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Steven Albano
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Hey. So I plan on playing Pandemic: Legacy with my boyfriend soon. I’m planning on documenting that and my thoughts pretty thoroughly, so first I wanted to write what I think about the original Pandemic.

I hate it.

I do.

Pandemic is a fiddly puzzle game where you can do the statistically correct move every single time and still lose. And I find that frustrating. That, inherently, isn’t an absolutely terrible thing. I find Forbidden Island very enjoyable – but the main difference here is the length of the game.

Forbidden Island is filled with tension, like Pandemic. And unless you’re playing on the most difficult setting, things will usually slowly progress and the game builds up and up and up. When something bad happens, you usually can see it coming, and when it’s bad, it’s rarely, “You just lose the game,” bad. However, that's not true with Pandemic – when things go badly in Pandemic, they go abysmally and with no warning. A wayward Epidemic can make you lose the game from a pretty fantastic position, and that sucks. It just feels bad. I’ve never lost on the first turn, but I have gotten five Outbreaks during the first draw step – and that can happen at any point in the game. There are times where Pandemic has a nice difficulty curve, but I've found that more often than not, the difficulty sky rockets out of nowhere.

I’m not saying randomness isn’t fine in a game, but this type of randomness in a co-op is unacceptable to me, especially in a longer one. In Dead of Winter, maybe I should have used fuel so I didn’t have to risk getting a bite when traveling from location to location. Or in Eldritch Horror, maybe I should have gone with the other skill check or waited to fight that monster. However, besides an Event card here or there, there’s nothing that will stop an Epidemic into Outbreak if that’s how the cards will it, and that will happen with pretty high frequency.

Length and fiddliness is a huge issue here. Because if you ever get screwed in Forbidden Island, you didn’t really devote a lot of time into the game. It’s not like you lost an entire hour or feel like you wasted a ton of brain power. I just feel nothing but frustration when that occurs in Pandemic, and on top of it all, having to add all those tiny little cubes is just exhausting. You have to handle so many miniscule moving parts.

Do I enjoy Pandemic? I mean, I’ll play it if everybody wants to. And the App removes the upkeep of handing the cubes, so that makes it much easier and more enjoyable to play. But I think there are a lot of better co-op options, and I would never recommend this one to anybody. If someones wants a co-op and are new to the hobby – Forbidden Island or Desert or even Pandemic: The Cure. If someone wants a heavier experience – Eldritch Horror or The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game!

Another thing that I dislike about Pandemic is that nothing really changes from the beginning of the game to the end - if someone comes over and look as your board at a random point - it’s going to be hard to determine whether it’s the third or fifteenth turn of the game. And the reason is that you’re doing the same thing every single turn. You don’t get any more options or abilities - your choices are always the same - you just prioritize different colors. The only thing is that once you eradicate a disease, the gameplay does change slightly, but that’s a really minor point. Also, Research Stations do change how you move and those come into play later in the game. Or if you play with the Virulent Strain expansion, one disease does become harder and harder to manage, and that helps to give some type of development to Pandemic - but it feels more like an arbitrary way to make it harder. Legends of Andor or Eldritch Horror both have this overwhelming feeling as the game progresses - your characters get new items and the board state is constantly looking more and more dire and changing. It just feels good. Even Forbidden Island has a visually changing board state, and that’s awesome.

Now, why would I want to play Pandemic Legacy if I hate Pandemic that much? Well, I think I can stand the set amount of games of Pandemic Legacy, and I need to try BGG’s number one game. Also, because I’ve played some of Risk Legacy, I feel like Pandemic Legacy might introduce some mechanics that actually fix a lot of my problems with original Pandemic.

But we’ll see.

Overall, I never understood why people like Pandemic so much. I find it’s cumbersome and fiddly. Its length does not justify its randomness or lack of meaty and meaningful decisions. There are other co-op games for every type of player that I would recommend over Pandemic.

Once I start typing up session reports of Pandemic Legacy, I’ll link them here!
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Andy Burgess
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An interesting and well-written view-point. I'll be curious to see what you write about Pandemic Legacy, as I haven't played that myself yet either.

One thing I'm curious about, though. How did this happen:

Quote:
I have gotten five Outbreaks during the first draw step


Because IIRC the game is set up to make such a thing impossible - you can't draw any of the cities that have three cubes in the first step because they're already drawn.

