The Interesting Twists of Legacy Games

The rumor is that they were inspired by the game Clue. When one imagines it, you are playing a new game of Clue (Cluedo for every other country but the US it seems) and the known murderer is invited back to dinner the following night. Then, another family member of the Boddy family, or Black family for outside the US, is murdered yet again. One has to question the ability of Mr. Boddy to judge character at this point. It was Rob Daviau who floated the idea, after joking about the clue scenario, that the murderer should be remembered with each new game. [1] While Hasbro didn’t go for his legacy Clue idea, they did apply the idea to Risk. And so it was, in 2011, that Risk Legacy kicked off the trend of legacy board games.

The success of the legacy game opened a new door for board games. This type of game design has been explored in games such as Pandemic, SeaFall, and Gloomhaven. This year, we have seen the release of Ultimate Werewolf Legacy with Betrayal Legacy and The Rise of Queensdale to be released later in this year. Now, game designers have a chance to tell a complete story, and the players have the feeling that their actions matter. Also, did I mention sealed boxes and secrets? Who doesn’t like opening a sealed box to find a secret?

But with all these new possibilities comes ever-increasing complexity. The Gloomhaven rulebook, for example, is a small novelette, not to mention the scenario book that also accompanies the game. In our first game of Gloomhaven, we were commenting how easy it seemed, only to realize later we incorrectly read the rules and incorporated the modification cards incorrectly. At which point, when we played the real way, the monsters made the members of Team Hässlich regret their delve into the dungeon and rethink their decisions in life that led them to adventuring. In other words, we didn’t successfully complete the first dungeon.

In our first game of pandemic legacy, we did not read the cards as carefully as we should have and overlooked the instructions to reveal the next set of story cards. Which was, for us, a great excuse to start the legacy game over… we may have let Chicago burn with all the riots. And also, Mumbai… and I think Tokyo was getting pretty close. (We might not be the people to go to during an outbreak on a massive scale.) Upon writing this, it dawns on me, that these examples may be commentary about my lack of attention to detail than the complexity of legacy games.

Despite the complexity, I for one enjoy this variety of games. The style of gaming has breathed life into old favorites, such as Risk Legacy and Betrayal Legacy, but also gives game designers flexibility to achieve the game they imagined. I look forward to seeing the new dimensions to which this can take my favorite games in the future.

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