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Pandemic: On the Brink» Forums » Strategy

Subject: So, you want to be a terrorist? rss

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Cameron McKenzie
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Although the game has not been released, the bioterrorist variant requires no additional components aside from 12 purple cubes and a sheet for tracking the bio terrorist. By using my own makeshift components, I've managed to play a few games with this variant, along with a few new roles. Note that none of the new events were used, which may alter gameplay slightly.

After several games, playing both as and against the bio-terrorist, some major strategies have started to emerge:

Go For Outbreaks
The bio-terrorist introduces the unique ability to add more than 1 cube to a city during an infection "cycle." This strategy takes advantage of that fact, by using local infections to just pile up cubes on one region. It is possible to move in to a city, infect it, and then move back out. The players will know you are adjacent to the city, but will not know exactly where, and it is often not worth their time to catch you.

Note that you are unlikely to get many outbreaks doing this, but the threat of an outbreak serves as a valuable distraction to the players. Pop them up in an otherwise harmless area. It works best if done on a single remote "active" city so that the infecton draws will help you out. The threat of an outbreak there every few turns will force a player to come and stop you. They can do this rather easily, but you are occupying attention while the sinister forces of the infection deck continue to work their magic.


Exhaust the Purple Cube Supply
In this strategy, you are not too interested in outbreaks. Due to the flare out rule on outbreaks, they simply aren't that good for exhausting the supply. They still help, and should be used when available, but don't go out of your way to create one.

Rather, you should rely on remote infection, because every card you draw and use will become "active" in the next infection cycle, and there is a good chance that infection draws will help add even more cures to the board. While it is likely that players will have no problem getting to purple cubes to treat (they will be all over the place, after all) you will force them to waste valuable actions taking care of them.

It should be noted that with purple cubes all over the board, it is quite easy for the players to cure it. For this reason, this strategy is NOT recommended against the medic. Once the players have found the cure, the medic will very easily stop you from running out, without even really having to try. After all, you are infecting cities that are for the most part active. The medic is likely to be hanging around those cities anyway and can just clear out your purples for free.


Don't Let Them Cure It
In order for the other players to win, they have to either remove all purple cubes from the board OR cure purple. The latter is, in most cases, far easier to accomplish, but the requirement of having a card that matches a city with purple creates an interesting strategy for the bio-terrorist.

Basically, he will only infect cities that correspond to cards that have already been discarded. If the players have no means with which to retrieve cards from the discard, they will never be able to cure purple. While this inhibits your ability to infect cities early in the game, you will have plenty of opportunities later on once stacks of cards have been spent on regular cures. This means your likely just going to be hiding out stockpiling cards early on, and sabotaging research stations when possible.

When it comes down to the end, with no cure available, the players will be forced to hunt down all of the purple cubes. With the stockpile of cards you are holding, you can infect remote areas of the board and prevent them from winning. They will chase the cubes around while regular infections keep coming and the "game clock" that is the player card deck continues to count down.

This obviously is not effective against the Archivist, and I believe a new event allows players to retrieve a card from the discard. As I said, no events were used in our games so far, but this strategy should not be discounted regardless.



Hopefully, you've got an idea of some of the ways in which the bioterrorist can make things really nasty. When you play your first game as the bioterrorist, keep some of these things in mind and you will really give the other players a challenge.
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Matthew Sharp
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A couple of days ago, we played our first BT game. It was a 4 epidemic game with the containment specialist and the troubleshooter.

I played the bioterrorist and loosely followed the cure denial technique. Also, most of my turns followed a 2 drive/ferry + local infection pattern. There was some occasional sabotage, and I got captured a few times (though I was never holding many cards).

So the players were forced to hunt down every last purple cube if they wanted to win. Even with both players pretty much focused on following my trail of purple cubes, the number on the board mostly fluctuated between 2 and 4, and was only 0 a few times near the beginning of the game (as you say, to prevent the cure you have to start slow).

It turns out that due to some bad card management, the players discarded 8 of the red cards before getting the red cure, but even if they did get the red cure, I don't think they could have removed all the purple cubes. And it turns out they also forgot that it was possible to cure purple (so all my careful infecting was moot).

So I'm wondering if it's even possible for all the purple cubes to be removed without the bioterrorist being inept. If not, that seems to suggest that the cure denial strategy is close to unbeatable, which would be extremely disappointing. Does anyone have any experience which would suggest that the cure denial strategy is beatable? Of course one game is hardly conclusive, and maybe the players could have played better, but we didn't see any obvious counter to the cure denial strategy.

One I just thought of is to deliberately allow a purple outbreak somewhere, but that has not been tested in practice, and seems quite "gamey".
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Tom Lehmann
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Yes, BT denial was tested -- it's one of Matt's favorite BT strategies.

