There are several different Pandemic expansions as well as different standalone Pandemic games. In this post we share our ranking of both the best Pandemic expansions and versions.
We think all of the Pandemic games are great and they are our favorite games to play during the Corona pandemic. We hope our ranking helps you to determine whether you should get the original Pandemic or Pandemic Legacy, whether to get season 1 or 2 if you get Pandemic Legacy, and which is the best Pandemic expansion to the original game.
1. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is a legacy game, which means that it’s a campaign that is completed over several sessions. Every session builds off of the previous sessions. This gives the game more strategic depth than the original Pandemic, as players need to balance winning the current game session with maintaining a manageable game state for subsequent sessions.
The legacy versions of Pandemic are also the most fun to play with 2 players. Typically, playing Pandemic with 2 players is easier because you can predict what happens in between your turns better. This is true for all Pandemics, but for the Legacy versions this is less of a problem. Most of the appeal of Legacy games is the exciting and surprising plot of the campaign. Whereas the original game loses some appeal as it becomes less challenge, this is just not a major concern for the Legacy versions.
First time players often wonder if they should get the original Pandemic before playing Pandemic Legacy. The answer really is no, because you can play normal Pandemic games with the Pandemic Legacy set before you start the campaign. And after you play a couple of normal Pandemic games, you’re going to want to buy Pandemic Legacy anyway, because of how awesome the campaign is. So you can really save yourself some money if you get Legacy right away.
(And note that there is no difference between the blue and red edition except the color of the box.)
2. Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Pandemic Legacy Season 2 has all the same upsides of Season 1, plus improved game mechanics. The mechanics and rules are modified to fit the campaign mode better. But, these adaptations also make Season 2 more different from the original Pandemic. So, although it is probably objectively a better game, fans of the original Pandemic will probably still prefer Pandemic Legacy Season 1 because it feels more familiar. That’s why Season 2 ranks below Season 1 in our list.
(And note that there is no difference between the black and yellow edition except the color of the box.)
3. Pandemic (original)
Pandemic was an amazing board game when it came out and it still is. To this day it’s one of the only cooperative board games that truly provides a fun and challenging group experience.
We think that the Legacy versions have surpassed the original version by adding an amazing plot to the amazing game mechanics of the original version. But, there are still situations when you should get the original Pandemic rather than a Legacy version.
Firstly, you can extend the original Pandemic with several expansions, which you can’t really do with the Legacy versions. If you really want to you could combine the expansions with the Legacy versions, but you’d have to come up with your own house rules. We also don’t recommend this because Pandemic Legacy is a rich enough game in itself.
Secondly, the campaign of Legacy is over after 12 to 24 sessions. After that you can replay the last session indefinitely, but we don’t recommend that. But, the original Pandemic you can replay infinitely many times. Of course, you won’t play it infinitely many times, so you’ll have to consider for yourself how likely it is that you’ll play with more than 12 to 24 times.
But, the main reasons why you might still prefer the original version is that the original Pandemic is better if you play with different groups of people all the time. You can do this with Legacy, but it’s much less fun because people will lose track of the story if they aren’t involved in every game. So, the original Pandemic is more versatile
4. Pandemic expansion: State of Emergency
State of Emergency is the Pandemic expansion with the biggest bang for your buck. It extends on the original theme of a spreading virus, and it makes the game more difficult by introducing extra challenges. This is especially welcome when you’re playing with just 2 players, as 2 player games are usually easier (because you can predict what happens in between your turns better).
Our favorite challenge is the Hinterlands challenge, which enables diseases to cross over from animals to humans. This is probably the hardest challenge and it’s also the most realistic (as in the real world pandemics are often caused by diseases jumping from animals to humans).
5. Pandemic expansion: On the Brink
On the Brink is a solid expansion to the Pandemic base game. It preserves everything that’s great about the original game and adds more of it.
This is the best expansion to play with bigger groups, as it adds new characters and events and increases the maximum number of players to five.
On the Brink also includes several challenges that can be incorporated into the game to make it more difficult. Probably the most difficult of these challenges is the bio-terrorist challenge, in which one of the players tries to sabotage the efforts the others.
6. Pandemic expansion: In the Lab
In the Lab is the Pandemic expansion that changes the game play of the original Pandemic the most. It adds the Lab, an environment in which the players need to research a cure. They do this by moving viruses around in petri dishes.
The lab environment creates a novel experience. It’s not our favorite Pandemic expansion because it can feel a bit like you’re playing two separate games that are spread out over two distinct environments. But we do play In the Lab every now and then just to switch things up.
There are also several Pandemic spin-off versions, such as the card games Pandemic the Cure and Pandemic Contagion. There’s also the Pandemic survival series, which covers historic pandemics such as one during the fall of Rome. We recommend paying little attention to these spin-off versions before you’ve actually played through the original and Legacy games, as these are much more fun.