Best Pandemic Expansion & Version [2020]

State of Emergency

State of Emergency introduces challenges that up the difficulty so you can replay Pandemic more often. That's why it's our favorite expansion to the Pandemic base game.
best expansion

Pandemic Legacy

It's Pandemic in a thrilling campaign mode in which your actions have consequences for future games. Both seasons are great so you might as well start with the first one.
best game

Pandemic is an award winning board game series with several expansions, versions and spin-offs. In this ranked list we share what we think are the best Pandemic expansion and the best Pandemic version.

  • Fantastic Story
  • Better Campaign Mechanics
  • Realistic

Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is the second edition of Pandemic Legacy, and it seems the creators got better with practice.

We already wrote a detailed article on why Pandemic Legacy is even better than normal Pandemic. So for this ranking let me just focus on why Season 2 of Pandemic Legacy is even better than Season 1.

Whereas Season 1 has the same core mechanics as the original Pandemic,  Season 2 has adapted core mechanics. For example, in Season 1 you can only cure diseases, whereas in Season 2 you can take action to prevent diseases from spreading in the first place.

Further, Season 2 has more optional side quests. There’s still major plot points that you’re guaranteed to encounter, but there’s more room for customization than in Season 1. So Season 2 feels even more like a ‘Choose your own adventure’ kind of game than Season 1.

So, Season 2 is better than Season 1 because it is more specifically designed to meet the requirements of a Legacy campaign game.

  • Players: 2 - 4
  • Duration: 12 - 24 sessions of 60 minutes
  • Fantastic Story
  • Normal Pandemic mechanics

Pandemic Legacy Season 1 was the first Legacy edition of Pandemic. In our Pandemic Legacy review we explain why Pandemic Legacy is so amazing. Here, let me tell you some of the upsides of Season 1 specifically.

Although Season 2 is slightly better, Season feels more like the original Pandemic, because it doesn’t change the core mechanics of how the game works. This feeling of similarity is a plus for some people. And it makes it a little easier to get into for people that played the original Pandemic.

Further, although Season 1 is not a prelude to Season 2, it’s still better to start with Season 1. This way, you start with the simpler game, and you keep the best one for last. So if you anticipate that you might want to play both seasons (which you absolutely should!), you might want to pick up Season 1 first.

  • Players: 2 - 4
  • Duration: 12 - 24 sessions of 60 minutes
  • Infinitely replayable
  • Compatible with expansions

The original Pandemic was very popular, which is why so many versions of the game were created later.

If you found this post there’s a good chance you already own the original Pandemic so I won’t say too much about it. But, it’s important to list the original Pandemic at this point in our ranking because you need it to play any of the Pandemic expansions we list below.

There’s also two reasons why you might get the original Pandemic instead of a Legacy edition. The first is if you want to also get an expansion, because the expansions are only compatible with the original version.

The second reason to get the normal Pandemic is if you want to play normal games of Pandemic in addition to Pandemic Legacy, because once you start your Legacy campaign, you can’t play normal Pandemic anymore on the Legacy board.

  • Players: 2 - 4
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Extra challenges
  • Best expansion for 2 players

Important: This expansion requires the Pandemic base game.

State of EmergencyPandemic State of Emergency Board Game is the Pandemic expansion with the biggest bang for your buck. It extends on the original theme of a spreading virus, and it makes the game more difficult by introducing extra challenges. This is especially welcome when you’re playing with just 2 players, as 2 player games are usually easier (because you can predict what happens in between your turns better).

Our favorite challenge is the Hinterlands challenge, which enables diseases to cross over from animals to humans. This is probably the hardest challenge and it’s also the most realistic (as in the real world pandemics are often caused by diseases jumping from animals to humans).

  • Players: 2 - 4
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • New non-cooperative mode
  • Up to 5 players

Pandemic expansion: On the BrinkOn the Brink is a solid expansion to the Pandemic base game. It preserves everything that’s great about the original game and adds more of it.

This is the best Pandemic expansion to play with bigger groups, as it adds new characters and events and increases the maximum number of players to five.

On the Brink also includes several challenges that can be incorporated into the game to make it more difficult. Probably the most difficult of these challenges is the bio-terrorist challenge, in which one of the players tries to sabotage the efforts the others.

  • Players: 2 - 5
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Real world diseases
  • Differences between diseases

Pandemic Iberia is our favorite game in the Pandemic survival series. This series features historic disasters and the players need to address these using the traditional Pandemic mechanics and game play.

Pandemic Iberia is about historic pandemics (including cholera, malaria, typhus, and yellow fever) in the Iberian Peninsula of modern day Portugal and Spain. Iberia is actually the only Pandemic Survival game that’s about pandemics, which is why it’s our favorite.

The game features the real world diseases malaria, cholera, typhoid and yellow fever, which all have their own special powers. For example, when yellow fever infects a coastal city it automatically spreads to adjacent port cities as well, and Typhus costs two actions to remove if there’s more than one disease cube in that city.

  • Players: 2 - 5
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Beautiful Dutch theme
  • Extra strategic

Rising Tide is about floods in the Industrial Age Netherlands. To keep the water out players build all the Dutch engineering marvels: dikes, mills and pumps.

Rising Tide functions the same as the original Pandemic game but the cubes represent the incoming water. Players must predict the flow of this water to maintain safe and stable water levels in all regions while they build up to a sustainable flood prevention solution.

I love the Netherlands so I really love the theme of this game, and the map of the Netherlands with the region names in old Dutch. And you really need to be clever and strategic with your dike placement, which is quite difficult so the game doesn’t get old very fast.

  • Players: 2 - 5
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Romans vs Barbarians

In Fall Of Rome you inherit control to an empire in decline. Barbarians are invading from each direction and it’s your job to keep them out until you can broker a peace treaty through alliances with the barbarians.

Pandemic Fall of Rome uses the same mechanics as the original Pandemic, but the cubes represent invading barbaric tribes that need to be fought and contained.

Fall Of Rome has a great theme and is well done. It’s about as good as Rising Tide, so you should pick whichever theme you like best.

  • Players: 2 - 5
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Mini-game to discover vaccins
  • Up to 6 players

In the LabPandemic in the Lab board game is the Pandemic expansion that changes the game play of the original Pandemic the most. It adds the Lab, an environment in which the players need to research a cure. They do this by moving viruses around in petri dishes.

The lab environment creates a novel experience. It’s not our favorite Pandemic expansion because it can feel a bit like you’re playing two separate games that are spread out over two distinct environments. But we do play In the Lab every now and then just to switch things up.

And from what I hear, most people actually love this expansion. So if finding the cure to the diseases in your lab sounds fun to you, don’t let our semi-negative review hold you back!

  • Players: 1 - 6
  • Duration: 45 minutes

Honorable Mentions

There are three more Pandemic games that we don’t review in our ranking. These are more spin-offs than actual Pandemic games or expansions, and we don’t like them enough to include them in our ranking.

Firstly there’s Pandemic Rapid Response and Pandemic the Cure, which replace the card drawing mechanics of the original Pandemic with dice throw mechanics. Both of these games have not been popular, which is why we don’t include them in our ranking.

Secondly, in Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu players fight cultists to prevent the summoning of Cthulhu. This game naturally is a hit among the lovers of the Cthulhu theme, but not among the general audience. We don’t include this game in our ranking either.

Rounding Up

We hope that our Pandemic ranking helps you to pick the best Pandemic expansion or version for you. If there’s still any questions our ranking leaves unanswered, please shoot us a message through our contact form so we can incorporate your question in our post.