Pandemic Legacy Season 1, from Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock, is the first in a bold brand-new version of the classic original Pandemic. Set across a whole year, one that the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) and players themselves will never forget. This version of the game bolsters legacy mechanics to its tried and tested formula.
Whilst it isn’t necessary to have played the original game, fans of its gameplay will be pleased that this seamlessly builds upon the main game without spoiling the experience. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 adds a progressive story with unlockable elements, rule additions, stickers and many secrets…as you progress through the story, your copy will become unique to you and your friends.
The skeleton under the game remains the same, save the world from a global pandemic by sending your disease control team from city to city, eradicating the viruses and locking down outbreaks. Teamwork is paramount and the players must work together against the game engine to survive to another month. Each player role has a special skill set that will help the team. Players spend 4 action points a turn moving to different cities across a map of the world, eradicating disease or using special actions. At the end of each player turn, the game brings out more disease (coloured cubes) and existing locations can spread out via connecting routes.
In a first for the series, player characters can acquire new skills, made worse or even be ‘lost’ across the campaign. The game itself sends out more disease by random dispersal of card draws meaning no two games will be similar. Adding in the ongoing legacy mechanic only serves to draw the players into a highly personal story where short term decisions can have long-term consequences.
The components are very well produced including a lot of secrets that we cannot possibly describe here. As you progress through the campaign, the story deck of cards (don’t peek…) will tell you what to unlock next as well as giving new briefing information. The game packs down well, saving your game state from month to month as you play over multiple sessions.
This version of the Pandemic Legacy Season 1 comes with a red box art, different to the blue box art packaging. There is no difference between versions other than the exterior box.
Player count: 2-4
Time: 60 minutes
Age rating: 13+
To start with, a Legacy game differs from a “normal” game in that events and outcomes from one game affect subsequent games. Pandemic Legacy takes place over the course of a year, with your first mission naturally starting in January.
With each month you’ll receive new or additional mission objectives that are required to complete that month’s challenges. If you win, you can pass on to the next month. Fail, and much like a Maths GCSE, you’ll have to do it again, and come-what-may your second result stands, and you move-on regardless.
Introduction to Pandemic Legacy
Much like the stand-alone game, players will have a choice of five roles from the CDC (Centre of Disease Control) to choose from, which you’ll use to zip around the globe treating and curing diseases, desperately trying to keep cities from Out Breaking, whilst simultaneously attempting to research a cure for all four of the diseases, plus what other mission objectives there may be.
Playing Pandemic Legacy is an experience, it's up there with those life events that I’ll remember for a while. Last year I attended a Christening, which I have vague recollections; it was sunny and I was hot in my suit. But I also remember what happens in the March mission, and the look on everyone’s face as I read out the mission. Don’t even get me started with April, I don’t want to talk about it.
Differences in Legacy
The big differences with Pandemic Legacy boil down to three things: Stickers, Secrets and Death.
Upon opening the box - check out our unboxing video here - you see there is a box sized sheet of stickers. Some of these are for the board – diseases can be positively mutated (easier to cure if you can eradicate them in any game), characters can gain extra skills and scars (more on that in a minute), you’ll even be able to add new starting Research Locations to the map for future games.
I’m afraid that it isn’t all good though. Most of the sheet is taken up by stickers you’ll use to indicate that cities (after an Out Break) become Unstable, Rioting (level 1 and 2), Collapsing, and finally Fallen. These are, believe it or not, bad and progressively worse. You’ll also find some Top Secret Dossiers – more stickers thematically organised on additional sticker sheets, and these go into the rule book. Yup, the rules will actually be changing as you play through this game.
There is also an array of small numbered black “strongboxes” which will add…stuff…to your game when you open them. And in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
Finally, death. It’s a fact of life that it comes to us all. Now it comes for your roles. Happen to be in a city when it out breaks, well you get a scar (my dispatcher has a rather unfortunate case of PTSD because of some stuff that went down in Seoul, but I don’t want to talk about it). If you ever run out of space for scar stickers then say goodbye to that role.... For good.
Rip it up. Throw it away. For the rest of that game you’ll become a rather un-glamorous citizen.
A set amount of games?
Astute readers will have done a quick bit arithmetic and realised that you’ll only get a maximum of twenty-four games out of Pandemic Legacy. Well, you are half right. You’ll get a max of twenty-four amazing, nerve-wracking, gut wrenching tabletop experiences.
I neither kid, nor exaggerate. But, it does all come with a cost. There is a significant investment of time to play this. You’ll want to get the same people playing throughout ideally too, and, as many of the people I know who have played or are playing it, you’ll probably stay with the same roles; which brings me to my first negative point about this game.
Now it could just be that Pandemic, in any variation, is a game that hates you; the player. The game doesn’t want you to win, and at times you may well feel that like real-life Jamanji; it truly is playing you back.
This is more so in Legacy, all of which is good, however; I wanted to play as the dispatcher for as long as possible, to almost bridge the game between board and role-playing games but the game changes and evolves and as it does so it teases and tempts you to change roles, to the point where we want to change roles, but it just doesn’t feel thematically right.
The legacy format hasn’t done anything to mitigate the existing “problems” with the core mechanics, this is still Pandemic, and, as a co-op game it is still open to Quarterbacking (where one, usually more experienced player, controls or dictates all the other player’s actions), and if you have played a lot of Pandemic, you’ll have a pretty good idea how to win more consistently.
However, both of these “issues” are player led, and not the fault of the game. So, if you are playing with some fun, decent folks and no one has too much experience (and even if they do, they don’t take over) then every game of Pandemic Legacy will be a worthwhile and highly enjoyable n experience.
Season one is available in our store right now. If you haven’t done so already, treat yourself and three friends/family to this great experience.