Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 – A Fresh and Exciting Pandemic Game
Tim and I are really enjoying Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. We loved Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 so much we played the campaign through twice (total of 34 games): once just the two of us and a second time with two other people. While Season 2 is a sequel – story-wise – to Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 you don’t have to have played Season 1 to play Season 2. They’re completely independent. What’s more is it’s clear, right off the bat, that Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is not your usual Pandemic. In many ways, it’s turned Pandemic on its head. I’ll tell you what I can – without spoilers. That is, I won’t discuss anything that’s not immediately discernible when you open the box, look at the board and available contents, and read the rules before starting your first game.
Setting and Theme
Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, 71 years after the events in Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. A plague has ravaged the world. Little remains of humanity and supplies are quickly dwindling.
Several things immediately stand out when you open the box and start pulling out the initially available contents:
- The map on the board is very small showing coastlines in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean – only nine cities still exist in the known world and on the Grid (locations connected by sea lanes and/or supply lines to the Havens).
- Three Havens are visible that you are asked to name before starting your first game.
- There are only two sets of cubes – grey and green – instead of the four colors usually found in most Pandemic games. That’s because in Season 2, the 36 grey cubes represent Supplies – you’ll spend a lot of time trying to keep them on the board. Bad things can happen when you run out of supplies. The 8 green Plague cubes represent the spread of plague, you don’t want to put these on the map.
- Several blank Character cards are provided. You’ll immediately name five and assign each a job and a portrait. The colorful character sketch stickers add a really nice personable touch to the Character Sheets. You also get to choose ages for the characters and their home Havens.
- The jobs are quite different from the usual Roles found in Pandemic and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. We didn’t really understand exactly what their abilities meant until after playing the Prologue game.
Don’t skip the Prologue. It doesn’t take long to play and is a great introduction to the new game play. If you’ve never played a Pandemic game before, I recommend playing the Prologue at least a couple of times to get comfortable with the mechanics – at least until you win. When playing the Prologue, nothing you do will have a permanent effect. The Recon action isn’t available and you don’t draw cards from the Legacy Deck.
- The familiar white building tokens (Research Centers in most Pandemic games) represent Supply Centers in Season 2. They don’t work quite the same way either.
- If you played Season 1, the Dossiers, sealed and numbered boxes, and the Legacy deck will be familiar. Don’t open any of them until instructed to.
- There are a few new components in Season 2: some Tracking tokens to track your progress on Objective cards, Turning Point cards, and Produce Supplies cards.
Overall, the components are of a nice quality – pretty much like any other Pandemic game. We had a little trouble getting the game board to lie flat and a few stickers didn’t want to stick, but that’s it so far. I find the dust from the scratch-off cards annoying. You might want to have some napkins or paper towels handy to deal with it.
Setup is familiar in Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, but a little different than other Pandemic games. Near the top left of the board is a calendar indicating how many Supply cubes you get to place in the Stockpile each month and how many Objectives you have to complete. Any leftover Supply cubes are considered in the Reserve and are out of play; set them off to the side of the board. Supplies dwindle each month, so each game starts with fewer and fewer supplies.
Consult Legacy Deck
Saying “Consult Legacy Deck,” always make me think of consulting the Oracle of Delphi, but that’s a different game. I digress, back to our regularly scheduled set up.
After laying out the board and placing the appropriate number of Supply cubes in the Stockpile, and the Incident and Infection Rate tracking tokens and Plague cubes in their designated places on the board, consult the Legacy Deck. The Legacy Deck will inform you of any new priorities for the month – draw and execute until you get a Pause or Stop.
Supply the Grid
After consulting the Legacy Deck, Supply the Grid by placing all of the cubes in the Stockpile onto locations on the board, but only on those locations that are “on the grid,” that is, connected to a Haven by a supply line or Sea Lane. You get to decide how to distribute them. You might find it helpful to know that there aren’t any Infection cards for the Havens in the Infection deck. As the game progresses and supplies become scarce, there aren’t enough to go around, so you have to make some hard choices of where to place the few supplies you have. The games also gets more intense and exciting.
Infect the Grid
As a veteran Pandemic player, Infecting the Grid feels a little backward to me, because you remove Supply cubes from the board instead of placing virus cubes. You have to draw 9 Infection cards and remove cubes from those cities! Plus, there are multiple cards for each city in the Infection deck. So it’s not uncommon to have one or more Incidents during setup, especially as your supplies dwindle in later games. More about Incidents below.
Prepare the Player Deck
Preparing the Player deck will be familiar to Pandemic players, including adding the Epidemics to the deck after dealing starting hands to the players. All 5 Epidemics go into the deck.
Select Your Characters
Yes, you get to select your characters after you see the setup of the board and learn what your objectives are for the month. You’re free to switch characters from game to game.
My description may have been a bit long, but setup really doesn’t take that much time and then you’re ready to play.
Many aspects of the game play are familiar Pandemic: take 4 Actions, draw 2 Player cards, and Infect. There’s a new first step, however: Check for Exposure.
If your character is in a location with a Plague cube at the start of your turn, you’ve been Exposed to plague and have to scratch off a box at the bottom of your Character card. The result could be no effect (blank), a Scar, or even Death.
