Pandemic: Rising Tide
Little Dutch boys (and girls)
Keep the Netherland countryside from getting too soggy.
I have heard people regard this as their favorite Pandemic game. Well, it’s not mine. I really only like the Pandemic Legacy games, especially Season 0. This one was mediocre. It felt like it took the stress of normal Pandemic, the concept of Forbidden Island (another very stressful game), and added in some very long Dutch names that I couldn’t pronounce. I did, however, like some of the ways this game differed from normal Pandemic. We could play more defensively, leave more cubes on the board, and choose to abandon some regions without it always leading to a cascade of imminent failure. In a normal game of regular old Pandemic, we have a moral obligation to try our very hardest to save every city in the world. Here in the Netherlands, we sometimes just let the Northerners drown.
When describing Pandemic to others, we often use a Little Dutch Boy analogy... The dam is always about to burst and every turn, all you can do is put your finger in the dike. But Pandemic is about stemming the tide of infectious pathogens, not literally stemming tides and keeping Holland from flooding. Except this one is.
Pandemic: Rising Tide addresses the very real Dutch problem that your country is always on the verge of being swallowed by the seas. There are ways to keep the countryside relatively dry in the very short term (bailing water by hand), the pretty short-term (dikes) and the medium term (pumps). But in the long term, your rogue’s gallery of skilled tradespeople must stave off the briny deluge long enough for one player to collect a lot of cards of the same color. If this sounds familiar, that is because it is the common mission in all Pandemic games. In Rising Tide, everything else you do amounts to sticking your fingers into various dike holes.
A full game is rarely longer than an hour, and is so scintillatingly well-balanced that you can never really feel confident that you’re winning. But perhaps the best part is listening to your family members try to pronounce the names of the Dutch states that we are trying to save. Oh no, not FLEVOLAND again! We are so screwed if we don’t shore up NOORDOOSTPOLDER, especially since the folks in LAND VAN MAAS EN WAAL are already waist-deep in sea water!
One minor complaint is that the little brown wooden rectangular pieces that represent the dikes tend to slip around a lot. It would certainly be a challenge to play this game if your actual living room was flooding, because a trivial jostling of the table can knock all the most important game pieces out of place at once.
But overall, Rising Tide is a welcome addition to the panic-inducing Pandemic pantheon, and perhaps the best water engineering-themed board game this side of VOORNE PUTTEN.