It could in real life but I was thinking of the game of Pandemic: Iberia Jane and I played earlier today. We’ve had it on the shelf for a while but, up until this week, had only got round to playing it once or twice. Iberia is a limited edition version of the modern classic, Pandemic.
In this version, the scope is limited to Spain and Portugal in the mid-19th century. The basic mechanics (move between cities, dealing with disease outbreaks and seeking knowledge to overcome them) are the same as the original but there are lots of significant differences. For one thing, you can only research a disease and not discover a cure; this has benefits (not least, winning the game when you have knocked all four off the list) but it isn’t as powerful as finding a cure in the original. Movement is also generally more limited (no flying around the globe in 1848) although the introduction of railways means you can set up a transport network to get you quickly between key cities if you can afford the time to lay the track.
We lost a couple of games yesterday but won this morning albeit by the narrowest of margins. The roles we had in play were the nurse, who prevents fresh disease in nearby cities, and the politician who can share knowledge about the diseases more easily than others and, crucially, can extract cards from the discard deck, making it easier to get the crucial collection of five cards of one colour to do the research.
Is it an insensitive game to be playing at a time of actual global pandemic? I think it is an excellent choice. Not only is it a brilliant bit of game design but it also serves as a reminder of how carefully laid plans can be scuppered when disease pops up in unexpected places or, worse yet, causes a peak that causes a cascade of further problems. It is nice to win but, after you’ve lost a few times, you feel more empathy with those trying to work out the logistics of the real situation.