Pandemic Legacy: You Reap what you Sow
Now this article is going to be as detailed as I can make it whilst being incredibly vague, now there is a good reason for this: Pandemic Legacy is an intense, story driven experience and I do not want to ruin that experience for anyone!
So let’s start from the beginning: What is Pandemic?
Pandemic is a game written by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man games in 2007. It’s a Eurogame where you and a group of friends take control of some of the world’s foremost experts on infectious diseases and attempt to save the human race from the 4 deadly new illnesses that have appeared.The name of the game is to travel around the globe, removing “infection cubes” from major cities before they reach a critical point and spread to nearby areas. In the mean time you will collect location cards that share one of the 4 virus colours. When one player has 5 of these cards of the same colour they can find a cure and then all you have to do is cure the remaining hotspots. It sounds simple but it isn’t! Randomly generated epidemics and outbreaks that appear throughout the game will pile on the pressure as it progresses. Once you have found the cure for all four illnesses, you win!
Alpha gamer syndrome - Part. 1
If there was one reoccurring criticism against Pandemic, it’s that it suffers from what’s known as “alpha gamer syndrome” where one experienced player will just take command of the game and the others just move cards and cubes around. Now this is true. The mechanics for pandemic are the same whether you’re playing on your own or with a group so it can happen but it depends greatly on who you’re playing with.
I believe the best solution to this is to empty your Pandemic game box, fill it with bricks, knock out the aggravating alpha gamer with your “brickdemic” and then try and finish the game before he wakes up. Now I’m not saying you should cause bodily harm to your fellow players but what I will say is that there’s a reason I brought this up which will become apparent later on.
Out with the old, in with the new
Rob Daviau is the mastermind behind this new incarnation, teaming up, of course, with Matt Leacock to bring us a riveting “campaign” setting where your choices are permanent and their consequences have a drastic effect on all the games that come after.
So how does it do this? Why are we tagging on the name “Legacy”? Isn’t this just a simple campaign mode?
No. No it is not.
Have you ever played a game that specifically demanded that you destroy or deface certain parts of the game? No?
Well congratulations, you’re about to.
Their Legacy is your future
You may feel a bit guilty when you let a character die, or loose a city in another game. In Risk Legacy, when the game requires you to physically destroy that element’s cards or counters, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.
Take your characters for example. There was a wide choice of characters back in the original games: Field Medic, Researcher, logistic officer, etc. They are all present, along with some new ones and can evolve from game to game. They can have relationships, gain new abilities and they can also be wounded, acquiring “scars”.
Each time you are told to gain one of these, you take a sticker from the ones that the game has given you so far (more become available as you play further into the storyline) and stick it on your character’s sheet. It cannot then be removed or changed, it’s permanent and nobody else could ever have that ability. Once you have run out of space on your card, the character cannot be upgraded anymore with the exception of “Scars”. If you already have two Scars, penalties that can cause a lot of inconvenience to your character, and are called upon to take a third, then that character is permanently dead. Take the character card, rip it up, you will never see him or her again.
You will even be called upon to deface the handsome game board that comes with it. Research centers are critical to travelling around the globe quickly as well as curing certain diseases. You can build permanent new one between games and indicate them by placing a sticker on the map. Cities, each time they are at the source of an outbreak, degenerate further and further into chaos until they finally become a smoking ruin. Each time an outbreak happens at a location you place a sticker on the board to indicate it. When the cities reaches certain stages it dishes out big penalties to those who wish to interact with it.
Certain location cards can be upgraded with special powers and even the individual illnesses can be “downgraded” to make them easier to handle in future games. If you eradicate an illness it still comes back for the next game but with a “downgrade” of your choice.
So this is how you permanently change the game every time you play and, believe you me, you will be tearing up a lot of cards and placing a lot of stickers from the word so, so I hope you’re not too attached to your material!
The most interesting elements however are the mystery boxes, the event deck and the top secret files.
Initiate containment protocols
At the beginning of each month, or when the game tells you to, you will draw cards from the action deck until you reach a STOP card. You need to reach the situation described on the card before drawing any more. The cards you now have in your hands will allow you to follow the geame’s riveting storyline and watch as our very civilization begins to splinter under the weight of the biological disaster that’s unfurling before your eyes. In these cards you can find new actions, new rules or new characters and sometimes it will ask you to open a compartment in one of the secret files or one of the mystery boxes.
The top secret files are in fact cleverly designed sticker sheets divided into sections so that you can peel back specific compartments. Think of an advent calendar but instead of chocolate you get horrible, horrible death. These are the stickers that you’ll be using to deface your precious board game. They could be abilities for characters or cards, new rules that you stick into special sections of the rulebook, there are loads of different effects and the way the game tempos their distribution adds a lot of spice to your games.
Life is like a box of chocolates...
The most exciting revelations however come from the mystery boxes. These contain game changing pieces that can throw an entire game or make you fear the next time you have to venture into the world of Pandemic.
Now I’m being fairly vague here I know, I have to be. I got to play half a dozen games of Pandemic Legacy yesterday and let me tell you, the storyline, the progression and the drama between games is RIVETING. I can’t say much more on the specifics simply because I’d hate myself if I were to spoil your own experience of the game.
Rest assured, you may of played a lot of pandemic in the past…but you have NEVER played it like THIS.
This game will blow your board gaming socks off...
Alpha Gamer syndrome - Part. 2
Remember what I said about Alpha gamers? Well, the game changes every time you play, you’re not just playing any old game of Pandemic, you’re playing in a world shaped by your choices, successes and failures. Everyone will be more focused on the story and its conclusion then on the one dude leading the dance and the game throws so many curveballs at you that even he/she will have a rough time keeping up. The game tells you a story, a great one at that, and not even an annoying alpha gamer can detract from it. If he does, there’s always the “brickdemic” solution.
The game is divided into twelve chapters, or “months”. You have two attempts to win a game for each “month”. You don’t have to win, no matter what happens you can play this game through to the bitter end but you will miss out on certain victory rewards. This means you can have up to 24 games with the box, because, yes, it’s meant for one epic storyline run through HOWEVER, nothing stops you from using what’s left of the world you saved (or maybe failed to) and the special cards in order to play normal games of Pandemic after.
24 is a very decent number of games for an average player and for the announced price of €50 I can’t see people being to bothered about this. Yes you only get to play through it once, but, immerse yourself in the game, bring round some trusty gaming companions and that one run-through will be GLORIOUS.
Pandemic Legacy feels as much like a video game or a film as much as a board game. It will have you on the edge of your seat. you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll curse the fact that you didn't put Sao Paolo under quarantine because you just lost most of South America...etc. It's an epic, exciting approach to a "classic" eurogame and unless you really have a gudge against its predecessor, there's no way you'll not enjoy it. It will be released for Essen 2015 and in the mean time the publisher is doing everything they can to keep the games secrets under lock and key until then! It’s one hell of an adventure and you need to experience it for yourselves! No spoilers!