Acoustic Gaming: Pandemic Legacy – Season One

Title   Pandemic Legacy – Season One
Designer  Matt Leacock & Rob Daviau
Publisher  Z-Man Games
No of Players  2-4
Playing Time  60 minutes
Official Site

pandemiclegacyone1Please note that this will be a SPOILER FREE Review of Pandemic Legacy. I will not mention any of the surprises or give away any gameplay changes other than the basics, so don’t worry if you haven’t yet played the game. First of all, if you’ve never played the original Pandemic, perhaps you should first go and read our review here. The core gameplay is exactly the same, with players having to work together to cure four diseases before time runs out; as such I won’t go into too much detail about it here. Once again Matt Leacock, the designer of the original Pandemic, steps up with the help of Rob Daviau to design the next chapter. Published by ZMan Games, Pandemic is a Legacy game and the intention is for multiple “Seasons” to be released.

Some of you may be wondering how a board game review can even contain spoilers. Board games aren’t usually noted for their narrative, and apart from stand-alone scenarios or RPG-style campaign games such as Imperial Assault, any given board game will play out the same every time you play it. Even with games like Imperial Assault, multiple play-throughs are encouraged and the gameplay will never change from game to game.

The difference with Pandemic Legacy, however, is that it is designed to only be played through a set number of times. The exact number will vary between groups of people, but you will get a minimum of twelve games and a maximum of twenty four. The story of Pandemic Legacy takes place over a twelve month period. If you fail any particular month you get to replay that month again, but if you fail it a second time then it’s tough-luck and you have to move on to the next month, driving the story forward.


Events, decisions and, to a certain extent, mistakes made in previous games will affect all future games. In addition, as play continues, new gameplay elements will be added to the game that will irreversibly alter the gameplay experience. Even the game board itself will change over the course of the game as you add stickers and markers to denote certain things happening. However once you get to the final month and play your last game in the campaign it’s over. For good. It’s unclear whether final consequences of games will carry forward into subsequent seasons, however, knowing what I know now, I very much doubt that this will be the case.

This disposable, one-shot type philosophy might rankle with a lot of you, even I was apprehensive about parting with my hard-earned money for a game which can only be played a maximum of twenty four times. Search the internet and you will find people who have come up with inventive ways to preserve their game so it can be played again. This is fine, and I can understand the reasoning behind it perfectly, but I think doing this takes away some of the suspense you get from knowing that you’ve only got one shot at this. Trust me in saying that if you are willing to take the plunge, you will be rewarded by a deeply satisfying and exciting gameplay experience that I personally have not encountered before with any other board game.

pandemiclegacyone3The single most important parts of Pandemic Legacy are the Legacy Deck, the Dossiers and eight compartments built into the game’s box. The cards in the Legacy Deck, which must not be shuffled, will be drawn over the course of the twelve month campaign. Doing so will slowly reveal the story and will direct you to open certain cut outs within the dossiers and also the mysterious compartments. Opening the cut outs in the dossiers is akin to opening a Christmas advent calendar, and each will add new things to the game. Sometimes you will be directed not to open something until a certain condition has been met or a certain number of Epidemic cards have been revealed. However, all this will be dictated to you by the Legacy Deck. Please make sure you read the cards very carefully, however, and to make sure you keep revealing the Legacy Deck cards until you get to a card that refers to the following gameplay month. A lot of the cards will tell you to STOP in big, bold red letters but sometimes this is only to stop you while you carry out a certain action. I made a mistake during our very first game by not realising this; luckily the error didn’t have too much of an impact in the grand scheme of things.

In terms of gameplay, I’ve already mentioned that the basic premise is identical to the original Pandemic, with 2-4 players collecting cards and trying to cure the four diseases before you run out of Player cards or eight Outbreaks occur, ending the game. Without giving anything away, as the games progress you’ll be given new objectives to complete which change the game. During the games themselves, certain events (such as being inside a city when an outbreak occurs) will have unwelcome effects on characters in the guise of Scars, which are a permanent negative effect. Each character can only withstand two Scars, and if they gain a third they are considered Lost and can’t be used again. Not everything is bad though; at the end of each game, win or lose, the team gets to add two permanent upgrades to help you going forward. These can be anything from buffs to specific team members to permanent changes to the game board.

