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Pandemic: On the Brink

I'd be interested in hearing what you guys think of the expansion for Pandemic.
I know that "Pandemic is NOT a game!", because is a puzzle, a multiplayer puzzle.
But! Did you know that Pandemic: On the Brink, takes one of the players and make them the bad guy? Changing it from a puzzle to a test of skill.
If you do know, have you played it and what did you think?


  • Our thoughts on Pandemic:

    On the traitor side of Pandemic:

  • Actually the On the Brink expansion does not add a traitor to the team, what it does is takes the control of the disease spreading mechanic and gives it to one player, The Bio-terrorist. So its not just a matter of doing the math on who is playing sub optimally, since its not a secret.
  • The problem is the team-based nature of the game. All of the players are a team. (Or, all but one of the players are a team). No individual player has any meaningful input unless they are the best player. The best player can (and usually does) tell everyone else exactly what to do every turn.

    If someone who isn't good at the game disgrees with the experienced player, then they're either going to ruin the game for everyone else or be ignored. There's no point in having a team.
  • pandemic would work better as a two player game.
  • Cremlian said:

    pandemic would work better as a two player game.

    Assuming that one player is the Bio-terrorist. ;^) Regular Pandemic is just as bad two-player as it is with a full loadout.

  • Well I was referring to On the brink with one guy as the disease and the other as the scientists.
  • There are a few ways to make a good co-op game and the Pandemic model is not one of them.

    One model is to actually test the skills of each player individually and then add them up. This you can see in Left 4 Dead. Nobody can shoot zombies for you. The teams total combined zombie shooting skill is tested. Every player is meaningful.

    Another model is play it like Hanabi. Each player has exclusive access to critical information. Because that information is exclusive, each players actions become meaningful. One player can not carry the team to victory, but one can doom you all to failure.

    The third is the Space Alert model. Space Alert would theoretically fall into the same problems as Pandemic, but its real-time nature prevents that. Instead it ends up being more like a team crossword puzzle or word search. There are many tasks that can be performed in parallel, so each player contributes meaningfully. Of course, this only happens if all the Space Alert players are reasonably intelligent and skilled. If a player sucks at Space Alert, they will ruin everyone, unlike a crossword puzzle.

    Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (original) sort of combines L4D and Hanbit. Since you can freely share your private information, it's not necessarily exclusive. And only one or two players have critical information. Mostly it's the same as L4D. But some of the information is in real-time, like Space Alert, which means that even though you can tell other players whatever you want, they're not getting everything. Also, even though speech is free, miscommunication can still occur. When you have the map, it's all on you. If you are carrying the bucket, it's all on you.

    Pandemic and Shadows over Camelot are the bad kind of co-op game. Players do have unique abilities and exclusive information. But there is no real-time nature to the information. The restrictions on communication are also vague. Thus, everyone effectively has all information other than the traitors identity. But the traitors identity becomes obvious immediately to any skilled player.

    A team of people playing Tetris is equivalent to the best person on the team playing Tetris while everyone else watches. They can't help.

    I haven't played or read the rules of the Pandemic expansion, but it sounds to me like Fury of Dracula. One player is the bioterrorist and the other players team up against them. Fury of Dracula itself has good parts and bad parts. However, it also has that same problem that Pandemic has. It's really a two player game. Dracula vs. Hunters. Just because Hunters is a team of four players, it is best to let the one smart hunter make the decisions for all four.

    There is one case where these bad co-op games work. That is when all the players are skilled, but imperfect. In those cases the players can combine their mental powers to come up with even better strategies than any one of them could individually. The reason this doesn't happen is because Pandemic, Shadows, etc. are so simple that any skilled player will be perfect. To make the Pandemic model of co-op work, allow free communication, but make the game so vastly complex that all players must work together to get the best answer. Then it becomes much more like the crossword puzzle or Space Alert where parallel mental processing becomes an asset.
  • I agree with Scott's post on this matter. I was interested in playing Pandemic, I played it once and realised fairly quickly that it was kind of a waste of time if one person knows what they are doing.

    With the Left 4 Dead model, the reason that it beats other co-op games beyond just team zombie killing is the asymmetrical team shooter model. You are actively playing against another group. This becomes apparent when you hit the skill cap of being able to do a whole stage solo against the AI (and sometimes against low skill teams).

    It's the only reason why I see Steam friends move away towards other co-op games only to see them come back after a week or two. Cooperative gaming is boring when you know and (or) can execute (100%) what needs to be done.
  • Pandemic is a solitaire game that is popularly treated as a co-op game. Compare it to Ghost Stories or Yggdrasil.

