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Subject: A Look at the Bio-Terrorist Challenge rss

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David F
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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On the Brink was one of my most anticipated expansions ever because it promised to add tons of replayability and difficulty to a game that loses its legs after 5-10 plays. While my first few plays with Pandemic provided some of the best highlights of board gaming for me, the optimal path to take becomes very obvious after just a few plays, then it becomes you and team vs. luck of the card draw. This is true for every Pandemic player I know who has at least 5 plays under his belt. Also, Pandemic, even on Hardcore difficulty with 4 players, pales in comparison on difficulty against recent co-operative games like Ghost Stories.

The new roles and event cards go a long way toward rendering the game more replayable by making it less predictable. Less predictable is good for Pandemic, because it provides more tension. The 10 roles provide many, many permutations of player powers for you to experiment with. The seeding of 2 event cards per player means you have no idea what cards you'll receive and can't bank of getting that One Quiet Night late in the game. It's also an elegantly simple way to ameliorate the variance in difficulty level that arises from player scaling (in the base game, the more players there are, the harder the game).

The great legs-adder is not the Virulent Strain or Mutation Challenge. The Virulent Strain merely adds random effects to each Epidemic, and simply ratchets up the difficulty level (albeit in a more interesting way than simply adding more Epidemics), not replayability. The Mutation Challenge is an excuse to add a fifth disease, and I can't help thinking that it's merely a warm-up to get you acquainted with the rules for the awesomeness of the Bio-Terrorist Challenge.

Those new roles, events and newfangled Epidemic cards provide lots of replayability, but there might always be hardcore players out there that again proclaim the game boring and stale, this time after, say, 90+ plays. The Bio-Terrorist Challenge is your warranty that Pandemic will have much stronger legs than that, because a person is far less predictable than a board game system. In essence, you add an "intelligent" human-controlled disease with the Bio-Terrorist Challenge, able to analyze the team's most glaring weaknesses and attack them.

The Bio-Terrorist is able to manipulate all 3 ways in which the doctors can lose. He can easily get the team to waste actions on treating purple cubes and rebuilding sabotaged research stations, making the draw-deck game clock tick faster; he can build toward 1-3 outbreaks for the tipping point if the team is beset early by them; he can try to exhaust the purple-cube supply by targeting heavily connected cities. A Bio-Terrorist has ample room to shift gears with objective.

For example, in my first game, the Bio-Terrorist was stealthy and conservative, and only came out guns a-blazing after hearing the team discuss cures, destroying research stations and forcing the team to scramble to rebuild them from cure-clogged hands. In my second game (as a Bio-Terrorist), I got caught nearly every 3-4 turns, but with outbreak markers and disease cubes all in the safe level (they had a Medic, for criss'sakes!), I targeted draw-deck depletion, and hung around near the player pawns all game, pissing them off with purple cubes. Sure enough, they wasted valuable actions hunting me down when I made it clear I was close by, and lost when the draw deck emptied on them. The point is: you have a lot of flexibility as the Bio-Terrorist in how to hurt the doctors.

On the doctors' side, how hard is it to find the Bio-Terrorist? If the BT wants, he can generally stay hidden all game, but he does very little damage that way. Whenever he does something more nefarious, he can be narrowed down to a 1 or 2-city radius from last known location (1-radius if the BT is pressing), and it is very possible to set up a perimeter on him. More interesting, and more difficult, is the decision on whether to actually go capture the B-T or to focus on treating and curing. The reward of capturing the B-T is variable and unpredictable (basically amounting to getting a free pass of infections on the infection cards in the B-T's hand), but is yet another reward to consider when deciding what to focus on (get red, get blue or the B-T?).

Besides, there are now richer options for playing Pandemic. Is there a Pandemic hater in your group who grumbles about playing it again for the umpteenth time? Let him be the B-T and he can relish the challenge of making Pandemic as miserable for you as it is for him. Sick of a control freak telegraphing everybody's moves in vanilla Pandemic and overruling everybody else? Make him be B-T, beat him soundly and show him who to listen to next time.

