The Year We Fell is a Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 game diary. The previous entry was September.
Our garage had been ground to dust and a new building was rising in its place; a steel frame, swollen with insulating material and plasterboard. Many weeks of construction remained ahead but the hardest days were behind us.
It was the school half term, making it a lot easier than last month to settle down and enjoy a nice game of Pandemic Legacy. Although, frankly, that sounds like horseshit. We were all feeling a little weary of Legacy. That relentless drum beat of the campaign, month after month, had us looking for an escape. Another board game. Something lighter.
But there were only three months left on the Legacy calendar. On October 14, we ran our next Legacy game – and it took a lot, lot, lot longer than expected.
And who was to blame for that? All of us.
WARNING: DO NOT BREACH SPOILER SPACE UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING
If you remember from last month’s exciting episode, we learnt the Faded virus was bioengineered for the purpose of ushering in a New World Order for the Zodiac Conspiracy. We lost a character, who turned out to be a traitor, but despite being stuck with a civilian for the remainder of the game we pulled together a win on our first attempt.
I was still perplexed how the conspiracy might interact with the game. After all, there were now two distinct branches of Legacy at this point: players who had found the Paranoid Soldier and players who had not. Were we going to see any direct Zodiac interference if some players didn’t even know what Zodiac was?
The Legacy deck revealed the fourth and, I believe, final search. Patient Zero. I felt confident this was the final part of the vaccine key that the Immunologist needed. But the search was the hardest of the lot.
It was another long search whose target started at 9 points, but the search could only be conducted in our City Zero: London. Being in Faded territory wasn’t that much of a threat; we already saw Riot Gear would look fabulous in these dangerous cities, protecting characters indefinitely from the Faded. The real problem was the gruelling nature of the search. You could only get one point for every COdA coloured City card we pumped into the search computer, blue in our case; we could get three points if we had the London card. A single card, in all the deck. Previous searches could be executed in multiple locations to increase the probability of using a high scoring City card, but not this time around.
Further, we had no Soldier to retrieve London or other cards from the deck if necessary. We could get an extra point bonus if we had a military base in London. Huh. A military base. There was no military base in London. And the only way to build the base there… would be to spend London to do it.
And thus it was decreed our good friend, Omar Jelani, the Operations Expert, would rejoin the game. Omar could build bases for free. We’d last seen Omar back in June.
That’s when we remembered that we’d given the Dispatcher and Builder a Rivals relationship. This meant one character could grab their rival’s discarded Player card if they threw away two of their own Player cards in exchange. Would this be a workable alternative to having the Soldier retrieve London from the discard pile?
As for the board itself, there was danger with neighbours Riyadh and Cairo both on three cubes each. A smattering of Faded, including one on London. A mixed bag.
The win bonus would allow us to speed up the search with two extra moves or grab equipment for free. We debated this – the search was going to be a long one and getting to London and building a base as soon as possible was crucial. Counterintuitively, we opted for equipment, kitting out the Operations Expert with riot gear immediately, so we could just get on with the business at hand. We needed that base at London before any searches could happen.
Here was our entire line up: Builder Boy, Dispatcher Mum, Lockdown Girl and Medic Dad.
We couldn’t know that this October game would be memorable for the unlikeliest of reasons.
We started the team in Taipei near a 3-cuber, Shanghai. In a stroke of luck, Builder Boy was up first which meant he could hammer away at a London military base immediately. He leapt at Shanghai, wiped out all the cubes in one action – because red is Suppressed, yo – then utilised his Mumbai player card to fly direct to London.
This ability to fly somewhere using any City card is an Operations Expert ability we often forget about. And there’s something else we forgot about. We forgot we weren’t allowed to fly to London because it was rioting. If we had recognised this at the time, we would have flown to Madrid then walked to London, but it would have cost an extra action and we might have skipped treating Shanghai or, more likely, bump the base build to Builder Boy’s next turn. Sucks but ANYWHO.
Let’s put this behind us to recognise there were enormous cheers when Builder Boy pulled London in his player cards. Sure, it parachuted another Faded boi onto London but this is exactly what we needed for the search. We began to plot how we might use the Rivals relationship to reuse London.
Next was Dispatcher Mum who started in Taipei like the rest of us. However, she held two red cards, Jakarta and Taipei itself. This meant she could fly anywhere for free as the Dispatcher’s new “Pilot” upgrade meant she could retain cards used for direct flight. She flew to Beijing, which I’ll have you know wasn’t rioting, and Dispatched Medic Dad to her, to take my red Beijing card.
