The (spoiler-free) Gist
Why we recommend it
We loved Pandemic Legacy Season 1, it was our favourite game of all time and for good reason. It was the first game to really perfect the idea of the evolving and changing game. A game where the decisions you make now matter in games down the line. Oh and you’ll need to scribble on the board, rip up cards and open all these fancy secret packages. What could be more fun than that?
Given these games are all about secrecy and making decisions, we want you to make one before you get that juicy juicy content:
- I have never heard of a “legacy” game, let alone Pandemic Legacy (spoiler free!)
- I love the idea of these games, should I skip Season 1 and just play 2? (spoiler free!)
- I played Season 1, should I play Season 2? (spoiler free!)
- I’ve already played them both and I want to know your spoiler-filled thoughts.
I have never heard of a “legacy” game, let alone Pandemic Legacy.
Well let me stop you there. You should just go read our review of Season 1 here. It’s spoiler-free and explains what makes these games so brilliant. OR just watch the video at the top of this page.
I love the idea of these games, should I skip Season 1 and just play 2?
That is a tough question to answer. Both Season 1 and 2 of Pandemic Legacy are brilliant and you will likely be incredibly happy with either (or both). Season 2 references some of the story from Season 1 (which there isn’t that much of) but is otherwise unconnected. No decision made in one season will carry over to the other; this isn’t Mass Effect.
If you want to be a purist or can only get one, we’d say go with Season 1. It had more “OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED??” moments, is more surprising and makes you feel a bit more invested in the “story” and your characters than in Season 2.
Season 2 is mechanically a more interesting game, and a unique game in its own right – rather than starting as a basic game of Pandemic as Season 1 does. It has more interesting decisions and a lot more boxes to open and things to uncover. But, just like like Tony Hawks 3, Season 2 is a game that is – on paper – better than it’s predecessor, but only marginally so and therefore wont quite give you that rush you got that first time.
That said, if you’ve played Pandemic and all it’s expansions to death, Season 2 is probably a better bet as it’ll be much more refreshing and different.
I played Season 1, should I play Season 2?
Yes, 1000 times yes. It’s great, really brilliant. Builds on lots of the great ideas from the first game and still has plenty of surprises. It probably doesn’t have as many of those 10/10 “oh my god what just happened” moments, but it’s a more consistent experience. It’s also a harder game; you will probably lose more than you did in Season 1 but not in an unsatisfying way.
With Season 1 I got fatigued in the last few months. I felt like the game didn’t evolve enough or challenge us to change strategy. Season 2 does a better job of asking you to change your tactics more frequently – or when it doesn’t, it at least placates you with more secrets to unbox or scratch off.
Obviously the caveat to all of this, how much did you enjoy Season 1? If like us it was your favourite game of forever, this is a no brainer. If you felt like it was merely fine then maybe you don’t need this in your life. It is still Pandemic, and it is still a legacy game.
I’ve already played them both, tell me what you think.
Why are you here? I mean I guess you want validation or maybe you want the juicy stuff, the real spoiler-filled review of how it all panned out. OK FINE, we got you covered.
If you have not completed both Pandemic games and ever intend to, stop now. This is your warning. Beyond this we are going to spoil some of THE best moments in the game.
**SPOILERS. TURN BACK**
***HONESTLY THESE ARE THE BIGGEST SPOILERS***
****OK WE MADE THE TEXT WHITE SO HIGHLIGHT BELOW HERE FOR THE GOODS****
Season 1 of Pandemic was a watershed moment in gaming. It’s the game that showed me you could create emotions in board games that I thought were reserved for other mediums. It has surprise, story, incredibly tense and exciting moments, strategy and tactics: it’s got it all.
I love the simplicity of the first few turns in Season 1 being just like a regular game of Pandemic, but then there are 3 major ‘plot points’ – or twists, if you like – that turn the game into something truly special. First, something fundamental changes: you can no longer cure one of the diseases. This is the first time the game fucks with your expectations, but it isn’t the last.
