Customized Experiences: The Best Legacy Board Games

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Elena

08/06/2020
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The concept of how to use a board game was changed forever by an amusing observation. Game designer, Rob Daviau, made a joke about how the characters in Clue should no longer be invited to dinner, as they were insane murderers. His clever remark led to the creation of legacy board games. In 2011 he published Risk Legacy sealed with a warning that said, “What is done cannot be undone.” That was the beginning of a new genre, and also much controversy.

Some of the controversies arise over the idea that the games are pricey and have no replayability. To offset this, some gamer groups split the game’s cost since they are the only ones who will play it once they start and make their moderations. 

What is a Legacy Board Game?

The concept that makes legacy board games so unique is that they become more customized to your group as you play and make decisions. They’re to be played over several sessions with the same players. Permanent changes are made through player decisions and events by modifying and destroying pieces, cards, the game board, or even the rules during the campaign.

Legacy games are ongoing adventures that continue from where players left off, which creates deeper investment and immersion in your unique game. We will look at seven of the best legacy board games currently available to find a good match for your curious group of gamers.

1. Risk Legacy: The First Legacy Game

Players: 3-5      
Duration: 60-90 minutes

Welcome to a legendary war game. When this game was published, it defined the legacy genre. Even before opening the box, you knew something was very different. Not many games come sealed with a warning label that says, “What is done cannot be undone.” In Risk Legacy, actions made in one session carry to the next, so no two games are alike.

For instance, in the legacy edition, the rulebook is changeable. It comes with blank spaces, enabling players to add their own rules and adapt existing ones. This game about global conflicts uses this mechanic to balance gameplay or tip the scales in favor of individual players. Locked components are revealed to players by playing through multiple sessions. Winning players add their names to major cities and continents. Risk Legacy takes the original game of Risk and turns it into a long campaign with legacy mechanics such as destruction, rule modifications, and stickers. You will enjoy this game if you’re a fan of original Risk or war board games that rely on strategy and planning.

Pros: 

  • Improves upon the original with personalized modifications
  • A great introduction to legacy games
  • ​Easy to pick up and start playing​ 

Cons: 

  • The random combat system can be awkward
  • ​Needs at very minimum three players who are the same for every session 

2. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Players: 2-4      
Duration: 60 minutes

Another legacy game involving the father of the genre, Rob Daviau, partnered with Pandemic’s creator Matt Leacock. Together they created an innovative game based on classic Pandemic mechanics that made it such a popular game. In Pandemic Legacy, the game turns into a 12 – 24 session campaign where your team is fighting to find a cure for the disease threatening humanity. Each session is supposed to be one month in a campaign that takes place over 12 months. The trick is for players to complete all objectives so they can continue into the next month. If not, you can replay the session.

As you play, your group is shaping the world, the characters, and even the disease by creating ever-evolving elements. This guarantees that each session will be unique and exciting for your group. Much like a dramatic cliffhanger, your group will enjoy every thrilling session in the campaign. 

With all the new mechanics added that keep the game feeling novel, the legacy version is guaranteed to keep players coming back. Even if you aren’t familiar with Pandemic, the legacy game is great for families or groups that enjoy cooperative games and are open-minded about legacy board games.

Pros: 

  • New gameplay mechanics set this game experience apart from others
  • The game changes based on player successes and failures
  • A very cooperative experience 

Cons: 

  • ​There’s quite a lot of admin required to set up and breakdown each session 

3. Gloomhaven

Players: 1-4      
Duration: 60-120 minutes

Up next is a fantasy role-playing game that uses legacy mechanics to change the story and the campaign. It is almost like ‘choose your own adventure’ style books but with tactical combat and miniatures added. Gloomhaven comes close to playing Dungeons and Dragons, except there is no dungeon master, and combat cards are used instead of dice. This immersive game with characters, leveling up, a highly-strategic combat system, plus the miniatures, definitely appeals to gamers looking for serious fantasy role-playing. You will not be disappointed because the narrative is incredibly detailed, and the universe is cohesive.

Pros: 

  • ​An immersive storyline with a unique fantasy world
  • ​​Strategic card play adds new complexities to the strategy
  • ​A legacy role-playing game 

Cons: 

  • Relatively expensive
  • ​Requires a significant amount of time
  • Not for beginners 

4. First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet

Players: 1-4      
Duration: 60-90 minutes

Mars is a hostile, unforgiving environment. You and your team of astronauts have been stranded and must overcome obstacles to survive and escape with your lives. The game incorporates a smartphone companion app to help you set up, mission logging, stages of gameplay, and enhance the game’s atmosphere.

Unlike most other legacy games, this one comes with standalone missions as well as two different campaigns to play through. The legacy mechanics are involved in the two campaigns, which consist of five missions each. At the start of each session, astronauts receive a mission sheet detailing the goals needed to win the game. Goals are either mandatory or optional and tracked by the mission log. All mandatory goals must be completed in time to win the game. Your voluntary goals help you improve your situation by supplying bonuses.

