Pandemic is a great game and many believe was the first really great co-op game. Still, after a number of plays the game becomes a bit repetitive as the same things that make the game great also make it a bit simple and perhaps lacking in drama. A game like Arkham Horror (another co-op game) is less balanced than Pandemic but I think has a bit more replay value for the exact same reason.
So, we come to Pandemic: On the Brink. Rather than go the route of games like Arkham Horror and risk some kind of expansion overload (though, technically, the Arkham Horror expansions do not need to be mixed, separating them is kind of a pain in the butt so generally we use everything when we play), Matt Leacock & Tom Lehmann have decided to release an expansion that offers new challenges which can be added into the game and played at the difficulty levels that were already available.
In addition to these challenges they have created new roles that players can play and modified one of the old roles. The Operations Expert was often seen as the junk role in our groups and the fact that he has been “patched” will probably make some players happy. There are also a few new Special Event cards, but only some of them are used per game so the deck is not getting any bigger (in fact because of the way the new rules work the deck can be slightly smaller).
One of the new challenges bears special mention in that it does change Pandemic into a competitive game. The Bio Terrorist Challenge pits one player against the group. This is an interesting choice for a game that was lauded as being such a great co-op game. Still, it does expand the playability of Pandemic and for some groups, those that don’t love co-op or have some players that don’t love co-op, it will be seen as a major boon.
So, go check out the rules for On the Brink and let me know what you think!