NOTE: This is a spoiler-free review of Pandemic Legacy (Season 1) for an unfinished game. As long as you don’t zoom in on the last picture, you’re cool.
You all know I love board games. I know you’re not as interested in them as I am, but holy cats people – this is one that is AMAZING. But first, some backstory. I first played the original Pandemic game about 8 years ago with my friends A and D. D was starting to think about applying for public health school, and as someone interested in that field (and since I was working in a medical science library at the time) a game where you fought the spread of disease sounded cool. We were also intrigued by the fact that it was cooperative, and that it was supposedly VERY HARD. As in, you don’t always win, and sometimes the world get swept up in disease outbreaks. We got very into the game, and would play it fairly frequently.
A and D moved away for a while, and I bought my own copy, I started seeing the Boy and as his girls got to be close to the recommended age (NOTE: age recommendations on the box are merely that – recommendations. They may indicate the age when a child will best be able to strategize and think ahead more than one move, but younger kids can sometimes get the hang of complicated games with some guidance), we pulled the game out and they LOVED it. The Boy loved it too, and it was a game that we would play every once in a while to challenge ourselves. So this past Christmas, because he knows and loves me so well (and because I had it on my Amazon Wishlist), he bought me the latest and greatest iteration of Pandemic – Legacy!
Legacy games are a recent and exciting development in the board gaming world – games that change as you play them, based on the results of previous games. The idea is that these changes are permanent, and will affect future games when you play again. This means that sometimes you add stickers to the board, cards to the deck, additional pieces and rules, or destroy pieces or cards. It’s both exciting and frustrating, but making these permanent changes seems sacrilegious to those of us who have always tried to keep our games neat and unmarked. Pandemic Legacy is a particularly good example, and was nominated for a Spiel de Jahr in 2016 in the “Game Connoisseur” category – a very prestigious board game award, where even just being nominated is an enormous honor. It was nominated for various other awards, and won a good number of them. It is currently the highest rated game on Board Game Geek. So, you know, this is a big deal game that a lot of people like and would recommend.
Between Christmas and Spring, the Boy and I had a lot going on. So there weren’t a lot of opportunities to get together with friends for serious business gaming sessions. But when some time opened up a few months back, I knew that if we didn’t start playing Pandemic Legacy soon, I would probably burst. So we invited a few friends to join us on this journey, and who better than A and D! The game is played nearly exactly like regular Pandemic at the beginning, but the idea is that you’re playing month by month over the course of a year. If you succeed in a month, you move on to the next one. If you fail, you get a second opportunity to win that month, and if you fail again, you move on no matter what. During our first session we played three full games – a loss for the first half of January, a win in the second half, and then a win to begin February.
Life got in the way a bit, and we didn’t find ourselves with enough free time to have another gaming session until recently. We blocked out most of the day, and with a dinner break, snacking and just decompression after each round, we got through another 4 rounds in about 6 hours. This included wins in both March and April, but then May arrived, and things got ugly FAST. We lost back to back games, which was definitely demoralizing, as we’d been trying so hard, but the diseases just go out of our control. The worst part is knowing that the failures we faced in those two games are affecting future games, and since there was a lot of failure, there will be many consequences for us in future games.
The next time we play, we’ll start in “June” and it’ll be interesting to see what happens next. Each month you’re given new information, new twists and turns and challenges. These are both exciting and frustrating, and make me both eager and anxious for the next time we’ll be able to play the game. While we’ve definitely set ourselves up for some real challenges, we also find ourselves relatively unscathed in other ways. It will be both a challenge and a real adventure the next time we sit down to play.
All of this is to say that it’s a great game. If you’re interested in board games, and if you like the idea of a single game that changes to give you new challenges game-by-game, Pandemic Legacy could be a game for you. It does require that you have a relatively stable group to play with, and it does require slightly more paying attention since there are occasionally rules that will change mid-game, but for the board gamer with a taste for familiar play on a more involved level, this is the game for you. I can’t wait to get back to playing, and once we finish – for the release of season 2!