Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is the hotly awaited sequel to 2015’s Pandemic Legacy Season 1 – a game that took the popular Pandemic Mechanics but placed them in a “legacy” setting where the outcome of each game impacted the next session: write on components, add stickers, or tear things up entirely. This new twist on Pandemic was a smash hit as the game evolved, based on player decisions. Now Pandemic Legacy Season 2 picks up the story 70 years later, and challenges you to once again save humanity.
This article will contain lots of information on the non-sealed content of Pandemic Legacy Season 2 throughout. Any discussion of hidden content will be kept general/within marked sub-sections.
I like a good game of Pandemic. I’ve owned it long enough that my disease cubes are made of wood and over the past couple of years, I’ve reviewed Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu, my new favourite train-game Pandemic Iberia, and the most recent offering, Pandemic Rising Tide, all for this blog. The only one missing from my list was Pandemic Legacy. Now, thanks once again to the good folk at Games Quest, I finally have the chance to try this world of destructive gameplay. Can Pandemic Legacy Season 2 live up to the hype? – let’s find out!
Pandemic Legacy Season 2: What’s in the box?
If you’re new to the world of Pandemic Legacy, you’ll probably be surprised by just how much of Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is in sealed sections – you’ve got a board, but it’s largely blank – there are reference cards, but full of blanks, even the rule-book has loads of empty boxes waiting for you to add stickers.
You aren’t short of components – Pandemic Legacy Season 2 does as good a job as most modern board games of letting you see that you’re getting stuff for your money – it’s just that until you play the game, and reveal things through the ongoing narrative, it can be hard to see what that content is without extensive spoilers.
So how does it play? Differently!
In Season 1, you started off playing Pandemic and gradually morphed into something else. In Pandemic Legacy Season 2, from the word go, you are already playing a brand-new game, albeit one which obviously shares a lot of Pandemic DNA.
Remove 1 cube from each city you draw an infection card for
Set 70 years “after the world ended” Pandemic Legacy Season 2 puts you in the shoes of people from ‘the Havens’ – floating cities of survivors trying to supply, or even rebuild the cities of the world. Rather than keeping rampant disease under control then, you are primarily concerned with supply cubes, and you have to maintain these, whilst the game tries to remove them.
There are no supplies in Tripoli, so the infection card adds a plague cube, triggering an outbreak, and moving the players closer to defeat.
Once a space has no supplies, it can then be infected by a plague cube, which is a very bad thing – you only get 8 Plague Cubes, and placing each one causes an “Incident” (equivalent to an outbreak in regular Pandemic). You can’t remove Plague Cubes (maybe you’ll find a way later) and even if you could, an 8th Incident in a single game causes an instant loss for all players!
Supplies are Running Out
There are two major driving forces behind the events of Pandemic Legacy Season 2: firstly, the world’s leaders have all disappeared, leaving your player-characters with the job, simply because no-one else is ready and willing to do it.
The second is that supplies are running out. Remember those supply cubes I was talking about? The ones which you absolutely must have in all your cities in order to prevent plague? Well in January you get 36 of them: spread between 9 cities that’s 4 each, which is pretty good going. Over the months though, that number will drop, so that by December there will be none left! Something drastic will have change to avoid certain defeat during set-up!
When you look at the board at the start of the campaign, you will see 4 locations where you can “Recon” – build a supply centre there, and discard a set of cards to open a particular box. Given the size of some of the sealed packages and the general enormity of the board, it seems pretty likely that you’re going to be using stickers to reveal whole new areas of the map. That could mean more things to discover – maybe there are more supplies out there!
A quick look at the board and the back of the manual makes it clear that there are more cities out there, which you will discover and add to the grid over the coming months – more cities will increase your production, but it also stretches that dwindling supply of supply cubes more and more thinly.
Lasting Changes? Ups and Downs!
In Season 1, cities panicked – panic only ever grew, and things went from bad to worse. In Pandemic Legacy Season 2, you are concerned with a city’s population, and that can go Up as Well as down. Plague sends it down, having a supply centre sends it up, and you can spend game-end “Production” to increase a city’s size (more on that below). To begin with it won’t be immediately clear what the importance of population size is – the only real reference to it are the Produce Supplies cards which make as many cubes as the population of the current city. Beyond that, the names which accompany the sticker sheet (Failing, Recovering etc) are big clues, as is the “Game End” card which you have to scratch off if ever a city reaches zero population! Either way, the fact that this was an ongoing dynamic was really pleasing, and made things much more interesting.
Warning- the following section contains general spoilers for the campaign!!