What am I missing? (It's been a while since I played...)
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Chris Olsen
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If you're not a Pandemic fan, I don't think Legacy will fully win you over, but I believe you will find the experience to be more enjoyable than the base game. The legacy format does introduce changes to the board that you are looking for.
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Michael H
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I think I must agree. Either you have a lot of bad luck or you might be playing the game close enough to right where it seems manageable but still wrong enough that it can prove really awful.

That said, pandemic is a game about statistics. How do you deal with the threats on the board and which of them are most important? A wayward epidemic should not cost you the game unless things are already really bad.

The player who played ~600 4P5E (2000 total in general thread) pandemic games boasted an 80-90% win rate (dependent on role) on 5 epidemics. That suggests to me that there's a huge disparity in either your ruleset (he was using the iOS, so he's almost certainly using the correct rules as they are enforced) or your skill level, in which case he's played 2000 games, so he's probably also much better at this particular game. I would suggest revising your strategies or re-reading the rules and checking the FAQ in the rules section, as there is quite a good list there!
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Mathieu Canales
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MercifulBiscuit wrote:
An interesting and well-written view-point. I'll be curious to see what you write about Pandemic Legacy, as I haven't played that myself yet either.

One thing I'm curious about, though. How did this happen:

Quote:
I have gotten five Outbreaks during the first draw step


Because IIRC the game is set up to make such a thing impossible - you can't draw any of the cities that have three cubes in the first step because they're already drawn.

What am I missing? (It's been a while since I played...)


Maybe he's talking about the first "Epidemic" draw (which would be pretty savage considering the odds of initial distribution).

If not, I'm curious as well.

____________________________

Getting back to the review I kind of agree with some of the things you pinpoint.

A whole afternoon playing this game often means 2-3 plays where you end up being obliterated.

I definitely agree that it is long and can be a little frustrating considering time investment.

BUT: Imagine the game not being so damn hard. Imagine you could definitely control the odds and use skills to anticipate the game's next move.

It would fall flat and you would feel nothing (or less) when you beat it. The very soul of this game is that you fight an uncontrollable beast by trying your best not to get overrun.

You have to enjoy that the game will resist and (often) beat you.

As you say, there's many other very good and less "luck-based" co-op games out there and maybe Pandemic is simply a popular game that you dislike (or as you say: hate) but I find pandemic somehow has that unique flavor of "let's see if we can beat it".
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Jim Patching
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The main issue I have with Pandemic is that it's very prone to the 'alpha gamer' problem - i.e. one person telling everyone else what to do and essentially playing the game for them. I can't say I find it particularly fiddly or cumbersome though and generally find it to be a pretty good co-op game. It's true that sometimes the game will just slap you down and beat you about the head no matter how skilled your play might be but that's ok, it adds to the satisfaction of actually beating the thing!

I think you're more likely to enjoy Pandemic Legacy though. The story element it introduces is just great.
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Grant Holzhauer
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I'm in a similar boat. I don't hate Pandemic, but I've never loved it. I did really enjoy the In the Lab expansion, as I enjoyed manipulating the diseases in the lab, and we played that several times, but the game has sat unplayed for awhile. However, my wife has been clamoring to get Pandemic Legacy for some time now, so I finally bit the bullet and ordered it. I'm hoping, like you, that the additional elements make it a bit more interesting game for me.
 
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panzer-attack wrote:
The main issue I have with Pandemic is that it's very prone to the 'alpha gamer' problem - i.e. one person telling everyone else what to do and essentially playing the game for them.


Yes - that's what happens in a real emergency. I found it boring because you either do what is obvious (which is usually what the alpha-gamer suggests) or fight amongst each other and die horribly. So, if I see a better move option, should I keep my mouth shut and lose?

I intensly dislike co-ops in general, as I'm sure you've guessed .

I liked the review, and would be very curious about your Legacy Adventures (but alas, spoilers and such.)
 
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Steven Albano
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MercifulBiscuit wrote:
An interesting and well-written view-point. I'll be curious to see what you write about Pandemic Legacy, as I haven't played that myself yet either.

One thing I'm curious about, though. How did this happen:

Quote:
I have gotten five Outbreaks during the first draw step


Because IIRC the game is set up to make such a thing impossible - you can't draw any of the cities that have three cubes in the first step because they're already drawn.

