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Pandemic Legacy: Season 1» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Review of Pandemic Legacy by a Person that Hates Pandemic rss

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Steven Albano
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Here's my review of vanilla Pandemic. (Spoilers: I don't like it.)

I recommend reading that review before this one, so you can fully understand my position and where I'm coming from, but it's not completely necessary. The first part of the review has no to maybe very minor spoilers, and the second half has heavy spoilers.

I'll get this out of the way: I don't think Pandemic Legacy is better than vanilla Pandemic. That's a blasphemous statement, I think, but one that I'm believing more and more as time passes. And that's for a lot of reasons.

Not that I would chose to play Pandemic if I had it, but I can't go and play my copy of Pandemic Legacy right now. (And saying that I can play it right now is being incredibly facetious and assumes a lot about how my game played out and a lot of other things.) So, I think that's somewhat of a mark against the game. AGAIN. It's absolutely fine that some games have limited plays, this is not saying a Legacy game or a narrative game like TIME Stories are bad but saying that right now, I kind of wish I bought Pandemic instead because at least I could go and play it with new people if they wanted to.

One of the major failings of Legacy is that the narrative that the game is trying to tell just isn't compelling or good. It isn't. And I'll go further into what I would do to improve that aspect in the spoilers, but I was thoroughly disappointed. It was less than what I was expecting, and I wasn't expecting a lot. People were hyping it up as being a really strong story driven game, and I'm glad I didn't believe them. Because it isn't. The overall story does exist and does push things forward and does make the introduction of mechanics and twists (two of which are actually really amazing!) believable, but it wasn't something I was attached to and there's potential for you to not care in the least about your characters.

My biggest complaint about original Pandemic is that sometimes you're unable to do anything to stop yourself from losing. And that problem becomes even more obvious and frustrating here. I lost a game of Pandemic Legacy before every character had a chance to go. It was abominable. In regular Pandemic, you'd just set up again if you really wanted to be masochistic, but in Legacy, that game will be with you forever. And there's nothing you could have done differently. I got two Epidemics in a single turn in October and the resulting loss out of nowhere set my game back significantly and set us up for failure in the upcoming months. It was a terrible experience and definitely made the last several plays have a sour taste in our mouth.

On top of this, I really hate how you're basically punished for winning. Losing 2 funding has a significant impact on how your game will play out, as the event cards are a huge component in giving players agency when dealing Pandemic's randomness. They add a significant portion of skill. So winning removes something cool and fun from your future games (which is a bad thing) but also makes you more a victim of the randomness of the infection deck (which is also a bad thing).

Now, Pandemic Legacy does introduce other ways to mitigate the randomness, I'll give it that, but they never feel enough or significant. And, unlike event cards, they usually require you to use cards that are probably needed for other stuff to. This creates tension, but not the good kind: Do I hold on to this card because we need it to find a Cure or do I use it as an event so I we don't lose? The choice just feels bad to make; maybe in a non-Legacy game that tension would be good, but here there's so much potential for frustration.

Also, with the ever changing rule landscape and bombardment of different things to keep track of, you will mess up rules. You will. Pandemic Legacy doesn't really allow you to get comfortable with new mechanics; they are always changing - and that's a good thing and a bad thing. It's a good thing because you're never bored and you must constantly change your outlook and strategy, but it's a bad thing because you never fully feel that you fully understood and got to the bottom of certain mechanics or objectives or abilities. This is by design, obviously, but I feel like overall, there could have been a mechanic or two trimmed from the overall package to help mitigate the saturation of new and not necessarily interesting mechanics and to ease the upkeep of tracking the minutia of all the pieces and rules that come with them.

Another important note, I had a lot of problem with the actual pieces that are part of the game. The stickers that you're supposed to permanently attach to the board just don't stay attached. This was so frustrating specifically when you're halfway through a game and go, "Oh, we should have a research station there, right?" I lost about ten or so stickers. I feel that this problem might be addressed in later edition, but man, it sucked. And the board just would not stay flat on the table no matter how hard I tried. Neither of these were absolutely game breaking, but these were very noticeable problems that adversely affected my immersion.

