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Pandemic: On the Brink» Forums » Rules

Subject: Bio-terrorist Variant Etiquette rss

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D L
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Can players choose to hide their cards from the Bio-terrorist, or is this against the spirit of the game? E.g. they show one another their cards but in doing so, shield them from the Bio-terrorist.
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Tom Lehmann
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Adding a challenge is considered beyond the Introductory Game, so players may not show cards to each other (see Pandemic base rules, page 6).

However, many groups play differently. Any cards that players show each other, they must show the Bio-Terrorist, since A) the original rules state players may freely discuss their hands and B) the OTB rules state that "The Bio-Terrorist may listen to other players as they discuss their plans and cards."
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Biodiesel
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Not really etiquette, but why do the rules recommend NOT to play with the bio-terrorist when there are 5 people?
 
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Tom Lehmann
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We certainly playtested 5-player BT games. And, with multiple groups, we received negative feedback: there was too much downtime between normal player turns and too much increase in overall game length.

It wasn't enjoyable, whereas the BT game went over pretty well with 3 and 4 players in most groups. So, we did a bit of analysis (see below) and convinced ourselves that, indeed, there was a structural reason behind these responses.

Let's look at this in terms of actions. A BT turn (two actions) takes 1/2 the time of a normal player's turn (four actions).

In a normal 3-player non-BT game, a player gets their next turn after 8 intervening actions (two other players go). In a 3-player BT game, a non-BT player gets their next turn after 8 intervening actions (the BT goes twice and the other non-BT player goes once). So far, so good.

For 4 players, the corresponding number is 14 (instead of 12) downtime, so non-BT player downtime does, in fact, increase with more players.

For 5 players, however, the corresponding number is 20 (instead of 16); adding a fifth player BT player is like adding two more players to a normal 4-player game in terms of an individual player's down-time.

BT games also take 50% longer (measured in actions) than non-BT games with the same number of players, because the player deck gets exhausted more slowly:

3 players: 12/12 (total actions per round) * 6/4 (player-card depletion)
4 players: 18/16 * 8/6
5 players: 24/20 * 10/8

This comparison compares, say, a 4-player BT game with a 4-player non-BT game. But what about groups that normally play with 4 players, get the expansion, and might say "Hey, this expansion plays with 5 and has a BT scenario; let's try that"? Now, this becomes:

2 non-BT -> 3 w/BT: 12/8 * 4/4 and downtime/player increases 200% (8/4)
3 non-BT -> 4 w/BT: 18/12 * 6/6 and downtime/player up 175% (14/8)
4 non-BT -> 5 w/BT: 24/16 * 8/8 and downtime/player up 167% (20/12)

Again, a 50% longer game (measured in actions), no matter how you slice it, and increased non-BT player downtime.

All of this assumes that player discussion is linear with actions and players. However, in our experience, this just isn't true; in groups where "one player direction" isn't occurring, the amount of discussion actually increases more than linearly with the number of players. So, again, a 5-player BT game becomes too long for many players' enjoyment.

If your group wants to try a 5-player BT game, go for it. However, if you end up disappointed, don't blame us! We tried to steer you away from what several different playtest groups found to be, on the whole, a poor play experience...
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