And lo, in Dispatcher Mum’s Player card draw was the red city Bangkok. If you’re keeping count, Mum now had four red cards which only meant it was done and cured in the second turn of the game.
Lockdown Girl then had the chance to eradicate red if she hopped down to Sydney and cleaned out the one red cube there. But we had a lot to do, were we really going to waste time on eradicating red? Fortunately, Lockdown Girl had a forecast ability, allowing her to peek at the upcoming infections. Turned out the next infections were two red cities. The table immediately felt like eradication was a very good idea.
But making that eradication journey would leave us exposed to the accursed Riyadh/Cairo combo, both still weighted down with three cubes. Lockdown Girl imposed a quarantine on Cairo but danger remained; fortunately no epidemic emerged in her Player card draw but we knew it was just around the corner. At least red was eradicated. No new infections this turn, at least.
It was my turn as Medic Dad at last. I used my military pass to fly to Riyadh and cleared out all the dirty cubes on both Cairo and Riyadh and then equipped another card, Buenos Aires, with riot gear. Just because: you never know when you’re going to show up at a cool party.
Then, as expected, an epidemic landed, impacting Mexico City. The Infections, however, were red cities, so no more cubes this turn as well.
The Patient Zero search target rose to 10.
THE WEIGHT OF WAITING
It was Builder Boy again and he could have run the London search. But there was a real moment here. If we ran the search now using London, it would be lost to the discard pile and the rest of the search would be painful. His rival, Dispatcher Mum, only had one card in her possession and could not rescue his London card from discards – she needed two to pull off the London heist.
If we postponed the search, we’d stand a better chance of using London more than once. But we all knew just how much a Legacy game can rot in a few turns; there was inherent danger in putting off to tomorrow what we could do today. Regardless, we decided to sit on the search, epidemics be damned. Instead, Builder Boy did some cube pruning in Latin America.
Dispatcher Mum then did some fancy dispatchy work to get her black card, Riyadh, to Lockdown Girl, so she then had four black cards in her possession. (To be technically accurate, one of those cards wasn’t black, it was the Madrid cure wildcard.)
In this game it felt like most of our turns had turbo-powered efficiency, squeezing blood out of every action. With her one spare action, Mum Dispatch-walked Builder Boy to Bogota, to get him ready to travel back to London. Every little helps.
And then Mum drew two red City cards from the Player deck which was excellent news: these were entirely disposable cards, perfect for Rivalsing London away from the discards when Builder Boy committed his search. And the Infections generated another cheer: red Shanghai. Frowny face because Paris also turned up, rising to two Faded.
It was a game made for us – but we were far from finding Patient Zero and we had zero patience.
Lockdown Girl had a particular quarantine in her sights: London. Already on two Faded, we wanted to make sure our search city did not end up teetering on the verge of outbreak while we needed to be there, so she stapled some Riot Gear to her Kinshasa card and hoofed it over to London to put up a quarantine. As long as she was there, no more Faded would shamble into London.
We were slightly downcast when she picked up Paris from the Player deck because that pushed Paris screeching up to three Faded. But her other draw was the black City card of Delhi which… uh, made five black cards in her hand. Holy shit, everybody, we just cured black!
It was Medic Dad’s turn again and we noticed something. The only remaining black cubes on the board were at Delhi. You can’t be serious, team. You cannot be serious. I took one step to Karachi then used my remote treat ability to take out the Delhi cubes. You know what that meant, right? Black was eradicated. That’s two eradications in a single game.
This meant we had neutralised roughly half of the Infection deck. Holy SHITBALLS.
It was time for Builder Boy to do his thing. He took a military flight from Bogota to London and performed the first London search, earning a cool four points (that’s 3 for London with a +1 military base bonus). As planned, Mum saved the card from falling into the clutches of the discard pile with her Rivals relationship.
You know, the instructions for this month suggested our masters were really sad about sending us into the terrifying heart of the Faded superdemic but it really was no big deal. Three of us were hanging out in London together: Boy, Dad and Girl. Massively dangerous, apparently. Coffee and cake, anyone?
Boy then headed back to Latin America as yellow was growing in strength, but he picked up the second epidemic in his Player cards. The epidemic fell upon black city Algiers which was brilliant news. But the recycled Infections brought back Paris – uh oh, an outbreak! It became our first Collapsing city on the board (Chennai had jumped straight to the ‘Fallen’ state back in August) but they still had baguettes so not all was lost. The outbreak impact was muted because there wasn’t much Faded around and London had an impermeable quarantine provided by Lockdown Girl.
