Pandemic: Rapid Response – Z-Man Games – Review

All in all, Pandemic Rapid Response is an excellent, fast-paced dice rolling game.  

Joseph Summa



Theme and What is it?


Pandemic Rapid Response is a frantic, real-time dice rolling frenzy of a game.  Disaster has struck various cities throughout the world.  They need some mixture of food, water, vaccines, energy, and bandages.  You have an elite Crisis Response Unit with a massive plane full of supplies and packed with specialists.  Your specialists will need to frantically work to prepare and package the needed supplies WHILE in flight to the drop site.  Can you keep the disasters from cascading out of control while the clock ticks down?

Gameplay Mechanics


On a turn, players in Rapid Response will roll their 6 dice.  They can lock any results they like and attempt to reroll the remaining.  After the second roll, they get a third!  Yeah, the familiar 3 total roll chances with locking between rolls Yahtzee mechanic is still one of the best methods out there for controlled randomness.  Pandemic Rapid Response makes good use of this foundational mechanic to do some new things. 

After the roll phase ends, the player can spend ANY result to move their player pawn to the next interior compartment of the crisis response plane.  They can also use ANY result to move the plane one space in either direction around the “world” on the edge of the board.  While in a given room, the player has a specialized way to use dice.  To collect supplies, players need to lock in sets of matching dice.  These dice need placed in different-sized sets ranging from 1 to 3 at a time.  Then the player can either leave their part finished work for other players to support or execute the supply collection as is.

Initial Impressions


Pandemic Rapid Response is a very frenzied game with some highly tactical decisions wrapped up into the short time frame.  There does seem to be a natural balance towards taking a decent fast turn rather than long but perfectly executed turns.  Do something!  Do it now!  And pass.  If your dice really just don’t work at all, give up on your turn entirely and just position yourself and the plane and let the next player deal with being a useful member of the team….  Yeah, I am serious.  Be willing to be nearly useless on occasion.  Trying to sneak in a few small benefits isn’t worth the time.  Literally.  It is real time.  Spend it wisely! 

Game Build Quality


Not surprisingly, Z-Man Games has produced Pandemic Rapid Response with an excellent production quality game.  The custom dice are excellent, the sand timer seems reasonably accurate.  Most importantly, the board layout and iconography are excellently done for clear efficiency.  The cards are high quality and the pawns look great.

Artistic Direction


Pandemic Rapid Response has artwork on the box and character cards.  The rest of the game is primarily iconography over artwork.  I really enjoy the visual overview of the game on the table.  This isn’t a game that is going to offer a rotating onslaught of gallery quality art.  But in no way is it going to disappoint you visually.

Fun Factor


One of the most interesting twists to Rapid Response is how waste accumulates.  Cutting open pallets of supplies and frantically throwing packaging around while getting the right quantities of things tossed into air drop safe containers will make a real mess of your specialized plane.  Each time you execute a collecting supply action, you roll all dice used in the action (which could include other players previously stored dice).  Any with a circular symbol means you increase the waste counter.  This means you quite frequently need to visit the waste center and put in unique dice to reduce the waste and clean up after yourself.  


This is a really compelling mechanic for a new way to lose by letting waste get out of control.  And making you run around the plane like a headless chicken trying to be in the right rooms for the situation.  

Age Range & Weight


8+ might be a tad low but seems reasonable.  Rapid Response is not a terribly complicated game but with some lower aged players you might want to throw some extra time onto the clock to compensate.  Communication under pressure can be frustrating.  You have a plan and someone doesn’t understand what you want them to do.  It is easy to shout at each other if you are highly invested into winning and are not seeing eye to eye on the ideal plan.  Someone might want to keep rolling for supplies with waste about to go critical.  NO! Don’t do it, one of us will do that later.  Just leave the dice, you get them back after we clean up and use your dice to collect after that.  This is a worst case scenario, I have actually not encountered this kind of behavior during play of Rapid Response.  But I do have experience from other real time games to see this potential.  Don’t take it quite that seriously, you will be fine :D.  



All in all, Pandemic Rapid Response is an excellent, fast-paced dice rolling game.  I don’t really see much comparison to other Pandemic games except the theme and the fact that it is cooperative.  Don’t expect something familiar from this title.  

Each player has a specialized role to play that will give them unique player powers.  Having ways to distinguish yourself from other players and totally different combinations of abilities in each game gives Rapid Response extra replay value.  There is no one way to accomplish goals properly.  Except maybe one: speed!  Don’t waste time you don’t have on things you don’t need yet.