“The flight from New York to Hong Kong was stressful, but it is our last chance to get the situation under control. Who could have guessed that another outbreak of the disease would occur in Southeast Asia. But we were glad that we had everything under control in this area. Sometimes it seems as if the viruses have a supernatural intelligence and can anticipate our next steps. Or worse, they know about our weaknesses. Now, here in Hong Kong, we need to take more radical action and use vaccines that are still in the experimental stage. We have no choice! If we lose Southeast Asia, we lose the whole fight. The world will fall into the abyss. But we will not fail!” – Found 52 years after the great plague, stored in the archives under the register entry Pandemic Legacy.
Pandemic Legacy – A game that is changing
When Pandemic Legacy came out, the response from the players was huge. A game where you actively change the game and you can only play between 12 and 24 times, depending on how the game progresses. Decisions you make in one game are carried over to the next, and worse, you have to destroy or manipulate material. This is a nightmare for any collector, because the actual game is actually useless after playing through. But at least in Season 1 you still have a full pandemic after playing. Sure, there are stickers on the game board, but they can also be removed very quickly with the help of a hair dryer. If that’s what you wanted. And that’s why you shouldn’t destroy every card in Season 1, even if you’re told to.
However, the situation is different with Pandemic Legacy Season 2. When you’re through here, it’s really over. You could still play, but it doesn’t make much sense, because you’re only repeating the last game. Even the design of the second part is such that you can’t reset the game to its original state. This was quite possible for the first part with some effort. With the second part it is not made so easy anymore. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the work you’d have to put into it would be immense.
A game with a running time
But for whom are games that can only be played once? For anyone who plays a game at least 12 times. Because that is the minimum number of games you need in both parts to have the complete experience. Whereby I believe that this is a purely mathematical value. Really I can’t imagine it. You’d have to be damn lucky to draw cards. The other extreme is that you have a maximum of 24 games. Again, this is only a theoretical value, because the worse you get, the more help cards (events) you have available. From the game reports on the Internet, you can conclude that a good average value is around 16 games.
That means you would have played a game 16 times. And when I look at my board game collection, I’ve only played a few games 16 times. If I subtract from this list games with campaign or fast dice, card games, only a handful of board games remain. And honestly, when we were through with Pandemic Legacy, we were glad we finally made it and the pandemic hunger was satisfied for a few months.
The story drives the game
No matter how I look at it, at its core, Pandemic Legacy is just another pandemic. The world gets infected and you do your best to contain the infection and find a cure. At least, that’s the way it stands with Season 1. In Season 2, the principle of the game changes a bit. The many colored disease cubes are gone. Only grey supply cubes and green disease cubes are left. But the basic principle is the same. Instead of adding cubes when you infect a town, you now take away supply cubes. If the city has no supply cubes, you place a plague cube. If you have too many plague cubes on the board, the world will go down the drain. If you run out of cards, you will also lose, as in the first part. The bottom line is that there are many ways to lose, but usually only one way to win.
The motivation to keep playing both games is the story. It moves you from month to month. Like a good TV series, you want to know what’s going to happen in the next episode, and often it’s not just a game of Pandemic Legacy. There is no question that the stories are very different. It wouldn’t make any sense to tell the exact same story a second time.
Good and bad stories
Well, this is where it gets very subjective. After experiencing both stories, we came to the simple conclusion in our group: New is not always better. Overall, the story from the first part had simply captivated us more. There were more twists and turns than there were in the second part. In the second part, the story was almost clear and the surprises were no longer so surprising. The writers could have gotten more out of that. But maybe they also stacked deeper, so that they could really show off with the conclusion in Season 3?
Of course it doesn’t matter in which order you play the games. To play Pandemic Legacy Season 2, you do not need to have played Season 1 before. But it’s a good idea, even if the transition from part one to part two is not quite logical, knowing what happened in part one makes some explanations in the story of part two easier.
Stories you won’t find in Pandemic Legacy
The real story takes place outside the game board, of course. And that’s what makes Season 2 better than Season 1. If you’ve only chosen a ready-made character in the first part, you go one step further in the second part. Here you build your character from the beginning. First you choose a character tableau. Then you choose your profession, choose a picture you like from the possible character illustrations, add your name and you’ll be a character in the world of Pandemic Legacy Season 2. In my opinion this creates a stronger emotional connection than it was the case in the first part.
Especially because of the character tableau, you build up emotions here, because there is a new clou. At the lower end there are seven fields, which you can scratch up. You have to scratch every time you are threatened. Thank God this does not happen so often. Either nothing happens or your character gets a scar. In the worst case it can also happen that your character dies. In the first part you could take a scar without any problems, you didn’t die until you got the second scar. This of course creates thrills and you won’t go through the world of part 2 as recklessly as you might have done in the first part.
