Matt bought a copy of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 a few months back and we thought we’d document our journey through the game as we play so you can compare and contrast your own stories that evolved out of the box! We plan on playing 1-2 times per month on Saturday’s focusing on only one month. So here goes with our monthly summary:
So we opened the game and set up for the month of January. There was a variety of feelings from our group towards the game, which included both eager anticipation and reserved apprehension. The reviews of the game had been stellar, but was it just too much hype or is there something real there? In my opinion the Pandemic base set isn’t particularly amazing, and after a few plays can feel very routine. But the Legacy and progressional aspects of the game had me chomping at the bit to play. Other’s were worried that we’d waste time on a ‘light game’ when we could be playing heavier more interesting games. And yet others were excited to just dive right in.
The initial set up seemed pretty pedestrian but after the second Epidemic card and a couple of outbreaks we were instructed to open the first Top Secret envelope. There’s something about opening those packets that is very stimulating, knowing that your game will indelibly change the game is something very foreign to most board gamers, who usually take great care of components and would never dream of ruining or destroying a part of it. As a result of opening the envelope the blue virus, now classified as ‘COdA-403a’, was incurable and untreatable! There was now a permanent sticker added to the board to prove it! Now we had to find only 3 cures, but had to do a LOT of damage control in North America and Europe. We barely squeaked out a win with only one blue cube remaining before we lost!
After each scenario you get to choose two [and only two] game end upgrades, and we chose to upgrade the Medic with the Forecaster upgrade so he could look at the deck, in order to be able to better combat upcoming infections and to add a permanent starting research center to the city of Kolkata. The game also instructed us to destroy the objective card about curing 4 diseases, as blue is now incurable.
All in all our first play was a great experience, but the excitement really came from the Legacy deck and opening the Top Secret envelopes, so we couldn’t wait to play the next game. But, alas, our session was now over so we had to break camp for the day.. until another time!
February (Spoilers ahead!)
It didn’t take long for us to suffer our first defeat, so let’s take a look at what happened.
February was a month of new things! We were given quarantine markers that are used as a buffer for the infection deck, an extremely useful tool. Also a new character was added to the mix, the Quarantine Specialist, who unsurprisingly makes extra use of the markers, being able to place them, once per turn, anywhere on the map. The markers are not removed by the infection deck in cities where she is. Also, relationships were added to the game, which are permanent stickers that add abilities to characters that are situational between each other.
The initial board set up saw COdA-403a blowing up across Europe and North America, so we knew we’d be under the cosh from the start. After some valiant work from the Quarantine Specialist the blue virus just became too much and we lost from not having enough blue pieces to put on the board during the infection step. It didn’t feel good to lose, but we jumped right back in to try again. A few characters picked up scars, which was worrisome because one of our characters picked up a second scar, which put us all on edge as with a third one your character is lost for the entire game.
For our second attempt the board still seemed unfavourable, but we had a couple of excellent funded events that allowed us to manipulate and bypass the infection deck at some opportune moments. We were dead set on trying to eradicate at least one of the diseases so that we could choose a positive mutation as a game end upgrade. We figured getting these early in the campaign would give us the longest pay off. We were able to get the red virus off the board after spreading around Asia early, that Research Center we added earlier as a permanent sticker in Kolkata really helped out. The game seemed to be going swimmingly and we were trying to see if we could eradicate a second colour, black, which was looking ripe for the picking. We had everything planned out and in two rounds we could win and get a second disease positively mutated! But the infection deck was heavily stacked against us, making for a very tense ending to the game. We ended up eradicating black and then the very next player cured yellow in order to meet the objectives and win the scenario. Afterwards, we peeked ahead and had we had another infection round we would have run out of yellow cubes and lost the game! We all breathed a heavy sigh of relief and vowed never to be that cocky ever again and better plan out this type of bold move looking at our options for both success and failure and to be a little more analytical and less emotional!
March brought the opening of many new things, so here’s a look at some of what came up before the game even started:
Military Bases: These green coloured buildings are another option for players to build as an action. They act as a transport terminals for characters with the dogtags [military] icon on them. The Quarantine Specialist was the only one with that symbol which seemed odd, but ‘free’ movment across the globe could be very useful.
One of the objectives for March was to build a military base in every continent, so clearly they were pushing us to embrace them. There’s also a sheet of stickers at the end of the month which can be used to build permanent ones just like the white CDC stickers.
The legacy deck also provided us with a new character, the Operations Expert, who specialized in the building action, and also had the military dog tags icon, which made us feel a lot better about having the bases be viable and useful. So onto the game!..
The game seemed kind to us, Tim played as the new Operations Expert and was dropping military bases like it was his job, which I suppose it is. Our Medic (read superman) was cleaning up the cubes left, right and centre, and I was keeping the COdA virus quarantined in Europe and NA. Matt was furiously collecting and giving out cards to get diseases cured and we were able to once again get black eradicated. We blew through the game and ended up feeling pretty good about ourselves, before we realized that now we’d have no funded events for April, so we’d be going it alone.
