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Redesigning the board game Pandemic

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

I conducted this project as part of my doctoral dissertation in 2018 and early 2019 in an art immersion school in Western Canada.

The goal of the project was supporting students' engagement with emergent systems and to imagine and model new possible structures using mathematics and science topics.

In this post, you can find a short summary of the project process and a description of one of the students' redesigned game.

You can read more about this study here: Bastani, 2022; Bastani & Kim, 2022

Participants: Grade 7 students

Principal researcher: Reyhaneh Bastani

Supervisor: Dr. Beaumie Kim

Pandemic board game:

The cooperative game Pandemic (Z-MAN Games, 2007) models disease spread across the world. This game was used it as a model of an emergent global issue. In this game, players take different roles and work together to treat infected populations to buy enough time to complete the ultimate objective which is the discovery of the cures.

Pandemic board game, Z-MAN Games, Retrieved from

Project stages:

A game play session

An example of the redesigned games

Reverse Pandemic:

This group aimed to reverse the Pandemic’s story, i.e., in their game players acted as diseases which aimed to spread around the world. For example, what would make the game more difficult for players is vaccination instead of epidemics.

Game goal: The 6 players of the game, as diseases, work together to spread around the world. The board works against this goal by immunizing the cities.

Designing the board, deciding how to connect the cities

Creating their board based on having 6 players

Setting up the game to playtest it

Vaccination cards

“The city defence changes when you get 70 percent of population get vaccination.” (one of the students from this group)

Game redesign aspects

1. Developing the game theme and goal: Players acting as viral disease (game aesthetics/ dynamics)

2. Expanding the game’s backstory: Taking the perspective of bacteria and viruses (game aesthetics)

3. Using numbers, percentages and probability as a tool in materializing ideas (game mechanics)

4. Playtesting for balancing the game (game mechanics/ dynamics)

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