Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss: the review of the contagious expansion

Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss: the review of the contagious expansion

Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss

Pandemic (or Pandemia), since its arrival in stores, has immediately become a great success with the public and critics to become a "new classic" in the world of board games. Net of an engaging and satisfying gameplay, the basic product "limits" usability to the four-player table and leads to a pace of play that can appear repetitive if not moved over time by additions and variations. Starting from 2009, therefore, almost annually, a series of expansions or reinterpretations of the original game arrived on the market. One of these is Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss, the first expansion that arrived in Italy in 2013 thanks to Asterion and which now returns to our country thanks to Asmodee and Z-MAN Games. Here is our review.

Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss: unboxing and materials

This is an expansion that, at least as regards the sales package, resumes the same far from compact dimensions of the basic box with, therefore, numerous additions and extensions that increase tension, difficulty and number of players at the various games (from 2 to 5). Aesthetically it is the joy of collectors because it presents artwork identical to the original copy, but opening it one realizes that even the materials with which the internal elements are made are of great care and study. For example, there are circular transparent plastic containers similar to Petri dishes useful for containing the cubes of various colors that represent the various strains that threaten humanity. In the expansion there is a new bacillus represented by the classic glossy plastic cubes this time in purple.

There is also a graphic improvement to update the original game board to the challenge called Mutation which will be placed next to the four bacteria already present on the board. The character and event cards faithfully reproduce those already observed in the basic version as well as the table in which the bioterrorist can secretly mark his moves which presents an easily photocopied A4 format. Ultimately the new game components are the following: 7 new role cards and the corresponding tokens, 8 new event cards, 8 epidemic cards of the virulent strain, 12 purple disease cubes, 1 purple disease token, 1 sticker indicating the cure and card, 2 mutation cards, 1 bioterrorist hunting pad, 1 epidemic card, 1 consultation card, 4 customizable blank cards and 5 slides with labels.

Three expansions for the price of one

The expansion is aimed at audiences over the age of 10 and has a duration of approximately 45 minutes. Obviously, you must also have the base game and know it thoroughly. Indeed Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss presents three new challenges that add new spice to the classic game for those who want to further animate the gameplay. The first addition, in fact, only adds another difficulty to the base game. This takes the name of virulent strain and provides for the introduction of new epidemics with a red background to replace the canonical ones.

Also in this case, the number of negative event cards (from 4 to 7) will determine the level difficulty of the rescue mission followed by the players. In this case, however, every time a negative card is revealed the effects will be decidedly more tragic and above all for one of the four killer bacteria present on the board that will be our virulent strain. The side effects of this new disease will be exposed in the Pandemic cards handed out to players and will affect the various game turns. The further difficulties will be presented on the individual red cards and include, for example, an increase in the number of cards necessary for the cure or the limit of travel for the cure and much more. In short, while keeping the base game and the victory conditions constant, the difficulty rises considerably.

The second addition, however, is the challenge called Mutation which, also in this case, complicates the players' mission. In fact, the bacteria become 5 since one of them has evolved into a new, more lethal species. These are represented by the aforementioned purple cubes that can come into play in three different ways. Before starting this mode, the board must first be updated with the sticker which also provides for the relative care, in addition to the cards to be inserted in the event deck and in the contamination deck. Then the addition of the new bacterial strain can take place in the following ways:

A mutation card is revealed in a place where normal epidemic contaminations are already present: a single cube of the new strain is added; A mutation event is drawn instead of a normal event; When during a canonical contamination process there are one or more cities where there are cubes of the mutated gene, then a new purple cube is placed. To find the cure, in this case, five cities of various colors must be discarded with at least one of them infected with the newly evolving disease. The rounds take place normally and the players win if they have managed to heal all five logs, or the initial four by having, but removed all the purple cubes from the board.

The third addition is perhaps one of the more details as it introduces the challenge of the bioterrorist. Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss transforms the base game into a sort of investigative chase against one of the players who will play the evil agent intent on spreading the fifth bacterium around the world. For the team of investigators, the gameplay does not change much from the base game as the ultimate goal is always to defeat all the disease cubes. This time, however, there is the addition of a not indifferent random factor which is represented by the bioterrorist, or rather a real player who will move in secret, noting all the stages on the appropriate player card supplied.

The peculiarity lies in the fact that this addition makes the game much deeper and unexpected and for the seekers of cures it will become more complex to manage two different fronts: preventing outbreaks and making life difficult for the bioterrorist. The latter will not use the four canonical viruses, but will have fun spreading the fifth purple strain around the globe, a bit like in Mutation mode. That's not all, since the secret options available to the agent of evil are very dangerous and consist of local contamination, i.e. the placement of a purple cube in the city where it is currently located, or in that remote contamination, obtained by discarding. of the corresponding contamination card. Furthermore, the criminal is also allowed to carry out sabotage actions against the forces of good.

The only possibility for the good of winning is to discover the position of the bioterrorist and try to capture him, this will imply the loss of all the contamination cards in the possession of the bioterrorist. However, the criminal's game is not over as he will still be able to fish or escape capture. After all, his purpose is to protect the disease he spreads, and if the good is blocked from capturing him, the cubes can still proliferate. This is why outbreaks are introduced, or the possibility of spreading the disease even without the need for the intervention of the bioterrorist. The aim of the players is to cure all five diseases by totally eliminating the purple cubes. The bioterrorist, on the other hand, wins if even having eliminated all diseases there is at least one purple cube on the map. The draw occurs if all but the purple disease remain.

An expansion that does not change the soul of the classic game

Pandemic - Edge of the abyss is an expansion really interesting to bring even more difficulty and replayability to the base game. First of all, the addition of the fifth player is really important because it allows you to better manage every nefarious event that happens in the game world. In one case, even the fifth player can act as a real enemy that brings the game to a level of complexity never seen before. After all, the fil-rouge of this expansion is precisely the increase in difficulty and unpredictability of events given that in the base game we were limited only to randomly placing the epidemic cards. What makes the bioterrorist mode well balanced despite the high complexity is the fact that the player's identity is known, but despite this the chances of a draw or defeat by the good faction are equally high. The third game mode, therefore, is strictly recommended for long-time players of Pandemic as it is necessary to know carefully every possible stratagem both to be a criminal and above all to find the cure by moving on two highly inaccessible terrains.


In conclusion, Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss is a truly remarkable expansion for the Pandemic base game that we recommend everyone to have in their library. With just one game box, three new modes are added to increase replayability, longevity, complexity and of course the interaction between players. However, the gameplay remains unchanged as regards the basic characteristics, so for example you will not be able to have greater control over the pandemic dynamics (unless you are the bioterrorists who can only add a little more pepper in almost total freedom) . Net of this, Pandemic - On the edge of the abyss will give you many hours of fun and will allow even one more player than normal to experience the liveliness of the famous Leacock title.

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