Fun with Pandemic: Rising Tide and a Popcorn Tricycle

September 15, 2022 | Sessions | 2 comments

Slow the flow of water and manage its paths to prevent flooding in the Netherlands with Pandemic: Rising Tide.

The concept behind Pandemic: Rising Tide has always intrigued me, particularly since it’s been sitting unplayed for years… Another victim of my large collection! Finally, though, I was ready to bring this one to the table and find out how the system would work. The historic elements and idea of preventing floods sounded like a great combination!

Game Overview

Game Name: Pandemic: Rising Tide
Publication Year:
Jeroen Doumen and Matt Leacock
Jeroen Doumen, Atha Kanaani, and Matt Leacock
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)

Water threatens to flow from the seas and flood various regions. Dikes and pumps help manage the overall water and control its pathways, but characters must work to build the 4 main hydraulic structures to protect the Netherlands. It’s quite the puzzle with disaster looming!

Admiring the Quality Board and Components in Pandemic: Rising Tide

First Play

September 12, 2022



Latest Play

September 16, 2022



Setup Time

10 Minutes

Lifetime Plays


Play Time

50 Minutes


High Score



Game Area

28" x 28"


Low Score


The Dream Team

Solo involves utilizing multiple characters, and with most of these games, I try to stick with 4 individuals. It’s not necessarily chaotic, and I enjoy the idea of the team.

Oddly enough, everyone here reminded me of my rangers from Oltréé. There were Ernest, Conrad, Berenice, and Maeva in another life. Uncanny. Ha ha!

My favorite was immediately the director with her lovely 80s or 90s phone with obviously terrible reception.

The water cubes were already present from setup and I wasn’t entirely sure if I knew what I was doing…

Working Together to Slow the Water in Pandemic: Rising Tide

Lots and Lots of Water

Most of the trouble started in the pair of seas, which left the surrounding coastal areas vulnerable to floods. A random setup also degraded the various regions.

Things looked pretty terrible in the north. As expected, some of the pronunciations took me some time to pull together… And even now, I know I got them wrong!

But this was only the beginning. That water could continue to flow south, causing more and more damage.

Without the dikes in place, water would continue to overflow and move. Not on my watch!

Water Everywhere Around the Zuiderzee in Pandemic: Rising Tide

Setting Up Base

Delfland was where the team started from, and it quickly turned into a useful central location. A port provided a quick way to return, and the pump was most useful.

Actually, there was an interesting strategy where I didn’t want to build too many dikes. That restricted the regions the pumps could help out it. Very intriguing!

But overall, I felt like the game was only mediocre. There wasn’t a lot to grab my attention, despite the flooding.

My first play resulted in a victory. Then, I remembered that I played at the introductory difficulty level…

Building Important Areas in Delfland in Pandemic: Rising Tide

Not Under Control!

At the standard difficulty level, everything turned out to be a lot more enjoyable. I thought I was doing quite well with 3 of 4 hydraulic structures built. Very good!

That is, until a sudden storm caused a seemingly mild flood in the southwest. At a glance, it was all fine.

But then I watched as water cubes tumbled out. Again and again… Until the supply suddenly ran out and I lost!

It wasn’t entirely unpredictable since most of my efforts were focused on the rest of the map. There was more going on behind the scenes, and I had to reset it all.

Falling Apart from a Sudden Storm in Pandemic: Rising Tide

When to Keep Playing a New, Mediocre Game

In very rare cases do I play a game once and know that it’s not for me. Those ones are often outside of my comfort zone, or do something radically different. What’s probably more intriguing is the case of a solo game that elicits more of a shrug, or just feels a bit off. That first play is important, yet isn’t the final ruling on the vast majority of my games.

As hard as it is to leave so many unplayed games on the shelf, I like getting to know a game! In this case, I was about ready to pack it up after that first play. As silly as it sounds, I thought it was too easy on the easiest difficulty setting. My problem was that I didn’t see all the nuances to the strategy. Which is why I decided to give it another chance.

So I went from a very mediocre first play to wanting to play more and more to see how the water might flow! From my experience, nearly every game has something fun to offer. If I don’t discover that element early on, it’s worth it to dig a little deeper. That’s not to say that I’ll love every game, though… I still like trying out a lot of them, though!

So Close to Victory

All that was left to build was a final structure, so the storm was quite an inconvenience! I even thought I was close, but I failed to manage the secondary areas.

There were always the main areas that were literally underwater to a certain degree, but that was normal.

In fact, as is the case with many of these games, it wasn’t about eliminating all the water. Instead, I needed to find a strategy to manage and control the flow of it all.

Nasty storms and surprises definitely popped up, adding to the overall challenge. Stopping water is hard to do!