And my last criticism: Unlike Risk Legacy, the "legacy" aspects here are mostly discovered in a linear fashion - my game of Pandemic will have unfolded basically the same as yours. While this does allow the designers to have much more control over what the players experience and how they experience the game, it definitely removes agency and discovery from the game. It took away a sense of, "Oh, let's do that!" It also makes the the second half of each month a much worse experience because you're not really going to open anything new or "legacy" anything except putting riot markers on cities - and that's a feel bad part of the legacy component here.

Final word: Pandemic Legacy is not this pinnacle of gaming: its narrative is mostly forgettable, the introduction of different rules and components happens too hastily to understand and enjoy them, and permanent punishment resulting from unpreventable randomness exacerbates problems that plague original Pandemic. Do not buy.

Now spoilers and what I would have done differently:

Spoiler (click to reveal)

The best moment in Pandemic was the betrayal of your character and then ripping them up. But that being said, for us, it was not a character that my boyfriend and I were really attached to. There were two characters that we used once we got them - the Scientist, Philippa, and the Quarantine Specialist, Michaela. If they betrayed us, it probably would have been more devastating because we spent so many upgrades and so much time with them. But it was the army guy, and it was just, "Oh." It was still shocking and sad, but it could have been so much more.

Not that you asked, but what I would have done is just gave players 4 characters at the beginning of the game and don't introduce any more. (Obviously, more of the game would have to change regarding relationships and upgrades, but you get the point.) And each of the characters could have six upgrades and have six scars and when a new character would have been introduced you get a card that goes, "Hey, the CDC has trained two of you to kill infected, add this "Kill infected action" upgrade to two characters. This would have really personalized your characters more and forced you to grow attached to them. As it turns out, I felt we were just being overrun with different characters and didn't even use a lot of them.

But that way, when you were betrayed, you would have lost a character you've been using every single game. It would have been an integral character to your team. And you would have been devastated. (Obviously, you would have gotten a replacement character then.) For me, this was the moment I wanted to happen more often in Pandemic Legacy because it felt so fantastic even when it got a character that I had no attachment towards.

My second favorite moment was the introduction of the faded. I know some people hate this, but I really like it. I loved how Coda changed the way you played Pandemic right away and making on disease behave so differently was a way to fundamentally change the familiar without straying too far. And I like zombies.

However, my biggest problem was with the randomness of the faded and how they spread. Again, Pandemic is going to be random, but sometimes it's just too random and too frustrating. In November, I think we got six new faded cities out of nowhere. When we didn't get any the previous three months! And the obviously made the end game goals much more difficult because... there were more cities to vaccinate!

That was a part I really disliked about the game: December was soooo different from any of the previous months. Too different for me. And it really felt like an underwhelming end to the story and gameplay. Did other people like this?

I wish the game had introduced searching much much earlier. Mainly because it was a mechanic that was integral to the progression of the game and story, but you really didn't know how to use and interact with it. My suggestion would have been you got a "Search for an Item" objective or something, and that object was in the last city you infect at the start of the game. The reward? A random item or upgrade or something from a deck - not sure exactly what, but it'd be something. But this way, you have the option of getting these cool things but also teaches you how to prioritize the Search action. Basically, I felt Search was introduced so late in such a game that had too many things going on that it felt very flat, but it was also the most interesting mechanic introduced.

The quarantine markers were absolutely vital in managing this game, so I really enjoyed them. And the roadblocks (these were the stickers that just would not freaking stick!) definitely had their uses, just seemed superfluous and just added a lot of rules baggage that didn't necessarily have to be their - especially with quarantine markers being present.