And so this is where the true story in Pandemic Legacy is born. It’s the special situations that happen to your characters. These situations stay in your memory for a long time, while the main story is already fading away. The sacrifice my character made to save the world will be in my memory for a long time. Or our glorious leader who bravely stood in the way of the plague to put us in a better position. Or a teammate who refused to go to Chicago because she was afraid for her character, even though she was never in danger, it turned into a very emotional discussion.
An emotional experience
Whether you’re constantly winning or constantly losing, if you’ve played Pandemic Legacy, you’ll have something to tell afterwards. Unfortunately, you can’t talk to just anyone. Because the danger of unconsciously spoiling it is great. So it’s best to talk to people who have played the game themselves. And the need to talk is great. You want to compare yourself, see how others have solved the problem or which rules you have overlooked.
The problems with the rules
Whether Pandemic Legacy Season 1 or Pandemic Legacy Season 2, getting started is not difficult in either game. With a manageable number of possible actions you try to master the threat. But as the story continues, new rules are added. At first this is unproblematic, because in most cases only one rule is added at a time. But the problem is: If you take a longer break from the game, it will take some time until you are familiar again with the individual actions and rules. But at some point in both games the point is reached where there are simply too many actions and rules. You lose the overview and forget, not so frequently used actions. It is not very helpful that new actions are put on cards that are glued on both sides. It does not help to keep the overview.
Also some rules are not clearly formulated. But this problem has already been recognized and newer editions benefit from this knowledge. And also the character of a Legacy game contributes to the fact that each group has a different approach. This leads to problems of understanding. But here you should not be deterred. Just play the way you think it’s right. We also had such discussions about rules and we decided how to deal with them. Even if we found out afterwards that we might have misinterpreted some things. But this made sure that we remembered Pandemic Legacy.
Pandemic Legacy is not easy
Even the normal Pandemic knows many ways to fail, and the legacy variants do not necessarily make your life easier. On the contrary: The better you complete one game, the harder it is to complete the next. This is regulated by the number of event cards. However, this mechanism is not necessarily logically structured. You have successfully fought the plague and you are being punished by having your resources cut off? And if you’re just unlucky, there’s only a maximum number of cards you’re allowed. Of course, that can be very frustrating.
Speaking of frustration, in direct comparison, we have come to the conclusion that Pandemic Legacy Season 2 was more frustrating for our group than Season 1, which is of course a completely subjective feeling and can be different for each of your gaming groups because no two games are the same. It was hard work to play Season 2 with us. On top of that came the rather monotonous months in which we had to do the same tasks over and over again.
But there’s more to discover in Season 2, because the world in Season 1 is already known, but in Season 2 we have to explore it first. But that can be frustrating, too, because after playing Season 1 you know which parts of the world are still to come and so the waiting for the exploration of those parts can become a tiring test of patience.
Save the world !?
Have we saved the world in the end? Yes, we did that in both Season 1 and Season 2, but the feeling at the end of the game was completely different. While in Pandemic Legacy Season 1 we really felt like heroes because of the uplifting and helping character of the game, the victory in Season 2 was more of a bitter taste. After 16 games we didn’t feel like we had saved many cities. We had to sacrifice cities so that the others could survive. Shortage was a predominant theme during almost all games. This was not exactly uplifting and left us with mixed feelings.
Now, of course, this is a high level grumbling and you should always see it in relation to Season 1 and Season 2. Both are excellent games, but Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is just a bit better. Be it because of the new mechanisms and twists that happen or also because of the better story. On the other hand, I have to give Season 2 credit for the fact that the creation of the characters and the uncertainty in case of injury create a greater emotional bond.
However, Season 1 has a clear advantage over the coatings of the scratch fields. While the silver foil in Season one was quite easy to remove and dispose of, the stuff in Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is just annoying. After rubbing it off, the stuff sticks everywhere. We had even thought about getting a vacuum cleaner for the table. But that was too much of a good thing for us. However, the stuff is still buzzing around in the box and every time I open the box there are small scratch marks all over the floor.
Pandemic Legacy Season 3 may come
We have never regretted the purchase and even if just under 125 bucks for two games sounds like a lot, the purchase was definitely worthwhile for us. We simply shared the purchase price and the burden for the individual is not so high. And the total of 33 games! also meant that we had a fantastic and memorable time with our friends. So it’s not surprising that we can’t wait until Season 3 is released. If Asmodee chooses the same distance as between Season 1 and Season 2, the next and – according to the designers’ statement the conclusion of the Pandemic Legacy Saga – should make its debut at SPIEL 19. However, SPIEL 19 is now over and there is still no information about a release of Pandemic Legacy Season 3.
However, not everyone in our group is looking forward to the release of the game. My wife is not a fan of Pandemic and sacrificed herself for the group so that we could have our fun. But I think she had a little bit of fun in the end. But that also shows the limitation I see. If you don’t like Pandemic anyway, or if you’ve played Season 1 and didn’t really enjoy it because it was too frustrating or the setting didn’t suit you, you should stay away from the games. Especially because the luck factor can be very high and therefore unfair.