What am I missing? (It's been a while since I played...)


I meant drawing an Epidemic in the player draw step. It was a City next to a 2 and 3 infected City. First draw during the Infect Cities step was one of the 3 cubed Cities followed by what was previously 2, but now the 3 cubed City. (Or something like that.)

Smellybluesocks wrote:
I think I must agree. Either you have a lot of bad luck or you might be playing the game close enough to right where it seems manageable but still wrong enough that it can prove really awful.


No, I'm definitely playing it right. I have an almost undefeated rate on the app when I'm trying to just beat the game. But I almost lose when I also fool around and try to Eradicate every disease! So I know how to play it.

My main problem is: You can do the statistically correct move every single game and still lose. I thought I had that line in the review, I might have to go back and add it in.

Davej360 wrote:
Interesting review. Can you describe what you mean by "cumbersome and fiddly".


It's all the moving pieces. The board, if ever slightly knocked over, basically ruins the game because the minute pieces will fly everywhere - and unlike Catan, for example, it's hard to remember how the thirteen blue cube were distributed among the different spaces. And you have to also be really exact with the placement, sometimes you can carelessly put a block between two Cities on accident and then a couple turns later go, "Ummm... Where does this go?"

I like Forbidden Island when you just turn over a tile that's already part of the board and then you just have to remove it when it gets revealed again. But here, you're constantly adding and removing things over and over and over again, and I just find it tiresome. Like, the first time you have a outbreak chain is pretty awesome! But after a while... it seems like it's a chore.
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Honestly even reading your justifications I still see no good reason why you'd waste 20+ hours playing a game you will very clearly hate. Maybe you enjoy making posts like this and look forward to making one about the Legacy version too? The "BGG's number one game" seems a certain tip-off to that. I just hope you're getting something else out of it besides the gameplay because you will most certainly hate that.
 
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You're breaking my heart. Self-proclaimed pandemic expert here. Claim to fame is I placed second in the Pandemic national championship at gencon last year with my older sister as my partner. We lost to two neckbeards dressed in hazmat suits. :shrug:

We have put an embarrassing amount of hours into playing this game and the expansions. Unfortunately, I'm not a play logger or statistics guru, but we play the base game on the maximum difficulty and very rarely lose.

A few things caught my attention in your review. First was what everyone else has mentioned about the five outbreaks during the first draw step. Even if we presume you meant the first epidemic card draw step, getting five outbreaks would suggest to me that maybe you aren't making the statistically correct play each time.

The other thing that tipped me off that you aren't playing a statistically perfect game, is that outbreaks are knocking you out at all, even less in the first round or after the first epidemic card. Outbreaks can be controlled. What cannot be controlled is which cards you draw into your player hand, and how much trading will be required to acquire five cards to satisfy a cure. A seasoned player will usually lose by running out of "time" (aka player cards to draw from, forcing game to end).

The other thing that raised my eyebrow, was the 1 hour play time. This is a little longer than what I'm used to (30 - 45 minutes), which suggests a significant amount of time is spent trying to decide on turn actions, suggesting that the statistically correct move may not always be obvious.

Research stations later in the game? While a requirement for turning in cards for cures later on, should not be underestimated early on as a means of transportation, especially if you're playing with roles lacking in movement abilities.

I think every single one of your 4 actions is a meaty decision. I feel like maybe you don't understand the complexity of the game and the juggle required to win. Keeping cubes at bay, while still collecting cures. It's a delicate balance.

It's fine and all to hate a game. You're perfectly entitled to your opinion. But based on the information you provided, I would say that you are not, in fact, making the statistically correct decision each turn, making your argument against the "randomness" of the game invalid, since you are likely (unknowingly) causing some of the "randomness".

But I feel you on the frustration when probability works against you.
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Aaron Silverman
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AstroLad wrote:
Honestly even reading your justifications I still see no good reason why you'd waste 20+ hours playing a game you will very clearly hate. Maybe you enjoy making posts like this and look forward to making one about the Legacy version too? The "BGG's number one game" seems a certain tip-off to that. I just hope you're getting something else out of it besides the gameplay because you will most certainly hate that.


I mostly agree with the OP about Pandemic, but I too am curious about Pandemic: Legacy. There seems to be a lot more to the game.
 
