Story Board Episode One – The Pandemic Legacy Experience

Welcome to the first ‘episode’ of Story Board, a new semi regular article series that looks at board game stories within actual games, or stories related to / about board games. This first outing is going to look at “Pandemic Legacy” and will be spoiler free, because I would never spoil something so magnificent (or even non-magnificent for that matter).

Spoiler Free
You’ve probably heard of the “Pandemic Legacy” board game, even if you haven’t had the chance to play it yet. A legacy game, “Pandemic Legacy is a co-operative campaign game, with an overarching story-arc played through 12-24 sessions, depending on how well your group does at the game”.

That’s the official quote there and 12 seems highly unlikely to me. I’ve played it through twice now, with two different groups, it’s one of my most played games when counting actual game sessions in relation to time played, coming in at around 37 sessions over a period of just a few months.

Pandemic Legacy season 1 Australian release info Brisbane Gold Coast storesPandemic Legacy – Have you played it yet?

Two play throughs and the first was better, but probably not why you might think….
The first complete play through differed to the second because – given the legacy aspects – everything was a surprise, story elements unfolded, players were shocked, confused, thrilled, distraught. It was one heck of a ride and one the other players and I will never forget.

The story within the game is sewn together so well, with threads that neatly intertwine pulling the players into proceedings. How far they’re pulled in however most definitely is based on the players themselves and perhaps even the length of time between sessions.

That first complete play through was a magnificent board gaming experience and it’s hard to think that anything else can ever come close to the heady heights we reached (though roll on SeaFall, Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and the slew of other legacy games we will no doubt soon see on the market).

The second play through however felt a bit flat, it’s not to say it wasn’t fun, it was great fun. I was the only one who knew the story and I let all other players lead the way, making all the decisions, but it wasn’t the ‘OMG when are we playing the next month?!” that the first play through was. We had numerous week gaps between the games and we played them in long chunks on the days we got together. The players just weren’t as wrapped up in the story, something was different and the key variable was the times played and the players themselves.

Pandemic Legacy Best Games for Christmas 2015 by Gameapalooza AustraliaDon’t worry, there’s no spoilers, we wouldn’t do that. The Pandemic Legacy board.

So you can only play it once?
This was no doubt covered in our review, but I wanted to say here that this is a fallacy, usually thrown around by people who haven’t played the game, or are looking for an excuse to be derisive. It is absolute nonsense to suggest you can only play “Pandemic Legacy” once. Sure you are learning of the rich story once and once you know the twists and turns of the campaign, you know them, but you play the game around 18 times in and of itself in order to reach those story elements. How many of your games have you played 18 times and thoroughly enjoyed it each time because it felt new? Big, long story driven epic games on your shelf, how many? My guess would be a fairly small percentage of those you own.

Once you’re done you can still play it as regular(ish) “Pandemic”, either on the decimated board you helped create, or as something else. I personalised mine to a tabletop RPG I play regularly, stickering the board / cards with place names of that world. Whether you bother doing this or not “Pandemic Legacy” is still raw value for money. $110 for 18 (ish) amazing games, $6 a game session, epic.

I truly hope your “Pandemic Legacy” experience was closer to that first one I had, as opposed to the second. I hope the story pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until that very last moment, when you’re filled with sadness that it is all over. I also hope you have managed to avoid the multitude of terrible people spoiling the game on image sites like Instagram.

Be enthused and be engrossed in the story. Name your characters, connect with them, think about them as role-playing characters, play them as role-playing characters, when they make decisions, think of those decisions, discuss them with the other characters (note characters, not players). If you do this your “Pandemic Legacy” experience will be even better than if you just play it by the moves, player chat manner you might usually play. Both will be great, but living the story… well… you just can’t beat that feeling.

Pandemic Legacy is a great board game experience, if you’ve thus far missed it, rectify it. As of today it is a Spiel des Jahres nominee, a well deserved nomination and as much as I love the other games in the category, I hope it takes the award.

Article by Angela