The Beginning of a Legacy: From Pandemic to Season 0
An intro to the Pandemic Legacy series with a special look at the upcoming prequel
As we look ahead to the highly anticipated final game in the Pandemic Legacy series coming out this fall, the prequel has us thinking about beginnings. For those who might not be as familiar with Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy, or the Legacy genre, we’ll walk you through the fundamentals of what defines each game, their differences, and where to start with the series. Let us re-introduce you to the groundbreaking Pandemic Legacy series, now nearly complete!
THE STORY BEGINS
It all started in 2008 with the release of the hit co-op game Pandemic, designed by Matt Leacock, which introduced the world to a new kind of cooperative gameplay. Over the past 12 years, the Pandemic line of games has expanded to include a variety of expansions and standalone titles, but the essence of the game remains the same: an exciting cooperative challenge that relies on teamwork (and no small dose of strategy) for players to succeed.
But the thrill of overcoming a shared challenge is just the jumping-off point—enter Pandemic Legacy, the brainchild of Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau. In 2015 we released Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, the first cooperative Legacy game and the beginning of a beautiful collaboration that led to the trilogy as we know it today. If you’re interested in hearing them tell the story in their own words, check out this interview.
A Legacy game is a type of tabletop game designed to be played over multiple sessions, where components, rules, and gameplay mechanics will change over the course of the campaign. In essence, Pandemic Legacy takes the genre-defining co-op gameplay of Pandemic as its foundation and turns it into a full campaign of 12+ sessions, offering a unique experience for each group. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for narrative to emerge and drive players’ choices as the game goes on. All three seasons innovate on the model in different ways:
Season 1 (2015) is the Pandemic Legacy that started it all. While it begins just like the original Pandemic board game, it soon morphs into a challenge unlike any you’ve ever faced before. Over the course of the 12-month campaign, you’ll open sealed packets, reveal hidden information, and unlock secrets that will change the game. Your choices from month to month will be permanent and important, leading to epic twists and evolving situations that must be overcome as a team.
Season 2 (2017) takes you on another epic, narrative adventure in the far future. Humanity is on the brink of extinction, and your team must work together to lead the survivors through yet another crisis. While your initial task is to support the mainland, your mission will soon require you to venture into unknown territory, revealing the map as you go. As with Season 1, the decisions you make throughout the course of the year will affect future games and lead you to dramatic twists and shocking revelations.
Season 0, releasing in October 2020, is the prequel of the series, a spy-thriller set in 1962 as the Cold War looms in the background. As new agents, your mission is clear: investigate a new pathogen being developed by enemy scientists. You must complete objectives over the course of 12 months, slowly revealing the truth as you play through an enigmatic branching narrative. Will you be able to discover the truth behind this new biothreat? Can you operate under the radar as you avoid enemy surveillance? And who can you trust?
Every Pandemic Legacy game is designed to be played once through. Some people burn components as the game instructs them to destroy cards, some players create shadowboxes of their completed games, and still others find even more creative ways to commemorate (or dispose of) their copies. The pieces can be reused in other Pandemic games, or you can check with your local recycling center to dispose of the plastic. The fate of your game is up to you!
A UNIQUE ROLE FOR EVERY PLAYER
Even in the original Pandemic, every player has a role with unique abilities, from the Medic to the Dispatcher to the Quarantine Specialist. Pandemic Legacy takes player roles even further into the realm of customization. Just as the campaign adds new rules and mechanics throughout the course of the game, opportunities to customize your character abound.
In Season 0, this takes the form of the player’s passport. Right from the beginning, you’ll be able to customize your alias to reflect the kind of agent you wish to be. Use the stickers right out of the box to create your unique look!
As you complete missions and progress as an agent throughout the year, you’ll gain certain assets that make your alias more useful or powerful, such as key contacts and special abilities. Use these to your advantage to manage your missions successfully, especially when conditions get tougher.
LIVE YOUR LEGACY
So where should you start as a new player? Experts have weighed in, and here’s the breakdown. (Basically, just don’t start with Season 2.)
Release Order: 1 – 2 – 0
If you’ve played the Pandemic base game, the easiest jump to make into the series will start with Season 1. It is the most alike to the original game in terms of design, theme, and gameplay, so players familiar with Pandemic will feel right at home. From there, it makes sense to follow the story chronologically to Season 2, and then wrap up with the cherry on top that is Season 0, a prequel full of fun Easter Eggs that relate to the other two games.
Chronological Order: 0 – 1 – 2
Alternatively, whether or not you’ve played Pandemic before, you can jump right into Season 0 and play the games chronologically through the three story arcs, as Season 0 doesn’t require any previous experience or knowledge of the other two seasons. It also includes a replayable prologue game to help you learn the rules and get the feel for the Legacy format, if you’ve never played a campaign game before. If you want to start with the spy thriller, jump in with Season 0!
Timeskipping: 1 – 0 – 2
Want to bounce around in time? The world is your oyster! If non-linear storytelling is more appealing to you, feel free to play through the seasons in order of “approachability,” so to speak. Season 1 will be the most straightforward and familiar to Pandemic players. After that, Season 0 has much of the feel of the original game, but with mechanics retooled to fit the spy-thriller theme. And finally, Season 2 will feel the most divergent to the Pandemic brand for some players, but once you’ve been through the ringer with Seasons 1 and 0, it should feel like a new, refreshing, cooperative challenge.