Welcome back to Tabletop Tuesday, I’m Nate and this week’s post is going to be a bit different. Most of my board game posts are a description and light review of play. This time I’d like to discuss more of a style of board game than an actual game itself: Legacies. Read on to find why this trend probably won’t produce many options, but will impress none-the-less.
What is a Legacy
A legacy is defined as “something that is transmitted by or received from the past”. Legacy is something left behind to be encountered in the future. Legacy board games are just that, games that morph and change based on the decisions players make to be experienced in a different way later on. Rules, cards, goals, the board, everything you use in a Legacy board game has the ability to change, permanently.
Legacy board games are designed, created, and purchased with a pretty hard pill to swallow — after you finish playing the game, when you and your friends pack it all away for the last time, and I do mean last, you have two choices: You can put it on your shelf, as a reminder of the time spent with your friends, or you can trash it, burn it, grind it, etc. You can’t sell it to your friend or give it to a thrift shop, and you won’t ever find it in an open box play room at your local hobby shop because if you play the game how it meant to be played, the game will be completely changed from how it came originally.
What Are these Games
There are only a handful of games available in the legacy style. The earliest well-known example is Risk Legacy from 2011, the best legacy may arguably be the relatively new Gloomhaven, but the most played of these ever-evolving board game is by far Pandemic: Legacy. If you have never heard of Pandemic (the original), then you probably haven’t played many cooperative board games. If that’s the case then I need you to go read or watch a quick how-to so you understand the base game…
seriously I’ll wait…
Great! Now that you know how to play Pandemic, I can explain how a Legacy board game works. The beauty of Risk and Pandemic Legacy is that they play exactly like their normal counterparts; Gloomhaven doesn’t have a counterpart, so this comparison doesn’t work (which is why I picked Pandemic: Legacy as my focus). In Pandemic you spend your turns working with whatever random friends you convinced to play with you in an attempt to treat, cure, and eradicate diseases. Each of you has a character with a special ability, and if your characters can cure all the diseases, you win, fail to do so before too many outbreaks happen, or the disease spreads, and you lose (I don’t have to tell YOU this though, because you JUST watched a how-to video!). In Pandemic: Legacy you do the EXACT same thing. In fact, after you read the rules, unbox the 8 secret boxes, and take out your secret document bag, you will realize you know EXACTLY how to play this new game because it is EXACTLY like your old game … until … it isn’t. See those diseases you are used to fighting, they mutate, those characters you picked to play with, they get damaged, and those random friends you started this game with, are now stuck with you for ATLEAST the next 11 games you play, and that’s if you do it perfectly.
If you beat back the viruses in Pandemic: Legacy the first month (of 12), you get less funding from the government to continue to fight the sickness, if you fail you get more. If an outbreak happens in the city you’re in, you get scarred, permanently. If you die in this game, that character is gone forever; I’m talking burn the card you can’t bring them back in forever. Liked having a dispatcher to teleport one character to another? Maybe you shouldn’t have hung out in the city full of SARS. These are mild changes and spoilers, and I won’t get into the deep of it, but know that by month sixth you won’t be playing “just another game of pandemic,” you will be fighting viruses you helped shape, with new character powers, different funding, and cities in ruin.
It’s hard to tell a person about any Legacy game, because the twists to the game are what are so great, and mentioning specifics ruins what may come. It’s fair to say that playing the game twice with two different board games would still be fun, but keep your mouth shut. Speaking of fun, I’d be remiss if I didn’t get the most important part of this whole piece…
Why Buy a Legacy?
So these are games that you buy, play THROUGH once and never play again. Why “waste” your money?
First of all, don’t underestimate the amount of time you can get out of these games. Pandemic: Legacy is a minimum of 12 games, each of which running over an hour. Honestly, you won’t beat it in 12 games; if you beat it at all, it’s probably more like 18. That’s around 20 hours for $40 for up to 4 people. A movie will get you about 2 hours for $10 all by yourself. Gloomhaven is pricier but boasts an average of about 70 hours of gameplay! Although around $100 it feel expensive, but you’re looking at $1.50 per hour of fun for you and your friends … not a bad deal if you ask me.
Also, look at the facts. As one right now, Pandemic is #1 on boardgamegeeks.com, which, for those of you who don’t know, is hands-down the most complete website for board gaming information. Gloomhaven is #9. This isn’t out of cooperative board games, or legacy board games, this is out of every board game. Legacy board games combine two genres that are often played in the same circle. They give the simplicity of board games the lasting, building effect of roleplaying games. Many board games have the theme of RPG’s added to them, but these relatively new games give nearly the same experience, without the negative stigmas that usually surround your typical Dungeons and Dragons crew, and oh yeah, no need to DM.
Look, to be blunt, this is something I was reluctant to try. I wouldn’t choose cooperative board games in general, and I struggled with the idea of a temporary game, but these games are not to be underestimated. They offer true strength in surprise, excitement, and extended play. The hardest part is to find a group of people willing to commit to many weekends of board gaming, but the quality time spent will be well worth the effort.