Note that it's slow and aimed just at purple cube exhaustion/running out the player deck. If players (without the Archivist in play) get redrawn capability by either of two events (New Assignment or Re-examined Research), it's pretty easy to just cure purple when you need to. The odds that at least one of these two cards are in the player deck is 73% (2 players + BT) or 83% (3 players + BT). That's not good odds for the BT player. Does the BT player really want to commit to such a high risk strategy?

In the 27% or 17% cases where these cards are not available, players do need to scramble near the end game to remove purple cubes, though then a lot of the other events (you had to draw something, right?), including Borrowed Time and Remote Treatment, can help. And, yes, another trick is to let a purple epidemic occur if it will place a cube in a city that a player holds.
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Matthew Sharp
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You raise very good points. I had considered Re-examined research as a card to break this strategy, but for some reason I didn't consider New Assignment.

When I do the maths I come up with numbers that are even worse for the BT than yours. I guess I was lucky that game.

Anyway, my maths says that for 2 players + BT, the odds that neither of the 2 cards are in the deck are 10/12 * 9/11 * ... * 6/8 * 5/7 which comes to ~22.7%. For 3 players + BT, this number is further multiplied by 4/6 * 3/5 which comes to ~9%.
 
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Tom Lehmann
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There are 13 Special Event cards now, not 12, so these numbers should start with 11/13 * ... (and end one fraction sooner), which is why my %s are higher.
 
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Matthew Sharp
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
There are 13 Special Event cards now, not 12, so these numbers should start with 11/13 * ... (and end one fraction sooner), which is why my %s are higher.

Indeed there are.blush
 
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Randall Bart
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shopt wrote:
Indeed there are.blush

You can be sure that by the time Tom releases a game, he is quite familiar with all of these ratios and percentages. Every single one.
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Thomas Cauet
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Honestly, I like a lot the BT variant, but it is really hard to fight effectively against him, while winning the game. I only played games with 2 players against the BT, and we lost all of them (with 5 epidemics).
For the first time ever, I'm thinking of playing with 4 epidemics
Thanks for the tips on BT strategy (though I am more concerned on how to defeat him). We feel sabotage was extremely strong (since it costs only one card of the same color) when neither the operation expert nor the troubleshooter were in play. Of course, to avoid sabotage, being on the center at the end of turn (for example dispatcher protecting the center then delegating movement to a containment specialist) is a good way to protect.
I think I have along way to go before defeating the BT with 6 epidemics with virulent strain! But the challenge is fun!
 
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Jeremy Arcus-Goldberg
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Excellent idea to post the Dispatcher at the Research Station to protect it. Playing a game with 5 epidemics (and we tried Virulent Strain!) against the BT is very difficult and we experimenting with Variants to help the Heroes. I've posted those ideas in the Variant section.

A few more tips for the BioTerrorist:

Combine Outbreaks and Using up Cube Supply:

Certain areas are great targets for doing both of these strategies, for instance Istanbul has 6 connections and Baghdad and Cairo both have 5. If any of those outbreak, it adds significant numbers of purple cubes to the board even though it is a "flare-out" outbreak. Another center for this is around Hong Kong, or using two 5 connection cities like Delhi and Karachi. The BT risks getting caught by hovering near one or two cities, so hide in a city nearby that will waste another action of the Heroes. Sometimes they can find the BT, but have no actions left to capture!

Turn order is important:

If performing a sabotage and a role that helps Research Stations like Operations Expert or Archivist is in the game, then perform the Sabotage after the relevant role takes their turn - not before! This leads to a whole round with less options to cure and shuttle travel. Also, listen to the Heroes strategy to know when and where they are planning to cure, and to know if they have a Special Event card that will help them build a station quickly, such as Government Grant or ReExamined Research.

Hand Management:

There is probably more to say about this, but some thoughts: I noticed that it is important to decide when to draw cards or not. The BT usually does not want a large hand of cards. If the BT is caught then these cards go into the discard pile without infecting the cities, effectively diluting the effectiveness of the infection pile. Instead, the BT wants to have a fairly low number of cards, so that capturing the BT is not very attractive to the Heroes.
In the beginning of the game, the BT's 1st 2 cards are important to play so those cities get a purple cube and get into the infection deck before the 1st epidemic hits. Also, having a chance to destroy the Atlanta research station can be demoralizing and if the Heroes don't have a helpful role to rebuild one, can be very effective.
At the same time, drawing and playing infection cards before the first epidemic is also good because it adds purple cubes to the board that may get multiplied after the 1st epidemic hits.
However, immediately after any epidemic, it is not a strong play to draw cards. This is because if the BT lets a card be turned over from the deck, then that city will be infected with a corresponding color, and possibly a purple, but if the BT plays the card, then it only receives purple. At a long break between epidemics, then cities that have never been infected will begin turning up and this becomes a good time for the BT to draw cards.
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Thomas Cauet
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Paradoxically (this word sounds too "french" ), the BT can be eliminated quite easily in the beginning of the game if players have "remote cure" (to cure 2 distant cubes) and one card with one of the BT cubes: one game the BT was close to one card draw (the player drawing an event while he needed 2 city cards, whatever the colors) to loose early, finding the cure then eradicating it with "remote cure"...
 
