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Pandemic Legacy - Season 1 Review

Pandemic Legacy - Season 1 Review

Pandemic Legacy - Season 1 Review

Want details on how Z-Man GamesPandemic Legacy Season 1 plays? Check out the Game Overview. Want to know what we think of the game – keep reading below.

The Game – Pandemic Legacy – Season 1

Note – What follows is a spoiler-free review of this game. We won’t go into specifics of what happens so you can truly enjoy this game for yourselves. We will discuss generally how the game changes over time, which is key for a legacy style game, but no specifics or spoilers.

In Pandemic Legacy – Season 1, you and your fellow players take on roles within the CDC to help cure 4 diseases. If you think this sounds just like Pandemic, you’d be right! Keep reading to see what is the same and what is different and why this is a game we really like.

Game Structure

Pandemic Legacy is structured very differently from a regular (non-Legacy) board game. That’s because it’s a Legacy Game! Here the designers, including Rob Davieu (the creator of the original Legacy Game, Risk: Legacy) have developed an engaging story that encompasses multiple gaming sessions of Pandemic. It plays out as a year long campaign, full of twists and turns, shocks and surprises. It remains a cooperative game, as we mentioned in our Pandemic Review, everyone is working together to cure the diseases. The basic rules of the game are the same. Players still treat diseases, cure diseases and work together to win the game, but in Pandemic Legacy – Season 1 there is an added Legacy Deck. This deck and the accompanying secrets are what really make the game unique and one we really like.

Legacy Games are a special class of game, as you play along your game permanently changes. You will add and remove things from the game, find new rules and new components. At the end of your Legacy Game campaign, the game you have is very different from the one you started with. While this means you can not replay your copy of the game after you complete the campaign, it is totally worth it. The game is structured in “Months of a year”. Your first game, no matter when you play it, will be your “First game in January”. Your team has two chances to win each month. If you win your first game of the month, you move on to the next month, victorious! However, if you lose the first game of the month, you get to replay it once… If you lose the second time, you need to move onto the next month with a loss and the future consequences of that. This structure means that you will play Pandemic Legacy between 12 and 24 times to complete it. We love the second chance (and I think that second time seems a little bit easier).

The only way to replay the campaign is to buy a brand new copy (which is something we are planning to do here at Detective Hawk Games!). Legacy Games are a really cool concept in gaming and we are increasingly drawn to them. Once we got over actually destroying components of the game (yes, you actually rip things up and throw them away!), we decided we really like the idea that we will change the game permanently. It is also great that the outcome of one game effects how the next game plays out. In Pandemic Legacy, this means if you do well in early games your group has somewhat of an advantage later on.

The Board

The board looks very similar to a base Pandemic board. There are 48 colored cities with each of the four viruses spread out across the world map. There are still a space for the player deck and infection deck (the board is about a third larger than the original Pandemic board). This is to accommodate the Objectives and the Cure area on the board. The objectives are the coolest part about Pandemic Legacy. Every game will give you new objectives to complete, so you might not be always curing 4 diseases. These objectives give every game a different feel, which is pretty cool!

The Rulebook

The rulebook is surprisingly where you will see the biggest change from base Pandemic to Pandemic Legacy. The rulebook has a number of intentional gaps built into it, each with their own “Rule A – Y”. These rules are unveiled as you play each game within the Campaign. Since the rules keep changing and growing, this is one of those games where as soon as you think you know the rules, they change! This makes this game really dynamic and exciting. We know from experience, that it is kind of easy to miss a rule here or there. Our advice, don’t worry too much, it is bound to happen in a game of this size and scope, just roll with it (It’s what we did!)

Legacy Deck

The legacy deck is really neat and something we really liked a lot about this game. It’s a deck of cards that you don’t look at until instructed to and even then the number of cards you look at is limited each time. You will only go through this deck once during the entire campaign. Each card is printed on on both sides. The back side, which you can see, will have a “Stop Sign” on a card with white text underneath that tells you when to turn the card over. It might say “Draw this card at the end of the game” and then you continue to draw cards one at a time until you reach the next stop sign. Besides telling the story, the cards also direct you to the “Top Secret” Dossiers included with the game.

Top Secret Dossiers

At first glance they can be described as red manilla folders with the word TOP SECRET on one side, but you will soon realize these are where a lot of the games secrets are kept. The folders actually don’t open! Instead on the reverse, they have letters and numbers with perforated rectangles around them and ONLY when the game directs the players, do they peel back to reveal a secret. We won’t go into those here, but let’s just say (and I think read this somewhere else) “it’s like some sadistic, smallpox-infected advent calendar“. That said, this is really amazing and a really fun way to keep the rules hidden until the story of the legacy deck tells you to open it.

The Packages

Also included in the box of Pandemic Legacy are 8 sealed packages. These contain even more secrets that get revealed as the campaign progresses. You will be directed when to open them but until then…it’s a secret.


As you might imagine in a game like this, setup is a bit more involved than normal game of Pandemic. At the start of the campaign, set up is fairly straightforward, but once the story is in full swing, it does take some time to setup the game. From adding the game markers to the board, shuffling the decks and adding in epidemics and onto of that reading the legacy deck, to opening the dossiers and packages, then applying the contents to the game itself, all take time. A typical game has a 10-15 minute setup. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the most straightforward to game to get going!

Game Play

The majority of the game does play as regular Pandemic which we’ll lightly cover here. If you want a more detailed description check out that Game Overview.