OH. NOW I THINK MY BIGGEST COMPLAINT. Funding. I don't know what I would have done differently, but man, we opened an event at the end of April, I think, and we couldn't use it because we had no funding. It just felt terrible. I think the game would have benefited from making a win "-1 funding" and losing "+2 funding" if it did want to use that as a balancing mechanism. But I really disliked what felt as being punished for winning. And this is because Event card make the game more fun - they give you choices and more skillful decisions and more agency and just... so many things! So not being able to use them after you win... I think it was terrible. But I also felt a very obvious game end upgrade was missing here: +1 Funding. I would have chosen that almost every time and for as many were available, but wow, would I have loved that, and it's such a simple one too.

Overall, I felt they didn't use legacy mechanics very well in this game. They used it to change the rules, but I felt in doing that they overlooked using legacy mechanics to do cool and fun things! It needed a bigger payoff since its linearity removed any true sense of discovery, for the most part.

I think that is it for now, but yea. I might edit more into this later!

Also, 684.


Thanks for reading, and sorry if this doesn't make sense. I've been rearranging all of this for a bit and might have copy and pasted a thing or two incorrectly.

I also hope you enjoyed the review! And hopefully you enjoyed the game more than I did! >>
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Zack Manning
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From a game design aspect I understand why people don't like the no-win-scenarios that pop up in Pandemic and Pandemic: Legacy; but to me it just fits the theme so well. Sometimes you can't win, sometimes there's nothing you can do.

Also having 2 epidemics in one turn is usually a good thing, not a bad thing, because that means you had a bunch of extra time (all the way through one of the decks) to prepare for the upcoming epidemics.
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Steven Albano
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Shagoosty wrote:
Also having 2 epidemics in one turn is usually a good thing, not a bad thing, because that means you had a bunch of extra time (all the way through one of the decks) to prepare for the upcoming epidemics.


Not really. Two in a row means an automatic Outbreak - which is never a good thing. But what was awful about ours was that both revealed cards were neighboring cities next to a 2 cubed city - so I think we got three or four Outbreaks that turn.
 
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Robert Stewart
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Yeah, the inability to use events if you're doing well is a pretty major design flaw.

Whether or not it being multiple games of Pandemic is a flaw depends how you feel about Pandemic itself.

And something similar applies to the occasional inescapable loss - you can view it as a flaw in the game, or you can view it as a feature: challenging you to find ways to minimise the risk and mitigate the consequences.

That pretty much covers my response to this review, actually - your points are all valid, but they mostly depend on point of view - for one person, they're negatives; for others, those exact same features are strengths.

Except for the funding thing. That's objectively poor design.
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lucus Trout
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rmsgrey wrote:

Except for the funding thing. That's objectively poor design.


Just curious, how is it objectively poor design? I'm interested in game design and want to avoid the pitfall that this is an example of.

Also, interesting review. With Pandemic Legacy rated so highly I imagine at least a couple people who don't like Pandemic have been tempted to buy it. I would say this review is mostly for them.

Pandemic Legacy helped me solidify and opinion that I'd been leaning toward for a while. Basically that a BGG rating in the 7's or 8's is the sweet spot for my game group. Lower and the game isn't quite as good. (I certainly like some games that are rated below 7 though.) Higher and the game really appeals to a core (and probably large) group passionate fans, but might not actually appeal to most of my game group as much as a slightly lower rated game, one that gets a 7-9 rating from essentially everyone who tries it, but not a landslide of 10's from fans.

 
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Steven Albano
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For me, I'd say that anything that limits the options and punishes players for being in first and/or winning is bad design - you should never make doing well be associated with any "bad" feelings.

But for me, I think the game could have handled that by allowing players an end game upgrade to increase your funding permanently. Or something similar.
 
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Anthony Davies
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colormage1 wrote:
But for me, I think the game could have handled that by allowing players an end game upgrade to increase your funding permanently. Or something similar.


I would argue that it already exists (sort of) through the unfunded event upgrades. Sure, their usefulness is more limited than the funded events, but they can be particularly useful. Especially Experimental Program, which can be used to potentially prevent an outbreak. Without spoilers, when certain city cards become less useful, placing an unfunded event upgrade on one of them makes them at least somewhat functional. We used this upgrade at least two times and it at least helped us a little bit.