As end game upgrades we placed a permanent Military Base down in Ho Chi Minh City and positively mutated the black disease again. We were unstoppable. Famous Last words!
Our win bonus from March was that we got to place a free Military building at the start of the game, which didn’t feel like much, but every little bit helps. It’s also important to remember that we had no funded events, because this was the first game we’d had none, and that definitely changes the game.
April sets up just like a normal game, except the ominous ‘reminder token’ was placed on the second epidemic spot of the infection rate track. There it was, that little round token just screaming at us: BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID!
The game kind of trundled along and we found that we were making slow progress. We’d traded out the Researcher for our never-before-used Generalist and found that the reduced capacity to share knowledge freely meant that set collecting got bogged down.
Before we knew it we’d pulled that second epidemic card than all hell broke loose. This game just took it to the next level. Part of my complaints about Pandemic is that it’s bland; coloured cubes that could represent anything. Well, here it is.
I am beyond excited for the new changes to the game, the new pieces; the zombies or Faded are so tiny and cute. At first I was a little underwhelmed at how small they are, but trust me on this one; they spread and spread quickly and before you know it they’re all over the board and it looks awesome. And terrifying. The Faded carry a bunch of new rules and clarifications, but suffice it to say we were very quickly overrun and things took a turn toward hopelessness.
By the time the player draw deck got down to its last 6-8 cards the world was in extremely bad shape. We’d been doing damage control for future games, having accepted our fate of losing, we concentrated on trying to prevent cities from becoming Faded. Clearly we were unsuccessful at even that.
But as we got closer to the end the cards came in our favour and we were all of a sudden in a position to pull out a come-from-behind win. Alas, it was not to be. The game ended one turn too early. We were literally one card too short in the deck, which brings me all the way back to those funded events. Those two precious cards that give you great free actions, also give you one extra turn. I hadn’t considered that the funding not only hampers you by taking away the benefits, but it shortens the game making it more difficult that way. I look back at our campaign so far and at least three of our games were won or lost on the last possible player turn. How significant that funding track really is then. This gave me a much deeper appreciation for the care and time that went into the design and balance of this game. Serious kudos on that aspect which, for me at least, had been underappreciated.
Now to replay April with the global situation looking like a dog’s breakfast.
Update: We replayed April and, by the skin of our teeth, won. With characters now gaining scars from starting in cities with Faded figures we’ve basically had to just try and quarantine them with the Quarantine Specialist and try to stem the tide. Delaying tactics and trying to rush the win felt like the only feasible way to win the game.
May saw the introduction of another new character: The Colonel. Finally, a character that can directly combat the Faded!.. Albeit quite slowly, but it’s something. The Colonel can also travel through roadblocks without paying the cost of 1 card.
But what are these road blocks!? Well, road blocks are a new action that a player can take in any region that has a military base. You can place any number of road blocks onto roads [and ferry routes] connecting to the city you are in. These road blocks halt the spread of the Faded along those routes. But they also require a card discarded for a player to pass them, so they can also be a big hindrance.
May started out decently enough, but the Faded quickly got out of hand. We found we didn’t have enough military bases out to place road blocks in strategic locations. Sadly, the faded spread to Atlanta, which will make that city a little more precarious in the future.
Then all of a sudden out of nowhere yellow disease and the faded started to really escalate in their potency. We were so close to having everything wrapped up when the last epidemic card came up. That sickening feeling descended upon us as the infect step saw New York come out from the bottom of the infection deck. There was nothing we could do but watch the chain reaction of outbreaks sweep down the outbreak track and sink us into defeat once again.
Defeat tastes worse each time, and as we replayed May we lost the second time around as well. The Faded were just too much to control. They’d spread too far and wide – it felt like the few road blocks we could get up were just containing a continual chain of outbreaks we couldn’t stop because it was too hard to get into those faded areas and partition them and get out again without dying.
A small (very small) saving grace is we were able to get some more positive mutations for the other diseases due to eradication during the games in May.
Having failed our way through May we were looking for a pick-me-up in June, and our first win in what felt like forever (it had been 3 weeks since we’d last won a game, and the bad taste in our mouths was becoming insufferable).
We picked up yet another new character, this time the soldier, who has the capability to sit in cities with faded figures without gaining scars. This was very intriguing at first, but then kind of a letdown in actuality because the soldier, ironically enough couldn’t inherently kill a faded figure.
The soldier could, however, pick up equipment from the discard pile. Equipment stickers can be applied to city cards that give you special abilities, similar to unfunded events. So the soldier made those a bit more appealing so he could rescue cards that were otherwise discarded and couldn’t be used to cure.
