Pandemic Legacy Season Zero – November Game #1

In the world of games (something I enjoy quite a bit) my friends Rod, Michelle and Anne and got together again last week to play Pandemic Legacy Season Zero–the prequel game to Seasons One and Two, which are in themselves to a spinoff of the regular game Pandemic, by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man Games.

Pandemic, as the name suggests, is about disease outbreak and attempting to control that. Pandemic Legacy expands that into a more narrative-driven game experience in which the choices you make at one point in the process impacts how the game proceeds. You end up putting stickers on the board and in the rule book, and sometimes you even go so far as to destroy cards from the game! Season Zero is the prequel to the above which is focused more on espionage and spies than it is about diseases and contagions (though they do figure in).

The way the story works is that you play through each month of the year, with two chances to win each month. So if you win the first game of a month, you move on. If you lose, you have another chance, but you miss out on certain bonuses and benefits that come with winning.

(You can read about our victory in the month of October here).

We’ve been playing through this year in real life in a way that roughly tracks with the story, although it was here in December that played our first game for November. But was it our last game for November? Read on to find out!

There are Spoilers here for the game–if you are wanting to play through it yourself then I recommend skipping this post!

The month (and the game) began in a surprising way, with the Legacy Deck (which conveys most of the story information) telling us that Sabik, a rogue agent we’ve been dealing with all year long, wants to form a truce with us.

The game gives the players a choice as to whether to accept this or not, and when we did, it shockingly told us to throw away the rest of the Legacy Deck and replace with a new one that was in a packet that had to open up. We didn’t throw ours away, though–the plan is to read through it after we finish the game.

For most of the game, the spying we are doing has to do with tracking the development of a disease code-named Medusa. Sabik’s story, however, was that the CIA (who we work for) are up to something sneaky with a second disease called COdA. COdA was actually the disease that was relevant for the earlier Pandemic Legacy games, so we know that in the long-run this is important.

According to the new Legacy deck, we were able to throw away a pile of Restrictions that we had picked up over time and Sabik then went ahead and faked his death so the CIA would stop worrying about him, and we could continue to play both sides of this very dangerous game that we had gotten ourselves wrapped up in.

Our Objectives this time around were to learn about the enemy’s plan to deploy Medusa (by capturing a guy fleeing from Sydney before he reached a Soviet city), to break back into the Pearl compound to sabotage the enemy’s manufacturing facility, and to break into CIA headquarters itself in order to recover their sample of COdA.

As usual our first goal was to hem in the fleeing guy before he can get very far. This meant building checkpoints at the various access points to prevent him from moving when we turn up an Escalation card. Sydney has three access points (by which someone can ferry to Jakarta, Manila or Los Angeles.). We managed to get two of them and then the Escalation hit, allowing the danger the guy posed to spread to LA. We manage to block him in there, and then starting working on getting the Allied team that we’d need to actually capture him.

(Both Sydney and LA are Allied cities, which is why you need an Allied team. When we were blocking cities we purposely blocked off the Asian cities first, as neither of them are Allied–he he had spread to a Neutral city, then we’d have needed two teams to finish the objective.)

The teams did not come easily, though…we needed five Allied cards to build the Allied team and we just weren’t getting them.

In the meantime, we set about fulfilling our other objectives. As usual, Michelle was our go-to person to break into the Pearl compound, or more accurately, her character’s Soviet-allied alias, Mishka Karenina. Getting around the Pearl requires lots of actions, and she’s got the easiest time building up extras in that category.

Unfortunately, it also requires lots of cards (needed for opening various doors in the compound) and she had to work hard to keep her hand from being clogged up with unwanted “Symptom” cards.

Another new wrinkle with getting around the Pearl this time around is that to get to certain rooms, you have to build tunnels, which costs other cards. Basically, this is the equivalent to crawling around ventilation shafts. It took a while for Michelle to gather up all that she needed (the right cards and enough Action tokens to last her for the mission) but eventually she did it and we completed that mission.

In the meantime, Anne went into her Allied identity–Alice Ghurkins–and broke into the CIA headquarters in Langley and retrieved what we needed there. That was a bit of work but not nearly as difficult.

Now the big challenge during all of this is that we were building up a lot of places which had the potential to break out into Incidents (too many foreign agents present) or Outbreaks (too many disease cubes present). Rod (along with all of our help) was doing his best diffusing these situations but there was only so fast he could go. Having too many Incidents or Outbreaks is one of the ways you can lose the game–I think if we hit about 9 or 10 you lose. And when there are lots of potential hot spots, you can hit with them pretty fast and furious, bringing your game to an end rapidly.

And by the end of the game we had lots and lots of hot spots. Plus we knew we had another Escalation coming up, which was only going to activate those hot spots faster.

When it got to my turn, my tried and true character–Professor Leonard Walnut managed to rendezvous with Alice Ghurkins in Paris. This was significant because Alice has the ability to give any cards to another player if they are in the same city, and Alice had two cards that we needed to build the Allied team necessary to complete the final mission. Over a couple of turns I managed to take the two cards and then get to a Safe House in Algiers where I could activate the Team. And amazingly, we got through all this without drawing that last Escalation.

Thanks to a couple of action tokens that I got from Anne, (I think), which had been a bonus for finishing her infiltration mission, I had enough turns to get that Team to where it needed to go to capture our fleeing Soviet agent!

So we won the game, which I was completely blown away by. Things were looking so precarious for us that I thought for sure we were going to get zapped at some point–but we played well and things just went our way.

From the game log that it gives us, it looks like the final month, December, only has game possible instead of the normal two. We haven’t scheduled our game day yet, but it’ll be cool if we could do it in real-life December, because we started back in real-life January, and the game itself takes place over a year.

I guess we’ll see.

One thought on “Pandemic Legacy Season Zero – November Game #1

  1. Pandemic Legacy seems like to an intriguingly challenging game to play in the midst of all that’s happening now. Thank you, Ben, for this article and for the good picture selections too.

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