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Tom Lehmann
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This is why many BT players like to get 3-4 purple cubes on the board on their very first two turns (infect locally, infect remotely each turn).

It is possible for the BT to get very unlucky with this tactic. For example, with two players opposing the BT, if you have, say, Scientist and Researcher; and the Researcher goes first and hands cards to Scientist; and one of those cards includes one of the two purple cites (after the BT's first turn); and one of the players has Remote Treatment; then the Scientist may be able to cure purple and eradicate it before the BT player gets a second turn. But, all this is pretty unlikely (not that it won't ever happen).

The other approach, of course, is for the BT to wait and draw cards until the BT has Infection cards that match a city cards that the players have discarded (to build Research stations or for flights or cures) and then infect three of those cities before spreading out purple cubes more widely. This, however, means that the BT threat is much slower to develop...
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Thomas Cauet
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
This is why many BT players like to get 3-4 purple cubes on the board on their very first two turns (infect locally, infect remotely each turn).

Yes, I really like how the BT is fragile at the beginning, and has to think twice before infecting. The 2 initial cards are just what he needs to get launched. Congrats for this expansion and thanks for your answer!
 
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Matthias Neumann-Brosig
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one strategy for the BT we came up with in the last game is carefully deciding which colors you keep in your hand, and which you dont. in that game, the BT (me) was up against the medic and the scientist. as the medic was present, i couldnt let them find a cure too easily, so i drew a few cards in the first rounds. the players were busy keeping red and black under control. therefore, after drawing a red card, i immediately played it - mostly for traveling purposes, but some for remote infection. at the same time, i piled up purple cubes in the "harmless" but distant yellow and blue areas of the board. the players lost due to a triple outbreak around tokio. by that time, the purple cubes were also down to 4... so they had to react to that threat.

its just interesting how you can shift the threats the specific colors pose by meddling with the cances to draw these colors...
 
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Yan
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Layana wrote:
one strategy for the BT we came up with in the last game is carefully deciding which colors you keep in your hand, and which you dont. in that game, the BT (me) was up against the medic and the scientist. as the medic was present, i couldnt let them find a cure too easily, so i drew a few cards in the first rounds. the players were busy keeping red and black under control. therefore, after drawing a red card, i immediately played it - mostly for traveling purposes, but some for remote infection. at the same time, i piled up purple cubes in the "harmless" but distant yellow and blue areas of the board. the players lost due to a triple outbreak around tokio. by that time, the purple cubes were also down to 4... so they had to react to that threat.

its just interesting how you can shift the threats the specific colors pose by meddling with the cances to draw these colors...

This strategy makes the BT worthwhile to capture as it result in immediate and harmless dilution of the infection discard pile. A pain relief. So you can't be to reckless.

Strategies where the BT only have 1 or 2 cards in his hands at anyone point in time makes capture borderline useless. Therefore, you can be quite reckless.
 
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Art Silverio

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We played this game last night and while I enjoyed it, I thought it ended up being a little boring for the BT even though he(me) won. They ran out of cards.

I was playing against the Dispatcher, The Field Operative and the Medic.

I was the BT and half way through the game the cure for purple was found. There was only 1 research station in play (Atlanta). After I blew that up I didn't really have anything to do. The blue and yellow diseases were cured before I could sabotage though.

The other players had the special event card that would allow them to build a research station for free at any time so they waited and tried to build up cards so everyone had the right colors and then build the research station and win it. Kinda left me with move around the board and draw cards as my only options.

What am I missing?
 
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Tom Lehmann
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Turo8 wrote:
Kinda left me with move around the board and draw cards as my only options. What am I missing?

Curing purple is not the same as eradicating purple???

After the cure, did you continue to infect the board with purple cubes, particularly in the blue and yellow already cured zones, to force players to spend time/actions heading back into these zones to deal with purple?
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Art Silverio

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That's right. It had been a while since we played and we treated cured diseases as eradicated.

That would make it much more interesting. Thx!
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