Second, in April the whole game turns on it’s head, as the disease mutates into a zombie-creating plague. This might sound daft, but it’s the first time I’ve really had to think more about the humanity of what you’re doing. Pandemic is normally just coloured blocks representing a spreading plague, with little connection to the people being plagued. Now, as Season 1 develops, the disease manifests as actual people – actual figures on the board that you can isolate or kill for the greater good. Did I want to though? Did I really want to give up on curing them?
Third, the biggest twist of all. One of your characters betrays you. That’s right, one of the characters one of you has been playing as – one of the team – unknowing that they were a traitor all long. They turncoat and you find out you’re the baddies, and now you have to undo everything you have built. It’s brilliant. You’ve spent so much time investing in your characters, going to stupid lengths to protect them, and in the end you lose one of them anyway.
This sense of loss is something both games create in different ways, without ever making you feel like you’ve been cheated. When you spend most of your time mitigating and avoiding it, the loss does hurt but I think this is something you have to experience. If the games didn’t force these moments, I probably wouldn’t have lost any characters, but there’s something character-building about that brief moment of silence as you stare at your fresh blank new character card.
Those 3 twists are the game. The moment-to-moment tactics are mostly Pandemic with some expansions, and that’s great. But those 3 moments are what will stand out forever for me. They were the things that made me want to play ‘one more game’ and made me pester my play mates to let me know when their next free night was.
So I was incredibly excited for Season 2. How could they top that?
As you probably know, Pandemic Season 2 starts small as a post-apocalyptic world with a tiny map. It also flips the basic mechanic of Pandemic on its head. Rather than take away cubes, you’re placing them on the board. The difference here is it lets you plan ahead and hedge your bets, but it also creates a new anxiety. Now almost everything was preventable, if only you had had the foresight to place some supplies there. It’s the ultimate FOMO.
I loved exploring the map, building out the world. It makes the game feel in part like a build-your-own Pandemic, drawing your own city lines and planning your own supply centres. Because of that freedom, the game has to make itself harder and that’s great: I was ready for a challenge. Losing in Pandemic often feels like you played the odds and the unlikely event happened, but here I at least felt I had more control and more games came down to the wire. We often would realise that we probably only had 3-4 turns left, so we either had to choose to try and to win in that time, or cut our losses and just do our best to mitigate the damage that would roll over to the next game. It creates brilliant tension as you flip over the remaining cards, hoping it doesn’t hit the one city currently without any supplies.
Compared with Season 1 games might become unwinnable, but here you can at least create your own secondary objectives. You can connect more of the map, search cities or try to build up populations. Those secondary objectives can also sometimes derail the main ones as you really want to scratch off that city search or open that next box. I love that push and pull of the character’s objectives with your real-world desires to uncover all the content and surprises.
The final mission in both games is obviously supposed to be epic, but I can barely remember Season 1’s. Season 2 however was far more devious. Knowing that each attempt was going to kill a character added so much more tension, and meant you had to plan a lot more rather than just trying to go for it. We ended up going into the month of December with the high expectation – and acceptance – of losing the first game, just to set ourselves up for the best possible go at it the second time round. All the eggs in one basket and one plan. We were lucky it worked.
Overall, my take away is that I had a deeper connection and created more memories with Season 1, but Season 2 is the better, more polished game. Both brilliant but in different ways. Season 1 had the bigger surprises and some of the bigger decisions, but it was also my first Legacy game. There was no way of knowing what the limits of the game would be. Even the simple things like the first time the game offered us new characters was a surprise, I didn’t expect that. Season 2 overall just felt more cohesive, built in a more satisfying way. But I was less attached to my character, so when the opportunity came I was happy to swap out – it was just a collection of abilities, not something I felt a deep connection with or had created much of a mythos around.
I look forward to the next Legacy game I play. It still feels like there is so much more to be done in this genre. How did your Legacy experiences differ or match with ours? We’d love to know.