What Is The Difference Between Pandemic & Pandemic Legacy?

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In this article we will look at the difference between Pandemic & Pandemic Legacy board games.

Four deadly diseases are ravaging the world. As a crack team your job is to prevent an outbreak and develop cures that will save humanity.

All the Pandemic games are co-operative and played with 2-4 players. Each player has a character with certain traits and skills. You must work together to fight the four diseases and prevent outbreaks.

This is the aim of both Pandemic and Pandemic Legacy board games.

The difference in the games lies in what a Legacy game is. Legacy games are designed to play through a campaign of 12 months once. Pandemic you will be able to play as many times as you want. Whereas Pandemic Legacy games have a limited life of 12-24 games depending on your success or failure per game.

Before you rush off to buy Pandemic and forget Pandemic Legacy, read on. The Legacy games are superb and definitely not as limiting as they sound.

First we’ll take a look at the standard Pandemic game, then we’ll discuss Legacy games. Then finally we’ll go into what the Pandemic Legacy version is.

What is the difference between Pandemic & Pandemic Legacy

Table of Contents

Pandemic board game overview

In Pandemic the game will last about 45 minutes. There are three ways to lose in Pandemic:

  • 8 Outbreaks occur which create a worldwide panic.
  • You run out of a colored disease cube and need to place one.
  • You run out of player cards meaning you have run out of time.

Each player will get a role card giving them a role to play.

Pandemic Board Game

For example the role could be scientist, medic, contingency planner, or Dispatcher. Each role will have trait that will help in your quest to defeat the viruses.

The scientist will be able to take a Discover a Cure action when they only have 4 of the same color. A dispatcher can move other players to cities around the board which can be very useful.

The virus has infected 9 cities acros the world and you must find a cure. As a cooperative team work together with each players turn divided into three parts:

  • Do 4 Actions
  • Draw 2 player cards
  • The virus infects more cities

The actions consist of things like moving, building research centres, treating disease. You can also share knowledge and discover cures. Discuss with each other what your best choices should be.

An outbreak will occur when a city has three disease cubes on it and you need to place a 4th. Instead of placing the 4th cube, place a cube in every connected city.

If any of the connected cities already have 3 cubes on it then this will cause a chain reaction. This will in turn start an outbreak for that city.

You can very quickly become overrun when this happens, so watch out. You may find yourself losing.

Finding the cure whilst keeping the viruses under control is a fine balance. You have three ways to lose and only one way to win. By curing all four viruses.

What are Legacy board games?

Legacy board games are different from normal games. They will change permanently over the course of the game making them unique to that game. The Legacy game style was created by Rob Daviau and usually are variations on normal currently available board games.

The first game like this was a Legacy version of Risk in 2011 which was shortly followed by We Didn’t Playtest This: Legacies in 2012. Finally the Pandemic Legacy Season 1 was released in 2015.

As you play through the board game you make permanent changes to the board, cards and characters. For instance a character may die and so you will have to tear up their card and put it in the bin. Or something may happen that will mean you write on or mark the board in some way that will change the game play.

That is what makes the game so special. Two game playthroughs will be completely different. To the point that both games will not look like each other.

They will have different components and a different board. If you meet another group that has played through the same game. Then the conversation will be about how the games differ and what decisions you made. Each game will be completely different.

The friends that you play through the Legacy game with will have a shared experience with you. It is unlikely that anyone else will have the same experience.

Pandemic Legacy board game overview

Pandemic Legacy works pretty much like Pandemic described above. The first difference in Pandemic Legacy is that it spreads across 12 months. It is also a little more complex than the standard Pandemic.

If you are new to the Pandemic game then you can play through the standard Pandemic on the Legacy board a few times. This will enable you to understand the normal mechanics.

Once you are familiar with Pandemic you can begin the Legacy version. As you play through you make permanent changes to the game that will follow through each month. The choices you make determine which changes to the game you make.

There is a Legacy deck that is in order. Do not shuffle or change the order of this deck as it is the narrative that runs through the whole 12 months. You never put cards back into this deck. Even if you repeat a month.

There are also dossiers that have modifiers to the game, board and cards. Finally there are eight packages that you will open as you play.

Each month you play will have an aim and completing this will mean you have been successful in this session. Think of it as winning one battle but the war is still to be won.

As you play through the changes made might be adding a scar to your character, adding a rule to the rule book. Or even killing off a character. There will be stickers and you will see in the rule book and on the board there are places to put them.

If you do have to kill off a character then whoevers character this is will change it to a normal citizen. Effectively losing that character’s special abilities.

Unlike Pandemic where there are three ways in which you can lose. Pandemic Legacy has many ways to lose. The only way to win is by completing the required number of objectives.

I have more on Pandemic Legacy in my article, Can you play Pandemic Legacy more than once?

Do you need Pandemic and Pandemic Legacy?

The good news is that both games are standalone. You do not need to have Pandemic to play Pandemic Legacy and vice versa.

Each game is similar to the other in the way they play. The differences are:

PandemicPandemic Legacy
The Pandemic game can be played through multiple times and is quite short.Pandemic Legacy board game can only be played over 12-24 sessions and then is completed.
Difference between Pandemic and Pandemic Legacy

Which version of Pandemic is best?

This is a good question but not an easy one to answer. The best Pandemic version to play will be dependent on what you want to achieve.

If you want a game that you play through with a group of friends and have a shared experience that no one else will have. Then Pandemic Legacy is definitely the best option for you.

If you are looking to play the game multiple times with various different friends at different times. Then Pandemic is the best solution for you.

In my opinion the best option would be to buy Pandemic to enjoy the regular game. Then when you are confident in how the game works. Get a group of your best buddies together and get the Pandemic Legacy Season 1.


Both games are highly rated and choosing either will give you hours of fun with friends and family.

The Pandemic board game will be best for those wanting a board game they can pull off the shelf and play. Playing with various friends at different times.

The way the Outbreaks work are one of the best mechanics of this game. You think you are doing fine and then suddenly you are overwhelmed and you’ve lost.

Pandemic Legacy is something you will want to play with a single group over a period of several sessions. It will be something that you can treasure with your friends forever. In fact many people take the board game and cut it up and frame it. Giving a piece to each player as a memento which I think is a great idea.

If this seems a little bit too much for those that want to preserve their games then reset packs are available. The packs will enable you to play through again ensuring that it will be a completely different game.

Both games are worthy of sitting on your shelf. If you have the opportunity to play both styles then go for it. Playing the Pandemic game first teaches the mechanics of the game. Then you can move on to the Pandemic Legacy series and playing it will be much easier.

If legacy games sound interesting then checkout my article 11 Best Legacy Board Games 2022 for more excellent choices in this category of board game.

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