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Olaf Slomp
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I was "meh" about Pandemic, but love Legacy. Worth a go!
Oh, and least one of your issues will be solved; the board definitly changes, so halfway during your tenth game the board will look a lot different from when you started the campaign. (Change just goes slower, happens over the course of the campaign, not in one game)
 
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Steven Albano
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Scrotchet wrote:
You're breaking my heart. Self-proclaimed pandemic expert here. Claim to fame is I placed second in the Pandemic national championship at gencon last year with my older sister as my partner. We lost to two neckbeards dressed in hazmat suits. :shrug:

We have put an embarrassing amount of hours into playing this game and the expansions. Unfortunately, I'm not a play logger or statistics guru, but we play the base game on the maximum difficulty and very rarely lose.

A few things caught my attention in your review. First was what everyone else has mentioned about the five outbreaks during the first draw step. Even if we presume you meant the first epidemic card draw step, getting five outbreaks would suggest to me that maybe you aren't making the statistically correct play each time.

The other thing that tipped me off that you aren't playing a statistically perfect game, is that outbreaks are knocking you out at all, even less in the first round or after the first epidemic card. Outbreaks can be controlled. What cannot be controlled is which cards you draw into your player hand, and how much trading will be required to acquire five cards to satisfy a cure. A seasoned player will usually lose by running out of "time" (aka player cards to draw from, forcing game to end).

The other thing that raised my eyebrow, was the 1 hour play time. This is a little longer than what I'm used to (30 - 45 minutes), which suggests a significant amount of time is spent trying to decide on turn actions, suggesting that the statistically correct move may not always be obvious.

Research stations later in the game? While a requirement for turning in cards for cures later on, should not be underestimated early on as a means of transportation, especially if you're playing with roles lacking in movement abilities.

I think every single one of your 4 actions is a meaty decision. I feel like maybe you don't understand the complexity of the game and the juggle required to win. Keeping cubes at bay, while still collecting cures. It's a delicate balance.

It's fine and all to hate a game. You're perfectly entitled to your opinion. But based on the information you provided, I would say that you are not, in fact, making the statistically correct decision each turn, making your argument against the "randomness" of the game invalid, since you are likely (unknowingly) causing some of the "randomness".

But I feel you on the frustration when probability works against you.


Well, first, I've never claimed I was making the statistically correct play each time. And I honestly think that if I were to do that, the game is no longer a game then, right? Because then it's a math problem. And that's just terrible.

And no amount of statistically correct play is going to stop the Epidemic City from being the first City drawn during the Infect City steps.

Oh, and I've never said I lose a lot. I rarely do when I play. And as you noted, you almost always lose to running out of time more than anything.

And the Research Station point was not that they always are played later in the game; it was that they are a determination and visual cue of how long the game has been going on - if you see four Research Stations on the board, you can probably assume it's not the fourth turn of the game.

But I bolded your last point for you, because it's honestly very important. By that statement, you're saying that there is a statistically correct way to play the game, and I agree. I absolutely agree. However, if you come to Pandemic from that perspective, it's no longer a game, as I said above, because there are no decisions. It's a puzzle. There are no choices if there's a statistically correct move every single time. And even from that perspective, it's still a terrible puzzle game because you can make the correct move every single time and still lose.

I feel like that should bother someone like you more than someone like me.
 
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Scott Wheelock
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For what it's worth, I played a lot of Pandemic a long time ago, and burnt out on it. P:Legacy has revitalized it for me. The minor rules changes each game (or couple of games), the evolving board state, the new features... we're currently starting July and still having a good time (even though we lost a game on turn #3).

I say there's nothing wrong with trying it out, even if you're not that crazy about Pandemic.
 