I didn't mind the punishment for winning since I understood the purpose behind it. The problem with a Legacy game is that once you start, there is no going back. So you want players of all skill levels to have a good experience and play through the entire campaign. The win/loss funding changes are used to make a more balanced experience for ALL players. I think the funding level does a great job at balancing the experience for all skill levels.

I am sure there are exceptions, but I haven't heard anyone who lost so bad that they could no longer play anymore (i.e. lost too many characters and no longer had a character for each player). On the flip side, I've rarely heard of anyone breezing through the game and winning all 12 months in a row. If players couldn't finish the campaign they would find the game to be a waste of money. Likewise, if players breezed through the game they would likewise think it was a waste of money.
 
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Robert Stewart
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lucusvonlucus wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:

Except for the funding thing. That's objectively poor design.


Just curious, how is it objectively poor design? I'm interested in game design and want to avoid the pitfall that this is an example of.


If you do well enough to get to 0 funding, you get completely locked out from the Funded Events, even though the game keeps providing interesting-looking new ones to use read a couple of times then leave in the box, never to be touched again...

There are a couple of principles here:

A) Don't force players to choose between winning and doing fun stuff.

B) If you're going to give players toys, let them play with them.

One of the problems with Firefly: The Board Game is that if you fly around having fun, doing Jobs, getting in Solid, and building a good enough Crew that "No power in the 'Verse can stop me", you'll lose to someone who's stayed focused on the Goals, put together a Crew that can just barely scrape through, and suddenly picked up 3 Goal tokens and won. Xia (in my limited experience) is better because messing around doing random fun stuff actually does help you progress toward victory, unlike in Firefly, where the key to victory is to ignore all the shiny and only play with a fraction of the game's systems.

Or there's a problem with a number of boardgame expansions - for example, the Ionian Nebula module from the Exodus expansion from Battlestar Galactica - that gives every player a handful of new tokens, scatters NPC characters around the board to potentially encounter, and adds in a risk of spontaneously dying if you start your turn in either of a couple of places. What's the best way to respond to all this shiny new stuff that's all over the place? Pretty much just to ignore it except when it gets in the way. And that goes double for the Conflicted Loyalties module from the same expansion - some players randomly get some secret missions that they can claim during the course of the game, in order to avoid losing 1 point of a given resource. The trouble is that claiming a completed mission basically takes up your entire turn protecting a resource that might not be critical that game anyway, rather than doing something that actually addresses an immediate problem, and that's not counting anything you did in order to meet the requirements of the mission in the first place. So the net effect is to have some text-heavy cards that you largely ignore and which randomly knock some resources down at the end of the game.

The trouble with an expansion is that it has to either do something that wasn't in the base game (so wasn't needed in the base game) or it has to duplicate something that was in the base game, in which case one of them is probably redundant...
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Clive Jones

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IMHO, the best expansions add depth and replayability to a game, at the expense of increased complexity. They contain things you wouldn't want to inflict on a novice player, but which enhance the game for people who've already played it many times.

In that sense, Pandemic Legacy is a pretty good expansion!
 
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Robert Stewart
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clivej wrote:
IMHO, the best expansions add depth and replayability to a game, at the expense of increased complexity. They contain things you wouldn't want to inflict on a novice player, but which enhance the game for people who've already played it many times.

In that sense, Pandemic Legacy is a pretty good expansion!


Yeah, the best expansions have a transformative quality - they don't just leave the base game intact and do their own little thing, and nor do they render chunks of the basegame obsolete (aside from anything they explicitly replace). Rather, they change how you value specific aspects of the base game. For example, in base Pandemic, it's unremarkable to end your turn in a 3-cube City (usually because you ran out of actions before you could Treat it). In Legacy, you'll pass on your last action entirely rather than spend it moving into a City at risk of an Outbreak. Something that was always present in the base game, but largely ignored, is now a vital consideration...
 
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