Friday, December 26, 2014

Board Game Review: Pandemic & Pandemic Expansion: On The Brink

First off, I will not be discussing how to play the game as that would take too much time and I would be rehashing most/all of the printed rules and that would be no fun for anyone.  Plus Wil Wheaton has already covered Pandemic on the first season of TableTop, so I would recommend watching over on his channel if you have A) never played Pandemic, or B) came here to find out how to play Pandemic.

So the edition that Conklederp and I received for our wedding was the second edition and as far as I can tell, the biggest difference between the two editions is that in the second edition, the pieces are made from plastic whereas in the first edition, they are made from wood.  Now, I will agree that in most cases, I like the feel of wood pieces (hur hur) over plastic, but for this game, I like the look of the clear plastic blocks that represent the various infections.  There is something just more "sterile" about their appearance.  The other difference between the two editions is that the board, again from what I can tell, is more techy looking.  The pieces are now plastic instead of wood and the infection cubes are colored and clear, which I personally like the look of a lot better than the wood; more sterile perhaps.  The principal game has remained the same, so everything I talk about should translate between the two editions.

Now, Conklederp and I have had a chance to play this awesomely fun game now on five separate occasions (as of this writing) and I will do my best to chronicle each of those first four experiences as they were each played under slightly different circumstances.

Game 1
Conklederp and I played first as the game suggested, with only four Epidemic cards in the players deck, just so we could get a feel for how the game was to be played.  After saving the world, we both came to the conclusion that the game with only four Epidemic cards was too easy.  It was then that I also realized that I did not shuffle the players deck correctly so there was one Epidemic card near the top and the rest were close to the bottom, which we did not get to before saving the world.

Game 2
The next two player game that Conklederp and I played, we put five Epidemic cards in the players deck and this time I separated that deck into five even piles, each with its own Epidemic card before shuffling the five decks separately before putting them into their single massive deck.  We then got ready to save the world again!

"That did not pan out."  This game probably would have gone a lot better had we known how to handle outbreaks correctly.  Let me see if I can describe what we did wrong.

There were two neighboring cities, each with three infection cubes.  One of those cities became infected (again), which caused an outbreak.  That outbreak spread to the neighboring city that already had three cubes, which caused an outbreak.  This is where we went wrong.  We thought at this point, the original neighboring city would then have yet another outbreak which would lead the second neighboring city to have another outbreak. . .and so on and so forth.  I am 99% sure this is not how the game is supposed to be played as we managed to lose in under five turns.

So we started Game 3.

Game 3
After realizing our error, we restarted everything, but this time I had the idea of changing the starting location and Disease Research Hospital that normally starts in Atlanta.  So we picked a city card at random and this time we started somewhere in the Middle East.  This time around there was a lot more evenly spaced-out mayhem (compared to Game 1), but it was manageable and we were again able to save the world.

Now, enter the first expansion to Pandemic, Pandemic: On the Brink.

Game 4
Prior to playing Game 4, I bought the On the Brink expansion which allows for five players to play at once instead of just four.  It also adds a fifth virulent disease strain as well as additional player and infection cards.  I knew that for this game we would be playing with five people, plus I wanted to expand how the game was played.  For this game we stayed using the regular Epidemic cards and not the Virulent Strain Epidemic cards that came with the expansion as it was The Man and [Insert Name]'s first time playing.

After we started, we quickly realized that playing with two people is different as far as tactics go when compared to playing with four other players.  Half of the game was spent coordinating between players trying to figure out where each person was going to be in order to trade city cards so that we could create a cure.

This game literally came down to the wire.  Because On the Brink added a number of cards to the players deck, this allowed the game to go on for an extra turn or two for the players which in turn allowed The Man to finish his turn after the last two cards had been taken.  The Man, however, was able to make it to a research station and create the final cure before he was supposed to pick up the two player cards (which did not exist).  I do not think this was cheating, but if it was. . .oops.

Oh, and nobody played as the bioterrorist since we were still getting a feel for the game with a full crew.

So every time Conklederp and I have played the game, either with friends or by ourselves, we have all had a good time either saving the world or coming very close and watching as the world falls into a cesspool of death and disease.  But in the end, the table was not flipped, words were not passed between people who were unable to be as effective as they wanted to be (yes, me) and negotiations began for the next time we would all be able to attempt to save the world.


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