Legacy Games: Giving board games a leg-up?

Finally, it’s out! Like so many others, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Pandemic Legacy Season 2. As this series paves the way for legacy style games, its trailers are also hard to beat. Pandemic released a survival briefing introduction to Season 2, which is a smart way to generate interest and hype for the game (not that it was lacking any) while providing us with a taste of how this edition will follow the events of Season 1, in which a new virus strain threatened global catastrophe. After watching, I’m certainly even more eager to begin deploying heroes around the world to fight the epidemic, and this world looks very different from the first.

The new trend of legacy style games opens up many exciting opportunities in the board game world. A legacy game is one that changes over time as you play a series of campaigns according to the choices players make. This means the game will be very different as you reach your final campaign compared to when you set up your first play through. This doesn’t just apply to the rules of the game, but its appearance also. Unlike a game such as Dungeons and Dragons which certainly follows the rule above, legacy games also involve physical changes such as adding components and destroying others. Cards may need to be ripped up, stickers can be placed on the game board and sealed packages are there be opened. As a consequence, legacy games can generally be played only once as these effects are irreversible. This may put some people off, but they involve a long, detailed story with various campaigns and missions to be completed before it’s over. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 takes place over one year with a campaign for every month. Each month can be attempted a second time if you fail the first. That’s 12 to 24 plays all while the game continuously evolves in surprising ways. The length of time you take to complete the game overall likely depends on your personality type. I know someone who stuck with playing one campaign a month. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anywhere near that level of restraint. 

Pandemic Legacy was my first legacy game and in the beginning I was reluctant to make such permanent physical modifications to it. It felt almost sacrilegious considering the care I put into looking after my games. Rip a card up? Can’t I just quietly put it to one side? Once you get into the mindset, however, it adds a real metaphorical weight to the game knowing that the choices you make will affect the game forever. Just like in a hypothetical real life scenario, our response to apocalyptic threats may help or hinder the outcome, but either way we cannot go back in time and change our decisions. This risk generates stress and immersion in a way that I’ve not experienced before with board games.

Other legacy style games available include Risk: Legacy and the recently released Gloomhaven, which has generated a huge amount of buzz this year. With many more on the way, such as Charterstone, I’m curious to see how this trend develops.

If you’ve already played Pandemic Legacy Season 1 then check out the Season 2 intro below. Hopefully I’ll have my copy very soon!