Pandemic: On The Brink (Expansion)
A while back, I posted a review on the board game, Pandemic. Pandemic is a cooperative board game that tasks players with saving the world from deadly diseases. The boys and I have played it on a few occasions and enjoyed our experience overall.
Since I already covered the rules and gameplay in my prior review, I’ll keep this review brief and only cover the new content. You can read about how the game is played by reading my original review here:
Role Cards – There are eight new role cards that provide players with new tools and abilities to use to fight the “Pandemic.”
Pawns – Twelve new player pawns are included in the game. They all match the colors of the role cards and are smaller in size to make things easier on players in regards to fitting all sorts of things on to one city.
Extra Epidemic Card – This card allows players to exercise the “Legendary” difficulty mode. (The more epidemic cards you include in the game, the harder it becomes)
Purple Disease Cubes, Purple Cure Marker, and Purple Mutation Cards – All of these components are used when playing the “Mutation” challenge.
Virulent Strain Cards – These cards are used when playing the “Virulent Strain” challenge.
Bio-Terrorist Pad – This pad is used by the bio-terrorist player when playing the “Bio-Terrorist” challenge.
Petri Dishes – These plastic dishes are meant to replace the plastic bags that hold the virus cubes.
Blank Cards – There are two blank role cards and two blank special event cards. Players can create any role or event they’d like utilizing these cards.
New Gameplay Modes / Mechanics
First, this expansion allows a fifth player to join in on the fun while also adding new special events that will help the players defeat the board. Players will also be able to choose between new roles that assist players in unique ways. The extra normal Epidemic card allows players to up the difficulty to “Legendary”, if they are feeling particularly suicidal.
On top of all of these new things, players can add challenges to the game. Challenges will change gameplay in unique ways and make it a bit harder than the normal game. The three challenges included in this expansion can be summarized as follows:
Virulent Strain: The Virulent Strain challenge singles out one of the four diseases and makes it particularly nasty. When setting up the game, players will replace the normal green Epidemic cards with the orange ones. Each orange Epidemic card has a special effect that makes the designated virulent strain that much more dangerous.
Mutation: The Mutation Challenge adds a fifth disease to the board, though it acts a bit different than normal. There are only twelve purple cubes, meaning that the game can be over quickly if it is allowed to spread. Two mutation cards are placed on top of the infection discard pile right after the board is set up and the initial disease cubes are placed. Since Epidemics cause the discard pile to be placed on top of the main pile, players will be seeing these cards again. There are also three event cards that are placed into the draw pile that cause the purple diseases to multiply in various ways.
Bio-Terrorist: The Bio-Terrorist Challenge actually pits one player against the others. Using the bio-terrorist role card and pad, they will travel secretly across the map, spreading disease and trying to make the other players lose. The other players will be trying to not only stop the diseases, but capture the bio-terrorist.
You can read more about the rules here:
The expansion set certainly adds a lot more features to the game, and what I like the most about it is that these features are completely optional. Players can add two of the challenges together, for example, or choose to include none of them. The new role cards are a welcome addition, seeing as how there was a lot of untapped potential in the original role cards included in the main game. Players can make the game as easy or as difficult as they want it to be, simply by adding more challenges or adjusting various gameplay mechanics to suit them best. Those just starting out, for example, could simply play with three green Epidemic cards instead of four, or add more special event cards that might turn the tide significantly in their favor.
Personally, I enjoyed my time with it, as did my son. We played using the mutation challenge and exercised some of the new role cards that came with the game. To help balance the difficulty so that my son would have a fun, casual experience, I added more special event cards to the draw deck. If we were losing badly, I’d disregard the Epidemic card if it was drawn. Sure, we weren’t playing by the rules, but those who stress out over rules and obsess over controlling other players miss the point of family fun night completely.
Is it worth paying the current price of twenty-some bucks for? That depends. How often do you play Pandemic? If you play regularly and often find yourself bored with the game because you’re tired of the same mechanics, then by all means, pick this up. Those of you who don’t play regularly or find the normal game too challenging might be overwhelmed by all of the extra options available to you. I suppose the question you’ll have to ask yourself is, “How much use will I get out of it?”
Final Verdict: 8/10