Review – Pandemic Legacy

Phoung and I love playing Pandemic. We have three copies of the base game, all the expansions created so far, and even the two stand-alone games “The Cure” and “Contagion”. We even  went to Montreal recently to compete in a National Pandemic Tournament after qualifying in a local tournament in Calgary. I guess we’re both fans this game.

I got a birthday card with my gift. Thanks guys!

So when I got Pandemic Legacy as a birthday gift from my friends, Phuong and I were both ecstatic. The collection is complete once again.

Pandemic Legacy is based on the original Pandemic game. If you don’t know the original game, the premise is this: you and a team of others are working together to stop a set of diseases from spreading all over the world. Using the special abilities your team has, you fly all over the world trying to develop cures while preventing any further outbreaks of the diseases themselves.

So how is Pandemic Legacy different? If you have played “Risk Legacy”, it follows that mechanic. A legacy board game is one in which any actions you take in the current game will affect future games. Legacy board games often force you to write on the actual board game or cards, place stickers on the board which change it permanently, and even tell you to rip up cards so that they can never be played again. Legacy board games also have secret compartments, packages, or envelopes, that are only opened when you and your gaming group achieve a certain outcome, or trigger some sort of event. For example, when my friends and I played Risk Legacy, we were ripping up location cards, putting dotted lines on the board so that players can travel from Australia all the way to Africa, and gave certain factions special abilities.

Pandemic Legacy follows a similar mechanic. It is regular Pandemic, but with the legacy mechanic, which includes its own storyline. The storyline is based on what your team can accomplish in a span of one year. I am not going to mention any spoilers for the game and if you want to know what’s going to happen with the world, you’re going to have to buy the game for yourself. In any instance, I’m going to mention the parts of the game that are important to how it functions. 

An added feature in the game is the panic level for the cities. In the event of an outbreak, the level of panic in a city permanently increases. If your team causes the stability of the city to get worse, the cities become unpassable, and you won’t be able to build research stations there, which are essential in finding cures.

Another interesting element in the game is the government funding provided for your team. In the original Pandemic game, you randomly selected and shuffled in a set of event cards, which would help the team complete its objective in saving the world. In Pandemic Legacy, the team decides which event cards go into the player deck. This decision is based on what is happening in the current storyline and how much government funding you are given. The government funding determines how many event cards go into the player deck. At the start of the year, you are given a government funding value of four. If you lose the current game, your government funding goes up by two and if you win the current game, your government funding goes down by two. This element is a factor in how difficult your current game is going to be. Less government funding means higher chances of epidemics happening on the boards and less cards that can aid you in keeping the world alive.

Also new to the game is the scar feature. If a character ends up in a city which outbreaks, that character receives a scar. This is a permanent affliction given to your character and will hinder his or her ability to do their job. For example, we gave one of our characters a “hobbled” scar which meant that the character couldn’t pass through certain cities. The worst part about scars is that if a character takes too many scars, the character is considered lost and you must destroy the character card. This element of the game drastically changes many of the decisions your team will make for the game. If you are able to predict where the next outbreak will occur, you may need to alter the actions of your character in order to prevent them from receiving a permanent handicap.

Regardless of whether or not the team successfully complete the missions in the game, the team will always get bonuses. These include being able to put permanent research facilities on the board, giving special abilities to one of your characters, creating special event cards using the stickers provided, or creating a positive mutation on a disease making it easier to cure in the game. Remember these decisions will be transferred to future games so it is vital that you pick the right bonuses that will prepare you for the next round.

I’ve appreciated the legacy mechanic on both Risk and Pandemic. However, Pandemic is a far quicker game than Risk, which is why I can play this game more often than Risk. You can get multiple rounds in a night and thus progress the storyline even further. I’ve also noticed with this game that players start to familiarize themselves with and even attach to their own character. I guess that comes with having players name the characters. I also like how everybody who owns the game will have a different experience from everybody else. In my copy of the game, any of my blue territories or parts of the Pacific Rim are far more damaged than the rest of the world, but the black disease is easily treatable. Someone else who has a copy of this game may have a different set of circumstances. It’s that personalization factor that makes the game stand out.

This game is recommended more for a group of friends who game together often. As a group, you can continue on with the storyline. This is not a casual game; if you want to play Pandemic once or twice with a group of people you could play this, if you don’t mind bringing up to speed what’s been going on with your copy of the game. If you want to play this game casually, consider playing the regular game of Pandemic.

This game is not recommended for players who have OCD tendencies with board games. You know who I’m talking about. There’s always that one friend who when you play one of their board games they insist that everything be put back in the same place and ensures that the game is returned as close to its original packaging state (maybe even uses rubber gloves when opening packages for the first time). Pandemic Legacy is a game that is meant to have elements written on, modified, and even ripped up and destroyed. I know there are some gamers out there who would have a fit if they were forced to rip up certain cards. I would advise those people to have another friend purchase the game.

Whether you’re new to the Pandemic franchise, or you’re a veteran of the game, Pandemic Legacy continues to deliver an amazing and immersive cooperative experience for you and your friends. The added storylines and additional elements will give players a whole new level of urgency that cannot be found in its Pandemic predecessors. Your decisions are based on either saving the world or protecting your beloved and developed characters for another fight, which gives the game some subtle RPG elements. This is an amazing game and I highly recommend adding this to your collection.


–  A wonderful remake of an already amazing game.

– Great cooperative game in which your actions permanently alter the game.

– Awesome storyline


You’re going to wreck the board game. Don’t get too attached to the pieces

– I’m not sure what happens when you finish the 12 month run. What do you do afterwards?

– Lots of reteaching especially when you have new players and new rules are put into play.

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