Just this week we finished our campaign of Pandemic Legacy. If you’re familiar with the co-op came Pandemic, then you’ll know how this game is played (for the most part…kind of). Otherwise, let me shed some light on it.
Pandemic is a cooperative game in which players take on roles of CDC agents trying to eradicate diseased cropping up throughout the world. The only way to win is defeat all the diseases before you run out of cards to draw, there are no more disease cubes to place, or you have too many outbreaks. Basically, the game is stacked against you and you’re racing against the clock. Every time I played Pandemic my stress level would rise quite a bit.
Then I played Pandemic Legacy, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have a head of gray hair next week.
In order to review this Pandemic Legacy so that everyone can enjoy it, I will avoid spoilers. This game has a heavy focus on what comes next, and each game brings about some new objective or setback. Everything that happens is a surprise, and so I won’t ruin it for you.
That being said…
Pandemic Legacy takes the traditional game of Pandemic and escalates it to the extreme. There are 12 months in the game, and each month can be played twice. So, if you lose in January during your first game (like we did), you get an extra chance to beat January. However, the things that happened during that month’s failure will still affect your second attempt. Likewise, if you win and move on (or lose and move on), any negative happenings will roll over to the next month. Thus the game continually builds on itself, creating a narrative that completely immerses the players in the world of Pandemic.
There are a lot of new rules, new actions, and new characters, all coming into the game gradually. After each month, a new card from the Legacy deck is drawn, and whatever words are written on that card must be followed.
One of the most exciting parts of the game was drawing these cards, opening up sealed boxes, and uncovering hidden secrets. Sometimes we jumped for joy at the help we were getting. Other times we wept tears of sorry as we realized how hopeless our mission was becoming.
As exciting as that was, the scariest part was ripping up cards. Some cards had to be destroyed. Depending on your decisions, it could be a character, an infection card, or a goal card. I’m the type of person that has to keep his games in the most perfect condition possible, so when I was given the honor of destroying the first card of the game, I almost couldn’t bring myself to do it. But, I took a deep breath and tore that sucker up. The memory still pains me to this day.
What really stood out to me about Pandemic Legacy was the immersive storyline. One of my friends I played with said that everything was pre-determined anyway, so what does that matter? To which I responded, it’s like watching a movie, or reading a book; everything is still predetermined, and yet we sit and watch or read, taking it all in as it happens. With a board game, that immersiveness comes when we are the ones to actually control the characters.
And, contrary to what my friend suggested, we were in control, at least to some extent. If we failed to fix certain problems during a game, those problems would more than likely come back to haunt us in the following game. That made us more determined to not just win, but to go above and beyond.
Of course, that never panned out too well, but we sure as heck tried!
Some of our turns took literally 10 minutes to complete because we were desperately trying to find a way to succeed. The stress factor was high, and each night after playing I left with a either a grim satisfaction of winning, or a dejection that only comes from losing so many cities to an epidemic.
I could almost hear the pleas of the people as more disease cubes were added to the board, the silent tears of my character as he failed to contain the outbreak, and the wicked laughter of the game designer as we struggled to get out of even the first month of the game.
I’ve loved playing Pandemic for years. Now, after playing Pandemic Legacy, I don’t know how I can ever go back. The ride is thrilling, the story sucks you in, and whether you win or lose, it’s all you can think about until the next time you play.
So if you get a chance to play it with a group of friends, I highly encourage you to do so.
Just…maybe bring a paper bag or two to hyperventilate in.
My rating: 9/10
Check back later for a short story based on the chaos and panic as caused by Pandemic Legacy!