The best part about reviewing games: free games, especially when it’s a game you are looking forward to.
The worst part about reviewing games: the obligation. I don’t take lightly that publishers trust us to provide our thoughts on a game, so I always put a game through its paces within 60 days of receipt of a game. Normally, that’s not an issue: play a game 3-5 times, write up a piece, move on to the next.
The best AND worst thing about reviewing games: when a publisher sends you the base game, 5 competitive expansions, a co-op expansion, and a campaign book for a single game.
Clinic: Deluxe Edition has a whopping FIFTY-ONE individual expansions. There is a shocking amount of content available for the truly invested player. I loved the base game, but we have to be honest: it’s tough to get anyone to play a game 3-5 times, let alone a couple dozen times to try out all of this expansion content.
So, for now, I’m just going to write about Clinic: Deluxe Edition–The Extension (CDETE). To prepare for this article, I played the base game, its 4 mini expansions, and the 13 expansions in CDETE, once. (This was insane, and we’ll get to that in a moment.)
Then I played with just CDETE and the base game without its 4 mini-expansions four times, in waves; all 13 expansions, then 6, then 7. My final play allowed me to cherry-pick my favorite expansions in CDETE for a single play to ensure I came up with my favorite combination of modules.
First, a Note About the Extensions
Each of the base game’s 5 “Extensions” has somewhere between 2 and 13 expansions.
The greatest thing about Clinic’s expansion content is that it is truly bite-sized. The Extensions are collections of tasty morsels, which can be added separately, in bunches, or by categories (patients, meeples, buildings, etc.).
There is also a Campaign Book, which comes with the “all-in” purchase of Clinic; it’s a perfect way to slowly integrate all of the expansion content in ways that make it easy. You could play the game 50 times, adding one mini-expansion each time. You could play it as a legacy campaign, adding in modules as you go. You could take designer Alban Viard at his word, and play the “Medium Campaigns” as a way to play 5-7 small parts from various Extensions, to get the best of the best in the designer’s eyes.
There are something like 40,000 ways to play Clinic, if you have the time.
CDETE has 13 new modules. This means that between the base game and this first expansion, there are 17 little things you could add to your game. For most people, this will be more than enough game and adds a wealth of variability to the experience. (Feel free to revisit my review of the base game to get a feel for the general rules.)
The Easy Stuff
Let’s break this up: a few of the expansions in CDETE are really easy additions.
Floor 4: The Floor 4 expansion is exactly what it sounds like. Now you can build your clinic 4 floors high. This sounds like a bad idea, until you start playing and try to score end-game points by adding treatment rooms that high off the ground.
Urban Design: Another easy add, Urban Design gives players a few cards to choose from to help guide their building layout. Achieve the chosen card’s goal and you’ll score a few points at the end of the game. More importantly, this helps steer new players towards building certain layouts, which in a difficult, heavy strategy game can be quite helpful.
Underground Utility Work: This expansion requires players to kill off spaces on their player board during set-up. Easy to administer, but one of the few misses in this collection. I like a good puzzle, but the game is already a good puzzle. Now you’re telling me I would want to build my clinic in a part of town that has even less space to build on?
Satellite TV: Once a player is familiar with how gardens and fire extinguishers work in the base game, Satellite TV is a breeze to teach. Any treatment room below a dish grants a bump of $3 per patient during the income step, because sick patients like watching television. (This is why I love the satire of this game: thematically, it’s hard to argue with people loving TV.)
Pillars: A bonus action where you can build on the ground level to build usable modules on higher floors? Yes please! Now you can expand your property in interesting ways and making this a free bonus action during the Build step—similar to getting a free Build action to add a supply room when you build treatment rooms—is the right call.
Medium Spice, Lots of Flavor
Intensive Care Unit (ICU): CDETE has a single special module addition to the choices during setup now. Patients in the ICU that are “cured” drop 2 levels (a slight upgrade over Blood Transfusion from the base game); this extends opportunities to get patients in and not need as many new ones, while still making bank on your most lucrative patients.
Ambulances: Look, there’s no getting around it: in the base game of Clinic, there just don’t seem to be enough patients late in the game. The ambulance expansion helps stop the bleeding a bit, by adding patients that can be drafted from a special board without using any Queue Points every round. Sure, these patients can only ever be white or yellow, but that’s fine if you are able to let those patients get sick enough to make the payoff worth it.
Pharmacy: As of the time of this writing, Pharmacy is my favorite expansion in CDETE. A new board is added that allows players to use the Hire action to buy drugs from the Pharmacy instead of hiring a doctor. Drugs, like patients, come in 4 colors: red, orange, yellow and white.
Things get interesting because nurses can treat a patient matching the color of the drug you’ve purchased in a treatment room of your clinic. And this earns you the same amount of money as if a doctor had treated that patient. This means that now, even if you don’t have the right doctors on staff, you could still treat those red and orange patients bleeding out in your hospital. Yes!!
