Pandemic and Pandemic: On the Brink Reviews

Pandemic and Pandemic on the Brink games setup
As I have been playing games and reviewing them, some of my friends have suggested/requested that I review games that I have already played instead of just new games. After all, just because I had already played it doesn't mean that they have. With that in mind, I will begin reviewing some games I had previously played when I get around to it - and since I just tried Pandemic: On the Brink Expansion yesterday, I figured I would go ahead and review it and Pandemic at the same time.

Pandemic is a cooperative game (similar to Shadows Over Camelot and Battlestar Galactica)in which the different players take on different roles to fight several new diseases that are striking the world to prevent them from becoming major outbreaks that overrun the world.

There are several positives about Pandemic. First of all, the mechanics of the game work very well and are very balanced. None of the roles are overpowered compared to the others (though the Medic might be close). Next, the difficulty level is adjustable through the number of "Epidemic" cards that are included. The more Epidemics that you include, the harder the game becomes. Thirdly, the game is easy to learn, and yet challenging enough that you can play it often without feeling like you will always win, and so it is ideal for bringing in new players (read, "the ladies" - this is one that my wife enjoys playing with me).

The final thing to note about Pandemic will be a positive to some people and a negative to others. Pandemic is strictly cooperative. Shadows Over Camelot can have a traitor (which is optional) and in Battlestar Galactica it is just a matter of time until someone betrays you, Pandemic will never have a traitor, unless you just have a person you're playing with who refuses to work with the rest of you (and then it's not the game's fault).

Overall, I would give Pandemic a 9.0/10. It is one of the best cooperative games I have ever played, and I would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys that style of game.

Now, with that said, it's time to get to On the Brink. The first thing that I noticed when opening this expansion is that there isn't really that much in the box. At the $30 MSRP, you don't really get that many pieces - there are about 20 new cards, a notepad of paper, one new disease, new wooden pawns to represent new roles, and some petri-dishes that you can use to hold the disease cubes.

Once I got past the limited number of pieces, On the Brink is pretty good. The first thing that it does is expand the standard game - there are new Role options, it adds the option of playing with a 5th player, and it adds an extra "Epidemic" card so that you can make the game ridiculously hard.

The next thing that On the Brink gives you are new ways of playing the game. There are three new game modes, some of which can be played together. In the first game mode (the one that we played), you replace the Epidemic cards with special new Epidemic cards, and you identify one of the diseases as the "Virulent Strain". This was very enjoyable, and still stayed with the theme of Pandemic, which to me is a positive. The next mode allows for a "Mutating Strand", which, again would add difficulty and complexity but would still stay with the normal Pandemic theme.

In the final mode, one of the players takes on the role of the "Bio-Terrorist". This mode would be for the players that didn't like the fact that Pandemic was cooperative in the first place, and all of the players that are not the Bio-Terrorist are trying to locate him so that they can stop him.

Overall, my biggest complaint with this game is what I stated previously - there's not that much to it for the $30 sticker price. However, with that said, I liked Pandemic, and this allowed me to get more playability out of a game that I already enjoyed, so it winds up coming in at an 8.0/10.

Like cooperative games? You might also be interested in reading about Lord of the Rings, Legend of Drizzt, or Yggdrasil. Or, for a longer review, you might check out the Board Game Family's Pandemic Review.

Civilization the Board Game (Eagle Games) Review

Civilization board game from Eagle games
So, I finally got around to playing the copy of Civilization Board Game that I bought a year ago. As a disclaimer, I only played the standard version of the game due to learning and time constraints (the standard version still took 2.5 hours).

Civilization has a few good features. First, as with most Eagle board games, it has high production value including over 200 figures that were well sculpted along with a very large, detailed board. Secondly, the game has several fun elements to it (assuming that you enjoy empire building games). You are able to advance through multiple ages, build on previous success, and attack when you have a strategic advantage militarily.

Unfortunately, the cons on this game highly outweighed the pros. When playing this, when one person got an advantage, there was no way of gaining ground. And, unfortunately, a lot of the early advantages are luck based more than strategy based. In the game that we played, one person was able to get several good tiles while exploring, whereas the other person had some of the bad tiles that were revealed. This gave the first person a minor advantage early, but then since success builds so heavily on itself in this game, that person's advantage grew quickly. As a disclaimer, we played this game 2-player, and I would assume that a third player would keep some of this in check, as the two people that were losing would be able to join forces to gain ground on the person winning.

