(Please note that this article and others in the series may contain spoilers for the game’s progression, events, and content. While each post covers specific “months” of game play, there are times things occur in different orders or out of place and might spoil something for a future month.)
Welcome back to this, the final installation in my Pandemic: Legacy play-through. If you haven’t read any of the previous articles, you can start here. This time around, we will complete our story, and I will add some final thoughts on the experience.
When we last left off, we were heading into the final month of December. Having played 15 games to this point, we sit with a record of 9 wins and 6 losses. We were recently given the ability to finally cure the outbreak of C0dA, though to this point we were only able to cure 5 of the 15 cities infected by faded. Three cities in the Middle East have fallen, including Karachi, which we nuked out of existence. The organization known as Zodiac has revealed themselves, and we dealt with the betrayal and loss of our Soldier, Rooster Cogburn, aka Saggitarius. While the broad strokes of the plot were now in the open, we were excited to see what sort of new challenge would present itself as we begin our last month of the game.
Pandemic Legacy: Case History
Game 16: December
Dagin: Immunologist (Jerry Mary)
Dave: Medic (Aaron)
Nick: Researcher (Susie Broadchest III)
Adam: Generalist (Typhoid Mary)
To begin the month, we reveal the December briefing which basically amounts to a threat from Zodiac, letting us know that even though we might get a handle on the existing outbreak of C0dA, there’s plenty more where that comes from. It turns out they’ve been stockpiling a bunch of mutations of C0dA in Atlanta, and in order for us to win, we’re going to have to do something about it. We’re instructed to tear up all previous objective cards, which includes the researching cures for the diseases, and get to replace them with two new mandatory objectives, both of which will be required in order to complete the month of December with a victory: Vaccinate every Faded city, and destroy the stockpile in Atlanta, which brings with it another searching mini-game, this one by far is the most complicated we’ve ever seen.
After doing some planning, we all mutually agree that we’re going to take two cracks at the month, since it seems impossible that we’d be able to satisfy both conditions in one month. Our focus for the first run through December will be the easier of the two goals: vaccinate the remaining 10 Faded cities.
We pick up the same roles we used in November, with Dagin taking the lead as the Immunologist. Our Generalist, Typhoid Mary, took the upgrade that will grant her one more scar voluntarily to prevent one infect step, which will be helpful since our Funding Level is back to nothing again. We also have some aerosol deployment cards that will allow us to crop dust the vaccine over an entire city, which will help us manage the triangle of doom in the Middle East. We also use our November win bonus to start the game with three vaccine capsules in Istanbul.
Between Dagin and I, we get most of the C0dA sites vaccinated, but things over in North and South America begin to explode, so Dave and Nick have to rush west to deal with it. After doing all that could be done, I race over to South America to help out. After triggering an Epidemic, we determine that there are three different cities that could all potentially trigger massive outbreaks in South America, so I have Typhoid Mary take her last scar and become Feeble, meaning she can no longer Quarantine, which we don’t really use anymore anyway. We decide to push through and research a cure for Walken Fever, just to make it easier to get things back under control, at least until Dagin finished vaccinating C0dA, but It turns out to be bad timing. Two turns later, she gets caught in Mexico City during an Outbreak, and is lost.
While this was sort of our plan, we were hoping to be able to squeeze another heroic act from her before she became lost. This also forces me to have to turn in all my remaining cards, which destroys any hope of trying to sneak in the search game goal this month. Following another Epidemic card, Susie also gets caught in Lima, and since she’s been carrying her scars for a long time, she too becomes lost. That one hurts, since it feels like the Researcher was going to be incredibly important to passing cards around in the right way to find the C0dA stock pile in Atlanta.
By the time the dust settles and we trigger outbreak number 8, Dagin just barely got all of C0dA vaccinated, but Mexico fell, Montreal is Collapsing, and even Atlanta experienced one outbreak. I’m not sure what we would have done if it had triggered a second.
Looking at our board after our first attempt at December, we’re feeling very uncertain. With so much panic around the world, it’s going to be hard to keep things in check, since we’ll need to save all our cards for finding the stockpile. We give a couple of minor upgrades to our Medic and Scientist, then brace ourselves for the final round of play.
Game 17: December Part 2
Nick: Quarantine Specialist (Jamima Buttersworth)
Adam: Scientist (Marie Pasteur)
Dagin: Dispatcher (Craigly)
Dave: Medic (Aaron)
With two lost characters, we know we’ve got to rotate out at least half our crew. And, with everything vaccinated, the Immunologist has no real purpose to serve. In looking at the useful roles, Nick decides to bring back Jamima, our Quarantine Specialist. While not quite as effective without the military bases, being able to place quarantines, especially the one token anywhere on the board, seems like it would be really helpful. Plus we have the Co-Worker Relationship with the Medic that will help move cards around to set up the pairs needed for the end of the stockpile track. I decide to play the Scientist, since we just gave her an upgrade to allow her to hold up to 8 cards in hand. Dagin decided to go back to the Dispatcher, since it feels like his ability to move people to each other will really help with the sharing of cards. Dave of course stays the Medic, the only role he has played during our entire time. We offered to let him play one of the others characters, but he decided he’d rather see it all the way through with his character, so we obliged.
Our strategy for the month is simple: Pool our cards, stay close to the Research Centers, protect Atlanta, and try to keep things from getting out of hand everywhere else. If we trigger the 5th Epidemic card, we lose. No more retries, and only a limited amount of government aid, just 2 cards.
