So, this is just a mini review examining the new roles that come in the first expansion for the 2008 hit Pandemic.
On the Brink adds many new ways of playing Pandemic but it also adds new material that can simply be added straight into the base game.
Each of the new roles add a little complexity, but not too much. Although they all add exciting new abilities some of them feel a little underpowered when compared to the original 5 roles. In particular we find ourselves struggling for victory without the Dispatcher or the Researcher.
The Archivist – The Archivist has a hand limit of 8, an exceptionally useful ability as it allows you to hold almost 2 complete cures in your hand, meaning that if you have 4 Reds and 4 Blues you don’t need to choose which to get rid of until you draw the card that completes one set or the other.
The second ability allows the player to draw the city card of the city they are in from the discard pile. This adds several benefits, for example, the other players can choose to Fly more often as they aren’t wasting cards as you can pull the cards back into your hand if necessary. Also, for 2 actions you can charter a flight (as long as the card is in the discard pile) making the Archivist a slower version of the Troubleshooter.
For me I suspect that the Archivist is overpowered. His power to draw cards out of the discard pile makes him great for finding cures as other players can effectively discard cards without fear that they will be lost. He can also build research stations and get to troubled areas of the board with relative ease. Worse still the character gets better as the game goes on as the discard pile gets bigger. So, while he’s very useful he might just be a little too useful for a tight game.
Containment Specialist – This is a very useful role, although not as useful as the Medic if you have a cured disease. Whenever the Containment Specialist enters a city with 2 or more cubes he can remove 1 for free.
Of course this means that you will spend much of the game hanging around in highly diseased areas trying to make your moves count as much as possible. Of course that’s really what Pandemic is, making every move count. I think overall I’d rather play the Medic because of how useful he can be in the late game but still I find this role enjoyable.
Epidemiologist – This role was an obvious one. I can’t count the number of times in the last two turns of the game we’ve looked around the table and realised we could have won, but only if the current player could take a card from someone else and that is exactly what the Epidemiologist can do.
The Epidemiologist can take a card from a player in the same city as himself as long as it’s not the city they are both in. I guess that is to stop players taking a card and then using to build a research station or to charter a flight.
This is a great power and one that can really save your bacon in the late game, but not too over powered either.
Field Operative – The Field Operative is an interesting role that can become better in the late game in a four player game when you may struggle to find the fourth cure.
The Field Operative is allowed to cure by handing in 3 cards of the right colour and 3 cubes. Once during each turn the Field Operative can place a cube on his card. Because the Field Operative can return the cube at anytime you might as well collect a cube once per turn because you never know when they will come in useful.
I like the Field Operative because she offers something really different to game play. She’s probably not as effective as the scientist but because you get to wander the globe collecting samples she just feels more fun to play.
Generalist – The Generalist, although a useful character, feels a little dull. I don’t know if its the art or the fact that the pawn is a dull grey but something about this role feels a little “meh”.
Maybe its because her special power is only an additional action, which, like I said, is useful, but it’s not “cool”. Over the course of the game you will get to do more stuff than anyone else but you’ll never feel as special, or maybe that’s just me.
Operations Expert – You never miss the operations expert until you don’t have one. This role from the original game was considered so underpowered that the role was rewritten for On The Brink to include a new power, the Operations Expert can discard any city card at a Research Station to make a charter flight move.
Add this increased mobility to the fact that the Operations Expert can build a research station for 1 action and the role becomes very useful. For two moves and one card the Operations Expert can get to any troubled location on the board, which can be very handy indeed.
The Troubleshooter – The Troubleshooter is the clairvoyant of the Pandemic universe, he always knows which cities will be infected at the end of his turn, an ability that becomes even more useful with fewer players.
In addition he is possibly the most mobile character in the game as he can fly to any city he has the card for without discarding it. As well as helping keep outbreaks under control this special ability is a big boon when it comes to sharing knowledge.
The Troubleshooter however can become a little overpowered in a two player game especially when combined with the Researcher.
Overall then the new roles add a lot more variety and fun to the game. Is there some “power creep”? Maybe a little, but the expansion also adds ways to make the game harder to win, including a 7th epidemic! Also, it is worth noting that there are fewer Special Cards in a two player game now, so those powerful combos I mentioned for Two Player can come in handy.
Would I ever play the game without the extra roles? Absolutely not! And I guess that is the mark of a great addition to the game. So, yes, more variety means more fun and more replayabilty. QED!