Sun. Feb 5th, 2023
Don't let the flowers fool you;  it will be a deadly spring.

Don’t let the flowers fool you; it will be a deadly spring.

Nathan Anderson

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend overview of table games! Check out our full board game coverage here and let us know what you think. This review contains NO SPOILERS from the Pandemic Legacy experience.

Pandemic Legacy is, right now, the best board game ever made. That’s not my judgment – it represents the collective wisdom of Board Game Geek users, who have cataloged and reviewed over 82,000 games Pandemic Legacy the best of the bunch.

That’s high praise for a game that only came out a few months ago in late 2015. So what makes it so remarkable?

Original by Matt Leacock Pandemic, a co-op battle between scientists and four diseases spreading around the world, appeared in 2008. It played like most (non-role-playing) games in that each new game resets initial conditions, wipes out previous wins and losses, and limitless play offers for a $40 investment. No surprise there; that’s just how board games work.

But Rob Daviau envisioned a different kind of game, a one-time experience that permanently evolved as you played it. His first attempt, Risk: inheritance for Hasbro, introducing the world to the “legacy” concept, which essentially brought a “campaign mode” to the traditional board game. Daviau has now overhauled his system Pandemicgrafting a year-long story to the game that routinely forces gamers to confront their prejudices against destroying game components, writing on the board, and putting permanent stickers on everything in sight.

The result is Pandemic Legacy‘s 12 missions, five ‘files’, eight mystery boxes, four evolving diseases, one sticker sheet and a pack of ‘legacy’ cards that control the entire experience – all on a truly huge board.

The game deserves its hype. Get a group together – the game works best with four – and start a playthrough. Even if you’re not a fan of board games, this one offers a unique experience worth trying.

But be prepared for something that can sometimes feel like the Schindler’s List of gaming – a great achievement, but not always something you want to pull off when it’s kick-back time on a Friday night.

Inside the disease factory

Pandemic Legacy starts with the basic set of Pandemic regulations. On a huge world map, your team controls four disease specialists who can travel the planet in search of a cure for four different diseases. Players can choose different roles, each with a special ability. For example, the researcher can more easily exchange cards with others, while the coordinator can easily move other players.

On each turn, a player can take four actions, such as move, treat disease, exchange cards, build a research station, or seek healing, then draw two new city cards that can aid in movement or treatment. Cures are performed by collecting city cards in the color of the desired disease and then taking them to a research station.

Sounds simple, except that after each turn the four diseases continued to spread. An “infection deck” spreads new disease cubes around the board, and the number of infection cards drawn from the deck increases as the game progresses.

To make matters worse, five “epidemic” cards pop up periodically. In addition to dropping three cubes on one unlucky city, epidemics require players to “intensify” the infection deck by shuffling the discard pile and then by placing it back on the infection deck. This cunning mechanism, also seen in Leacock games like Forbidden Islandensures that the next infection draws will hit already infected cities.

Once a city acquires more than three colored disease cubes, it suffers an ‘outbreak’. When this happens, disease cubes spill over into every adjacent city. And as one of That cities already have three cubes, they too break out in a ‘chain reaction’.

The game is won by curing illnesses; it’s lost if you have too many outbreaks, if you run out of disease cubes, or if you haven’t won by the time the deck of city cards is empty. Pandemic forces you to keep a close eye on disease burdens around the world, but if your team spends too much time fighting flare-ups, it’s never going to put out the full fire. Finding the balance between treating disease and seeking more permanent cures is a constant challenge.

The game is played in full co-op style, with everyone’s card placed face up on the table. Although each player has a turn, there is no real downtime in the game as each move is discussed by all players.

The legacy version of the game starts with most of the same rules, but quickly changes to something more complex. The game manual contains 25 empty gray boxes labeled “RULE STICKER” – each will change the game after being revealed and added to the manual.

The game plays for months, with new objectives revealed each month; lose one and you’ll get a second chance at the mission, but lose two and you’ll move on to the next month anyway. Each mission results in certain permanent changes to the board, and winning or losing will raise or lower your funding level for the next mission. (So ​​you play a total of between 12 and 24 missions in the game. You record each win or loss, along with your funding level, on a calendar that appears on the back cover of the game manual.)

Plus, your team gets two “upgrades” at the end of each game, adding a light layer of RPG-style goodness to the experience. The upgrades can strengthen characters, change disease treatments, make research stations permanent and grant new card bonuses – and that’s just the beginning. Additional upgrades and bonuses are revealed as the year progresses, thanks to a series of hidden items, locked boxes, and secret cards that come with the game.

Don’t call it “cheating”

So that’s how Pandemic Legacy is supposed to be played, but this is a game that begs you to cheat…at least a little.

Unlike competitive games where the other players make you play by the rules out of self-interest, a co-op game like Pandemic pits a local team of players against a lifeless board and rule book – then raises the stakes with each decision. So all players have a shared incentive to ‘tweak’ rules and game situations to their advantage, lest they get permanently into trouble.

My own game group of sincere and virtuous friends quickly felt the pull of the Dark Side. After playing a practice game, we moved on to the actual game and played our first January mission. Not only did we lose both games, we were absolutely devastated by the game. We stared into the abyss – and the prospect of losing a full set of 24 Pandemic Legacy missions stared back. This game was not easy.

Then the “tweaks” started. During game setup, you draw nine cards from the infection deck and deal out starting disease cubes. Some of these random arrangements can be much more beneficial than others. When we got our second shot at the mission in January, the initial illness condition looked pretty dire; we decided the deck wasn’t “well shuffled” – which might have been true! – and ran the setup again. We won.

The game’s durability ensures its appeal, but also makes it nerve-wracking to play. When a cluster of cities suffers a chain reaction “breakout” if you draw the wrong card from the infection deck, the temptation can be great to peek at the upcoming cards – even if you miss the special ability card that allows you to do so . That’s because for each breakout you need to place a small numerical sticker (1-5) next to the city, increasing the number with each breakout. A “1” does nothing, but “2-3” puts the city in riot mode and destroys all research stations built there; “4” indicates a collapsing city that becomes difficult to enter, while “5” actually indicates that civilization has fallen and all hope is lost. You want to prevent outbreaks!

Even the characters you play can change and die. Bonus skills come at the end of missions, but “scars” also affect any character caught in a city suffering from an outbreak. Each scar damages a character; get three scars and your character dies. If that were to happen, the manual instructs you to “destroy (tear up) your character card”. Yuck.

Simple decisions therefore feel heavy. For example, the first time you completely “exterminate” a disease (discover the cure and then also remove all existing cubes of that disease from the board), you name it. That is, you pull out a black Sharpie and write the name right there in the bottom left corner of the game board, where you will see it for every moment of every game from then on. Is the name too funny? Too serious? Does it fit in the available space? Which member of the game group has the most aesthetically pleasing handwriting?

Our group has now eradicated three separate diseases during our various plays. After some discussion we decided to name them all after the place of the last extermination; so we ended up with “Turkish Delitis” [Istanbul]”Blue Line” [Chicago]and “Manila’s Revenge” [Manila]. I wouldn’t want to come down with any of them.

By akfire1

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