The Art of Water Management in Pandemic: Rising Tide

September 17, 2022 | Sessions | 0 comments

Consider the nuances of preventing floods and controlling waterways across vast regions in Pandemic: Rising Tide.

The small ideas behind the gameplay of Pandemic: Rising Tide made me keep thinking about it long after I tried it out for the first few times. Naturally, this led me to think I was ready to play at the highest difficulty level! Yet the challenge of keeping the Netherlands safe from natural flooding was on my mind. Back to the peaceful fight against water!

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 management might not sound interesting at first glance, yet the game presents it in a very thoughtful light. Floods occur in low-elevation regions, yet the control of water through dikes prevents the worst of it. With 4 goals to achieve, it’s always a race to control the watereays!

Setting Up Waterways 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


Struggles at the Pumps

When the dikes failed around Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and Walcheren, even a fleet of pumps couldn’t slow the water!

My trusty carpenter frantically added pumps and dikes, but it was all just a little short. Flooding brought disaster to the southwest region and proved to be too much.

I will say, though, that at one point, I had a single water cube left in the supply and thought it would be over. Yet the team held on a little longer so it got interesting!

To say that I was close was accurate: 3 of 4 structures were in place, with the last just a few turns away. Not today.

Overflowing Water in a Dangerous Region of Pandemic: Rising Tide

Heroic or Hydraulic?

I decided that the heroic difficulty level was clearly mistaken for a much more common phrase… A hydraulic difficulty level. Ha ha! My engineer was not amused.

The difficulty levels really are quite easy to implement. It all comes down to using 6, 7, or 8 storm cards. That little change makes all the difference, though!

Simple difficulty adjustments are my favorite. In this way, I worked my way up and found out I wasn’t an expert.

Keep in mind, too, that the easiest difficulty levels can be great for playing a favorite game with less tension.

Engineering Hydraulics Instead of Heroics in Pandemic: Rising Tide

Look to the Events

An element that’s been implemented in a lot of these newer iterations are random events. Only some are shuffled in at the start based on the number of characters.

Such lovely artwork! I enjoyed the very thematic scenes. Most of all, though, each event provided a huge benefit.

Sadly, the events I most needed turned up a little too late in both of my plays. Just the order of the cards! But I was saved from disaster early on in a few cases.

Although these were helpful, I was careful not to rely on events. Their appearances were merely nice surprises!

Using Event Cards to Make Progress in Pandemic: Rising Tide

Appreciating the Smaller Design Elements

At first glance, this is a game purely about preventing flooding. But as I played more and more, the overall strategies started to shine. None of those were just about blocking off the seas, either! It was more about where to place dikes and pumps to manage the water. I’ve mentioned that a lot, yet it’s just such a neat mechanic that works so nicely!

Even when the coastal areas had a lot of water cubes, what mattered was how contained that flood was. If those regions had empty dike locations, that was where the problem started. It all felt very natural. Water… Flows! Yet it can also be dangerous if left untouched, particularly in low-elevation regions. Plenty of challenges abounded.

I’ll also note that I’ve enjoyed just thinking about controlling the water. There is an objective-based variant that can include population cubes, but I’ll get there when I get there! For now, I’m keeping gameplay light in my mind and imagining boats all over the place. No death here… Especially with the popcorn tricycle riding around!

Popcorn Operator

Well, well, well. I found the cause of these losses! Through no fault of my own, the pump operator became distracted. I caught her managing the popcorn tricycle in a flood!

No apologies for me still loving this thing! It’s silly, but then I remembered what the popping mechanism reminds me of… The Pop-O-Matic from Trouble. Game-related!

Alright. Maybe it was my own fault for losing, but I’m still placing the responsibility on the popcorn tricycle. Ha ha!

In reality, I simply didn’t manage the secondary pathways and let any floods spill over. Much like… Popcorn? Ha!

The Pump Operator Distracted by the Popcorn Tricycle in Pandemic: Rising Tide

Session Overview

Play Number: 4 and 5
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)
Play Details: Heroic Difficulty Level
Outcome: 2 Losses

As I cleaned up my mess, it dawned on me that I had only used the high-elevation regions a few times. Fast travel! Twente in particular had completely escaped my notice. But even with that, I still think things would have gone poorly. The southwest was always a problem, and I didn’t do enough to prevent the water from seeping into the middle regions. Better luck to me next time!

Clearing the Board and Finding Important Regions in Pandemic: Rising Tide


1 Play


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • The historical and real life theme adds an intriguing element to gameplay without the added stress of death.
  • Strategies are a lot more nuanced than it might appear, especially with the numerous ways water can spread.
  • Disaster always looms near in multiple regions and the challenge is in figuring out how to manage the water.
  • Wooden components add a wonderful tactile feel to the game and help stand out when placed on the board.
  • Adjustable difficulty levels are simple to implement during setup to control how challenging a play will be.
  • Aside from the setup time, gameplay moves very quickly and provides a very satisfying experience in an hour.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • Some of the regions can be difficult to see when the water cubes, dikes, pumps, and ports are clustered nearby.
  • Following all of the possible water pathways can take some time to fully understand and see during play.
  • Setup takes a lot of time, particularly in back-to-back plays if any dikes were placed on blue circle spaces.
  • Bad luck will affect gameplay at times, which can usually be mitigated, yet some instances can feel excessive.

More Pandemic: Rising Tide

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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

What do you think of Pandemic: Rising Tide? Do you enjoy any other solo games with unique sorts of themes? I didn’t think I would find it fun to manage water, yet this has been an absolute blast! And much less stressful than battling diseases. This takes the original system and adds a lot of interesting elements to it. Definitely glad to own this one!


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