This all seems quite overwhelming and, in honesty, all the additional rule changes can be daunting. Pandemic Legacy helps you remember all these new rules by giving you stickers to add to your rule book, player cards, and to the board itself. You are also encouraged to record your progress on the game tracker located on the back of the rule book and on the individual character cards. These should then be referenced when setting up future games. Despite all the handy stickers and trackers, it pays to give yourself and the group a quick refresher before every game to ensure you aren’t forgetting anything.

I have to admit that opening the dossiers is pretty exciting in itself, and opening the compartments is like Christmas, as these generally contain new components for you to use. Choosing upgrades and which Scars to give a character is agonising as you don’t always know how it will affect you in future. Once a change has been applied there is no going back, so it makes every little decision very important.


Speaking of the components, you’ll be glad to hear that, despite the disposable nature of the game, every component is of a decent quality, from the player tokens right down to the cards and cubes. I particularly like the oversized game board which is about 50% larger than the original Pandemic board in order to allow for all the different bits of information to be presented to you clearly and concisely, and everything packs away very neatly into the sturdy box.

Overall I really like Pandemic Legacy. At the time of writing my group have just completed July in the campaign, so we’ve not yet finished. In order to give some longevity to it we have made the decision to only play once per month. There are some online who have complained that the game is too easy; these people must be Pandemic professionals, as I’ve found that the level of difficulty has been just right. There have been months where we’ve completed the game on the first try, but there have been a number of times where we only managed to win on the second attempt. Every game has been hard fought and every win has been met with elation and a sigh of relief. Up to now, we’ve not managed to fail on both attempts of a month, however I’m sure that’s yet to come.

pandemiclegacyone5My only quibbles with the game are relatively minor. Once again it suffers from the old problem of Quarterbacking, which is the phenomenon of one dominant/experienced person taking charge over everyone else. Fortunately the constant gameplay changes make this less of an issue, but it’s still there to a degree. You’re also going to want to make sure that you can get the same group together on a regular basis before getting this game (it’s not something that someone can drop in and out of), and while the game is designed for 2-4 players, I think that it plays best with four. Additionally, I think the Legacy Deck could be improved upon slightly so that it’s clearer what information is supposed to be presented and when. Perhaps multiple mini decks for each particular month may have worked better so that you know when everything has been revealed, as all the cards would be gone.

Finally, it’s going to be a real shame when we get to the end and there’s no point keeping hold of everything. I intend on framing our game board to act as a permanent reminder of our game. However, this will be increasing difficult to do as further Seasons of the game are released. We’ll also try to recycle as much of everything else as possible, but it’s disappointing to learn that no recycled materials were used to create the game in the first place.

  • Tense gameplay with consequences for future games
  • Constantly evolving gameplay keeps the game fresh and exciting
  • Good quality components (with an especially good board)
  • Every win is hard fought and satisfying
  • Only a maximum of 24 games, 12 if you’re really good
  • Care required so as to not miss anything
  • No recycled materials used to create the game
  • Needs the same people to play every time

Pandemic Legacy is an excellent game. It’s easy to understand why this has quickly risen to the top of the Board Game Geek website’s list of top board games. It takes the already solid gameplay from the original Pandemic game and infuses it with legacy elements in order to create a brilliant experience that has not been replicated anywhere else. Every game was exciting and tense due to the added factor that you can’t just simply try again if you fail.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. You will need to get over the disposable nature of the game and also be able to get the same four people together on a regular basis to play. If you can do both of these then I’d highly recommend that you get this game. You won’t have played anything else like it.

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  1. Chris Chris says:

    My group are also up to the end of July. We’re keeping things on an even keel – we usually win two on the trot then lose one.

    As it stands though, the middle-east is in a whole lot of trouble. Art imitating life it seems.

  2. Ste Ste says:

    Interesting, we will play our August game on Friday and it’s the Far East that is screwed for us at the minute. We’re currently just barely keeping a lid on things over there with one member of our group dedicated purely to that area.

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