Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 Is A Tense And Extremely Relevant Spy Thriller

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Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 Is A Tense And Extremely Relevant Spy Thriller
Image: Kotaku Australia
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It’s 1961. You’re with the CIA, and there’s a secret Soviet bioweapon called MEDUSA. Your mission: destroy it before it destroys the world. The only problem is, you have to find the bioweapon first. Welcome to Pandemic Legacy: Season 0.

Like other Pandemic Legacy titles (Season 1 and Season 2), this board game takes the classic co-op Pandemic formula and twists it into something new. Instead of simply hunting viruses from their point of origin, Season 0 takes you on a world-spanning journey to stop the spread of a deadly bioweapon at its source.

Throughout the course of the game, you’ll be challenged by aggressive enemy spies with your ultimate goal being to infiltrate Soviet, Allied and Neutral cities to complete covert operations and achieve set mission goals.

Two decks guide your adventures and tell you exactly where you need to go, and what to do when you get there. If you’re into spy movies or thrillers, it’s an absolutely essential game — but any board game enthusiast will enjoy Pandemic Legacy: Season O.

How easy is Pandemic Legacy: Season O to learn?

Image: Kotaku Australia

No matter how exciting a new board game is, one of your primary concerns should always be how easily you can pick it up and/or teach it to friends. The great news about Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 is while it looks quite complicated, its core mechanics are easily learned and shared.

The manual is, hands down, one of the easiest to understand I’ve encountered. It’s very straightforward in the beginning, with more rules written in later on via stickers. You can also find a bunch of helpful videos online to teach you the rules, but the manual spells everything out quite simply.

The entirety of the action in the game’s story-led adventure is determined by a simple deck of cards which cover the events of an entire year in the game. Each month is clearly marked out, with and you’re given express goals to complete before you can move on.

Again, there’s a lot of moving parts from locked safety deposit boxes to complicated sticker sheets, debriefing books and dossiers — but the slowly ramping pace of the game means you won’t ever feel overwhelmed by the game’s components.

How many players?

Now, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 is technically a game for 2-4 players, but you can also play the game solo. For the purposes of this review, I was playing alone. Would you believe organising a group to play Pandemic during a pandemic is hard?

Normally, each player would take the role of one secret agent. If you’re alone you can control of any number of agents and go on your merry way. Pandemic was always been built around co-op rather than competitive gameplay, so playing alone doesn’t make a massive difference to gameplay.

You’ll want to keep track of your individual characters and inventories, but there won’t be any game-breaking choices here.

The game lets you personalise your own characters for gameplay. (Image: Kotaku Australia)

Beyond the difficulties of organising your own board game party, there is another reason you may want to choose to play the game alone.

Like other titles in the Pandemic franchise, Season 0 requires you to destroy your game in the process of playing it. The first step is using sticker sheets to personalise your secret agents. But after this, the game asks you to sticker the board, mark the rulebook, scratch covers off your passports, tear used cards up and discard any story cards you’ve already worked through.

If you’re particularly delicate about replay value, the Legacy branch of Pandemic isn’t for you.

As a board game collector, it absolutely made me shiver and I avoided destroying anything I didn’t have to. Sadly, you’ll need to temper these feels if you really want to get into the game. As the months pass by, you can’t avoid burning through your board game supplies or marking, scratch and tearing your cards.

When you’re forking out $120 for a board game, it feels hideous to destroy it — but that’s the sacrifice you make for a game like Season 0. If you’re playing with friends, be certain you’ve got a good group. It’ll be difficult to pick up and play mid-campaign if you’ve got to introduce new people to your story.

Gameplay

Image: Kotaku Australia

Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 is an excellent board game adventure, particularly if you enjoy well-paced, story-driven gameplay. While the core mechanics remain the same throughout, each in-game month brings new challenges and spicy gameplay rules that change up everything that came before. Once you think you have the game down, more story will unfold and you’ll have to conquer unfamiliar territory all over again.

But the balance in difficulty is near-perfect.

Luck plays a significant role in determining the action of the game and how threats shake up the globe, but skill feels equally essential here. There’s a strategy and a flow to the world of Season 0, and it’s a matter of plotting and planning to come up with the best strategy to survive. The game presents you with a variety of options on your turn from neutralising enemy threats to establishing bases and uncovering intelligence. Like any game, you have limited turns so you’ll need a unique strategy to complete every task at hand.

If you make a wrong move, the game can be unforgiving (incident tokens can build up fast if you continue drawing bad threat cards) but this level of challenge is exciting, rather than frustrating. If you’re doing poorly, the game has caveats built-in to ease the pressure. You may fail some months, but even this failure contributes to the story. The nature of the game means you can’t go back and complete objectives you failed (Legacy games are a one-way ticket) but losing is often just as much fun as winning.It’s stressful, sure, but it makes any victory you do achieve so much sweeter.

As of writing, I’m four months into the main campaign and everything’s running along at a rapid pace. It’s been a long journey, but an incredibly fun one filled with highs, lows and plenty of risky moves. While the game can be complicated to set up and put down, committing an hour or two to each monthly tale is a very rewarding hobby.

Final Verdict

Pandemic Legacy: Season O is a game with incredible pacing, an involving story and solid mechanics that constantly get shaken up. While you will have to bite down when the game asks you to destroy cards and mark passports, the sense of urgency and importance this builds will guide every one of your choices. You’ll need to think, plan and strategise to make it through the campaign in one piece.

Thanks to excellent writing, you’ll want to make it through even if you have to claw through by the skin of your teeth. Season 0 tells a gripping tale of high espionage, global tension and yes, pandemics. This is a board game for any spy thriller fan, lovers of good stories or those after more complex, strategy-based adventure. Really, there’s something for everyone.

Pandemic Legacy: Season O is absolutely a winner.

Comments

  • Great article! And a great game. It’s really hard to talk about without spoilers. I’m so far 7 months into the game and having a blast. Easily one of the best boardgames I’ve played.

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