Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Pandemic – On the Brink: Because Four Deadly Viruses Just Weren’t Enough

The Black Death ravages the middle east as the Red Tide covers eastern Asia. The Blue Flu sweeps across North America and most of Europe while the Yellow Fever hits South America and Africa hard. Crowds hush as the CDC spokesman gets up to the podium to make their press statement: “Saving the world from these four diseases is becoming too easy. Can we have a fifth please?”
And that is how Pandemic’s first, and so far only, expansion came into being. Pandemic is a fantastic cooperative game which maintains an excellent level on intensity and can be very challenging. However, as gaming groups play it more and more, they may find that the challenge drops off a bit and that the intensive atmosphere may become a little stale.
On the Brink address the problem of players drifting into a lull of familiarity with a game which has the potential for a great gaming atmosphere. By adding new roles to play with, your Pandemic team can look different every time instead of just having the same old scientist and researcher hanging around. New special event cards also increase variation into the tools you can use throughout the game.
Meanwhile, three new scenarios will heighten the threat level of the game’s complexity in a much more interesting way than simply adding in another epidemic card. These three challenges make Pandemic much more interesting, especially for those who are finding a lot of success with the base game. On the Brink is a great little package which adds a lot to an already great game.

Additions

The two simplest additions from On the Brink may actually be the best, which is the new role cards and the new special event cards. With only five roles in a four player game, Pandemic did not provide a lot of variety in regards to the variation of your team and their special abilities. Only one role would be missing in a game, and it soon became clear how to work around not having that role. Now there are eleven roles, providing much more variation in your team! Likewise, eight new event cards have been added, so that there is now variety into which event cards are in play. This way you don’t know for sure if “One Silent night” or “Airlift” is coming up or not, providing more variables to the danger.
The expansion also comes with some maintenance add-ons which include smaller pawns which can replace the older pawns and some petri dishes which are used to store the disease cubes. I like the petri dishes: they are thematic and really work well for storage. Too bad they don’t fit in the original box. The pawns are nice too, they the size of the old ones never really bothered me.
Three new scenarios are added the game to increase the difficulty and making players break out into bigger sweats. I will mention all three briefly here:
The Virulent Strain – A rather simple scenario, but perhaps the best of the three. New epidemic cards are used in this scenario which not only carry out the regular epidemic, but add some sort of condition onto the virulent strain, which is the strain with the most cubes on the board at the time. As the game increases, this virulent strain becomes harder and harder to kill in weird and interesting ways.
The Mutation – A fifth purple disease is added to the game here, but since there are no purple cities on the board this one must act differently. Special cards are used to introduce it into the game and it can pop up anywhere in the world, and increases as the regular diseases in those cities also increase. What makes this so hard is that there is only twelve purple cubes so you have to be very careful they don’t run out. This increases the intensity and urgency of the game.
The Bio-terrorist – One of the players actually spreads the fifth disease while moving secretly around the world. The other players must play the game as normal, while also worrying about the terrorist who can add purple cubes wherever he is and even destroy research stations ( a neat touch). This definitely makes things harder and changes the co-op nature of the game, though I was hoping it would have more of a cops and robbers aspect to it, similar to Scotland Yard, which it didn’t.


Critique

If you have played your fair share of Pandemic games and saved the world a few times already, I will say that On the Brink simply makes this game better. However b aware: your first time trying out these new challenges will be very hard. You may want to consider dropping the difficulty level. My friends and I were cocky and thought we could do it on medium no problem. We were wrong, and millions suffered.
The new roles and event cards surprised me with how much I like having them. They really increase variability to the game, which is always a good thing. I especially like Containment Specialist and Field Researcher, and the Rapid Vaccine Development event card is also very cool. The three new scenarios are all well designed. I definitely like the virulent strain the best. The mutation is great too, and really steps up the difficulty a lot. The Bio-terrorist is a neat idea, but I was hoping for it to have more direct conflict with the player who plays as the terrorist.
On the Brink is a really great package. I mean, look at everything it contains! This could have been stretched out through three different expansions, but instead we get it all in one box. If you are a fan of Pandemic, On the Brink will only make your game better.

Expansion –
Base Game –
Base Game & Expansion –

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