The search target rose to 11.
Dispatcher Mum, now armed with the London card, dispatched herself to the London party and ran the same search again, boosting us up the search track to 8. And we geniuses then used the Rivals relationship to save the London card again: Builder Boy traded in two red cards he was holding, Seoul and Osaka, to grab London. One more search, and we’d be done.
As Mum was the only one of us without riot gear she had to get the hell out of London, no coffee and cake for her, so she dispatched herself to Boy’s location, Lima, and took the opportunity to snuff out a yellow cube there. Unfortunately, the Player cards spread some Faded love; she picked up Essen, which doubled as the Airstrike, and Chicago. We deployed the Airstrike immediately against Paris to reduce it from three to two Faded. No one wanted a second outbreak, no, sir.
We also then took another chance: Builder Boy had St Petersburg and Karachi in his pocket and threw those away, with the Rivals relationship, to save the Essen/Airstrike card. It might come in handy. Infections pushed Mexico City up to three cubes. The yellow virus was quite insistent on not being forgotten.
Before Lockdown Girl left London, she used the Parisian grenade belt she carried to knock it down to one Faded, and remote quarantined Paris. But as she started in the same city as Medic Dad, she had five moves, allowing her to do the Lord’s work in Mexico City (also known as getting it down to one cube).
Another yellow sting in the Infections, Khartoum was now up to three. Black and red eradications had quelled activity across the board, but it couldn’t eliminate it.
It was Medic Dad’s turn where we decided to take a different tack. Instead of doing my usual medic bullshit, we thought I should start quarantining Faded cities for the “quarantine seven Faded cities” objective. There was some argument here because Builder Boy really wanted to push for sabotaging military bases and this was largely my fault. I had floated a theory that Legacy would be scored in the final month in terms of how many military bases remained, the number of Faded cities, the panic levels of the cities and so on. He took this seriously, as if I had actual info on the endgame, which made him reluctant to part with the sabotage objective.
I quarantined New York and Montreal and I was done. Unfortunately Montreal broke quarantine in the infections, ho ho. Never mind, because–
This was it.
Builder Boy headed back to London from Lima and ran the search one last time. We reached 12, overshooting the target, finding Patient Zero.
Scratching off the Patient Zero card, it revealed he had been infected by people who grabbed him in the night and he told us “you have to talk to the soldier.” I expect this was an encouragement to players who had not yet completed September’s Paranoid Soldier search. More importantly, we now had the final piece of the Immunologist’s cure, the DNA of COdA. This meant we could open the sacred seventh package.
Big news, boys and girls. We finally had a COdA vaccine!
Brand new vaccine mechanics were introduced. We could now build vaccine factories, which were very much like research bases – they couldn’t be built in rioting cities but you could use flights between them and the research stations. Factories would produce one dose of vaccine per turn and these could then be transported by players to other cities.
Now for the exciting bit. A single dose could delete one Faded figure but, if there were no Faded figures, you could vaccinate the city. A vaccinated city would never, ever receive Faded figures again. Seriously: vaccinated Faded cities would never be troubled by the Infection deck again. You could also vaccinate non-Faded cities which meant they could never turn – Faded outbreaks would not touch them as if a roadblock was in place.
This was incredible news. Almost as incredible as finding out we also had to tear up the quarantine objective that we had aligned ourselves with. Time for two new objectives: a one-time-only “vaccinate six cities then rip me up” and a regular one to build three vaccine factories.
Now, about those military bases we were supposed to send to military base heaven: turns out for every military base in a region, it costs an additional action to vaccinate a city there. That is what I call an incentive to sabotage.
And we also received a new character, the Immunologist, who could remove all Faded figures with a single vaccine dose and also vaccinate adjacent cities.
Finally, the Top Secret Dossier had been picked clean. Every new rule and sticker had been revealed. There were no more mysteries left aside from the remaining cards in the Legacy deck and the contents of the Armageddon box, package 8.
Well. What were we going to do now? Builder Boy couldn’t build our first vaccine factory in London, because the city was rioting (oh NOW we remember), so he headed down to Bogota with his last action.
Then Builder Boy snagged the third epidemic which exploded over red Bangkok. Once again, cheers not cubes. But we had slipped into three infections per turn. We were probably getting a little too blasé about this as not a single cube was placed in the infections – all three cities drawn from the Infection deck were either red or black.
