Plan Your Legacies
Pandemic has been one of the shining examples of how to make a cooperative board game fun, putting the players into the shoes of various members of a rescue team trying to save the world from a pandemic, and while this may sound too on the nose to our current situation around the world, it was actually first released way back in 2008 and has since been receiving new editions and expansions over the years.
Pandemic Legacy, however, is a legacy implementation of the game, which means that once you finish the game’s campaign, you can’t play through that same campaign again without purchasing a new copy of the game, not because you already know the story, but because your actual copy has since been altered in permanent ways, like placing stickers on the map, actually writing with a permanent marker on various components, ripping cards in half to make them unplayable forever, and introducing new things to the game by giving you little sealed boxes that you can only open once you reach specific in-game triggers!
While this may put off some players from purchasing the game due to having something similar to an ending as opposed to non-legacy games, the original Pandemic Legacy, Season 1, has been credited for the sudden surge of other legacy games on the market, and has since received two follow-ups, with Season 2 being a sequel and Season 0 being a prequel.
The amount of times that you can play any of the Pandemic Legacy games are all around 12-24 sessions, depending on how often you succeed in each of the 12 missions. But each campaign (version of the game) can only be played once.
The good thing there is, even if there are only that many sessions, each session will wildly differ from each other, so let’s hop right onto the plane and remove some of those misconception cubes from your mind.
Is Pandemic Legacy Replayable?
Let’s cut straight to the chase: None of the Pandemic Legacy games are replayable in a similar way that movies are not rewatchable, meaning your actual meaning of replayability may vary.
So how about we try to define what replayability actually means in the context of legacy games?
Okay, let’s picture this scenario: you bought yourself a shiny new board game about selling gear to adventurers by drafting cards around the table, and you can’t wait to play it with your friends, but unfortunately, that board game, while receiving plenty of praise from your friends, is still just another board game that your group will only play if any of your friends feel like being the best shopkeeper while also being in the mood for a card drafting game.
The upper limit for replayability in non-legacy board games is astronomically high, because the ceiling of replayability for these games are only limited by how much you actually want to play them, and while they may be affected by various factors in specific board games like randomized setups, an absurdly large card pool, or numerous expansions, the number of times that you would actually come back to a board game to replay them with the same group is hindered by the fact that each session of non-legacy games are self-contained sessions with their own unique stories.
As an example, I can’t count how many sessions of 7 Wonders Duel, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, or The Fox in the Forest we’ve already had, not because they’re replayable, but because of how much we like the mechanics and themes of these game, and we wouldn’t hesitate to sit through the same arena and outsmart each other within the same rules every single time.
In contrast, even though Tiny Towns has tons of options when it comes to setting it up, my playgroup has never touched it again, simply because they don’t like the game’s spatial puzzle, so even though it’s theoretically as replayable as the previous three games I’ve mentioned, that replayability is not put into practice, and now I’m stuck with Tiny Towns as a solo game until I find another group to play it with.
Is Pandemic Legacy Worth Playing Over Multiple Sessions?
The good thing about the Pandemic Legacy games is that they’re all built on a solid foundation that is the original Pandemic, so you already have a great game that you would want to keep playing beneath it, but what really separates the Legacy experience from the original is that, at its core, Pandemic Legacy has a surprisingly resonant story that you would want to keep playing until you reach the ending, which is an experience that is similar to watching a movie.
I won’t lie about the story’s quality being an epic story spanning multiple sessions, because the writing on the cards that narrate the story and give you mission briefings are nothing spectacular, but the ways that the story is being conveyed through the game mechanics and the various new additions that keep popping up as your group continues to play through the game are a sight to behold, especially when you’re shown how many sealed boxes are available at the beginning of the game but have no idea when you’d be able to open any of them, which continuously strokes your excitement of discovering what’s around the corner and what would happen to the world that you’re trying to save.
See, what I’m trying to get at here is that even though all of the Pandemic Legacy games have a limited lifespan because each game in the series has an ending, the whole experience is just that: an event that you wish to experience for yourself for a specific price, putting it into a similar spot as a movie night, a tourist destination, or a theme park visit, wherein the core experience would be pretty similar to other people who paid the same amount of money, but the nuances of that experience would vary wildly for each person.
Each finished copy of Pandemic Legacy will look differently from another, because your decisions and the people playing it have been different each time, and even if you try to replicate the ways in which you finished one game into another, this being a board game with a randomized deck of cards in it will prove that to be a difficult feat.
So, yes, in a sense, Pandemic Legacy is replayable, but in a manner similar to how theme parks can be visited multiple times: you’re paying for an experience.
If you’re still on the fence about getting any of the Pandemic Legacy games because you fear that a finished copy of Pandemic Legacy just isn’t worth anything, you can always look for variants online that allow you to continue to play the game in your unique board as another version of Pandemic, but I can’t stress it enough that a used airplane ticket isn’t worth anything after that trip as well, and these games are definitely board game experiences that I will never forget.
How Many Sessions is Pandemic Legacy?
Now that the discussion about replayability is out of the way, how about we find out how many sessions of Pandemic Legacy you can actually play?
Fortunately, all of the stories of the Pandemic Legacy games take place over the course of a year, and since there are 12 months in a year, each session of the game takes place over a specific month.
So does this mean that the total sessions of each Pandemic Legacy game is a mere 12?
Not exactly, because if you fail one month, you are given another chance to replay that month, with the narrative framing it as your team still having enough time before the month ends to try and set things right, so that brings up the maximum total to 24 sessions.
Of course, you still wouldn’t want to intentionally fail your first attempts of each month so that you can get the maximum amount of sessions out of your copy, because if you actually fail the second attempt, you won’t be able to get a third attempt at any month, and the consequences of failing depend on which month you are in.
Sealing Your Legacy
So is a board game that provides you with a limited 12-24 sessions about teaming up to save the world and clearing cubes enough to warrant a purchase?
It would be a definitive yes for me, because even though none of the games are replayable in the most common definition of the word due to the legacy mechanic providing a definitive ending, playing through both Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and Season 0 have been some of the most fun experiences I’ve had with my playgroup.
And while it is recommended to stick with a specific set of people to play through the entirety of any legacy game, you can always add in other people or replace some along the way if it can’t be helped by simply bringing them up to speed on the current state of your game.
The audible gasps of failure, resounding hurrahs of success, and that childlike glee of opening boxes for a surprise have been such a wonderful time for everyone in my group that we wouldn’t mind getting back together and finish Season 2 for good once the real life pandemic has been cured and eliminated by the real life teams who have been working on it.