- Designer: Rob Daviau, Matt Leacock
- Publisher: Z-Man (U.S.)
- Players: 2 – 4
- Ages: 14 and Up
- Time: 60 Minutes Per Game, Campaign Takes 12-24 Games
- Times Played: 20 (Full Campaign)
Pandemic Legacy first took the boardgame world by storm back in 2015, with Season 1 grabbing BGG’s #1 spot and earning praise from around the hobby. Season 2 was released last year, and it is climbing in the BGG rankings as well. Back in May, Pandemic Legacy earned a special prize from the Spiel des Jahres jury, with them calling it “the best version of ‘Pandemic’ so far” and “the yardstick against which all future legacy games must measure themselves.”
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 is one of my favorite games of all time, so I was eager to try Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. My group recently finished the full campaign, so I wanted to write a review. As I often do with legacy-style games, I’m doing this in a FAQ format. I’ve kept this spoiler free, though I do discuss at a general level my own campaign.
What’s the setting of Season 2? And how does the gameplay work?
Season 2 takes place 71 years after the events of Season 1. The population is now operating out of sea-based havens, and they are resupplying former cities on the land.
As opposed to Season 1, which started out very similar to Pandemic, Season 2 starts out with quite a few differences from Matt Leacock’s original creation. The gameplay still feels like the Pandemic we all love — you’re trying to collect sets of city cards to complete certain objectives while plagues and diseases take over the board — but with clever new iterations, and far more of a discovery aspect.
And that discovery aspect is what makes Season 2 so special. In the very first game, you have a few sea havens and a few coastal cities, and you need to protect them while also trying to discover new lands via the “Recon” action.
Plus, there’s a difference in how disaster occurs: rather than eliminating disease cubes like in base pandemic, the primary mechanic here is to put “supply” cubes on cities before the problem occurs, preventing infections. As long as supply cubes are on the cities, they’re safe. So a large part of the game here is about moving supply cubes around the map.
Along the way, you can buy various upgrades to help in your campaign. You can buy character upgrades, upgrades to the various cards in the game, permanent helpful items on the map, and even new “population” in cities.
In short, this feels like Pandemic, but with more emphasis on discovery and on preventing problems.
How long is the campaign? Is it replayable?
Like with Season 1, your campaign could be 12-24 games, and each game takes 45 minutes to an hour. You play all 12 months of the calendar year, and each month could take one or two games. If you win in the first half of the month, you move on to the next month. If you lose twice in a month, you also move on to the next month.
We took 20 months. We won in the first half of the month 4 times, won in the second half of the month 7 times, and lost both parts of a month 1 time. It took us 5 different sessions over 5 weeks to finish the game.
You mark the board, cards, and other gameplay components, so the game will not be replayable at the end of the campaign.
Do you have to play Season 1 first? Do people have to have played Pandemic?
I’d recommend people play Season 1 first, but it isn’t necessary. I had played Season 1 first, but my two fellow players in this campaign hadn’t ever done so. A couple of the story aspects alluded back to Season 1, but it isn’t necessary for gameplay, and it wasn’t even that necessary for the story.
I don’t think people necessarily need to have even played Pandemic. I think it’s helpful, so I’d recommend teaching players Pandemic first, but you could easily teach players pandemic legacy even if you started in Season 2.
What player counts work best? Can people be substituted in and out of the campaign?
We played our campaign with 3 people. I’d recommend at least three people, as it is helpful to have various minds doing the planning, but I think it would work equally well with 3 or 4 people.
You can easily add a 4th person mid-campaign if need be. Alternatively, if you started with 4, you could easily go to 3 people mid-campaign.
My Thoughts on the Game . . . Including How It Compares to Season One
If I had played this back in 2017, this would have been my top game of that year. As it stands now, this is easily in my top 20 games of all time, and probably in my top 10. My group adored the game, and with that particular bunch, we found ourselves going late into the night just to get another game in.
I personally liked it better than Season 1. The discovery aspect of the game is brilliant, and I loved uncovering new parts of the map. The legacy aspect worked just as well here as in Season 1, but this did a much better job of keeping my attention across the entire campaign.
