind of stuff.
There is also four new roles to ever expanding selection of characters (we just draw them blind always to avoid super squad) and two replacements for existing cards.

Then there is the team mode, which just feels strange on a game that is completely full-on cooperative game. I have played it once and whole gang agreed that it doesn’t feel right at all and haven’t touched it since. Counting points to win on other teams while the goal is still common, we win or lose together, nobody cares about that. There are so many competitive games that this was really unnecessary.

I left last the best part. I’m talking about the Lab challenge which changes the mechanics of the game completely. No more it is about collecting right color city cards and then running to research station. Now to start the cure you only need one card and you can start characterizing the disease. Then it is about collecting right cubes and processing them to fit in cure sequences with variating requirements. You need two matching color city cards to test the cure and lastly three cards to cure it. It is more cards than before, but this time everybody can pitch in as long as they’re in any research station. Arguably better and more thematic than the original.

Don’t touch my microscope! (Components)
Components are as they were in base game. Cubes are still same kind, cards match to the original and so do player markers. Lab board itself is rigid and good quality cardboard, so you can expect it to last multiple playthroughs. Artist is still the same, thus it fits in seamlessly with base game and previous expansion. Component-wise it’s good quality and pleasure to watch and use.

Lab challenge comes with vials for research and cure markers. It is nice touch and more thematic than the old cure markers. They’re easier to check on lab board especially if you sit on far end of it.

I got my diploma from online (Learning curve)
Each play mode has their own small changes on the rules, but nothing really though. You just need to remember with what you’re dealing with and if you need to take a check on the rules, just make sure you look from the right page.

Most complex is the Lab challenge, but that also is manageable and after one cure disease it should be pretty clear to all players how it works. Still first game will need somebody telling what to do to others, otherwise you’ll lose the game.

Don’t tell me you ate the samples… (Conclusion)
First of all let’s chop this in segments:
Lab challenge is good and the real core of the expansion. This is what the original game should have been. It make the game thematic and it help it to stay fresh. I never liked the original cure method. If this is the only reason to get this expansion, it is worth it. Let’s face it, it is the only reason to get this expansion.
Team challenge feels really out of it element here, don’t know anybody who liked this game mode. My suggestion: skip it. If you must try it, but you’ll come to same conclusion as everybody else does.
Mutation challenge makes few small adjustments. It certainly nudges it to better, but I would have been fine with the original one too.
Rest are minor changes and additions. Nothing that was really necessary, but are nonetheless more than welcome addition.

I like this expansion far more than On the Brink, but still I can’t help but feel that this would have been just as good with some of it left out for a better price. It leaves a strange feeling of joy, but same time you feel kinda cheated.

Bottom line is that Lab challenge is the thing that this game has always begged and is enough to justify this expansion alone.

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Video Game Fan
Explorer - Level 3
Book Lover
88 of 95 gamers found this helpful
“Mixing up a favorite to give it a more scientific feel!”

Assuming you have played Pandemic before and not somehow skipped playing the original without any expansions, you’ll find this fairly easy to pick up. Also, please note that if you have the original Pandemic this expansion will not work with it. It was revised and this is compatible with only the revised version so double check which version you have before buying. I read that there is a compatibility kit that can be purchased, so if you do have the original version you might be able to find this to avoid having to buy the revised version of the original game. Anyways, there are a few changes that come with this expansion obviously which I will list below:

New Challenge:
Similar to Pandemic you are still trying to cure 4 diseases that are spreading around the world, this time however its more than just ‘treating’ and collecting cards – now its actual science. You will Sequence the Disease by determining the make up of it so that you can collect the color cubes needed to create the treatment. You will then Characterize it to determine which color you will be treating. Then you will Process a Sample and next you will Test the Cure in a city of that disease’s color. Finally, you will cure it by Discovering the Cure. No need to explain in detail in a review though, you can always look up instructions for that. :)

This expansion additionally provides one player mode and team mode however this requires On the Brink which I do not have yet so am only reviewing part of this expansion.

New Roles:
The Pilot which allows you to move your pawn by ‘flying’ within 3 connections of your current position and allows you to take another (player willing) pawn with you. For obvious reasons this can be very helpful. You can move across the board very quickly and since you can take someone with you, the minor restriction of not being able to build research stations isn’t too much of a negative.

The Local Liaison allows you to give a city card of the same color of the city you are in to someone else in a city of the same color. This means you no longer have to carefully coordinate how to both get to the same city nor even worry about the city card matching the city you are meeting in! Additionally, when playing the Lab Challenge, this role has a second ability to Characterize a Disease or Test a Cure when at a research station as a free bonus action. I will explain these below but this is very helpful since its not using up one of your standard 4 actions.