The next problem that I had with this game came with being able to easily recognize what was going on. Since the military units were all the same color (and distinguished with a flag bearer in the same region as the military units) it is difficult to see what units are yours and where you have the strategic advantage.

The next point of interest could be a pro or con, depending on what kind of game you enjoy. The amount of time to play the game is very excessive. Our game took 2.5 hours, and we played 1) the standard "fast paced" version of the game, 2) we only had 2 players, 3) we had very little military conflict, 4) we advanced through the final 3 ages in approximately 3 rounds. As stated previously, I think that this game would work better with 3 or more players - however the problem with that is that I would imagine that this would take 4+ hours to play with more players and in the "full" version of the game. This is a time commitment that I am rarely able to make to a game, and there are several games that I would rather play if I were to make this commitment.

This was a decent game, and I don't feel like I wasted my time playing it. I would, however recommend Through the Ages if you are interested in empire building games, as it can be played much more quickly.

Overall, I would give this game about a 5.0/10. Next time that I'm in the mood to play a game like this, I think I'll just wind up playing Sid Meier's Civilization V or Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution.

If you're looking for a civilization board game, you might check out Fantasy Flight's Civilization board game, Clash of Cultures, and Empires of the Void.

Resident Evil Deck Building Game Review

So, here it goes for my first review!

Yesterday, I had the chance to try out Resident Evil Deck Building Game.

Overall, this game is fairly inexpensive (I think the MSRP is about $30), and has a lot of similar mechanics to the other deck building games that have been created recently (such as Dominion, Thunderstone, Ascension Chronicle of the Godslayer, and Heroes of Graxia). Like in Thunderstore, there are cards that can be purchased for improving your deck as well as monsters to be defeated, but several things should be noted about the game....

There are some very interesting concepts that were added to this game. First, you do not know the power of the monsters when you chose whether or not to attack. This truly gives it a unique "Resident Evil" feel, because you are wandering around the Mansion and you may find a very strong zombie, and you may find a weak one. Moreover, this game actually allows you to be knocked out by the monsters, and if you are knocked out often enough, you can even be killed, thus eliminating you from the game.

Next, the way that weapons are handled in this game is very interesting and works pretty well in execution. Since most of the weapons are guns, there is an ammunition requirement on the weapons that you play. When going exploring in the Mansion, you first specify what guns you intend to use, and you have to have enough ammunition to actually power them. After all, even the strongest gun, when empty, is completely worthless.

Thirdly, another area that I think was heavily influenced by the video game related to "finding" the overpowered weapons. For one, the Mansion had a couple of amazing weapons hidden in it (Gatling Gun and Rocket Launcher) that you might find on an explore turn. Also, each stack of weapon cards had a copy of a slightly different weapon mixed in - for example, the "Combat Knife" pile had a "Survival Knife" mixed in that would show up at some time during the game as available for purchase if people bought enough Combat Knives.

Finally, the game had several different play options - one where you kill zombies and just try to get the most points, another where you are surviving and a final one where you are fighting against the other players. I think that these options would add replay value.

Now some areas where this game struggled. There were times in the game when your turns were completely wasted. "Money" in the game is primarily on the ammunition cards, and so you have to choose whether you are using it to buy new cards or to power weapons. Late in the game, I had several turns where I had enough Money to purchase any card in the game, but there were no cards that were worth buying, and since I drew all ammunition I could not enter the Mansion, so I would just pass.

The number of action cards available for purchase was sporadic. For example, one of the actions allows you to trash cards from your discard pile, and then trash that card. There were approximately 5 of these cards available total (and the game is supposed to be up to 4 players!) However, another card that gave you an extra draw and then two new actions had about 10 copies available. I did not understand this, and it really limited how good of a deck you could build.

Overall, this game is worth playing if you like deck building games, or just trying new games in general. It is not one of the greatest games I have ever played, but it is definitely not one that I regret playing, as I enjoyed several of the mechanics that the game introduced. Overall, I think I'd give it about a 7.5/10.

Happy zombie hunting!