Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Pandemic: On The Brink

"Can you save humanity?"

Pandemic: On The Brink, 1st Edition

Pandemic: On The Brink is the first expansion to the award winning Pandemic (my review here). It was created by Matt Leacock and Tom Lehmann and released in 2009 by Z-Man Games. Is it worth saving the world a second time round? Read on to find out!

On The Brink is for 2-5 players and requires the base Pandemic game to play. The expansion adds 7 new roles, 8 special event cards, new epidemic cards, and 3 new game modes (plus a few other extras). The aim is still the same in all the new modes but with a new challenge added to make things interesting.

Great, more epidemic cards...
The first variant is the Virulent Strain Challenge. This game involves the new epidemic cards and one of the viruses becoming particularly nasty and difficult to contain and cure. Once the first epidemic card is drawn out, the disease with the most cubes becomes the virulent strain. It's not just a normal epidemic situation though, each card has a different effect, some of which stay for the remainder of the game. Examples include needing 6 cards instead of 5 to cure a disease or moving the outbreak marker up 2 spaces when the virulent strain outbreaks (ouch!). This makes winning very difficult. My group of friends have only won a few times and lost many, many more!

So much purple!
The second game is the Mutation Challenge. This adds a purple 5th virus into play with accompanying mutation cards. The 3 mutation event cards are shuffled into the draw pile and the 2 infection cards are placed on the infection discard pile once the initial game setup (same as the standard game) is complete. Once one of these is pulled out the fun really begins! The virus acts differently to the others, with the behaviour dictated by the mutation event cards. There are only 12 purple cubes so stopping the virus from outbreaking is priority. Curing it is also difficult; it requires 5 cards of any colour but one of them must be a city that contains at least 1 purple cube. It's a very different challenge from the first game mode but equally difficult. Again, it takes several attempts to win just one game!

Being evil is fun!

The last mode, and my favourite, is the Bio-terrorist Challenge (3-4 players recommended).  It's very different from the other games as it pits one player against the rest. The bio-terrorist's goal is to create chaos by infecting the board with the purple virus. He/she moves in secret around the board, with their actions and moves noted down on the accompanying location sheet. However, they must tell the other players that they have been sighted if they fly to another location. If they are in the same location as another player, they have been spotted and can potentially be captured which limits their movement. Their presence creates an interesting dilemma for the heroes; do they just treat the 4 other diseases as normal, or track down and stop the bio-terrorist. Its much more fun being on the other side, watching the panic on the players faces as you silently destroy the world. It adds a completely different dynamic keeps things interesting if you were to get bored of the core game.

The most notable of the additional components are the petri dishes (6 in the original, 5 in the 2013 re-release). They're just small containers to keep the cubes in but are a nice touch which makes it easier to organise the pieces. Other than that, everything else is of the same standard as the first game.

Pandemic: On The Brink definitely adds a new dimension to an already great game. The new modes are all interesting and unique and can give hours of replayability. The Virulent Strain variant can even be combined with the other two which gives even more possibilities! I especially like being the bio-terrorist and laughing in the face of the heroes! Also, if you find the game too easy, you can always opt for the legendary difficulty setting; a 7th epidemic card! The only downside is that it is fairly expensive for an expansion that requires the base game (£28 from Rules of Play). However, this shouldn't detract from what is a superb addition to the Pandemic family. I would say it's money well spent! 

Rating 8/10

N.B. The 2013 On The Brink re-release is only compatible with the 2013 base game. If you have the original 2008 Pandemic game, you'll need the base replacement deck to match the new edition.