Framing Pandemic

Pandemic was the first modern board game I ever bought. I remember it vividly. It was the year following college graduation and everyone was working two jobs or unemployed. Money was tight and I lived at home while commuting eighty miles a day. There’s only so much TV that you can watch and any other activity cost money.

Fast forward to a shopping trip and I found myself in a Target browsing Pandemic and Ticket to Ride. I had heard about these games but not enough to make an informed decision. I was familiar with board games, playing many as a child and knocking out some Axis and Allies in college but that was the real extent. Without a smart phone, I was in no position to search for information on which game was better or more my style. I more informed person would have made note, gone home, and researched them but I enjoy making a brash decision now and again so with complete confidence, I decided that combating diseases seemed cooler than laying train routes.

As I sat in my future significant other’s apartment, overlooking the light rail line and absolutely sweating bullets as the ventilation in the unit was somewhere below ‘poor’, we broke out Pandemic and hunched over a beaten up coffee table from an equally beaten up chaise. One game became two games, two games became four, four games became five games and five became more.

I have no doubt that we played Pandemic one hundred or more times within a month of owning it. When you have nothing else, it’s the perfect companion. Needless to say, that game saw a lot of use and was beat up over years of playing and moving apartments and zip-codes. Pandemic has a spot deep in our hearts as it not only launched our deep dive into this great hobby and but it helped us solidify our relationship.

I don’t mean to get overly sentimental but I just wanted to lay the groundwork as to why I did this project. I wanted to immortalize that part of our life.

The items I needed to complete this project were a shadowbox display (purchased from Michaels), Elmers glue, nails, a hammer, and of course, Pandemic the board game. For the shadowbox display, I purposefully waited for the best coupon to appear for Michaels so I could save as much as possible. I think it ended up being half off sale items.

Besides the items mentioned above, time and space were two aspects I underestimated that you’ll need as well. It takes awhile to dry and set. It also takes up quite a lot of real estate.

The initial layout stage.

The first step was to lay everything out how I thought I would like it to look. This involved measurements and trying to be keen on design framing. Once the basic idea was in place, I glued the Pandemic board to the shadowbox board. More glue is better than less glue here. With the board itself being rather thick, I didn’t worry about the glue bleeding through or making any wet spots. I also glued the tokens to the board in places where I thought I would want them. This obviously took considerably less glue. The only worry with the pieces was having glue push out when affixing the piece so less is more in this scenario.


After gluing the board and components, I wanted to take a deeper look at how everything would be laid out. I had seen previous iterations done and had an idea in mind but was not sure how it would all end up. I wanted it to look presentable but also like it was in the midst of a game. I had settled on the orientation all being the same (like we were playing from the same side of the table) but I had experimented with having the “players” situated on opposite sides of the board. I actually really liked this but my fear was that one side would clearly look better than the other and with the way the shadowbox was designed, I could only hang it from one orientation. It wasn’t a risk I was comfortable taking.


Gluing the individual pieces and cards was easy. Even fanning them out didn’t prove to be too much of an issue. But I got cocky and assumed glue was the answer to all of my needs. The problems resulted in a setback that I stopped taking photos for but I’ll document below anyways.

Stacking the cards for the draw and discard piles proved to be too much for the glue to handle. The cards were too heavy and would slide right off the board (and one another). I thought gluing them separate and then attaching them to the board would be a possible solution but that was actually worse. Having to put a layer of glue on each card in the pile created basically an extra card each time, thus adding some severe height to the pile that made it tower over the game and press close to the display glass. I also worried about the weight and strain holding over the coming months and years as it’s displayed. I wasn’t sold on the glue.

As a remedy, I took small nails and hammered them through the cards and then through the board, affixing them in a set spot. Then I glued two cards above that nail so it would be hidden. Why two cards? With just one, the card wouldn’t lay flat due to the nail head protruding out. I could have purchased flater head nails but I didn’t have any laying about when I was making the project so I made due. This was also a surprise gift and I only had a set amount of alone time to work on it.

With the card glued on top, I would then bend the card a little to cover the nail and then glued the focus point card on top of that. In all honesty, if I had to do this again I would have nailed everything. It was a much more efficient way of setting the game and upon close inspection, looks more natural than the glued cards.

The other area of concern was the petri dishes from On the Brink. I wanted a more thematic approach and had a lot of extra room on the sides of the Pandemic board. While they look great, they were a major pain to affix and I know that the first thing to fail (when/if that time comes) will be the tops of the dishes. Since the dishes themselves are transparent, only so much glue can be added without being seen and I didn’t want excess glue to get on the cubes themselves which would cause an unappealing jumble.

The last aspect of this project, and possibly the most important fact, is that this thing was/is large and heavy so it took some time to dry and as it was a gift, some stealth to hide. Affixing it to the wall was a two-man job as well (thanks Leo!).


The very last test I had was the durability test. I left it sitting up for a few days to ensure that no pieces would fall or become loose. I wanted to ensure that it had some staying power.


It was a Christmas gift and it was a big hit. It now adorns the wall next to our entry way as we wanted to ensure we had something demonstrating our love of board games (besides the shelves of them littered throughout our home).

And here it is in all its glory

I would love to do this project again. We have Pandemic Legacy Season 1 saved just for this reason and I’m interested in producing even smaller versions for our gallery wall, say a small set of Carcassonne tiles or a finished game of Hive.

Author: Two off the Top

Just a guy that wants to talk about board games more than his significant other tolerates.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s