March 24, 2016 | by Barak Blackburn
Game the Game: Pandemic Legacy

I love Pandemic. One Thanksgiving break, I played it with my friend Scott into the wee hours of the morning.

If you ever ask me if I want to watch Boogie Nights, or any of the Mad Max movies, I will say yes. If you ever ask me if I want to play Pandemic, I will say yes.

Now, with all of these hours playing, came some ideas on how to best play the game. Ideal combinations of characters if you will. I have my own ideas, if you have played the game you may very well have your own ideas.

Then, along came Pandemic Legacy.

$50 or so for a game you can only play through once.

Gamers are notoriously thrifty, so many might cry at this, to which I offer up: tickets to see the latest nerd film in 3d with soda and popcorn= about $50. A meal out with a couple drinks= about $50. The newest video game that might provide less than 100 hours of playtime= more than $50.

Suck it up and stop being so cheap.

Now, there are two different boxes (red and blue), all reports indicate they are the same, I only have the red box, so I cannot say for sure.

The Legacy concept of board games in a nutshell is that each game played changes the rules in some way, so the next time the game is played, it is different. What this means in Pandemic, is that there is a story and narrative. It elevates the game in awesome ways!

And what I can say about Pandemic Legacy is:


Brilliant game design. This is one of those games that gave me all the nerd feels. I wanted to play all the time (as Ellie can attest). I played some with Mike, and some with Ellie, and I am not ashamed to admit it, I played alone.

I am not ashamed. Rich Sommer (Harry Crane from TV’s Mad Men) enjoys the experience of playing board games solo, and so do I.

Now, I don’t want to give away any major spoilers, but know this, even having played through it once, I want to do it again. I won’t “Game the Game” and use what I know, because I enjoy the narrative elements and how they played out. I did learn a couple things, such as what to focus on, but at the end of the day, Pandemic’s brilliance, is that no matter how carefully orchestrated a tactic is, the game design is such that it can all go to shit, no matter what.

What can I say, and what advice might I give?

Pick a theme for the characters. We used the Fantastic Four for our characters. As the game develops, this becomes even cooler, and Doom does enter the picture. Minor Spoilers below. In Mike’s game, we went with DC, with a roster of characters that is indeed a bit of hodge podge: Oracle, Jason Todd, Blue Beetle, Lois Lane, and Skeletor Dr. Destiny. I loved picking folks for my game, and it definitely added to the experience.

As gameplay continues, more characters are added to the game, and these characters have relationships with the characters already in the game. The roster in my game expanded to include Banner, Cap, and Namor.

All that said, Reed and Valeria were the most frequently used characters, and how cute is that?

I won’t give any more advice, and I won’t share my secret of which roles we found to be most effective. Did we screw some things up? Yes. It happens. When upgrading diseases, start at 1 and add upgrades in order. And, don’t forget the effect of the Player Deck. when dealing with outbreaks #vague

As I work on games of my own, I am always looking to incorporate ideas I find compelling. Pandemic Legacy and The Quiet Year are two games that I am currently looking to for inspiration, wondering how I might create something with some of these same nerd feels.

On our podcast, we discussed what other games could benefit from the Legacy type gameplay. More to the point, Pandemic has teased us with further seasons. This is after all, Season 1. It says so right on the box. I cannot wait for Season 2.  Please.

And, if you really want a very large spoiler, but without too much specific spoilery info:


Barak Blackburn is not Daredevil. Likes comic-books. Likes role-playing games. Finds that he often doesn't like British geeky things. Likes Brian Michael Bendis. Can find the good in projects others dismiss (Sucker Punch). Thinks The Specials is one of the greatest superhero movies. Ever. Likes Marvel over DC. Makes tens of dollars writing game stuff. Strives to be a better person because of characters he created. Adores Friday Night Lights. Tears up at the end of Cars. Would watch Boogie Nights any time. Thinks Zac Efron should be Nightwing.

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