Janitors: Even though I am annoyed by it, using a conveyor network SHOULD cost something, and CDETE deals with that in the form of Janitors.
If a player chooses to build conveyors, now there’s a hefty cost to keep them running, which janitors help to mitigate on the expense line. Unfortunately, you now have a few too many choices during the Hire action if you are playing with all these expansions: janitors have to be chosen over doctors and drugs from the Pharmacy. No thanks!
Amenities: It doesn’t feel quite right in the base game that doctors always degrade a level every round. What do you do when you don’t have a Lab, but want better homegrown doctors? The Extension solves that problem by integrating an Amenities board; now, you can round up a small group of staff to send them to either a dorm (to get some sleep and level up in the morning) or a cafeteria, to take a break and make you some extra cash between rounds. This adds a fantastic strategic element when you have too much staff and need to move them out to make better use of their downtime.
Hospice: The most thematic module of CDETE is the Hospice. By the end of the game, each player must treat 4 elderly patients from a new addition to the personal player board. If any of your elderly pass away on your watch, that could be a ton of lost points. While they are alive, everything you think should happen, does: elders take double the amount of time to walk anywhere in your clinic. They hate other people, so they won’t accept treatment unless they are the only person in the room. And you make a lot of money if they just sit in the hospice, because senior living centers in real life make obscene amounts of money.
I can almost see a grandparent pumping their fist in the air in anger about “the kids these days” while playing a game of Clinic. Some of this stuff is spot on!!
Obstetrics: Now you can deliver babies, but in practice the Obstetrics module is basically a check on anyone running away with the game. Pregnant women need babies delivered, and while anyone can do this to score some extra points and cash, NOT doing it only hurts the player in the lead.
In real-life American health care, delivering a child via C-section is a massive payday for a hospital. In CDETE it gets you $10, which in this game world is barely enough to pay your staff. That level of profit, and this expansion, miss the mark and might be the low point in this box.
Virus: Yes, there is also a separate co-op expansion dealing solely with COVID, but CDETE was released in 2019. In this expansion, a virus token is placed in a row of the appointments board when players begin hoarding too many patients in the same service on their pre-admissions section (collectively). This makes everyone on player boards sicker, faster: patients worsen 2 levels instead of just one at the end of the Administration phase.
The upside here is obvious: now you could make a lot more money on those patients fast. The downside? Any patients who were already orange or red die at the end of the round, costing you 5 points each. Yikes!
Construction Was Bumpy
Not all of the modules work; Underground Utility Work won’t be joining me for future plays, and I hate that Obstetrics is basically a chance for the player in last place to block the scoring leader every round.
I’m torn on Janitors; hiring a janitor over a doctor or grabbing drugs at the Pharmacy is a hard choice, but I love conveyors, so…
Virus is really intriguing. It’s a fun way to spike health issues in certain specialities, which might cost another player 5 points for each patient who dies. This expansion also opens lanes to accelerate the ability to make a lot of cash on patients quickly, if you can manipulate that market correctly.
Ditto for the ICU. Curing a red patient here gets you $32 and then you have a yellow patient left over who can be treated as a yellow patient in the next round because that patient doesn’t get any worse. If you can work this angle well, getting $44 out of the ICU over 2 turns ($32 for that first patient example, $12 for the next) without having to move anyone around might be nice.
If you can’t take advantage, you’ll wonder if adding the ICU in the first place was worth the trouble.
Also, some of the actions make for a crowded buffet line: the Hire action now features too many choices. If you add everything to a single game, your Hire action now looks like this:
You can hire a doctor, OR buy a capsule, OR hire a janitor, OR rush a pregnant woman to your clinic. This is simply too many options while leaving the “hire a nurse or orderly” part of this action too light. A janitor is clearly support staff, so they should be in the nurse/orderly step.
Even with all these expansions, it’s possible that the last round of the game is still all about grabbing the only good (profitable) patients left on the appointments board. This is the same main issue I have with the base game, especially at 3 or 4 players.
Yep, I’m In
CDETE adds plenty of great content to an already great game. The expansions are individually so easy to add and teach that I highly recommend it.
That said, here’s my perfect combination (so far, including the expansions in the base game):
- Fire Extinguishers
- Workaholic Doctors
- Blood Transfusion
- Urban Design
- Satellite TV
ICU just misses the cut; I just like the 4 special modules in the base game more. Floor 4 isn’t necessary. Obstetrics should be more interesting, but its doctor requirements make the juice not worth the squeeze. Janitors adds a complex formula to expenses, penalizes the conveyor units in a way I don’t enjoy, and blocks up the Hire action. Underground Utility Work adds unnecessary complexity to an already heavyweight gaming experience.
Phew. Only 4 more boxes of expansions to go!!