In Pandemic: Contagion you're trying to spread disease and illness to the far corners of the globe. Why? Because you're a virus, and that's your job.
Pandemic: Contagion includes a deck of contagion cards with differing colored borders, city cards, event/WHO cards, virus cubes. On a turn you take two actions; three actions are available, and you can take the same action twice. Those actions are:
- Draw contagion cards equal to your current infection rate.
- Discard enough contagion cards to advance a mutation to the next level, thereby allowing you to draw more cards, place more cubes, or resist human counter-attacks.
- Discard contagion cards matching the color of the city you want to start to infect (two cards) or infect more (one card), using any two cards as a joker, if you wish. Place cubes equal to your current transmission rate.
Each city card has a colored border (with all cities on the same continent having a matching border), a special action awarded to the player who places the final cube on the card, and three numbers; the large number shows the number of cubes needed to close the city and the number of points scored by whoever has the majority of cubes in this city when it closes, while the two smaller numbers show the points awarded to those with the second- and third-most cubes.
At the start of each round after the first, you draw the top card from the event/WHO deck. Events take place at the start, end or middle of your turn, as specified on the card, and they might benefit or harm you directly — say, by giving you a contagion card for each city you infect or forcing you to remove cubes from the board — or they might affect what's possible on a turn, such as making it more or less costly to infect a city. The WHO cards are generally bad for you, but your resistance allows you to lessen whatever the penalty would be based on its level. Need to remove three cubes from the board? If your resistance is at level 3, drop it down one level and you don't have to remove any.
Some event cards feature a city icon, which brings a new city card into play, or a skull; when the second skull comes out, you have an intermediate scoring round in which whoever has the most cubes in a city scores points equal to the lowest value in that city. Once the event/WHO deck runs out or only two city cards remain in play, the game ends, with players conducting a final scoring round to see which virus is victorious.