One hell of a send-off: Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 wraps a stylish board game series


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One Hell of Farewell: Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 envelops the sleek board game series
Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend’s look at board games! Check out our full coverage of board games on cardboard.arstechnica.com.

when Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 It was released in 2015, and was met with enthusiastic reaction from players. Originally based campaign pandemic, It has brought down fans into the familiar role of paramedics fighting to eliminate deadly viral strains before they spread around the world and devastate humanity.

The game’s biggest draw was a story that unfolded over the course of multiple gaming sessions, with diseases mutating and cities falling into chaos as a sinister plot spread across the globe. Along the way, players place stickers on the board, destroy cards, open sealed compartments to reveal hidden ingredients, and permanently change the game in response to their actions. sequel Pandemic Legacy: Season Two, The work took decades to come, exploring a world torn apart by the first game. Now, there is the third and final installment, which takes players back to the dangerous days of 1962 and the height of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 It revolves around CIA agents tasked with uncovering plans for a powerful new biological weapon being developed by rogue elements of the KGB. Where it was established pandemic The formula sees players move from city to city to get rid of the plastic bricks that represent diseases, and here you and your buddies aim to clear the mini plastic spy board. Let them spread freely, and they will bring down the capitalist system. And most importantly, they will give you an embarrassing loss.

It’s a mostly superficial change, but it’s a far cry from the only way Season 0 Evokes the atmosphere of the Cold War. The different positions on her board come in different alignments: Allies, Soviets, and Neutrals. As enemy agents, you would not be able to fly freely into Soviet territory, and overcoming these restrictions required the creation of teams of local agents, represented by plastic miniatures similar to Volkswagen trucks. You’ll be able to send them to do your dirty work, assassinate Soviet ghosts with ruthless efficiency.

Your targets are also feel in each game appropriately set by the CIA. You will need to find the locations of enemy assets and infiltrate secret Soviet installations. Best of all, however, are high-stakes stalking missions that see a target like a dissident or a double agent start out in one city and frantically make its way toward Soviet strongholds while trying to cut through all possible escape routes. It makes for an exciting chase with some really agonizing moments as the quarry slips out between your fingers just as you get close to grabbing it.

But what really makes the game shine is what happens between missions. As with previous games in the series, you’ll run across a deck of cards that offer exciting new plot elements. Posters would add to the painting representing the ever-increasing Soviet surveillance, making visiting some cities even more dangerous. But the most interesting thing is the ability to upgrade your characters over time. Each comes with a passport booklet with pages for three different IDs, each with their own capabilities. Over time, you’ll add new powers, allowing you to tune each agent to tasks like chasing enemies, sharing information with teammates, or recruiting local agents.

You will be able to switch between identities while playing to adapt to the changing position on the board, and in an inspiring touch the game allows you to customize the look of your characters using layers of stickers. It has no effect on gameplay, but the idea of ​​slapping a false wig and mustache to sneak past the Iron Curtain is undoubtedly a fun one.

As you delve deeper into the campaign, the game increases the difficulty level, and while it’s impossible to delve into the details without letting go of some important surprises, you can expect to deal with ever-increasing Soviet schemes and pencil thrust bosses who seem bent on getting in the way. What starts out as a moderate version is more complex than pandemic It turns into something more demanding and more demanding.

The gradual change process means you’ll never feel overwhelmed. There are some occasions though, when it becomes clear in the middle of a session that you are not going to win, and this is where it comes Season 0 Feel flat, as players wander aimlessly around the board hunting down unattainable targets. It’s like you’re entering the second half of a soccer game with your team losing 8-0, even though in our campaign it only happened once.

Even when you lose, you will progress in the plot. This could mean losing some vital intelligence, however, obtaining and interpreting the information can be as important as what is actually happening on the board. There are contraband documents, classified plans, eyewitness testimonies, and other evidence that all aim to piece together to form a complete picture of what your opponents are intending to do.

Even more impressive, however, is the way the game delves into the internal struggle of its heroes. There are several points throughout the campaign where players’ opinions on different issues have a direct mechanical impact on the game. And while the plot largely goes down the rails, there are a few major decisions that lead to a selection of different endings.

If there is one narrative deficiency, it is Season 0 It never addresses the deeper question of whether the shaded endings of all this espionage justify the means. It’s not that the game offers a simplified view between the good and the bad of the Cold War. Her portrayal of the CIA is far from heroic, and there are some terrible people on either side. But the idea of ​​trucks roaming Latin America to clash with leftists is clearly uncomfortable given the real-world history of the CIA’s intervention in the region, even if it manages to assume that the people it wipes off the map are, in fact, secret agents in the region. Moscow wage.

Spy fiction in all its forms exists on a spectrum. On the one hand there are escape fantasies like James Bond, and on the other hand there are deeper stories that explore a world of mistrust and duplicity, and what happens when we allow people to break out of legality and accepted norms. Season 0 It mostly falls into the previous category, and I would have liked to see how its mix of narrative and mechanical magic dealt with some of the deeper and more reflective issues.

Is that enough to deny all of that? Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 Does it well? No. The game is a fitting culmination of a series that gave players a succession of difficult decisions, hard-won victories and painfully converging defeats. For new arrivals, Season 1 It is a better place to start with the complexity and the story line. But if you’ve been all the way from the start, that’s one hell of it.


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