My buddies and I have been hooked on Pandemic lately and I just picked up the On-the-Brink expansion for Pandemic.

I was reading the rulebook yesterday and I'm not quite sure if I get the Bio-terrorist (BT) challenge right. So the BT is off the board, and plays mostly on pen-&-paper, and the pawn comes to the board only when BT happens to be in the same city as one of the players (timing of putting the pawn on the board is also interesting, but I'll ask that separately).

According to the rulebook the BT has 2 actions and a move, so the BT can essentially:

  1. spread disease locally (L)
  2. spread remotely (R) by discarding
  3. travel remotely (F) by discarding
  4. sabotage (S) by discarding
  5. draw card (D)

I don't quite get the point of secrecy (writing on paper), especially considering that the actions have pretty obvious consequences:

  1. purple cube gets placed on the board
  2. BT discards a card and a purple cube is placed on the board
  3. BT discards a card (destination is the city on the card), BT announces that he was seen at an airport.
  4. BT discards a card, a station is removed from the board
  5. BT draws

So unless I misunderstood something, all BT actions are obvious to any alert player. What's the point of secrecy and note-taking?

  • 1
    For what it's worth, I think you might want to just try a game. It'll probably make it more obvious than all our explanations.
    – Cascabel
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:23
  • @Jefromi you're probably right... I'm just too psyched to play this role :D
    – posdef
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


To answer the question in the title: No. Without secrecy, it would be trivial for the BT to be caught, making them mostly ineffective. Even a little bit of doubt as to where the BT is will often be enough to keep the players from attempting to capture them, since the moves would be wasted if they're wrong, and capturing often isn't strong enough to risk that.

In terms of why it isn't actually trivial to know where they are, you left out an action, which is probably the most common one. The BT may drive between locations just like a player does. This does not reveal where the BT is, and is your primary method as the BT of keeping the players from knowing where you are. Also, when you discard a card, the players do not know if you are using it for a Direct Flight (going to the city) or a Charter Flight (going from the city).

  • Hmm, isn't it so that for DF the discarded card is the destination, and for CF it's the origin? So for example: if BT have spread disease in Johannesburg last turn, and haven't discarded a card, and in this turn he announces that he was at an airport then discards a card; if the card is Johannesburg, Khartoum or Lagos; he's likely on a Charter flight (thus could be anywhere), and otherwise he's flown to the city that is on the discarded infection card?
    – posdef
    Apr 16, 2015 at 14:35
  • You can certainly make inferences like that if you know a recent location. But if it has been a turn or two, you may not know for sure.
    – bwarner
    Apr 16, 2015 at 15:06
  • @posdef It's not like you have unlimited cards; you'll definitely have plenty of normal movement, not just flights. Besides, part of playing well as the bioterrorist is keeping conscious of exactly what the other players are able to learn from your actions, and what they can do about it. Even a single uncertain step is huge; it's not like they can just waste turns trying all four cities you could potentially be in. On the other hand, in many cases it's fine if they know where you are: they may be too far away or too busy with other problems to do anything about it.
    – Cascabel
    Apr 16, 2015 at 16:46
  • @posdef Also keep in mind that they don't know which of your actions the flight was. You might have ended your turn with the flight, or you might have done it and then driven elsewhere.
    – bwarner
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:16
  • 1
    @posdef No! The answer is that sometimes it's not that important, but sometimes it matters a lot, and knowing the difference is part of playing it. The amount of information you're forced to reveal is, I think, fairly carefully balanced to make this all work; it's possible to track down the bioterrorist (so the others have a chance) but it's also possible for the bioterrorist to be pretty evasive (so they have a chance).
    – Cascabel
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:40

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