    Actually, I find Pandemic's mechanics surprisingly satisfying, to the point that I've set it up and played four hands by myself. If everyone plays with open hands, giving those hands to different people doesn't change the game mechanically in any way. Instead, you have a herd of cats who are probably going to trip over one another and throw the game. It's 100% solvable, and I treat it more like an activity than a game - but it's an activity I find more satisfying than similar co-ops based only on the math problem presented on the board.

    Adding the Bioterrorist changes Pandemic into a two-player asymmetric game. Being the Bioterrorist is like being Dracula in Fury of Dracula, everyone knows who you are from the beginning. It is not comparable to the traitor in Shadows Over Camelot or the Cylon team in Battlestar Galactica.

    BSG is a hidden team game that is popularly treated as a co-op game. Compare it to Bang! or Shadow Hunters, only much longer. In all of these games, you do not know who your teammates are at the outset of the game. Some hidden team games give one side more information than the other - Werewolf, the Resistance, etc. - but they are still hidden team games.

    Being the traitor in BSG (and I assume in Shadows over Camelot, never played) is about assessing the proper time to twist the knife, meanwhile hoping that the good guys die by a thousand cuts due to incorrect assumptions and poor decisions. Mechanically, a competent team of humans in BSG have it super easy! They have so many ways to mitigate randomness. Compared to Pandemic, the board hardly even puts up a fight, and it needs the help of a skilled Cylon player to win. Unfortunately, that doesn't become apparent until you've played the game a few times. Knowing the proper time to twist the knife means having knowledge of the cards and mechanics. Compare BSG to Netrunner, where in low ELO play the corp has a massive advantage, and at high ELO play the runner has a similar advantage. Knowing the game is a huge advantage for the humans. There are some other considerations, like the human player not knowing what team they are actually on due to the sleeper phase... the takeaway being that the game in BSG actually emerges once all the players realize how easy it is to beat the board, and the Cylons have their work cut out for them.
  • The idea situation would be that the traitor in these games actually had a completely different set of rules from the group, such that the group -thinks- the traitor is contributing when in fact they're either plunging or twisting the knife. Unfortunately this does lead to the situation where eventually anyone who plays enough will know what to expect from a traitor, and though they might not have as good an idea of who is the traitor, they know how to mitigate the damage.

    Say for instance a widget in a game gives one victory point when played by a normal player. But for the traitor, it actually subtracts a VP from either the party or a person. Once everyone knows that that card when played by a traitor effectively reduces the VP pool then they can figure out a way to mitigate that, such as playing two VP widgets. This will lead to an escalation up to the n-th degree.
  • edited November 2013
    While I do agree with both Rym and Scott on the general weakness of team co-op games with complete information, I think that weakness is only really present when the game is played with players of varied skill level.

    For example, I bought Pandemic about a year ago, it was pretty much the first co-op game I had heard of and was intrigued. In retrospect I might have chosen a different co-op game knowing what I know now.
    When I got the game I pretty much played with the same two people each time I played. What this means is that the 3 of us are pretty much equally skilled at this game, so when any two of us or all three of us play, the game is well balanced and everyone contributes in a meaningful way (if someone misses something the others will always catch it).

    In short i guess what I am saying is that I disagree with the premise that there is always a player with a significantly better knowledge of the game a thus, might as well be playing alone.
    Post edited by kravenoff42 on
  • kravenoff, the game doesn't work just when people all have equal skill level. It works when no players have high skill level. That's most people, which is why the game is so popular. But for arrogant nerds like us who are smarter than most, and perfectly willing to say so, we will figure out something like Pandemic on the second or third turn of our first game.

    Look at how many people play Munchkin.
  • Today I learned: Elo is not an acronym. I propose that we backronym it so I feel better.
  • ... That is true.

    And full disclosure, the three of us I described do not play Pandemic that often so there is usually a "rust factor" that helps keep the game for being too predictable.
  • pence said:

    Today I learned: Elo is not an acronym. I propose that we backronym it so I feel better.

    Evaluating Like Opponents?
  • Effectively Likely Outcome?
  • Expected Level of Ownage
  • Expertise Level Order
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • Excised Lump Obliteration
  • Epic Lawls Occuring
  • Everyone Loses Occasionally
  • Everyone Loses Occasionally

    I have copied your statement as it contains validity.
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