Help, we’ve got a virus!
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Help, we’ve got a virus!

Martin Rupf
6.1.2023
Translation: Megan Cornish

An insidious virus has broken out in our home. Luckily, it’s not a Covid variant; it’s the gaming bug. Here’s why the «Virus» card game is fun for the whole family, despite its serious background.

Christmas is already over. But there’s still plenty of joy to be had out of the presents. A few days ago, I wrote an article about meaningless gifts.

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Luckily, there were much more than just meaningless gifts under the Christmas tree. We found the game «Virus» alongside the obligatory Lego sets and children’s books.

Almost impossible coincidences

It’s almost uncanny: Swiss company Game Factory launched the game Virus just a few months before the outbreak of coronavirus.

Game Factory Virus (German, French, Italian)
Quantity discount
15,94 EUR

Game Factory Virus

German, French, Italian

Game Factory Virus (German, French, Italian)
Board games
Quantity discount
15,94 EUR

Game Factory Virus

German, French, Italian

When I read the text on the back of the packaging, I shuddered a bit. «Experimental virus outbreaks have escaped the lab and only you can stop them! Face the pandemic and compete to be the first to eradicate the virus by isolating a healthy body. Ethical or not, all means at your reach are valid to achieve victory.» If I didn’t know better, I might think the inventors of this game have clairvoyant abilities. It goes on to say: «Novices from the lab realise too late that the sample containers were not empty as they thought. The viruses are loose!».

The aim of «Virus» – which is recommended for ages eight and up – is to get rid of the virus as quickly as possible or ensure that the other players are infected by the virus. The winner is the first to have four healthy organs in their body.

It takes a bit of persuasion for my kids to warm to the game. No wonder, as they don’t have fond memories of the pandemic and its effects. It’s been less than a year since they had to wear masks at school. But in the end, curiosity won out – after all, it’s just a game.

Before we can start, I study the instructions with my children. They’re tricky. Not least due to a total of 68 cards in the four categories «organs», «viruses», «pills» and «operations».

First, let’s get an overview of the cards.
First, let’s get an overview of the cards.
Source: Martin Rupf

There are also numerous action cards which you can use to vaccinate, immunise, infect or even destroy organs.

On the left, an infected organ. In the middle, a destroyed organ. And, on the right, a virus destroys the vaccination of an organ.
On the left, an infected organ. In the middle, a destroyed organ. And, on the right, a virus destroys the vaccination of an organ.
Source: Martin Rupf

The tide can turn quickly

Once we feel we understand the rules, we put on our doctor’s coats and start the fight against the virus. It takes a little while for us to get the hang of it. On the one hand, of course, we want to have four healthy organs in the body as quickly as possible. On the other hand, we have to make sure that the others don’t recover too quickly.

This always works when I place a pill card on my organ (then the organ is vaccinated) or later even double up with a second one. Then the organ is completely immunised and can no longer be destroyed by an operation.

On the left, a vaccinated organ. In the middle, an immune organ. And, on the right, an infected organ is healed by a pill.
On the left, a vaccinated organ. In the middle, an immune organ. And, on the right, an infected organ is healed by a pill.
Source: Martin Rupf

Because the body cards are face up on the table, unholy alliances are formed against the person who is close to full recovery. A constant back and forth develops. Since I soon have little chance of success myself, I try to turn my children against my wife. This achieves the exact opposite: the children also destroy my last healthy organ, which means that I have to start from scratch again.

But watch out: the tide can turn quickly. You may be on the verge of victory because you’re only missing one healthy organ. But «a blunder» can mean that individual organs or whole bodies are suddenly replaced.

After a long period of infection, vaccination or immunisation, we finally have a winner: my wife. The alliance has paid off. I end up in last place without a single healthy organ. The game was quite fun, even if the pandemic background was a bit depressing.

Personally, the tactical component wasn’t big enough for me. Luck is the main factor that decides the outcome of the game, so its appeal is likely to wear off over time.

The pandemic comparison may be misleading. Fortunately, the goal during the real pandemic was protection against the virus, rather than trying to make one’s fellow human beings ill as quickly as possible like in «Virus».

Header image: Martin Rupf

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Half-Danish dad of two and third child of the family, mushroom picker, angler, dedicated public viewer and world champion of putting my foot in it.


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