So Close to Victory in Pandemic: Rising Tide

The Secret to Success

Over the course of this week, I was more excited over the arrival of something that wasn’t a board game… A Calico Critters popcorn tricycle! It has been my everything.

So it had to make a stop by the flooded regions! It turned into a mobile pumping station of sorts. See all those water cubes in the back? I popped them like popcorn. Ha ha!

And don’t expect a rider in this instance: It was far too dangerous, and I drove this thing around at top speed.

The little umbrella on top felt quite thematic, too! Sometimes, you get strategy tips from tricycles. Ha!

The Visiting Pumping Station from Calico Critters in Pandemic: Rising Tide

Netherlands Success

I did it! After resetting and planning, I made it to the end to place the final hydraulic structure in Rijn en Ijssel.

The water cubes were everywhere at one point, causing flooding and general mayhem. But I calmly slowed down the sources of the overflows, rather than getting it all.

My team spread out a lot more, too, although there was a time when nearly everyone met up in Noorderzijlvest.

Exciting! This felt a lot more like planning, and even a bunch of pumps didn’t always help out. Surprising twists and turns, indeed. I had a great time!

A Successful Disaster Management Plan in Pandemic: Rising Tide

Popping Water Cubes

Nope… Not done talking about my popcorn tricycle yet! This little handle can be turned to send anything inside flying all around. Granted, it’s normally plastic popcorn.

But I can confirm that it worked for lots of water cubes! Hence my silly idea that it was acting to move the water.

This is also the reason why I have my Calico Critters around a lot. I love the laughs and funny stories that happen when I set things up. Never too much of that!

Will the popcorn tricycle ride again? Maybe it will take on a legendary status like the Stealthy Elephants. Ha ha!

Popping All the Water Cubes from Pandemic: Rising Tide

Session Overview

Play Number: 1-3
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)
Play Details: Introductory and Standard Difficulty Levels
Outcome: 2 Wins and 1 Loss

With that final victory, the region looked quite peaceful. I enjoyed the history behind the game, especially in regards to the different hydraulic structures. And although floods are no joke, I liked managing water over diseases. It didn’t feel like people were dying, which can be a very sobering aspect of the previous titles in this game system. After my initial play, this turned out to be amazingly fun!

A Lovely Place to Visit with Minimal Water in Pandemic: Rising Tide


1 Play


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • The theme is steeped in history and feels very natural with a looming threat to defeat with careful planning.
  • Creating a water management plan is very strategic and highlights the real challenges facing the Netherlands.
  • All of the components are excellent and bring the situation to life in a rather 3D sense, especially via the dikes.
  • Storms create sudden emergencies that can be partially planned for by controlling the flow of the water.
  • Events add unique bonuses to each play with helpful options that might show up early or right near the end.
  • Play progresses pretty quickly with a clear sequence of events and end so the game doesn’t overstay its welcome.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • Visualizing the flow of water cubes through all the regions can be a little tricky with the different paths.
  • Setup takes quite a long time with the placement of all the dikes and simulating the starting water cubes.
  • Certain smaller regions can get very crowded, making it difficult to see the name or place other components.
  • The size of the board is just about right, but requires stretching to reach some of the places at the very top.

More Pandemic: Rising Tide

Explore related posts about Pandemic: Rising Tide!

Victory Conditions

Build All 4 Hydraulic Structures

  • Overall Goal Progress 67% 67%

Goals and Milestones


Win at least 1 game at the introductory difficulty level.


Win at least 1 game at the standard difficulty level.


Win at least 1 game at the heroic difficulty level.

Continue the Conversation

Have you played Pandemic: Rising Tide? I enjoyed it much more after I moved into the next difficulty level! Did you ever experience something similar with a mediocre first play that turned into something much better? This one normally would have been packed up swiftly, yet I’m looking forward to trying it again with some of the included variants!


  1. I’d been interested in this game for a while, as I’ve learned some Dutch and I wanted to try the Pandemic “system” but wasn’t interested in the pandemic theme. I recently acquired it and have played 3 solo games so far (always with only 2 characters; any more would be too brain-burning to keep track of everyone). In any case, I enjoy it! I like the blue cubes, I like the strategy of using pumps, keeping some dikes open, and making sure I not only focus on building the structures, but also keep the water cube supply high enough so that there are enough cubes if needed. I won on my 3rd try, and what a feeling of victory and satisfaction! I’m definitely going to go back and try at harder levels, and then the scenarios.

    I enjoyed reading your blog post, thanks for the write-up!

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences! I’m looking forward to the scenarios with objectives, too. Definitely trying that mode soon and I’ll be back to share some more thoughts. Also, congratulations on your victory!

      Using 2 characters seems like a lot of fun, too. Although I do like the feeling of a larger group, I can understand the desire to keep things simple! There’s enough to track with watching how the water cubes might trickle through.

      Best of luck when you try out some harder options!


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