James Wallis levels with you

Pandemic Legacy and the Dictionary of the Khazars

For those not following hot board-game news, Spiel 15 saw the release of Pandemic Legacy, a combination of the best-selling co-op game Pandemic by Matt Leacock, and the Legacy system created by Rob Daviau for 2011’s Risk Legacy. A Legacy game is a board-game designed for campaign play: usually a set number of organised games with the same group of players. Here’s the clever part: depending on the outcome of each session of the game, the set-up of the next one changes. New components unlock, borders and boundaries change, new rules come into play, existing rules are modified or deleted. It’s a genius concept.

But there’s one thing that a lot of people have disregarded about Pandemic Legacy. It comes in two versions: Red and Blue. This seems, on the face of it, kind of odd. The publisher, Z-Man, has said that it’s simply so that people can play two different campaigns at the same time without getting confused, and most people have accepted that at face value.red1726_2667

Most people are idiots.

Here’s the thing: Daviau and Leacock are smart people. They are well read. They think outside the box, literally in some cases. And —

(at this point I should make it clear that I have never met either of them, nor do I own a copy of Pandemic Legacy in either version)

— and I’m willing to make a substantial bet that somewhere in their multi-faceted lives one or both of them have come across the works of the great Serbian non-traditional writer Milorad Pavi?. Pavi? is an interesting guy, particularly if you’re a games designer interested in narrative and doing things differently. His second novel, Landscape Painted With Tea, is organised as a crossword puzzle. His fourth, Lost Love in Constantinople is subtitled ‘A Tarot Novel of Divination’. And his first novel, A Dictionary of the Khazars, is available in two editions, male and female. They differ into two things: the colour of a jewel on the spine, and one paragraph on page 293.Dictionary_of_the_Khazars

However, the differences in that one paragraph between the two editions are enough to make the male and female into two utterly separate books.

You see where I’m going with this.

If anyone’s willing to pony up the £100 or so for copies of Pandemic Legacy Red and Blue, I will do a complete tear-down of both and a line-by-line analysis of every component. Because I say with absolute certainty that there is one difference between the two editions, not obvious, but enough to mean that the two campaigns branch and go in very different directions. And I’d be very interested to know what it is. Because given the way Leacock and Daviau think, it’s going to be somewhere intense.

Dictionary of the Khazars is an extraordinary book, by the way. If you like Borges or Perec it’ll blow your mind.

Categorised as: board games | fiction | game design | narrative


  1. You know, given the surprise I found in the bottom of the box of Risk Legacy, you’re probably right.

    Also, I own both the Red and Blue versions. We’ve finished the Blue one. I will let you know if we encounter anything different.

  2. Greg Szulgit says:

    Fascinating hypothesis. Did you ever pursue this further?

    • James Wallis says:

      I didn’t take it any further, beyond asking Matt Leacock to his face if there were any differences between the two, which he hotly denied. He has a trustable face.

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