The B-T Challenge is a solid winner in my book. The roles and events add replayability, while the Virulent Strain and Mutation Challenges add difficulty. The B-T Challenge adds both!
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Jim Rice
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Nice write up. I let the whiner of the group take the BT roll and it certainly helped clam him up.
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Gordon Adams
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What a horrible role to play. I refuse to be the BT....so there arrrh
 
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Captain Spaulding
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So is the Bio-Terrorist mechanic something like finding Dracula in Fury of Dracula?
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Jim Cote
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selwyth wrote:
The Mutation Challenge is an excuse to add a fifth disease...

But it's not simply a fifth disease, even when played with just this variant.

- The original four diseases are clumped geographically. The purple disease pops up all over.

- The original four diseases have 24 cubes. The purple disease has 12. You have to worry about it in a different way, and consider treating it sooner.

- The original four diseases spread using the same mechanisms. The purple disease spreads from infection card events and player card events.

- The game is easier when there are fewer cubes of the original four diseases on the board. It's easier to cure the purple disease when it's more abundant.

I was amazed at how different the purple disease felt during play.
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Salty Skwib
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ekted wrote:
selwyth wrote:
The Mutation Challenge is an excuse to add a fifth disease...

But it's not simply a fifth disease, even when played with just this variant.

- The original four diseases are clumped geographically. The purple disease pops up all over.

- The original four diseases have 24 cubes. The purple disease has 12. You have to worry about it in a different way, and consider treating it sooner.

- The original four diseases spread using the same mechanisms. The purple disease spreads from infection card events and player card events.

- The game is easier when there are fewer cubes of the original four diseases on the board. It's easier to cure the purple disease when it's more abundant.

I was amazed at how different the purple disease felt during play.


I tried the Mutation variant a couple of nights ago. The purple disease punched me, laughed at me, and then shoved dirt into my face. It then revved its motorcycle, did a wheelie in my driveway, lit my tree on fire with its cigarette, and tore off down the road with its middle finger extended.

The purple disease is one bad-ass messed up sumbitch.
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Brain Less
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Played one game as the Bio-Terrorist. I really wanted to be the BT because I have this tendency to try to run the game even when I try to not do it. At first I was not sure what I would do, but around the middle of the game, I concentrated in infecting around the black area. I managed to cause 2 purple outbreaks but what was more satisfying is that I forced them to stay in the area, preventing them to take care of yellow which was growing slowly but surely. Soon enough, yellow started to outbreak, leading them to an outbreak loss. Overall, I loved it. After beating the game 3 times in a row on hard before the expansion, I got bored of it. The expansion bring back this excellent game back to life!
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Claude Ferron
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Have you tried the Vanilla game with 6 Green epidemic cards, but using the new bonus cards + the new roles? It is always a good challenge.

No ones has mention something about playing the LEGENDERY level (7 epidemic card). I'm just too afraid to try it shake
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Joseph
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Ankeny
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cferron wrote:
Have you tried the Vanilla game with 6 Green epidemic cards, but using the new bonus cards + the new roles? It is always a good challenge.

No ones has mention something about playing the LEGENDERY level (7 epidemic card). I'm just too afraid to try it shake


We tried it once............

GOT SMACKED!!!!
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Nathan Roberts
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G'day Selwyth,
Your acuity and demonstrative appraisal is judicious and enlightening as usual. Many thanks!
I would just add that utilising the Warp's Threat Level Six cards alongside the Bio Terrorist gives the longshanks award to Pandemic! Amazing concept and scalability, I would recommend this combination to any Pandemic fan.
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Nicholas P.
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I'm so sold.
 
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Mads Di Angelo
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I know this is a bit of an old posting (2009), but I still feel inclined to say...

I have only played the BT once because it was far, far too easy. I just picked an out-of-the-way city (Sydney) and caused my stealthy, systematic damage from there. It wasn't long before the game was over -- and it hadn't been a ton of fun for any of us (me because the damage was too easy to inflict, them because they were distracted from the game by cleaning up my messes).

Love the other two variants. Should I give BT another chance?
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Ecosmith Ecosmith
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Is there a review anywhere which actually explains the mechanics of how the BT works?

Eco
 
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