State of Emergency

State of Emergency introduces challenges that up the difficulty so you can replay Pandemic more often. That’s why it’s our favorite expansion to the Pandemic base game.

best expansion

Pandemic Legacy

Over multiple sessions you work your way through a story and your choices now impact future sessions. Pandemic Legacy is the most popular board game of our time – don’t miss out!

best game

Pandemic is an award winning board game series with several expansions, versions and spin-offs. In this ranked list we share what we think are the best Pandemic expansion and the best Pandemic version.

Pandemic Legacy Season 0 boxPandemic Legacy: Season 0 is the newest Pandemic board game, released on October 23 2020! It’s a prequel to the other Pandemic Legacy games, set in the cold war era.

We’re very excited for this game as the Pandemic Legacy series is our favorite series in all of board games. We’ll update our ranking with a Pandemic Legacy Season 0 review as soon as we’ve had the chance to play it through.

If you can’t wait for this game (like us), it should be available on Amazon from October 23 onwards.

  • Fantastic Story

  • Best Pandemic game ever

Pandemic Legacy redPandemic Legacy Season 1 is the best Pandemic game by far. It’s won numerous awards for story telling and innovative mechanics. It’s also the most popular board game of our era, and for good reason.

In our Pandemic Legacy review we explain exactly how Pandemic Legacy works and why it’s so amazing. Here’s the summary:

  • Pandemic Legacy plays out over multiple sessions
  • It’s Legacy game, which means that in each session you alter the game permanently (by ripping apart or putting stickers on parts of the game)
  • Over multiple sessions an epic story story unfolds with surprising twists and turns depending on your choices
  • The mechanics are the same as in the original Pandemic, and new rules are explained when they’re added

It’s important to note that if you never played the original Pandemic, you can still buy Pandemic Legacy. In fact, you can play ‘normal Pandemic’ on the board of Pandemic Legacy before you start playing the campaign (this is also recommended to get a hang of the normal mechanics). But you don’t need to go out ad buy the original Pandemic just to learn the game.

There’s two seasons of Pandemic Legacy, and we think the first season is the best. Let me tell you some of the upsides of Season 1 specifically.

Season 1 feels more like the original Pandemic, because it doesn’t change the core mechanics of how the game works. This feeling of familiarity is a plus for fans of the original Pandemic, and it makes also makes it a little easier to get into.

Further, it’s better to start with Pandemic Legacy Season 1. Although Season 2 doesn’t contain real spoilers for Season 1, it does contain some references that are better appreciated if you play the games in order.

So Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is the best Pandemic game overall, and it’s also the first Pandemic you should buy.

  • Players: 2 – 4

  • Duration: 12 – 24 sessions of 60 minutes

  • Fantastic Story

  • Better Campaign Mechanics

  • Realistic

Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is the second edition of Pandemic Legacy, and it seems that in some ways the creators got better with practice.

Whereas Season 1 has the same core mechanics as the original Pandemic,  Season 2 has adapted core mechanics. For example, in Season 1 you can only cure diseases, whereas in Season 2 you can take action to prevent diseases from spreading in the first place.

Further, Season 2 has more optional side quests. There’s still major plot points that you’re guaranteed to encounter, but there’s more room for customization than in Season 1. So Season 2 feels even more like a ‘Choose your own adventure’ kind of game than Season 1.

We still prefer Season 1 slightly, but we’ve heard people argue that, Season 2 is even better than Season 1 because it is more specifically designed to meet the requirements of a Legacy campaign game. But our best recommendation is to get both seasons!

  • Players: 2 – 4

  • Duration: 12 – 24 sessions of 60 minutes

  • Infinitely replayable

  • Compatible with expansions

The original Pandemic was very popular, which is why so many versions of the game were created later.

If you found this post there’s a good chance you already own the original Pandemic so I won’t say too much about it. But, it’s important to list the original Pandemic at this point in our ranking because you need it to play any of the Pandemic expansions we list below.