Starting to Spoil
Whilst I don’t want to go into specifics, I think I do need to talk a little bit about what happens as you open up new boxes and add stickers to the map. As you might expect, more of the world will become visible and, in only 70 years, continental coastlines haven’t changed, this is still very much the world we know.
However, many cities are in ruins, and they are no longer connected – you will need to try to rebuild a global infrastructure as you go. When we played Season 1, by about March, we had 3 or 4 starting Research stations on the board, and could generally get from anywhere to anywhere else in no more than 2 turns. The mixture of cars and boats available to you in Pandemic Legacy Season 2 mean that movement is much more challenging, and that pressure will only increase as the game forces you to keep exploring new areas and opening up additional bits of the map. Some areas might improve transport options, whilst others might seem to only offer more bad news, and there’s no way of knowing which is which before you get there.
Searching – but for what?
Spend an action in the named city to scratch off the card – some places will give you 2 search options!
I found searching in Season 1 fairly tedious – it involved discarding a lot of cards, but it also felt strangely abstracted. It also required a long-term commitment of resources, often without any real sense of whether it would be feasible to complete the search.
Pandemic Legacy Season 2 takes a very different approach to searching. There are still searches to perform, but this time you will draw player-cards for new cities, and can spend an action in that city to scratch off a silver panel. It’s still quite luck-dependant, as you need to have both the card and the time to reach your destination, but it both made sense – I search this location, I find something there, and it gave you a choice – draw this early, go there and do the search / draw this late, and just treat it as a ‘normal’ card of its colour.
End of Spoilers
Unlucky! – Scar on the first exposure
In Season 1, there were various things that could give your character “scars” – being in a city when it outbreaks or falls being the most obvious. A scar was essentially a negative power on your card, which could eventually lead to death, but in the short term, it could easily be managed, so that the impact was very minimal.
In Pandemic Legacy Season 2, your character gets “exposure” rather than scars. Every time they start their turn in a city with a plague cube (or other things happen?), they are “exposed” and you scratch off a space on the bottom of their character card – some spaces will be blank, others might give you scars, and one will trigger death – having this added unpredictability makes the game a lot more interesting, as it’s harder to just take a scar for short-term gain when you don’t know how near you are to death.
Upgrades – or the Means of Production?
Some upgraded Infection cards – Jacksonville was having problems in our game…
At the end of a game in Season 1, you got 2 upgrades, regardless of how the game, or the campaign was going. Pandemic Legacy Season 2 introduces the concept of Production Units – depending on how many cities are connected to “the grid” and whether or not you won the game, you will have a varying number of points to spend. This allows the designers to balance the upgrades available to you: as before, some will seem clearly better than others, but now they cost more – do you spend 3 points on something big? Or take 3 more minor improvements, maybe boost the population of a city or two.
Pandemic Legacy Season 2 also expands your options by allowing you to improve infection cards – spending your resources on this can lessen the impact of a particular card being drawn from the deck. I really liked this touch, even if the cards rarely seemed to come out at the right moment.
Slow and Steady? Or One Big Turn?
Pandemic Legacy Season 2 feels like it offers lots of long-term decision making – more single-use options (destroy X to do Y) than in Season 1.
Supply cards (for example) can be used every game for a limited amount of supply generation, or you can use them for a big burst of supplies, but at the cost of ticking off a box. Once all the boxes have been ticked (somewhere between 1 and 3 depending on which card), the card is destroyed, meaning that you can no longer use it, even for its basic power. For the first few months we were very sparing with these cards, only using the tick-box-version of the power once.
Pandemic Legacy Season 2: Final Thoughts
I’ll let you find out for yourself what’s inside…
Pandemic Legacy Season 2 has definitely learnt from its predecessor, and the game shows a lot of evidence of things being cleaner and the whole experience being streamlined. The new “game-end area,” tidies up the between-game experience, and language has been tightened across the board.
Game-play wise, this is probably the most different Pandemic board game yet, although it’s still very clear where it comes from. The very fact that you’re trying to keep enough cubes of a certain type in play, more than trying to eliminate cubes adds a different feel to things.
Narrative-wise, it’s really a matter of preference. Personally, I think that the logical flow still means that it makes more sense to play Season 1 first, before Pandemic Legacy Season 2, but they do both stand alone.
For some people, the very fact that this game is Legacy will be a deal-breaker, and if the excitement of opening a new box, not knowing what permanent changes you’re about to make to the game doesn’t interest you, then there’s nothing I can say to change that. However, if you’re happy to spend the money on something that’s going to give you the best part of 20 hours entertainment, then the experience, the narrative, and the overall execution of this game are definitely strong enough to reward your decision.
Overall, I’d give this a strong 8 of 10
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house.
When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.