Pandemic LEGACY, the world is on fire. Diseases spread from city to city. Whole countries lapse into chaos. You have to prevent it or otherwise it’s the Dark Ages all over again. Not a single game will be the same. By adding new rules, by writing on the board or by opening secret packages you will change it. Every decision you make matters. It’s your legacy.
In Pandemic LEGACY you are, like in Matt Leacock’s basic Pandemic, faced with a problem. A global problem. Several diseases have broken out at the same time and you, a team of scientists, have to find a cure, travel the globe and treat the diseases.
It’s a cooperative game, so you’ll all win or lose. The board is a map of the world with locations in four different colours, four different diseases. There’s a pile of infection cards that will tell you where a disease will break out and there’s a deck of player cards. This deck will be composed of location cards, event cards and 5 epidemic cards. The goal of basic Pandemic is to find cures for all four diseases by acquiring 5 location cards of one colour and then deliver them to a research station.
In your turn you can do actions like move from one location to another, treat a disease , build a building or find a cure. Then you draw two new player cards.If you draw an epidemic card you have to advance one step on the infection track, which is bad, you then take a new infection card from the bottom of the deck and place three cubes on the location that is shown and, lastly, shuffle all previously drawn infection cards and place them back onto the infection card draw pile.
Lastly, on your turn, you have to add new disease cubes to the board by drawing cards from the infection deck depending on you position on the infection track. If you have to add a cube to a location that already has three cubes, an outbreak happens and the disease will spread to neighbouring cities.
These are basically the rules of Pandemic. The LEGACY part adds game elements that you will take with you to the next game and the games after that. It may be that you need to add new rules, write on the board, choose upgrades or add other stuff, because in the box you’ll find sealed packages and sticker sheets.
The game is played over twelve months and if you lose during a certain month you can try again one more time. Some months are more difficult than others, because you’ll have to fulfil more goals. When a city suffers an outbreak, you now have to increase its panic level, which makes it more difficult to travel to that city. Your characters can get wounded and if they have more than two wounds they will get lost and can’t be chosen during the following games. At the end of every game the team must choose upgrades. They might want to improve their characters, their cards or get positive mutations.
This is the LEGACY bit. Not a single month is the same and when you start the game you know one thing for sure, you can only play this game twelve to twenty-four times.
I’m going to split this review up into two parts; a spoiler free part, this part, and a part, link below, where I talk freely about the unlocked content of the game.
Here we go.
This game is built on the foundations of Pandemic. I therefore think that it is fair if I give my opinion about basic Pandemic first. Well, I like it. I do not love it, I’m not a fan, but I do enjoy it and both the base game and the On the Brink expansion are still part of my collection and won’t leave it any time soon. The rules and mechanisms are simple, but the gameplay is very elegant and very tense.
I must also say beforehand that I tend to like competitive games more than cooperative games.
You now know that I enjoy basic Pandemic, but it’s not one of my favourite games of all time, and that I prefer competitive games over cooperative ones.
Well, let me tell you this: Pandemic LEGACY is one of the most fun games I have played in a long while, if not ever.
It has the same simple mechanisms as Pandemic, which make sure that every move you make matters, but on top of that it adds a layer of excitement that I never have experienced before. Every month they add something new, and something exciting. Sometimes it’s a small thing and at other times the changes are big, jaw dropping big.
The great thing is that, although the game is totally different at the end of December, it holds on to its main concepts, the changes can be big in terms of the story, but subtle in terms of the rules.
We played the whole campaign with the two of us. For us that means that we played fourteen games. Halfway through we thought about looking for a more difficult two-player variant, we found that we won a lot of the games too easily, but we decided not to and stick to the game as it came in the box. That probably is my only criticism; a two-player game might not be ideal. Firstly, it’s probably easier than when you play with more players, and secondly, without going into to much detail, you have to read the review with spoilers if you want to know more, I feel the character development works better when there are more characters in play.
Another thing that you have to keep in mind, this is not a criticism, is that you get the best experience when you play the whole campaign with the same group. You can play every month with other players, but it loses the campaign feel and those new players can’t get into the story of a world in trouble.
For the rest it’s awesomeness in a box. The LEGACY system is basically the solution for those of us that are part of the so-called cult of the new. You get an expansion after almost every game you play. A new, shiny expansion.
The game constantly lets you think about what’s next. Every time I played a game I wanted to immediately play a new month, but I had to be stopped. Savour the moment, savour the game. OK, tomorrow then…
By the way, for those of you that think that a game that you can only play a limited amount of times is not worth your money I say: “Nonsense!”. I’ve played this game fourteen times, which puts it in the top regions of all the games I own or have played as far as the amount of plays is concerned. That’s far more than all those games in my collection that I could potentially play a thousand times, but sit there gathering dust. If you say that about a game you can play only once, OK, but fourteen times…
When Pandemic LEGACY: season two would come out today I would blindly buy it and for those of us who haven’t tried season one yet I would highly recommend that you do. It’s probably my most fun game of 2015.
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