Pandemic Legacy: It’s Fun to Watch the World Crumble

This is what you do in Pandemic Legacy.

I recently played Pandemic Legacy, a follow-up to the popular Pandemic board game, and I quite enjoyed it. Pandemic Legacy is a four-player game with three particularly interesting aspects that are quite unusual in other games.

Play Nicely Together

First, Pandemic is a co-operative game.  The premise is that several different extremely dangerous diseases are popping up all over the world. Your team needs to work together to both search for cures and minimize the impact on cities. You typically win as a team if you find cures to enough diseases, and lose if the diseases completely overwhelm a enough cities.

Co-operative board games are rare, and most seem to have been designed by hippies with the emphasis on co-operation rather than, say, entertaining game play. Pandemic, on the other hand, is far more engaging for adults. The premise works perfectly for this sort of game, and the tension constantly increases.

The Card Dynamic

Many games add randomness using cards. Pandemic does to. However, the way Pandemic uses these cards is creative.  To determine what cities become infected (or have their infection level increase), you randomly draw cards each turn.  However, occasionally, when a random event occurs, the cards that have already been drawn are shuffled, and put back on the top of the deck, ready to be drawn again.  In other words, you’re frequently drawing the same cards for the same cities.

This dynamic potentially has dire consequences, because it means that you know the cities that are currently infected will either be reinfected, or have their infection levels increase. And if the infection levels increase too high, they’ll infect all the adjacent cities. Thus, there is a constant conflict between looking for cures for the disease, and attempting to treat individual cities so that they don’t blow up when their cards are drawn anew.

Changing Rules

The biggest problem with Pandemic was that the game grew stale fairly fast—the randomness wasn’t sufficient to stop the game from becoming stale. Pandemic Legacy solves that issue by changing the rules in successive games, both in positive and negative ways.  Thus, your performance in one game affects the next game—you can actually have your game characters become scarred or even die.  What’s more, it has a full storyline, almost akin to a video game, that develops over the course of successive games.  This storyline is hidden from the players initially, so after every game, new information is revealed.

This change makes the game much more replayable (at least until you exhaust the content). What’s more, it means that, at the end of a game, you actually have to think about what sort of strategy you want to use for later games, and choose rule changes that aid that strategy.

The Bottom Line

These changing rules make Pandemic Legacy much more interesting to me than simple Pandemic.  I’d recommend the game to anyone who’d like a change from the cutthroat dynamics of the typical board game.

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