We used him to throw grenades over and over at the faded to thin their numbers, but we were quickly overwhelmed as he couldn’t contribute to the curing effort and between the 3 other characters we just couldn’t get it done.
June Part 2: We lost. I don’t want to talk about it. Four in a row. The game was pretty un-fun during this run of losses, mostly because I’m playing this game for the story, and when you lose a bunch the story progresses so very slowly. The good news is that we got to open box 8! [AKA The Losers Box]. Matt was very upset at this, but I was just happy to get SOMETHING to help us out.
I will fully admit to being the guy when we first started playing Pandemic: Legacy that said “Ohhh, we’ll never need that box, Pandemic is easy, who could ever lose 4 games in a row?.. They must be really bad.” And here I am, with a taste of my own medicine. And it sucks.
Before you yell at me WHAT WAS IN BOX 8?! I’ll tell you, it’s all in the month of July. July came with a brand new mechanic called Searching:
The card told us we were searching for a Virologist, which made it sound like that was a new character we might unlock that would help us to find a cure for the codA virus. The stipulations were that a character had to be in a faded city with a research station; “luckily” Atlanta had become faded during the course of our game so we had a good point from which to start.
The picture doesn’t show our Research Center but there should be one there. Bucky Barnes, our Soldier was able to sit there, playing search cards, and powering through the search part of it. Finally, a proper use for the soldier. We used actions to place a lot of Equipment stickers on cards, especially the Atlanta card which Bucky had in this hand.
That way Bucky could spend an action to place a quarantine marker, search with the Atlanta card, in doing so advance the search token 4 spaces, and then spend an action to retrieve the Atlanta card from the discard pile (because it had equipment on it) and then repeat. It was a great system that blasted through the search easy as pie. It would be a mechanic that we would employ early and often in future searches.
Disaster was about to strike however, whilst the rest of the crew were trying to find cures they were down a man because the Soldier cannot find a cure, so he basically becomes a card mule. The board was getting out of and, a theme in our campaign, and the Zombies were spreading everywhere. An epidemic was drawn and we were in a seriously bad spot.
WELCOME TO BOX 8! I was expecting some super epic stuff to help us out, but really the ‘Losers Box’ only contains three or four cards, each identical. You get to discard a drawn epidemic card by increasing the panic level of one city by one step, then destroy that card. It was the respite we needed, and knowing there were a few more in the deck was a safety blanket for games to come. Still, a little underwhelming for the big box just having a couple cards in it.
I suffered through how many hours of losing games and all I got was this lousy card? As ungrateful as I sound for the massive help that these cards are, don’t mistake how useful they are. I’m pretty sure that without them we’d have lost another four games and probably have abandoned the campaign altogether. I know Matt felt they were a little ‘cheap’ as a “here, you can win a game!” card, but I was just happy we could progress the story. On completing July successfully it became evident that this Search was only the first of at least two more that we’d have to successfully conduct in order to find a cure for CodA.
December was a really weird month for our group at least. You have 2 goals: Have all infected cities vaccinated, and complete a super complex search card at the CDC in Atlanta to find the stock pile of bio weapons used by the enemy. We were in good standing as far as vaccinating cities was, and had a great complement of Vaccine Factories but that search card is brutal.
We ended up opting to play the month in two games and take the loss on the chin. The first month we decided to focus entirely on trying to vaccinate every city and then, if we had time we could try to do the search card.
We used a number of great abilities and characters accumulated throughout the game in order to achieve this singular goal, so there was a nice (small) culmination of stuff from previous months being put into effect during this session.
The vaccinations went as expected and we got the entire board orange with time to spare, but were unable to make headway on the search in any significant way. This was no big deal. All according to the plan. It did feel a little lame though and somewhat gamey. Which is something I’d not felt at all throughout the previous 16 games we’d played. Planing to lose a month in order to win over all just didn’t sit right with me.
Upon replaying the month all we had to do was survive and get that search card done. For all the hours we’d played this felt ultimately very flat. We had each one of us sit in Atlanta doing search after search just throwing away cards whilst we watched disease spread throughout the world. We had one or two of us peeling off at times to try and put out the more major incidents, but the game felt like a card juggling exercise and each players turn couldn’t be rushed through fast enough in order to get to the only actually important part – the player card draw. This was something of a let down compared to what the game has offered in previous months.
So that’s it. That was Pandemic Legacy: Season 1.
Here’s us shooting an impromptu video about the whole experience after last game.
Is it the Number 1 board game of all time? Not for me. Is it the number 1 ‘game experience’ of all time? Not for me. Was it good? Absolutely! Would I recommend it? Again, absolutely! Will I play Season 2? Now that’s a hell of a question, because knowing what kind of a time commitment these games are, and knowing all the other games were would forego playing in order to play Season 1, I’ll be thinking about it long and hard.