Each player takes a turn, performs 4 actions and then takes two cards from the player deck and finally ends their turn by infecting the number of cities shown on the infection rate track and adding cubes of the city’s color to that city.

Just like regular Pandemic, if a city has more than 3 disease cubes on it, the city outbreaks and one cube gets placed on each connected city. If the team has 8 outbreaks in a game, the game ends – All of that is from the original Pandemic and still really fun to play.

In Pandemic Legacy, however, the team starts the game differently by drawing cards from the legacy deck and resolving them one at a time.

This will likely add new rules to the game or new actions you can try. One trap we we kept falling into was to immediately say “That’s really cool” and then focus only on that new thing in the game. We realized after a while that it is better not let these new elements immediately distract us from our ultimate goal (the objectives of the game). The tip from us is that this is all about playing the long game and not getting overwhelmed with the short game or the shiny new toys.

Outbreaks also work a little differently in Pandemic Legacy. Every time a city has an outbreak, the population panics and it’s panic level rises by 1. All cities start at 0 and the highest is 5 or “Fallen”. These are represented by stickers you apply to the board directly and they are permanent meaning if the same city outbreaks again in another game later on, you increase the panic level by one more and apply the next numbered sticker. This makes it harder and harder to get into and out of that city and we found ourselves throwing away half our hands to be able to do what we needed to do in that city.

Another change to the game is the Roles. As in regular Pandemic, each player takes on a Role of a member of the CDC team, however unlike the base game, here you actively select which characters you want to play. These characters can grow throughout the campaign by gaining attributes. However, if they get caught in a city when it outbreaks, they gain a scar which is detrimental to their character. If a character filled up all their scar slots on the Role card and need take another, or was in a city when it Fell, they are Lost characters and out of the campaign. In fact the rule book explicitly says “destroy (rip up) your Character Card”! If this happened to a player, they had to take a Civilian card and play the rest of the game as a Civilian with different rules. We found that this made us bench the Medic after a few games because we wanted to make sure we had him for later games! To that point, unlike a lot of campaign games, you can mix up your team in every game. Luckily we “almost” didn’t lose anyone throughout the campaign.

Finally, as in regular Pandemic, there are Event cards that are one time card that can help you succeed. In Pandemic Legacy though, these are called Funded Events. This is because there are also Unfunded Events. The Funded Events though are actually selected before the game starts, but you are limited to 4 in the first game. If you win the game, the funding level decreases by 2 – making the game harder – although the rule book says this is because governments believe you have everything under control… I can tell you we never had things “Under Control”, even when we were winning! If you lose a game, the next game you play you get to increase the funding level by 2 and add those events to your deck.

Game End

The other big change in Pandemic Legacy – Season 1 is Game End Upgrades. Win or lose, the team gets to select two game end upgrades. These are great and can really help you in the game. Unfunded Event stickers can be added to City Cards to turn them into an Event Card, then you can play then as either in future games. This was something we found helpful later in the campaign. Second, if you built any Research stations during the game, you could keep one of them permanently. You apply a research station sticker and it reminds you to set it up each game. This is really helpful for when you need to travel fast around the globe. Character Upgrades are really cool too. Each character has room to add 2 upgrades, with the Generalist having 4 spots. We ended up turning our power characters, the Scientist and Medic into a cure fighting team this way!

Finally, if you manage to cure a disease and then eradicate it (remove all cubes from the board) that disease is eligible for a Positive Mutation, which makes the disease easier to cure in future games. The mutations can compound too, making a disease really easy to cure. Trust us, you need all the help you can get in this game!

Overall Impressions

Pandemic Legacy – Season 1 is a really fun addition to the Pandemic series of games. It’s ever changing and really exciting when it’s time to open up a package or dossier. Yeah, we may have called it a “sadistic advent calendar” but it’s all in good fun!

The biggest flaw in this game for us was keeping track of all the changing rules. We were really bad at that and full disclosure realized at one point we had totally missed a rule that when we started playing with it, made the game much more difficult.

If you’ve never played Pandemic before, you can still pick up this game. There is also an option that allows you to play regular Pandemic with this game before you start the campaign so you can get the hang of it. If however you’ve played a bit of Pandemic, as we had already, you’ll be ready to just dive right in.

There is a lot about this game we can’t talk about in the review without spoiling it for you. It definitely changes a lot over the course of the 12 months of the game. We actually played this during 2020 – yes, we played a year long game of Pandemic Legacy while in lockdown due to a real life pandemic! What was remarkable was some of the similarities between the game and the real pandemic and hoping we would be better at saving our cardboard world than the leaders of the real world were!

What we Love

  • The Legacy aspect of the game is so much fun. We love the hidden rules and the fact we destroy the parts of the game as we play.
  • We love that your decisions in one game directly affect the future games.
  • We Love it so much we want to play it all again, even though we know the story… and we would have to buy another copy… it’s that good!

What Could be Better

We don’t have much to say here, this game is nearly perfect.

Things you should know

Some things you should know before setting out on a Pandemic Legacy – Season 1 journey:

  • It is a commitment. You need to play 12 – 24 games to get to the end of the story. It is definitely worth it!
  • Pay attention to the rules, and keep checking and refreshing on them. Sometimes some small but significant rules might slip your mind, if it happens, roll with it – it isn’t real life and death, but try your best to refer back to the rulebook often.
  • The Red or Blue Edition? Either, they are both games are exactly the same but with different artwork!


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