There’s also two reasons why you might get the original Pandemic instead of a Legacy edition. The first is if you want to also get an expansion, because the expansions are only compatible with the original version.

The second reason to get the normal Pandemic is if you want to play normal games of Pandemic in addition to Pandemic Legacy, because once you start your Legacy campaign, you can’t play normal Pandemic anymore on the Legacy board.

  • Players: 2 – 4

  • Duration: 45 minutes

  • Extra challenges

  • Best expansion for 2 players

Important: This expansion requires the Pandemic base game.

State of EmergencyPandemic State of Emergency Board Game 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).

  • Players: 2 – 4

  • Duration: 45 minutes

  • New non-cooperative mode

  • Up to 5 players

Pandemic expansion: On the BrinkOn 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 Pandemic 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.

  • Players: 2 – 5

  • Duration: 45 minutes

  • Real world diseases

  • Differences between diseases

Pandemic Iberia is our favorite game in the Pandemic survival series. This series features historic disasters and the players need to address these using the traditional Pandemic mechanics and game play.

Pandemic Iberia is about historic pandemics (including cholera, malaria, typhus, and yellow fever) in the Iberian Peninsula of modern day Portugal and Spain. Iberia is actually the only Pandemic Survival game that’s about pandemics, which is why it’s our favorite.

The game features the real world diseases malaria, cholera, typhoid and yellow fever, which all have their own special powers. For example, when yellow fever infects a coastal city it automatically spreads to adjacent port cities as well, and Typhus costs two actions to remove if there’s more than one disease cube in that city.

  • Players: 2 – 5

  • Duration: 45 minutes

  • Beautiful Dutch theme

  • Extra strategic

Rising Tide is about floods in the Industrial Age Netherlands. To keep the water out players build all the Dutch engineering marvels: dikes, mills and pumps.

Rising Tide functions the same as the original Pandemic game but the cubes represent the incoming water. Players must predict the flow of this water to maintain safe and stable water levels in all regions while they build up to a sustainable flood prevention solution.

I love the Netherlands so I really love the theme of this game, and the map of the Netherlands with the region names in old Dutch. And you really need to be clever and strategic with your dike placement, which is quite difficult so the game doesn’t get old very fast.

  • Players: 2 – 5

  • Duration: 45 minutes

  • Romans vs Barbarians

In Fall Of Rome you inherit control to an empire in decline. Barbarians are invading from each direction and it’s your job to keep them out until you can broker a peace treaty through alliances with the barbarians.

Pandemic Fall of Rome uses the same mechanics as the original Pandemic, but the cubes represent invading barbaric tribes that need to be fought and contained.

Fall Of Rome has a great theme and is well done. It’s about as good as Rising Tide, so you should pick whichever theme you like best.

  • Players: 2 – 5

  • Duration: 45 minutes

  • Mini-game to discover vaccins

  • Up to 6 players

In the LabPandemic in the Lab board game 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.

And from what I hear, most people actually love this expansion. So if finding the cure to the diseases in your lab sounds fun to you, don’t let our semi-negative review hold you back!

  • Players: 1 – 6

  • Duration: 45 minutes

Honorable Mentions

There are three more Pandemic games that we don’t review in our ranking. These are more spin-offs than actual Pandemic games or expansions, and we don’t like them enough to include them in our ranking.

Firstly there’s Pandemic Rapid Response and Pandemic the Cure, which replace the card drawing mechanics of the original Pandemic with dice throw mechanics. Both of these games have not been popular, which is why we don’t include them in our ranking.

Secondly, in Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu players fight cultists to prevent the summoning of Cthulhu. This game naturally is a hit among the lovers of the Cthulhu theme, but not among the general audience. We don’t include this game in our ranking either.

Rounding Up

We hope that our Pandemic ranking helps you to pick the best Pandemic expansion or version for you. If there’s still any questions our ranking leaves unanswered, please shoot us a message through our contact form so we can incorporate your question in our post.

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Originally posted at Board Game Theories