The game provides the players with a real sense of urgency, requiring collaboration and communication to keep everyone alive and escape from Mars. First Martians legacy board game is ideal for gamers that enjoy cooperative survival games, with legacy mechanics.

Pros: 

  • Proven survival mechanics with legacy components
  • Requires players to work together to win
  • Immersive theme with a useful app 

Cons: 

  • Rules and actions can be complicated
  • Not suitable for new players 

5. Aeon’s End Legacy

Players: 1-4      
Duration: 45-90 minutes

Your mission is to protect the city of Gravehold from destruction. Aeon’s End Legacy is a cooperative deck-building game where players fight a being whose goal is to destroy Gravehold and humanity. It will take seven chapters to accomplish the objectives of this campaign. Each chapter comes in a sealed pack opened after completing the previous chapter.

Players must work together strategically to complete each chapter and win the game. The game uses a legacy deck which unlocks permanent changes during the game. Once a choice is made, the remaining card choices get discarded. As a cooperative deck builder game with some legacy mechanics, it’s an excellent introductory game. The difficulty is gradually increased in the game, making it accessible for beginners.

Pros: 

  • Tight gameplay
  • Good for new players
  • Variable difficulty level 

Cons: 

  • Experienced players may find it lacks a challenge.
  • The legacy mechanic is not a prominent feature 

6. SeaFall: A World-Building Adventure

Players: 3-5      
Duration: 120-180 minutes

Set out on the high seas of adventure with your crew. This role-playing legacy board game puts you in a Renaissance world filled with pirates and exploration. The expedition is not for the faint of heart, as this game is for the committed crew who enjoy long trips. The SeaFall campaign is estimated to take around 15 game sessions or more, and each game session lasts about two hours. Choose your crew wisely, as they need to participate in the whole campaign.

You play as one of the five noble families fighting for control of the empire. The board starts with four islands. As players explore and build, the open sea will uncover new islands for discovery. The object is to collect the predetermined number of victory points. However, this game is more about the journey. The intricate narrative, elaborate world-building, and the game’s evolution are the real focus.

The legacy mechanics in this game are not an afterthought. SeaFall was the first legacy board game built to be a legacy game, not an adaptation of a previous title. Enjoy unlocking cards in treasure chests, stickers, and a rule book you modify. If you are a fan of world-building, immersive role-playing, and some card destruction, this game will not disappoint.

The main downfall in SeaFall is the introduction of randomness tied to the risk/reward payoff. You can strategically play the whole campaign with minimal risk, building power and points, and still fail to win simply because another player decides to gamble, risks it all, and wins.

Pros:  

  • Sophisticated detail artwork and narrative
  • Dramatic and astonishing gameplay 
  • The world-building and immersive storyline 

Cons: 

  • Rules are complex and sometimes difficult to understand
  • Requires a time commitment for your game group
  • Elements of randomness can be frustrating 

 

7. Betrayal Legacy

Players: 3-5      
Duration: 40-90 minutes

Don’t miss the innovative new version of board game Betrayal at House on the Hill. If you have run out of haunts to solve, and are dying to get back into the creepy mansion, then Betrayal Legacy is here to make your nightmares come true.

It’s a story-driven mystery, building an engaging world around the players, leaving you obsessed with the secrets hidden in the house. The legacy game takes the spooky, tense, investigation gaming experience and adds more exciting narrative levels. Now you take on the roles of families, generations entangled with the haunted mansion. You will play 14 sessions, one for each family generation. During these game sessions, players will have the option of either aging their character or introducing a new descendant of the family.

During the game, players explore the haunted house, working together until an event causes the haunt. Once the haunt begins, one of your group has secretly become a traitor. You must solve the mystery before time is up, and you are trapped.

Betrayal Legacy has many aspects of a legacy game: character progression, permanent modifications to the game, and persistent change throughout the story campaign. However, once the 14 generation sessions are complete, there is a finale. Unlike most legacy games, you can replay Betrayal Legacy with all the revealed content.

Pros: 

  • Perfect introduction legacy mechanics 
  • Great for mystery lovers
  • The added benefit of playing as a standalone after completing the legacy campaign  

Cons: 

  • Setup is a little complicated
  • Some luck factor
  • Not a huge legacy style game 

A Few Final Words

Legacy board games are personalized adventures in a box, and no two are alike. Much like a narrative, they are ongoing until your group completes the final campaign. The story results from the consequences of your action, making it truly your game. Legacy games are still a new and changing genre that is not strictly defined.

However, one characteristic seems consistent from inception, their controversy in the board gaming community. Some gamers enjoy customizing a game, while other groups despise the intention of permanently altering parts of it. What side of the debate does your gaming group stand?   

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