Before you get worried, don’t. I shall not spoil this board game, which, arguably, began the increasingly popular trend of turning tabletop entertainment into TV series. Rather than a repeatable setup meant to tell a new story every time, Pandemic Legacy and its ilk instead endeavor to tie some measure of every game’s actions to a continuing narrative. It’s great fun, provided you can get the same group together.
And, most important, you’d better like the base game.
Because that’s the biggest critique I have with Pandemic Legacy, some 7 months into its 12 month campaign (each month contains a max of 2 ‘games’). Pandemic is a very specific type of cooperative game, played under a tight time limit and with a heavy vulnerability to ‘quarterbacking’, where one player can, more or less, tell everyone what to do. Sometimes it feels like some sort of Soviet ideal – everyone works together to determine everyone’s turn, and only through communal effort can the group survive.
Of course, fighting global disease requires this sort of cooperation, but we’re moving chits across a cardboard map of the globe here. What matters in a board game are the stories the players tell, both during and (crucially) after the game. If Pandemic Legacy strips players of individual agency, it repays that with cruel twists and sighs-of-relief that come with insane frequency.
I waver on whether it’s enough, and that’s why I’m thankful we’re not playing only this game, or bringing it out constantly. The luck-based pieces of Pandemic are frustrating enough that, combined with the feel that you’re not really getting turns because the group is making every decision together, immersing myself too often in the game would drain my enthusiasm.
So, midway through this adventure, I can say this: the story is rollicking, the additions seeping through are great fun and present true strategic dilemmas for the team to puzzle through. You’ll feel unstoppable one game and then get wrecked by those nefarious pathogens in the next.
My advice, though, would be to mix it up. Play some other games in between Pandemic sessions. Exorcise your disease demons by rolling dice or slapping cards down in another cardboard kingdom. Then, when it’s time to once more strap on the hazmats and start the long laying out of actions, trades, and cures, you won’t reach for the bottle. At least, not till the outbreaks begin to chain.