The Virologist upon Discovering the Cure can exchange two city cards of the same color to replace one city card of the cure color. She also has the additional action option to discard a city card to remove one cube of color from any city, returning it to the supply. Personally, I have not used this card or seen it in play but it does not seem as helpful as some of the other roles. Perhaps someone who has used it can elaborate more in another review.

The Field Director can treat a disease not only in the city he is in, but also cities connected to that city. Also, as a free bonus action you can move another pawn that is in the same city as you or a connected city by drive or ferry. Both of these options are very helpful but I have not personally played this role to give a lot of insight on it.

Changes to past roles occurred for the Researcher and the Epidemiologist:

The Researcher now has an additional Lab Challenge option that allows once per turn while at a research station you may Sequence a Disease for a free bonus action. Very helpful change for this challenge and it can really come to your rescue at times.

The Epidemiologist also has an additional Lab Challenge option that allows her to Process a Sample while at a research station as a free bonus action. I am all for free bonus actions and this can be very helpful.

The Scientist card should have been revised however it was not. So if someone selects this card, we simply reduced the final needed number to Discover the Cure by one. This may not be the intended rule, I would have to look into this further to know for sure.

New ‘Lab’ Board and Action Tips:
I originally had several things listed here but will put them in the tips section instead to cut down on excessive text (sorry!). :)

Same rules for winning and losing from the original are still the same, card limits, etc are all the same. There are three new event cards which are all helpful like the original events.

Anyways, wow that was long but I hope this was helpful in understanding the many changes with this expansion. I personally love this and regularly play this expansion over only the base. If you like Pandemic and want to change it up this is certainly a great option. It puts a lot more emphasis on the science and less on the meeting and exchanging cards which is a nice change. :)

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Expert Grader
Novice Reviewer
62 of 69 gamers found this helpful
“A all those slaving over the Petri dishes!”

Play any game of Pandemic and you feel like the cast of an 80s action thriller (a point that is heavily reinforced by the app’s outstanding music). It’s not fair though. Whilst you’re dilly dallying around saving humanity and taking all the credit, the scientists left in research stations are slaving away, only being recognised when someone’s chucking a batch of cards their way to find a cure on demand. In the Lab brings the scientist’s hardships to the players, forcing them to reconsider everything they know about saving the world.

A bunch of bells and whistles come in the form of obligatory new roles which are always a joy to add to the ranks, new events to aid your games, plus new Virulent Strain and Mutation Challenge cards for On the Brink owners. However, In the Lab’s biggest addition to the main game is the Lab Challenge , introducing an entirely new way to develop cures for the dastardly diseases. No longer can you simply chuck a dose of cards at a bunch of scientists in the hope that they will solve everything. Bundled with the expansion is a board representing the inner workings of the research stations, and rather than wiping the world clear of cubes, you’ll be using them in an attempt to accelerate a solution to humanity’s current crisis. Once a cube has been removed, it can be placed into a series of petri dishes on the Lab board in a bid to find a cure for whatever’s ailing…everyone.

While your basic actions of movement remain the same, each player now has the ability to don a lab coat when in the same space as a research station and dabble in a new set of ‘Lab Actions’. The new means of finding a cure whilst here goes as follows:

1) Characterise a disease: By playing a city card of a certain colour, players can look through the labs ‘Sequence Cards’ until they find the colour that matches the card they played. All of these DNA strand like cards contain a set of coloured circles. Each coloured circle will need a disease cube of the same colour in due time.

2) Process samples: This is where you can turn the tides in your favour with any cubes collected. Acting as a conveyer belt of illness, players can move cubes from one petri dish to another, all of one colour to one or one of each different colour in a dish to another, destroying any that don’t match the necessary requirements. They then have the option of moving cubes from this second set to one final ‘growth’ petri dish in a bid to multiply them, before moving them to a revealed sequence card. For each circle colour that matches a cube, one cube is added.

3) Testing a Cure: If things are getting a bit heated outside and cubes are running low thanks to research, you can give the cure a whirl. As long as there’s a cube on the relevant sequence card, a player can play a card of that cure colour to take a disease cube off the board.

4) Discovering a Cure: Once all circles have a disease cube on them, players can finally discover a cure. Once they’ve discarded three cards of the relevant colour, they can consider it cured.

The Lab Challenge feels like a tiny puzzle that is part worker placement, part intrinsic math trial. It’s initially a beast to get your head around, especially as those petri dishes and processes have several different terms and titles to learn. This is a tiny nuisance that doesn’t overshadow the work you truly have to do in order to defeat this challenge. As these lab actions now eat into your available AP, you need to find the ideal system that gets the disease cubes you need with minimal effort . It’s a fantastic new trial that forces the team to perfectly time their actions in order to get the greatest possible result, all the while leaving enough time to ensure that the world doesn’t fall into chaos as you do so.