The story is an important part of legacy games — across the entire campaign, they tell can tell quite the tale — and I liked the story here better than in Season 1. This felt like a more natural telling of events, and as you’d expect, it was fun to see the world come online due to our cooperative efforts.
If you’re new to legacy-style games, I enthusiastically recommend the Pandemic Legacy series as a place to start. I was fascinated with the genre after Season 1, but then my waned considerably after Charterstone and The Rise of Queensdale. But Season 2 rekindled my hope earlier in the summer, and more recently, Ultimate Werewolf Legacy has caused me to love legacy games again.
I have to agree with the Spiel des Jahres jury: this is the best version of Pandemic I’ve played. It’s brilliant, and Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock deserve massive kudos for this outstanding creation.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers
Michael W.: I agree – I definitely like it more than Season 1. S1 had a late-game issue that I can’t describe without being spoiler-y, but it left a slightly sour feeling at the very end. S2’s Recon mechanic and the general “ounce of prevention” approach are definite winners. We’re at November and hopefully finish this out in 1 more game session soon.
Mark Jackson: We loved Season 1 – in fact, I’m the guy who wrote the review for the Opinionated Gamers! (https://opinionatedgamers.com/2015/11/24/pandemic-legacy-the-reeses-peanut-butter-cup-of-games/) I called it “my favorite game of 2015” – and that’s still true.
I don’t know if Season 2 will be my favorite game of 2018 – but it’s certainly an amazing gaming experience… and in many ways, more thematically interesting than Season 1.
We just won our first game in May (after losing the previous 4 games and opening the Box of Shame)… I predict that darkness is coming and that we will enjoy it.
Jeff L.: We’ve only just started Season 2, after Season 1 became my top game of all time. I know, we’re a little behind the times. So far it’s well executed, just different enough from Pandemic to be a change of pace, but retaining the same feel. Well done. I’m sure my rating will be love it, but I need to play some additional months, at least.
Patrick Brennan: This provides a very different Pandemic experience, cleverly provided within the same Pandemic card / epidemic structure. The major difference is that you’re putting out cubes (resources) instead of removing them, and if a city without resources gets revealed at end-of-turn, it breaks. The feel of the game is wilder. With fewer cities, cards are repeated in the decks, and quick successions in the same city will stuff you no matter how well you’re playing. It’s offset by the fact that you don’t need to move around as much. But this is offset by the fact that it takes longer to collect and distribute resources than simply to remove cubes per the original. While there are still clever risk-management plans to conceive and implement, which is the charm of the game, some of these games have just smacked us too hard, too quickly, and ended up proving an exercise in futility – no one wants a game that ends (after each player has only had two or three turns) due to rotten and unavoidable card draw. Other games have been easy wins. Others we’ve played perfectly and lost on the final flip of an infection card. Nonetheless, we enjoy Pandemic and its swings and roundabouts so at time of writing our group has played to October, and it gets love for the journey it’s taken us on, together with big kudos for the way it’s taken a different path with the discovery aspects et al. Re Season 1 vs Season 2 – if you enjoy the Pandemic paradigm, you’ll enjoy and get value out of both.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray, Michael W., Mark Jackson, Patrick Brennan
- I like it.
- Not for me…
I didn’t get the chance to comment on this, so let me do so here. I’m not usually a fan of cooperative games, plus legacy games aren’t a great fit, since playing with the same group for a lot of games isn’t always possible. But my goddaughter loves co-ops and we try to play games whenever we get together, so Pandemic Legacy was perfect for us, particularly since her enthusiasm for the genre is contagious. We loved Season 1; the story line, with its twists, turns, and surprises, really grabbed us. It was just a unique and very memorable gaming experience. Season 2 was also very good, but not quite as great for us as the first game. Maybe it was because the story didn’t turn us on quite as much or maybe it’s just that nothing is ever as good as your first time. We did like the exploration aspect and finding new territory was always a thrill. Anyway, I rate Season 2 as I Like It, while Season 1 nudged into I Love It territory, despite my usual indifference to co-ops. So, unlike most of the others, I prefer Season 1, but both games are terrific efforts and the two designers did a great job with them. We can’t wait for Season 3 to come out!
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