Thus it fell to Dispatcher Mum to build the first vaccine factory. Builder Boy had an LA card and Mum was at Lima; she went there, dispatched Builder Boy to her, picked up his LA card and used it. Now we were thinking with vaccines. We were worried that Mum was sleeping over in a Faded city; it didn’t have Faded now, but it might have by the time her alarm woke her. The plan was to get someone else to vaccinate LA but Mum picked up two hazmat suits in her Player card draw, so nowt to worry about. I just hope she had space in her hotel room closet for them.
In the Infections Montreal climbed to three Faded so Builder Boy used the saved Airstrike to tamp it down. Mum then re-Rivaled it back by discarding Chicago and Tehran. Always good to keep a backup Airstrike under your pillow.
Lockdown Girl then vaccinated our first city: she headed to LA, picked up the first vaccine dose of the campaign and deployed it on site. The healing of a broken Pandemic board could begin. Los Angeles would no longer receive any Faded or cubes, other than cubes from outbreaks.
Then it was my turn and I cured yellow. The game was practically done.
JUST ONE MORE TURN
Now… should we blow up military bases or vaccinate cities? We decided vaccinating cities would have the most significant positive impact on the remaining months while the rules were in October stasis. Who knows what might pop up in November?
So Builder Boy picked up two doses from LA, moved to SF and used them to de-Fade the city and vaccinate. Two cities vaccinated! And then the C4 equipment cards, Shanghai and Santiago, fell into Builder Boy’s hands. We now had the means to blow up military bases. We also deployed the airstrike one last time – no Rivalsing to save it – against Atlanta as it had climbed to three Faded.
Dispatcher Mum then chose to control the growing chaos in North America by throwing lockdowns over Chicago – on three Faded – and Atlanta. Good timing as the fourth epidemic then whooshed over Buenos Aires; Chicago was one of the infections.
Anxiety began to set in: were we setting ourselves up? We just torched a whole turn on quarantines. It was now past 11pm and Lockdown Girl was falling into a coma on the table. Or maybe she had just become infected. Well, it was Lockdown Girl’s turn, so we poked her into taking care of it. She vaccinated a third city, Miami, throwing a remote quarantine onto Chicago, just in case.
Then Medic Dad took out another dangerous city of cubes, Lima, and proceeded to vaccinate a fourth city, Mexico City. We’d basically established a vaccine seal around the North American Faded cities. But here we almost lost control of everything.
The fifth and final epidemic came in, falling on Washington. Washington was already at one Faded because it picked up one of those bonus Faded figures when we acquired its Player card a couple of turns back – so it outbreaked. This splurged outwards onto NY and Atlanta – both had quarantines, so those broke, saving us from cascading outbreaks – and also Montreal which popped up from 2 to 3. Miami was protected, of course, as it was vaccinated.
Thank Christ. But we still had to turn over the infections, of which we had to draw four. This was the first time in the entire campaign we’d reached this infection intensity.
So what were the infections? Black Istanbul and black Algiers were safe; Mexico City was vaccinated; Chicago broke quarantine. A sigh of relief rippled out.
At this moment, so late and so tired, we felt we had lost our minds. How had we let the game get so far? Builder Boy was looking suspiciously at the flaccid Player deck. How many turns did we have left? We had to end the game now. Just do it. Just end it.
Builder Boy, terrified that we would tank the game, had planned to end the match in this turn by building two vaccine factories and hitting our vaxfax objective. But, looking at city panic levels around him, he realised he couldn’t pull it off. We’d have to survive another turn – but so many cities were exposed and ready to bleed.
A deep breath… and we realised it was just tiredness. It was entirely possible after all. Builder Boy went to Manila, built a vaxfax there and went to Ho Chi Minh – and hesitated. He threw C4 onto the military base there then built the vaxfax on its ruins. That’s fucking board game poetry, people.
THE END IN SIGHT
And that was how the October game became so memorable: the board had been generous and loving. The obvious kindnesses were London turning up in the second turn, and being offered the chance to eradicate red and black. But often it felt luck had gone our way when we needed it, except in the endgame when hubris took over.
Perhaps the requirement for a military base in London nudges most players into deploying the Operations Expert, but it felt great to have him aboard when the vaccine factories entered the game. Interesting, though, how Legacy cajoled us into putting an extra military base into a heavy Faded region, meaning it would be hard to vaccinate there.
So, what upgrades did we win? Well, we could now make any vaxfax permanent, just like research stations or military bases, as an upgrade. That’s exactly what we did, we made our factory at LA permanent.
And just for fun, we took another eradication upgrade for black – it would only need four cards to cure in the final two months of the campaign.
We were all really jazzed after this: how much could we vaccinate in the short time left?