Pandemic: The Cure is such a tight, streamlined game – as close to perfection as any disease-fighting, dice-rolling game could possibly get (see my review). So, what would I want from an expansion to one of my favourite games? Does it even need an expansion?
Regular Pandemic has had a steady stream of expansions and so surely Pandemic: The Cure would get one… I often asked myself what I would like from a Cure expansion: More roles would be essential. More events would also surely be a must (as I found I could quite often cycle through the entire events deck of 10 cards in a single game). I had seen a fan-made mutated purple disease expansion online (akin to regular Pandemic’s “On The Brink” expansion), so maybe an official version of that with its crazy unpredictable effects would be good. But I was sure that whatever the designers could come up with would be great…
Then it happened! Experimental Meds was announced and it would be a modular expansion with more roles (Yes!), more events (Yes!), the mutated purple disease (Yes!) and a totally new concept of Hot Zones (What!?... I mean Yes!).
Choose your Profession
Experimental Meds comes with eight new roles – more than the existing seven from the base game – all of which come with their own role card, pawn, and set of five custom dice unique to their role. Seven of these new roles will be familiar to players of regular Pandemic and its expansions.
These include an Archivist (who can raid the treatment center for samples), Epidemiologist (who can take double-samples), Field Director (who can treat adjacent regions), Field Operative (a bit of a lone-wolf who can’t share samples but can take them without locking-up his player dice), Operations Expert (builds treatment centers to help the team move around the globe more easily), Quarantine Specialist (prevents infection dice being added to her region) and a Troubleshooter (can use a Response Team to return infection dice to the bag, and has a fly and treat action).
The somewhat hilarious new addition to the team is a Celebrity Activist, who is not a medical professional, so can’t collect samples or find cures, but has a $ sign on one of her dice faces that allows her to splash her cash and help fund the CDC (rotate infection dice to their + side). Oh, and did I mention she has her own private jet that she can use to ferry the other players around the world like a taxi service for millionaires?!
While enjoying the variety and possibilities these new roles give, I found a few of them to be slightly overpowered (I’m looking at you, Quarantine Specialist and Field Director) and the Troubleshooter is on another level - she needs a cape as she has super hero abilities!
The 11 new events more than double the event count when added to the existing 10, and offer interesting new things to do in your fight to save the world. Perhaps the most interesting thing to say here is that some events have persistent effects that stay active for a full round. These are a very welcome addition to the game.
Teenage Mutant Purple Diseases
As in Pandemic: On The Brink, the purple disease makes the game a bit harder, adding an unpredictable fifth disease which can cause you to add more dice to the world or even discard them from the game completely – both highly undesirable occurrences!
These 12 purple dice are added to the game and the purple disease needs to be cured in addition to the existing four diseases. Attempting to cure the purple disease is also a minefield, where your cure result can potentially be reduced, but also doubled! (Calculators at the ready…!)
Some like it Hot
In the Hot Zones challenge, the different regions of the world are affected each time there is an epidemic. You start the game by putting the Hot Zone dice onto each segment of the infection track (except the first segment), then roll and add a Hot Zone dice to each region with the most infection dice of each colour.
When an epidemic occurs the Hot Zone die in the new section of the infection track is rolled then placed into the region with the current player. Hot Zones affect the regions in different ways. There are three “kind” die faces: Evacuation allows you to move an infection die or Hot Zone die to an adjacent region, Isolation Ward lets you to re-roll a bio-hazard result, and Hazardous Samples can be spent to add +1 to a cure roll. Once spent, a Hot Zone die is re-rolled.
Of the three “not so kind” Hot Zones, Transportation Lockdown means you have to spend double-movement to enter the region, Influx of Patients adds four infection dice to the Treatment Center if the region outbreaks, and if any infection dice are added to a region containing Rate Effect, you will need to add two infection dice from the bag to the world, then turn Rate Effect die to its Evacuation face.
I forgot to mention that Hot Zone effects are cumulative – I still have nightmares about a game I played when Europe had two Transportation Lockdown towers, meaning it would cost four movement to enter!
Final Thoughts on Pandemic Experimental Meds
I like the new challenges, and the events are also welcome, plus I like the variation of roles (the Celebrity Activist is hilarious!) but I've found that when playing the base game with the new roles, some of them are clearly overpowered, but they are better suited to the increased difficulties of the mutated purple disease and Hot Zones challenges.
If I had to pick a favourite of the two new modules I’d probably go for the purple mutated disease, because the Hot Zones add more complexity (and I hate those Transportation Lockdown towers!!), where playing with the purple mutated disease module keeps the game at a similar level of complexity to the already streamlined and fantastic base game.
While I feel this Pandemic title didn’t desperately need an expansion, as time goes on I increasingly welcome these modules and the undoubted longevity they add to the game. Experimental Meds will be a must buy for most.