Tucked inside the Z-Man Games booth at this year’s Gen Con in Indianapolis was a mockup of a field hospital. A bare lightbulb hung from the ceiling and there, in amongst the surplus gas masks and rugged crates of medical supplies, was a small table. On top, a guided tour of the very first mission of Pandemic Legacy: Season 2.
At first, I didn’t actually believe what I was seeing.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 is one of the very best board games ever made. It was also the first board game we’ve written about here at Polygon that required a hard spoiler warning. But the man at the table waved me in, invited me to sit down and promised a spoiler-free demo of Season 2.
There were spoilers nonetheless, but nothing that you wouldn’t get from reading the back of the box. So we’re going to do this. We’re going dive in here. This your last chance to turn away, to click on another story.
Look! There’s one right over there about Destiny 2.
What follows may spoil the opening rounds of this game for you. It will also spoil the end of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1.
Still here? Alright. Here we go.
The first thing you’ll do in Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is make a character. I was handed a small sticker sheet with six pictures, four roles and a small selection of scars. On the back of my empty character card was a bit of flavor text.
The world almost ended 71 years ago...
We’ve all heard the stories of the world as it was. Before the plague and even before C0dA. For three generations we have lived on floating havens far from the mainland: far from the ravages of the plague.
We have done our best to provide the remaining cities with supplies, antibiotics, food, medicine and tools but our efforts are no longer enough. Cities are falling off the grid. We don’t know what’s happening to them.
Now our leaders have disappeared. We’ve barely got our heads around this mess, but everyone else is looking to us to tell them what to do.
We’re covering ourselves up and heading out. Cities still need supplies, and we need to gauge how bad it has gotten.
We don’t know much about the Hollow Men, but we do know they’ll try to stop us. They’ll destroy our supply centers almost as soon as we build them, but the cities need supplies, and we need to restore our presence on the mainland.
Looking back at the sticker sheet, it suddenly dawned on me. These characters weren’t human, or at least not the same kind of humans that existed 70 years ago. They were covered in rags, their hair tied and knotted in tribal styles and their flesh was green, blue and orange.
Looking at the game board, most of the world was black and covered by the fog of war. We started out on floating cities in the middle of the Atlantic — Atlantis, Avalon and Asgard — and traveled by boat between the last few remaining coastal cities. All that was left of the known world was New York, Washington DC, Jacksonville, Sao Paulo, London, Tripoli, Cairo and Istanbul.
Our goal was to build three supply centers somewhere in the world, and each one would require five cards to be played from our hand. Each set needed to be from the same region in the world.
Season 2 picks up mechanically where Season 1 left off. You’ll be creating supplies much in the same way that you created the antidote in the first game, adding them to your player card and carrying them around as you travel. As cards are drawn from the Infection pile supplies get removed from cities, representing the efforts of the inhabitants to help the sick and injured. Once those supplies are gone, a green Plague cube is placed on the city.
There’s no way to remove it.
The roles that characters had felt familiar. There was the Instructor, who could share cards with other players, and the Laborer who could build a Supply Center with one fewer card from their hand. The Administrator was able to move any pawn on the map to any other pawn and the Radio Operator was able to gather supplies from any other player at the table. But the pace of the game was much faster. The infection deck was also different, and contained multiple copies of the same city cards.
In the final round I pulled two Epidemic cards back-to-back, setting off a chain reaction around the Mediterranean Ocean. When the smoke cleared we had our three Supply Centers, but nearly all of Europe and North Africa was infected with the plague.
The good news is that you can play this tutorial mission as many times as you like before digging into the rest of the game. What’s clear to me is that this time around the focus of the early game will be exploration. You’ll be carefully pushing out into the world, placing stickers around the map as you uncover more of the world. And you will absolutely have to deal with the Hollow Men... whoever they are.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is expected to be out later this year.