Essentially our plan works well, and we were aided by a great initial setup. All three of the three cube infect cards his prior-C0dA areas, so there’s not that many disease cubes on the board and no threat of outbreak. For the first couple of rounds, everything goes according to plan. We drop in to Atlanta, spend what cards we have to search, and start trying to focus on collecting doubles for the harder search elements. It’s not until we trigger the 4th Epidemic card that we really start to sweat.
The cramp in our plan is yellow cards. They’re just not coming up, so no one is getting pairs. The panic starts to set in that we won’t make it, that there just isn’t enough time. Counting the cards left in the player deck, we know we’ve got only one safe turn left, and six total before we’re guaranteed to hit that last Epidemic card, and we need at least four turns before we can get all the cards we need, much less in the right order. We’re really, really missing the Researcher right now. We have to play four more sets of pairs, and we have three in hand, but we need a pair of Yellows before Dave can turn in his two Blues to complete the track.
Nick begins, takes his turn, and draws no yellow cards. I take my turn, draw a yellow card, but it seems unlikely I’ll get to go again, so we’ve got to get me to a place I can let someone else take the card from me. More importantly, no Epidemic. Dagin spends his cards in Atlanta to advance us to within two spaces, then moves me to the city matching my yellow card, then moves Dave to my location so all the pieces are in place. We’re in a position to win unless Dagin draws an Epidemic. He draws… two yellow cards! Dave takes the last yellow from me to give him a pair, travels back to Atlanta, and with his last action successfully sabotages the C0dA stockpile. We win! Out of curiosity, we flip over the next card from the Player Deck, and it was the last Epidemic. We manage to steal victory from the jaws of defeat!
Final Record: 10-7
Following our victory, we draw the last few cards from the Legacy Deck. Aside from a very short and slightly anti-climactic card telling us it’s finally over, we draw a score sheet, and are given a way to put a score to how we did. We had no idea this was coming, but we’re all pleased at the idea that they’ve given us a way to compare our experiences to other players with this score. A perfect (impossible) score would be 1000 points. Our total ends up being 784, which puts us near the top of the Disaster Averted range, and just 17 points shy of Legendary.
We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, and as our last act for the game, we broke out the permanent marker and signed the board.
And, for the last time, I’ll run through the final state of panic in our world. We only triggered two outbreaks in the second half of December, but the first half was pretty rough, leaving Mexico City as the only non-C0dA city to fall.
|Panic Levels||Blue Cities||Yellow Cities||Black Cities||Red Cities|
|Faded||2 / 12 Infected||–||12 / 12 Infected||1 / 12 Infected|
We’ve now finished the game of Pandemic: Legacy, Season 1. I’m not sure what direction they’ll go from here, but this was one hell of a ride. We all felt just blown away by how rich an experience that was. The narrative the game creates as you play, the way your choices really have consequences, all of it came together to create games where we were always invested in what was happening. The constant changes to core rules and the way the focus was always shifting made each month feel very different and unique, which is good for a game that you’ll play so many times.
The game balance was extraordinary. I can’t even imagine how much play-testing had to be involved to keep the game working the way it does with each new change. The catch-up mechanisms were great, and they gave even those who might struggle with the late game a chance to get caught up so you can enjoy and be prepared for the final struggle.
I know for some people the idea of a board game that I can’t keep playing indefinitely is a little off-putting, but I will tell you that the experience we’ve had playing this game is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in a game, even campaign-driven games. And I know everyone else at the table with me felt the same way.
I have to also comment on the story. The narrative told here is just incredible. To think what began as a zombie outbreak would end with thwarting a new world order bent on using the zombie plague to overthrow humanity and rule it all was awesome. The plot is parsed out in bits and pieces, each month bringing with it the potential for new surprises and new drama. The final third of the game really seems to crescendo beautifully, and was one of the best scripted narratives I’ve seen in any game, and rivals the type of story you’d see in a movie or full role-playing game campaign.
One of the chief criticisms of the original Pandemic is that it basically created what’s known as “Alpha Gamer Syndrome”, where one strong or loud player can basically tell everyone else what they should do and can dominate play. I’m not sure that’s completely mitigated by Pandemic: Legacy, but I felt like the experience was incredibly cooperative. There were numerous moments where we would all sort of stop play and try to figure out as a group what the best moves for everyone would be. It helps that all of us were familiar with Pandemic before playing.
I do think you need at least one player who is experienced with the game of Pandemic before attempting Pandemic: Legacy, and the more familiar the players are, the easier it will go for them in the early months. I don’t think there’s a lot of new rules introduced early, but I do feel like the potential is there for players to forget certain actions or abilities if they aren’t really familiar at least with what their character can do, especially as the game progresses. I also really feel like you get the best experience by playing the game all the way through with the same people. I think it would be really difficult to have someone come into the story line half way through, because of all the rules changes. They all evolve naturally for the players playing, but for someone new, I think it’d be difficult to catch up with the narrative and how the rules support the narrative.
And that’s as close to criticism as I come for this game. It was hands down the best game released in 2015, and I couldn’t be any happier with how it all turned out. If you like Pandemic, buy this game. You will not be disappointed. If you like cooperative games, buy this game. There’s just something special here, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
So, while I go figure out how I’m going to turn the final game into something I can hang on my game room wall, stop by and let me know what you think of it, once you’ve played it for yourself. How’d you do? Let me know in the comments below.