Duration: 60+ min
Pandemic Legacy has a hook that people will either immediately love or hate.
The game is a collaborative production between Rob Daviau (Risk: Legacy) and Matt Leacock (Pandemic) and the hook is this: Take the base game concept of Pandemic, a co-operative tabletop game in which players work together to eradicate virus outbreaks around the world.
Now up the stakes by designing it so that it can only be played twelve times over (each playthrough represents a month). Any events that occur during the game have a permanent effect. So if a player dies – thats it – rip up their character card. They’re done. If a city falls into ruin and cannot be saved, wipe it from the map permanently. If a virus mutates and develops new properties, then you’ll just have to deal with that.
Although the concept itself is proving to be polarizing, I had no problems with it myself. I doubt most people in their adult lives will play a board game over a dozen times. As a value proposition, I think a $100 AUD board game that gives me twelve nights worth of entertainment is a good deal.
I think for a lot of people, the bigger challenge is people and time. Finding a group of like-minded people, no matter how well intentioned, and getting them together on a regular basis to play through the story to its completion seems like a daunting prospect.
For my run-through of Pandemic Legacy Edition: Season One, I’ll be playing with my wife Jen and another couple – Jadon and Jules. All four of us are familiar with and have played the original Pandemic game a bunch of times. Our plan at the moment is to regularly play the game “on a Monday” which is the night when we are all free(ish).
This particular blog entry is being written after we’ve played the first month of the game. My goal is to write another full blown spoilerific entry after we reach “December” and finish the game. I have no idea whether that will take three months or three years. We’ll see.
Opening up the game for the first time is pretty exciting. There are several boxes that are sealed over and contain instructions that they are only to be opened when certain conditions are met – “fail 4 months in a row”, draw “X” event card etc. It’s tempting to peak but of course that spoils the fun. The exciting thing is that the boxes are pretty big. Sort of like an advent calendar. It looks like they could contain new board pieces. Perhaps a new virus or some additional player pieces. We shall see.
The four of us each chose character classes and named our guys.
DeShawn Jackson [me] Medic – I’m the healer in the team. Capable of sorting out even the most infected cities in a single turn. The character card makes him look like a marine so I’ve created a backstory for DeShawn where he’s a Afghanistan war vet with a troubled past. He’s got a wife and a young kid. Played linebacker in high school. After creating my character, I realized no one else put any time into creating a story for their guy. Whoops.
Edgar Kim [Jen] Dispatcher – Named after Edgar on the tv show 24, Jen’s character can move other players around the board.
Gineral Gin [Jules] Generalist – the master of multitasking, the Generalist can perform an extra action each round. Also, I think Jules is thirsty.
Jane Doe [Jadon] Researcher – can help find the cure for viruses quickly as their power is to share knowledge cards.
The first mission briefing is very straight forward. “Cure four viruses”. Sure thing! The mission card has a short narrative that immediately suggests that all is not as it seems.
You know the drill. We’ve got four viruses causing us problems. They seem to be mutating faster than usual – we have someone looking into that. For now, keep it under control as one of them may grow beyond our capabilities.
Sounds ominous. I love it!
One concern I had as we began playing through the game is that we might be too good at this. All four of us are experienced players of the game and Jen and Jayden in particular are both strong analytical types. I think part of the fun with Pandemic Legacy is finding out what happens when things go wrong. I’ve half a mind to purposefully sabotage the mission.
As we begin our first playthrough we find ourselves doing extremely well. There are four colour coded viruses. Red, blue, yellow and black. The first three viruses we contain extremely quickly and efficiently with only the black virus spreading beyond our control throughout Russia and Northern Africa.
We found a cure for red early in the game. We were plugging away at the black virus when our first event card unfolded.
The black virus is now incurable.
Well that was a hell of a first twist. After our fine start, the black virus suddenly ran rampant and we had our first city become destabilized by the outbreak (Essen). Eventually, we survived our first month after we cured the blue and yellow viruses which met the new victory conditions. January was complete with all characters surviving intact and no cities lost so far.
As a reward for our performance, my character DeShawn Jackson developed a new ability that allows him to heal cities that are adjacent to the space he occupies. We’re still not sure what’s going to happen with the incurable virus though.
I guess we’ll find out next time.