As mentioned in my review, Pandemic is a game that almost reaches a level of greatness, but it has a few shortcomings that just keep it from getting there. Thankfully, the On the Brink expansion helps to fix some of these problems, but is it enough to make Pandemic great?
On the Brink was the first expansion released for the popular cooperative board game Pandemic. My research led me to believe that it was the best expansion for the game, with many Pandemic players going so far to call it an essential upgrade.
So If you own Pandemic, and are finding it to start to wear a bit thin after multiple play-throughs, is the On the Brink expansion the cure? Spoiler alert, it definitely is.
On the Brink is packed with lots of goodies to improve your Pandemic experience. A nice feature of the expansion is that it comes with an improved box inlay that holds all of the components of the base game and the expansion. This new inlay makes storing the game components and cards much easier and helps to reduce the setup time. In addition to the inlay, On the Brink gives you five Petri dishes to store your disease cubes which works well thematically, and for easy sorting of your disease cubes.
Game wise, On the Brink features seven new roles for you to play, and adds eight new event cards to the game. Instead of adding all these event cards to each game, you now randomly add a set number of them to the player deck. The total number of event cards in play depends on how many people are playing. The addition of the new roles adds a ton of new possible team combos to the game. The addition of the new randomized event cards adds some much needed unpredictability which may require players to adjust their strategies on the fly. These two additions alone make Pandemic a better game.
Beyond the new roles and events, On the Brink gives you 3 additional challenge modes you can add to base game.
One of these modes is called the bio terrorist, and it allows for a player to work against the other players who are trying to save the world. The bio terrorist can sabotage research centres, and spread disease across the globe, to make the game harder for the other players. I haven't gotten a chance to play this mode as all of my games have been two player games, but the mode looks fun and it's nice twist to spice things up.
The next mode, called the mutation challenge adds a fifth disease for your team to tackle. The purple disease by itself isn't too dangerous, where the challenge comes into play is that you need to cure an extra disease in the same time limit as you had previously to just cure four. Unlike the other diseases, where you need to have 5 matching colour cards to cure a disease, you can cure the mutation strain by using any five cards, as long as one of the cards is a city that currently is infected with the mutation.
The final mode, replaces the old epidemic cards with new virulent strain cards. These cards have the same effect as the epidemic cards they replace, except each card has a rather nasty twist. When the first virulent strain is drawn, the disease with the most cubes on the board becomes the "virulent strain". This disease now gains a nasty new effect each time a virulent strain card is pulled. There are eight different virulent strain cards in the box, so unless you're a glutton for punishment and play a game using all eight, you never know what nasty effects the virulent strain will gain. This adds more unpredictability to the game, which requires players to adjust on the fly and play less on autopilot.
The great thing about all these new challenges, is you can mix and match them with the base game, which gives you a lot more options around difficultly then the base game's option of only selecting the amount of epedemic cards to put in the player deck.
Do you own Pandemic? Did you enjoy the base game, but after multiple plays did it start to lose its charm? On the Brink will bring back the initial excitement and will keep the game interesting even after additional multiple plays.
If you bought Pandemic and still find it quite enjoyable, On the Brink has some quality additions that you should check out, but if you're still enjoying the base game, I'd hold off on On the Brink until you start to fatigue with the base game.