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Subject: Blue Death and a Little Mutant rss

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Michal G.
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Yesterday I finally got my copy of On The Brink. With my wife we opened the box, took out all the wonderfull stuff (those gorgeous petri dishes ) and set up our first game. We decided to chalenge virulent strain on our first game and mutation on our second.

Quick info: we both have been playing Pandemic for quite a while now, winning hard mode about 50% of time. Feeling quite strong we decided to play new challenges on normal level. This is how it went:

Game 1: Blue Death

Normal difficulty
Virulent Strain challenge
2 players:
- Me as Resarcher
- My wife as Containment Specialist

Start of the game, diseases spread equally around the world with the blue having the most cubes centered in northern Europe. We treated hot zones keeping everything under control. In meantime my wife gathered with my help 5 blues, so our first cure was on the way when first epidemic hit in the 4th turn:
Most cubes - blue, virulent strain effect - if eradicated bring back to play.
So blue became our virulent disease with no ill effects at this time.
We already had 5 blues so cure for the blue was ready. With the cure we brought down blues to 3 cubes on the board (1 cube per city spread out across Europe and North America). We debated if we should eradicate blue, but the situation in South America became alarming (danger of 3 city chain reaction) so we decided to leave it. We thougt, blue is under control, no outbreaks, nothing can go wrong, right? Boy, were we wrong!
Next turn: South America alert canceled, red cure on the way and second epidemic hit us. Red city gets infected with 3 cubes. Virulent strain effect - each outbreak of the blue counts as 2 when updating outbreak counter. In infection phase London is drawn, so London now has 2 cubes, Essen has 1 cube but no other city around it is infected. Also there were no outbreaks, counter is still on 0. So everything is fine. Yeah, right!!!
My turn: I treat red, no other 3 cube city on the board. I draw my 2 cards - 3rd epidemic. City to get infected: PARIS. 3 cubes in Paris, 2 in London, 1 in Essen. Infection phase:
first card - Paris -> OUTBREAK -> London has 3 cubes -> Essen 2 cubes
second card -> London -> OUTBREAK in London -> 3 cubes in Essen -> OUTBREAK in Paris -> OUTBREAK in Essen
4 Outbreaks in one turn, each counts as 2 (blue is virulent disease).
4 * 2 = 8 - WE LOSE!

So we just sit there staring at each other and asking: what the heck happened??? Everything under control, 0 outbreaks, no 3 cube cities, ready cure for the virulent disease and one infection phase later it is all over (after 15 minutes of play)

Side note on the new role: Containment Specialist
My wife really likes this one. He is really handy when dealing with clusters of cities. She could quickly overcome alarming regions, able to bring down even 4 endangerd cities in one turn - very handy.

Final comments on the game:
Virulent strain challenge adds a real twist to the game. Thanks to the different virulent effects and not knowing which will come next you can never be sure what will hit you. Anylizing the game - we should have eradicated blues as soon as possible, because they "killed" us in one turn. But hey, this was our first try on this new challenge so we werent expecting to be that nasty

Game 2: Little Mutant

Normal difficulty
Mutation challenge
2 players:
- Me as Troubleshooter
- My wife as Epidemiologist

We began with yellow swarming the board, couple of blues and blacks and no red. Our first thought: yellow is going to be a problem (but they wasn't - check final comments below). So we focused on yellow keeping them at bay. Meanwhile central Europe started to have problem with blue disease, so we I went there to treat. My wife was searching for the cures, so when we were close to eachother I gave cards she needed. Soon we had 2 cures for red and blue and I was close to getting black. When first mutation hit the board I was close by to react. Overall it hit for 3 cubes only Essen so it was the only city I ever cured purples in this game. We left "mutated" cities untreated so to have greater chance on discovering purple cure.
Game went on and we found all 4 standard cures. We had only 3 outbreaks, all of them due to epidemics. Thanks to my ability to inspect infection pile top cards I was always where I needed to be. My wife as Epidemiologist quickly discovered main cures. In the end she got hold "mutated" city card and we were able to find fifth cure and win the game.
End result: 3 outbreaks, 4 epidemics, 5 cures discovered.

Side note on the new role: Epidemiologist
Very fun class to play, my wife liked it. Its ability, to take one non matching card really come in handy. She discovered 4 out of 5 cures in this game! After seeing it in action, I can say that this role works in a whole different way than Researcher. Resarcher gives away his cards, helping others to find cures. Epidemiologist gathers cards to find cures by himself. So he is more like Scientist even though his ability looks almost same as the one of Resarcher. And I can't wait to try him out in a game with more players - I think he will be even more powerfull than in 2 player game.

Side note on the new role: Troubleshooter
I really, REALLY like this one. He has two abilities: peek infection cards that will hit the board in his infection phase (in there is no epidemic of course) and perform direct flight without giving away the city card. Those two abilities allow him to do exactly what is named for: take care of trouble situations. Maybe he is not as efficent as medic or containment specialist in treating diseases, but he can do what they can't always do - check where there is going to be trouble and instantly get there. My favourite move:
1) Peek what is in the infection deck
2) Perform direct flight to the city I have card - I do not discard this card.
3) Perform charter flight to the city that will be in danger in this infection phase.
4) Treat the city.
So spending only 2 actions and one card for charter flight, I can get to the city that I KNOWN will outbreak in this turn and prevent the outbreak. Powerfull!!! (Of course it is possible to draw epidemic card in which case all may go wrong, but that is the beauty of this game - tension in every turn and you never know what will happen )

Final comments on the game:
This game was really fun to play thanks to the new roles we played. Mutation challenge itself was a bit strange to me. Instead of complicating things, I think it lowered difficulty. I am almost sure that it was because of lucky placement of the mutation cards in our pile: one of the mutation cards (the one to add one purlple cube to every 2 cube city) had no effect and other two haven't pose significant threat. But my point is elsewhere.
Each mutation card requires you to draw card from the bottom of the infection pile. In effect, this will enlarge infection discard pile. As I wrote in the begining, we fought yellow will be a problem but they werent - does mutation cards added 9 new infection cards from to the infection pile before second epidemic. In result there were so much cards in the discard infection pile, that when epidemics hit, we had no problem with treating diseases - they popped out all around the world giving us enough time to prepare for them and there was never a cluster of them in one place. Mutation cards effectively lower chances to have an outbreak due to drawing a city you infected with 3 cubes when epidemic hits (beacuse it adds cards to the infection discard pile).
In the end our Litle Purple Mutant gave us almost no headache - the only difficulty was that we needed fifth cure to finish the game.
But that was only one game, we will play more to discover what twists will this purple mutant suprise us with. Oh, and I can't wait to try Virulant Strain + Mutation challenge - this will be a blast

On the side note: treating purple may not be as easy as it looks. Getting that one card with "mutated" city can be really hard.

Thanks for reading and wish you fun with this great expansion to one of my favourite games.
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