I haven’t had to scratch any boxes off yet, but Tim has. So far he’s had a no effect and a scar. I’m convinced the first one I scratch off is going to be Death so I’m doing my damnedest to avoid it. That unknown potential result is chilling. I didn’t really feel that threatened by the potential Scars in Season 1. You knew up front how to avoid them and that more than two spelled Death. So you either made the decision to take a bullet if conditions warranted it, or you just avoided potential trouble altogether. In Season 2, you don’t know what will happen if you’re exposed: might be nothing, might be a scar, could be death. I don’t want to risk that unless there’s no other choice. I’ve grown quite fond of my character.
In addition to the new Exposure element, movement is a little different in Season 2. You can only use cards to travel to Ports, noted with an anchor symbol, via Sea Lanes. There are no Shuttle Flights between Supply Centers. You don’t even get one Supply Center to start with, you have to build them all yourself. Drive/Ferry works the same though.
Among your Other Actions, Share Knowledge works the same, but everything else is new: Make Supplies, Deliver Supplies, Build a Supply Center and Recon.
- Make Supplies lets you pick up one Supply cube from the Stockpile.
- Deliver Supplies lets you drop off as many Supply cubes as you want at a city from your Character card.
- Build a Supply Center will remind you of Find a Cure, because it requires you to discard 5 cards of the same color. Instead of finding a cure, you get to place a Supply Center in the city you’re in, providing the card color matched that city’s color.
- Recon is a whole new ball of wax. Each location you can Recon has a legend specifying what cards you have to discard there in order to do a reconnaissance of the area – adding to what is known of the world’s geography. You can only Recon area where there is a Supply Center. The Recon action is not available in the Prologue. This allows you to play the Prologue a few times if you want to get familiar and comfortable with the new game play.
In addition to the above Actions, there are two Free Actions you can take during the Action Phase of your turn:
- Pickup Supplies – Take as many Supply cubes from your current location and put them on your Character card.
- Transfer Supplies – Give Supply cubes to or take Supply cubes from another character in your current location.
Event cards can be played at almost any time and the usual 7-card hand limit applies.
The Infection Phase is where you really see how Season 2 turns Pandemic on his head. Instead of putting cubes representing the spread of viruses on the board, you’ll take Supply cubes off of the board – symbolizing dwindling supplies. If you ever need to remove a Supply cube and none are available in that location, an Incident occurs requiring you to place a Plague cube there. Every time you place a Plague cube, you have to move the Incident marker up one space. Eight Incidents and it’s “Game Over, Man.”
Should you ever have to place a fourth Plague cube an Outbreak occurs instead causing a drain on supplies. You have to remove a Supply cube from every connected location. Anywhere you can’t gets a Plague cube…
Epidemic cards likewise force you to remove Supply cubes rather than place them, but otherwise work much the same as in most Pandemic games.
Legacy Deck and Game End Steps
There are a couple new Game End Steps you need to perform at the end of each game, but they’re pretty simple. Most will be familiar if you played Season 1, like drawing cards from the Legacy Deck and choosing Upgrades. I recommend pulling out the manual to go through them one by one; it’s all there as a handy reference on the back.
Before you start clearing the board, you need to Adjust the Population and do a few more Game End Steps. New Turning Point cards placed in the Game End area of the board during set up or added during play have conditions on them that might trigger after you checked the Legacy Deck.This is when the story really starts to unfold.
The number of Production Units you get for game end upgrades depends on the number of cities on the Grid. You’ll get an extra unit for winning the game. Some upgrades give your characters new abilities, others improve City and Infection cards. One important upgrade that we initially overlooked lets you increase the population of a city.
Win or lose, you always get upgrades at the end of each game. Of course, if you win a lot, you won’t get many or any Rationed Event cards in your next game. Your rationing level (how many Rationed Event cards you get to add to the Player Deck) decreases by 2 when you win and only increases, also by 2, when you lose. We’re down to zero – again. Drat!
The campaign runs, thematically, through 12 months. If you win the first game in a month, you move on to the next month. If you lost it, you replay that month, then win or lose you move on to the next month. You’ll play a total of 12 to 24 games during the campaign.
I’m really enjoying the unfolding story campaign that is Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. The new rules and challenges added each month have kept me interested and eager for each new game. I’m bummed we didn’t get to play yesterday because I was working on this article. Maybe tonight.
The story is revealed through Recon Reports and Journal pages found in the Legacy Deck and those mysterious numbered packages. We’re almost halfway through and we’re loving every minute of it. We can never play just one game per session; we always play two or more.
Even though the components and mechanics are familiar, the game feels different – fresh. Thus far, I’ve found the rules even clearer and easier to follow than in Season 1. Several times while playing Season 1, I had to consult forums on Board Game Geek to make sure we were playing right. Thus far, I haven’t come up with any questions unanswered by the manual and/or cards. The designers really went the extra mile to ensure the mechanics are clear and easy to remember as new rules are introduced. They even included stickers to add to the board as reminders. Keep your rulebook handy, especially as a guide for the Game End Steps, and you’ll be good to go.
Unlike Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, you can’t play regular Pandemic with Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. I don’t know if you can play anything with the remnants when you’re done with the campaign or not. I’ll probably know in a few weeks and can post an update when we’ve finished our run.
One thing I can say now is that Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 feels like a fresh new game with some familiar rules and mechanics. The Waterworld/Mad Max theme comes through as you battle to keep your cities supplied and work your way through the Legacy Deck. I highly recommend it and its predecessors: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and Pandemic.