Two additional modes have nestled their way in, albeit a tad uncomfortably. The new Team mode divides players into groups competing for glory. Their shared objective is reassuringly familiar: cure all 4 diseases (or cure and eradicate 3). Each have a series of personal goals as well, and must complete in a bid to obtain prestige, racing to be the first to cure and eradicate illnesses. Each individual has all the actions available as standard…but the whole team have to share 6 action points to share.

Whilst In the Lab’s competitive-cooperative Team mode is also an interesting new take on how you deal with humanity’s potential eradication, it doesn’t exactly add anything noteworthy to the game. With a team divided and less actions to dole out, each individual’s productivity drops, and in a game where you already find yourself cursing the skies and screaming ‘IF ONLY I HAD ONE MORE ACTION!’, that can really damage the flow of the game or the power player’s feel when they quash a disease. If you really want to face-off against your friends during this pandemic, On the Brink’s Bio-terrorist challenge remains ironically unrivalled.

In the Lab also comes with a Solo mode for those lacking helpful pals. It’s a decent enough addition that allies you with the CDC, an organisation that allows essentially copies the action a traditional player would have. The difference here being that you embody an ultra-human that, if at a research station, can reassign the role issued. It’s alright. Not great, but alright. That may seem like a timid opinion, but it feels like it answers a question that no one ever asked. It has a bunch of set-up conditions that need to be adhered to and a new collection of actions to learn, but it seems like unnecessary fodder when you can play with a couple of team members controlled by yourself.

These additional modes are nice little add-ons on the side, but they’re not really what you’re delving into this expansion for. In the Lab is not the must have expansion that On the Brink is, but it is a riveting new enigma that freshens up gameplay. It’s not an add-on that overcomplicates or adjusts the difficulty radically, but one that forces players to rethink how they approach the entire game. If you’re looking for an add-on that pits your group against each other, perhaps your wallet should steer towards the bulky content expansion that is On the Brink. But if you’re looking for something that reworks the blueprints of the game, something that forces you to adapt to a new solutions rather than new threats, that’ll slap masters of the original across the face and force them to reboot everything they thought they knew, it’s certainly an expansion that needs to stand alongside your Pandemic collection.

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Belfort Fan
The Bronze Heart
88 of 104 gamers found this helpful
“Putting Science Back Into the Game”

Full disclosure: Pandemic is currently my favourite game, and to be honest I think the “On the Brink” expansion is the best part. I always include at least one component whenever I play. I hesitated to buy the “In the Lab” because my old school original cards did not match (and I’m not a fan of the new graphics) But curiosity won me over! I purchased some card sleeves and added the Lab into the mix.

While on the Brink is an expansion, The Lab variant is really a different game. Same mechanics but a totally different strategy and play style is required. After a few plays (and no wins) we have discovered that it is best to keep one player in a research station focusing on the lab components of the game.

Although you still need five city/player cards of the disease in question, multiple players can contribute to their 1+1+3 acquisition. In addition there are now several phases to the cure that must also happen while someone is at a research station. Several turns of Lab work are required after treated cubes have been to the new Lab board. It does shift the pressure from treating to curing and the new strategy is to to shift focus into the lab.

If you are new to playing this version of the game, I suggest using only the roles that come with the Lab (and not those from “On the Brink”) The rules suggest that you can include the Virulent Disease and Mutation Strains with the Lab, but I haven’t been that brave yet. Maybe once I win a few from the Lab…

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Reviewed My First Game
86 of 114 gamers found this helpful

It is beyond me why I like a game that I lose about 80% of the time. I guess, I like the fact that the whole group has to invest in a cooperative strategy or there is no hope. If any one player tries to do their own thing, everyone goes down.

What I like:
1)Call me crazy, but I like the fact that we spend at least 5 minutes before actually starting the game, but after we select characters, discussing strategy. It is the most mutually dependent game I’ve ever played.
2)We always give each disease a name, the more ridiculous the better.
3)The cure bottles in this expansion are great. They look like actual vials.
4)There are some new characters, which have some pretty interesting abilities.

What I don’t like:
1)It can be hard to get new gamers to be interested in a game when you tell them there is approx. 1 in 10 odds you will win.
2)Some characters are OP, compared to others. Occasionally, one person will feel useless in a game because their ability is barely utilized.

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62 of 120 gamers found this helpful
“Great collaborative game”

This game is great! The setup is a little tedious at times, but after the first time playing it it becomes really fun. It is a great change from a lot of the expand and conquest games out there. Everyone collaborated and discussed next moves to help one another out to eradicate the viruses.

After playing it a few times, we bumped up the difficulty and instantly put pressure on the strategies the group had to put in place. We lost to multiple outbreaks back to back.

overall, this is a great game that encourages communication and cooperation so no one feels left out or disgruntled for losing, since everyone wins or loses together.


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