Pandemic: On the Brink
List Price: $35.00
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Pandemic: On the Brink is an expansion to the popular cooperative game, Pandemic, wherein players take on roles to work together to find cures to 4 diseases.
In this expansion you will find six new roles (plus 1 revised OpEx and a Bio-Terrorist), eight new special events, and several challenge kits to be added to the basic game play.
Virulent Strain challenge: makes one disease become particularly deadly in unpredictable ways.
Mutation Challenge: adds a fifth (purple) disease that behaves differently than the original four.
Bio-Terrorist Challenge: pits one player against the others!
You may also play with 5 players and play on Legendary level!
Other components include: 12 purple disease cubes, 12 pawns in a smaller size, petri dishes to store your diseases and pawns, a bio-terrorist pad for that player to record his actions.
Note to first edition owners: If your cards are gloss with no linen finish then you have a first printing (Feb-April 2008). Z-man is offering a trade so that your cards will match the newer printings. See www.zmangames.com/boardgames/pandemicOTB.htm for details.
I'm usually leery of expansions, but my wife and I play Pandemic so often (100 games +) that trying this expansion wasn't really an option. It was almost an automatic purchase, with our fingers crossed that it would add value to the game.
We were very pleasantly surprised. At its heart Pandemic is a puzzle game, essentially intricate solitaire for bright people. Pandemic On The Brink succeeds because the puzzle suddenly has a lot more variability to it.
Start with the addition of six new characters. While we enjoy the original five characters just fine, there are a fairly limited number of combinations of those characters you can play. Now that there are numerous new characters the combinations are far more varied, which adds replay value to the game. The same applies for the special event cards. Instead of having five predefined special events players are treated to more cards, and only some of those cards will be in play during the game (the rest set aside, unrevealed). This adds to the variability as well. Both the new characters and the new special events are well thought out and are fun to play.
There are three new ways to play Pandemic. The two we play the most often, by a wide margin, are the Mutation and Virulent Strain options. The Mutation option doesn't seem that much more difficult at first, right up to the point where you realize that you now have five diseases to cure rather than four. Since additional cards are added to the draw deck players will be relieved to know that they at least get a few extra turns to handle five diseases. The Virulent Strain option makes one of the four original diseases more difficult to contain and cure without the benefit of extra cards. The last option is the Bioterrorist, and when we can get our teenage son to the table he usually opts for that role (as rebellious teenagers are apt to do). We have enjoyed that variant as well and probably the only reason we don't play it more is that our son is more of a video gamer that board gamer.
Here is a variant for couples to consider, it is our standard way to play. Each player plays two roles, so you essentially play a four player game. Also, we play with cards revealed. Memorizing what the other player is holding may be an effective way of teaching cooperation, but frankly it adds little to the game and we think actually detracts a bit. For purists who consider this a cheat, well, you can always add an additional epidemic card to the deck (which we have done occasionally). The other house rule we use says that whoever is not the active player cannot make any comments for 30 seconds when the players turn begins. This discourages veteran players or those who cannot resist "solving the puzzle" from taking over the game.
Lastly, the addition of the faux Petri dishes to organize the pieces was a very nice touch. It makes playing the game more enjoyable and setup and cleanup just a little quicker.
All in all we could not be more pleased with the expansion. Pandemic and Pandemic On The Brink are a must buy for couples.