To start with; a Legacy game differs from a “normal” game in that events and outcomes from one game affect subsequent games. The game takes place over the course of a year, naturally starting in January you’ll play your first mission. With each month you’ll receive new or additional mission objectives that are required to complete that month’s challenges. If you win, you can pass on to the next month. Fail, and much like a Maths GCSE, you’ll have to do it again, and come-what-may your second result stands, and you move-on regardless.
Much like the standalone game, players will have a choice of five roles from the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) to choose from, which you’ll use to zip around the globe treating and curing diseases, desperately trying to keep cities from Out Breaking, whilst simultaneously attempting to research a cure for all four of the diseases, plus what other mission objectives there maybe.
Playing Pandemic Legacy is an experience, it up there with those life events that I’ll remember for a while. Last year I attended a Christening, which I have vague recollections; it was sunny and I was hot in my suit. But I also remember what happens in the March mission, and the look on everyone’s face as I read out the mission. And don’t even get me started with April, I don’t want to talk about it.
The big differences with Legacy boil down to three things. Stickers, Secrets and Death.
Upon opening the box (check out the unboxing video here), you see there is a box sized sheet of stickers. Some of these are for the board – diseases can be positively mutated (easier to cure if you can eradicate them in any game), characters can gain extra skills and scars (more on that in a minute), you’ll even be able to add new starting Research Locations to the map for future games. I’m afraid that it isn’t all good though, most of the sheet is taken up by stickers you’ll use to indicate that cities (after an Out Break) become Unstable, Rioting (level 1 and 2), Collapsing, and finally Fallen. These are, believe it or not, bad and progressively worse. You’ll also find some Top Secret Dossiers – more stickers thematically organised on additional sticker sheets, and these go into the rule book. Yup, the rules will actually be changing as you play through this game.
There is also an array of small numbered black “strongboxes” which will add…stuff…to your games when you open them. And in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
Finally, death. It’s a fact of life that it comes to us all. Now it comes to your roles. Happen to be in a city when it out breaks, well you get a scar (my dispatcher has a rather unfortunate case of PTSD because of some stuff that went down in Seoul, but I don’t want to talk about it). If you ever run out of space for scar stickers then say goodbye to that role. For good. Rip it up. Throw it away. For the rest of that game, you’ll become a rather unglamorous citizen.
Astute readers will have done a quick bit arithmetic and realised that you’ll only get a maximum of twenty-four games out of Pandemic Legacy. Well, you are half right. You’ll get a max of twenty-four amazing, nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching tabletop experiences. I neither kid nor exaggerate. But, it does all come with a cost. There is a significant investment of time to play this. You’ll want to get the same people playing throughout ideally too. And, as many of the people I know who have played or are playing it, you’ll probably stay with the same roles; which brings me to my first negative point about this game.
Now it could just be that Pandemic, in any variation is a game that hates you; the player. The game doesn’t want you to win, and at times you may well feel that like real-life Jumanji; it truly is playing you back. This is more so in Legacy, all of which is good, however; I wanted to play as the dispatcher for as long as possible, to almost bridge the game between board and Role Play games but the game changes and evolves and as it does so it teases and tempts you to change roles, to the point where we want to change roles, but it just doesn’t feel thematically right.
The legacy format hasn’t done anything to mitigate the existing “problems” with the core mechanics, this is still Pandemic, and, as a co-op game it is still open to Quarterbacking (where one, usually more experienced player, controls or dictates all the other player’s actions), and if you have played a lot of Pandemic, you’ll have a pretty good idea how to win more consistently. However, both of these “issues” are player led, and not the fault of the game. So, if you are playing with some fun, decent folks and no one has too much experience (and even if they do, they don’t take over) then every game of Pandemic Legacy will be a worthwhile and highly enjoyable experience.
With Season Two being released mid to late 2017 the price is already dropping for this game. if you’ve never played Pandemic, you can totally use this version to get the hang of the game before you start opening those Top Secret Dossiers and putting stickers on everything. If you haven’t played Legacy yet, it is a great experience especially at the now much lower price than the initial release.
If you haven’t done so already, treat yourself and three friends/family to this great experience.