Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is a great experience, especially for people who have played and enjoyed the first season. There are aspects of the game that are stronger, better, and more interesting than Season 1 (which I rated a 10). But, I wish there had been a little more going on during a few of the months.
A Better Legacy System
I really like the improvements they've made over the original Pandemic Legacy system.
The scratch off for exposure is much better than instant scars. It allows players to risk an exposure, that may be nothing, to accomplish a much needed goal. With Season 1, we often played extra safe since scars were a guarantee if the player was exposed. This shift to the unknown meant the game could be played a little more loosely.
The upgrade system being points based opens up upgrades much more than the previous system that allowed (2?). It allows players to take a few weaker upgrades or take stronger abilities for the characters. Additionally, the players being able to influence the points gained at the end of game helped to create goals beyond the normal objectives.
I know it's a small thing, but getting to pick your player's picture was a fun addition.
The single use (or double/triple use) of the cards before being destroyed was fun. Being able to take a one time boost when needed was great. We had been pretty reserved in using these, but in retrospect I think we should've used the cards a bit more since we only used like 3 check boxes across all produce supplies cards.
The exploration made it feel like discovering a world. Putting a new area on the map always felt satisfying. Connecting new cities and establishing new sea routes made it like reconnecting the world uniquely for your group. And, while it was always great to add a companion, the added story from searching was great.
Finally getting to explore Atlanta, and expecting the CDC to have something amazing, only to be backstory was great. Searching a black city (I don't remember which) and reading about the crying Hollow Man looking at a picture of his family made me wonder if they have a tragic backstory.
The elation of finding a new Haven, especially when it added cubes was great. And, finding our first lab in Johannesburg, gaining a new character and reducing the impact of epidemics was fantastic.
Even scanning the radio frequencies was some fun discovery. What were we going to find? And, the gamer version of me thinking, how do we use this mechanism to our advantage to skip epidemics?
The recon in Cairo and the addition of the Hollow Men Gather cards was brutal. When that showed up and we had 3 months to wait until August. Ugh. Too soon.
This is where I think the game really sings. It's much more about the story the players create while playing, than the story the game tells the players.
This really shines in December when at least one player has to take the cure and make it to Johannesburg. My Laborer who had established the majority of the permanent infrastructure on the board - supply centers, antennas, routes (both land and sea), and even some bunkers - made the ultimate sacrifice to produce the cure.
On the way to Johannesburg, a non-faded character hopped to Karachi to slap down a bunker and protect from an exposure. Faded and non-faded were working together to save the world, even if it meant a couple more forsaken cities. At the end of the game, the board was like a memorial to my character with all the permanent structures.
Finding out that the characters on the havens were the Faded was a cool twist. It made me think back to playing Season 1, where we were chucking grenades at Faded to survive until a cure could be found. The monsters of the first season had become the heroes that had to rebuild society.
The discovery of who the Hollow Men really were. Discovering how terrible life in Utopia was. Learning the fate of the haven leaders. Some great interesting story-beats.
The inoculation box, that we used so heavily, being used against the players later. We used it to keep the player deck at 6 epidemics until red cities pushed us over that hump. We never managed to get 30 epidemic cards there, but for them to keep popping back out meant cities that had been safe weren't. It reintroduced a threat we'd been able to ignore for awhile.
The month after month of 3 supply centers, 2 searches, and 2 new cities connected. I realize that the main purpose of this is to reestablish the world, but my main complaint is how quickly this could be accomplished. Most of these months (until we added Hollow Men) were easy and quick to complete with very little negative effect. I feel like there were at least 3 months that we blew through in very little time.
I think the game could've really used some turning points that were hard to accomplish, but good for the players to achieve. An overall goal to try for with a perk.
I liked that this flipped the Pandemic system. Instead of focusing on removing cubes, the goal was to put cubes on the board to keep everything protected.
Additionally, instead of watching the world burn down around you as cities eventually reached rioting in Season 1; players were rebuilding. Having a city reach 8 was great. Prevent cities from becoming forsaken was one of our highest priorities.
I wonder how well this season will replay compared to the Season 1. With the Season 1, it's pretty easy to replay and let the new players make the end of the month decisions. Individual month goals are easy enough to focus on without preparing for future reveals. With Season 2, many of the months are simply expand and search. Knowing the location of the havens and the labs means it's hard to play without influencing the game. Maybe it won't really matter much in the long run, but it's a concern I have since I'd like to replay this with another group.