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To your first point, I was quoting you from your original text on the "statistically correct move". I'm not even sure statistic is even the correct word to use. But I felt like I understood the spirit of what you were trying to say which, correct me if im wrong, is that the game can be frustrating if you lose and you can't, in hindsight, think of what you could have done differently to have won. This is just one very rare scenario. I can almost always look back after a loss and think of something i should have done differently. and while I can understand why it wouldn't be fun, for a person that has to win, to be set up and doomed to fail, for me it's still fun.
To your second point, you speak the truth. This can and will happen. I usually blame the shuffler. but even if that happens to you on every single epidemic, you still have 2 more outbreaks before you lose. Not an automatic game over. And if you're playing "correctly" you'll limit your risk of chain outbreaks by tring not to allow cities to sit with 3 cubes.
To your third point, ok. Fourth point, understood. To your fifth point, i like puzzles. I can see how that would remove the choice, There's one move that is probably best but it may not always be immediately obvious, and it may require clever manuvering, and sometimes it is debatable. The puzzle and the fun for me is in running through the options in my head and figuring out the best move. I love it when someone suggests actions that I wasn't clever enough to think of, but is obviously a better move than what I was considering. Someone with common sense can be convinced that a move is great, but the fun is in figuring it out. For that reason, I can see why the alpha gamer would be a difficult companion for this game. My house rules are that the decision is ultimately up to the person who's turn it is. But we love strategizing out loud usually having a broad idea of moves for several turns in advance.
Sorry to hear you hated this game. Everyone has their taste. Legacy is the only one I have not played yet, but am curious how it is. GLHF
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Steven Albano
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Scrotchet wrote:
To your first point, I was quoting you from your original text on the "statistically correct move".


Well, that was me saying, that you can theoretically make the statistically correct move each turn and still lose. I wasn't trying to imply that I do that, because I don't have the time, energy, or ability to do it!

And I wasn't trying to imply that I can't look back at the game and go, "Hmmm. What should I have done differently?" I always do that. Heck, even when I win I go, "We got lucky there, maybe we should have treated that sooner."

But blah blah blah blah.

I'm two games into Legacy, and I'm actually loving it so far. It fixes a lot of my problems with the regular game. Though, we haven't gotten screwed over too bad with the Infections yet.
 
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"The board, if ever slightly knocked over, basically ruins the game because the minute pieces will fly everywhere"

Right...

Then I suggest you stay away from games like Risk, Monopoly, and basically any other board game with more than 5 pieces including checkers.
 
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rkba wrote:
"The board, if ever slightly knocked over, basically ruins the game because the minute pieces will fly everywhere"

Right...

Then I suggest you stay away from games like Risk, Monopoly, and basically any other board game with more than 5 pieces including checkers.


That's a bit harsh. Risk, you can usually put back okay, or manage to not play it at all. The others are not a problem. I will usually remember where I put my armies and how anyway, whereas in Pandemic, the blocks are neutral.
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Steven Albano
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rkba wrote:
"The board, if ever slightly knocked over, basically ruins the game because the minute pieces will fly everywhere"

Right...

Then I suggest you stay away from games like Risk, Monopoly, and basically any other board game with more than 5 pieces including checkers.


Risk? Hardly. When I play, it's usually very easy to remember where your pieces are because: you're extra vigilant about where your stuff is, a lot of the times your inner countries are only going to have one piece so you'd just have to figure our the outer ones, and there's a lot more leniency with the pieces and how far they can travel before it gets confusing. Though that can also be a criticism against Risk too.

Monopoly not so much. You're going to remember where the houses and hotels are. I've had a game get completely destroyed by the tablecloth being attached to someone as they got up - but everyone remembered where their pieces are because it's very very easy to remember. (Hey, I had three hotels over my yellow properties, oh, they all go there! Simple.)

For Catan, as long as the physical board itself isn't destroyed by a table knock, is very very easy to put all the pieces back where they belong.

Pandemic can send redistribute the cubes in a way that you can very easily have a hard time putting back: Should there be a cube on Beijing? No, I treated it. But it had two. No. But you definitely didn't treat any on Seoul, so that should still have two. No, it definitely had three because I was planning on going there next turn. No, that was Tokyo with three.

That has happened. Heck, even without a table knock some of the cities are really close together that if you don't put the piece exactly centered there can be some confusion as to where it's located.
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colormage1 wrote:
Pandemic is a fiddly puzzle game where you can do the statistically correct move every single time and still lose.


This feels self-contradictory. If it was a puzzle game, you'd be looking for the solution, and once you'd found it you'd have solved the game and have no further use for it. It's not a puzzle game.

And that's not a problem with Pandemic, it's something very nearly essential for a fully co-operative game that strives for replayability.

Suppose Pandemic's difficulty did not vary from one game to the next. In that scenario, people who played with skill below some threshold would always lose and those who played with skill above that threshold would always win. How would that be fun for anybody?
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