Boardgame moments

Tearing Cards and Slaying Games (Legacy Games)

This article is also infinitely available on Zatu here!

Have you ever convinced yourself you were right about something, only to be seriously wrong? Not like a misunderstanding, but I mean like a clear cut case of ignorance. Way back when we first heard about Legacy games, we felt wholeheartedly opposed to them. The idea set off alarm bells. Ripping up components? Finite play? Having to play with the same people every time? Sheer nonsense we said. Madness we said. Absolutely ridiculous! Well, here we are with a few Legacy games under our belt and our extra large helpings of humble pie. It needs to be said that our preconceived ideas were not wholly correct. Not all Legacy games are one time play, not all of them require the same players each time, and for the most part, you don’t have to destroy components.

We have now played a good number of Legacy games fully, and are currently in the midst of another. None played the same and each has produced something most games miss. A narrative. A strong narrative. A narrative that is sculpted by you, the players, that you are invested in and genuinely care about. Sure it’s easy enough to run on the pretence of not caring. In fact, some of our initial starting points were set in the idea of producing chaos and messing with the story. It almost felt as though we were going to “break the game” through the anarchy. Far from it, it just made our independent roles inaccessible emotionally, which may sound alien for boardgames, but was an important part of the Legacy experience.

Below are three Legacy games we recommend highly. All are different and offer a different approach, but each will have you invested in the narrative and produce solid experiences.

Treacherous Legacy?

Betrayal Legacy is Betrayal at its outline. Semi-cooperative with a whole bag of spooky shenanigans occuring. It has the Betrayal at House on the Hill (BHH) vibes in both its theming, playstyle, name and ideas. But it’s not wholly Betrayal. The main thing about the source game is that it ran the same narrative – a handful of misfits appear at a house for reason X, Y, and Z and a story unfolds as they explored the house. Simple enough right? Well we loved BHH but will acknowledge its limitations with its narrative. It can be repetitive and unlinked between plays. We were able to reminisce about unbelievable happenings, but if you’ve played a haunt once you’ll be reluctant to play it again. Of course, with 50 haunts you’re unlikely to get a repeat in quick succession, but we’ve had it occur due to our addiction.

Betrayal Legacy runs that sequence with the same ideas, but every decision and choice makes a difference. What you choose to do in the past, affects the present. There are more than 10 game sessions available in Betrayal Legacy, and each happens years after the last. What’s more interesting is that you always play the same family. You may be a different character, but your family is the same – you create a lineage. If your character survives a game, and you deem them young enough to survive to the next game, you can use them again!

As the campaign progressed the game changed and more got added. You have a Legacy deck that changes the game progressively, but also changes based on the outcomes of a game. Dependent on whether the traitor or heroes win, the game will add specific cards. And you will remove some cards from the legacy deck, so they go unused and unseen entirely!

The other big thing that creates a history in the game is the heirlooming mechanic. It’s no secret here as it’s introduced almost immediately, but it’s what we found produced the most story. When you pick up an unnamed item with an heirloom spot, you may heirloom it to your family. Add your family’s crest and give it a name. Boom! You then own it (in a sense) and will have it passed down from generation to generation. How you name the item will determine nothing more than how you reference it, but it will matter to you.

The first item I heirloomed were the bells. I named them ‘Estoban’s Cool Bells’, as Estoban was my character and he was 13. Naturally he was going to call them cool. It’s what every 13 year old does, right? Anyway, I made a historic choice and the game repeated their appearance throughout the campaign. Someone drew it, everyone reminisced, and I wanted it. Because they’re my family’s, and because heirloomed items have special effects for their owners… But no spoilers.

The final thing that develops the Betrayal Legacy’s narrative is the difference between each game. Every haunt links to a specific chapter, although there are three available for each chapter. This removes the chance of repetition throughout the campaign and it also guarantees you to have a unique experience. When you do finally end the game, finish and pack it all away for a final time, you’ll have a plethora of memories. And, and this is a massive selling point, you’ll also have a fully playable, custom Betrayal at House on the Hill game. This Legacy game is not finite.

Cooperative Legacy?

Pandemic Legacy is very different to Betrayal Legacy. For one, it is cooperative like its the standard Pandemic. Your first game is essentially a game of vanilla Pandemic. Fight the diseases, manage the board, be the hero. The difference? Well… things don’t go as simply “as cured, gone and forgotten.”. It gets worse. I will always the narrative story for Pandemic Legacy as it stunned me with how well scripted it was. As with Betrayal, no spoilers.

The game takes place over the course of a year, with each game taking place in one of the 12 months. Now take this warning seriously. Pandemic Legacy is a hard game. It is not easy to master, at all. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult when things get bad! Luckily, Z-Man clearly knew this and developed it with that in mind.

Should you fail January once, you get a second go. You get a second go at all the months you need it in! This means that you could potentially get 24 games out of it! You don’t want that of course, as that would mean failing every month. That’s not how you play Pandemic. You’re meant to be the heroes here, not mess things up badly! Either way, whether you play 12 perfect or 24 atrocious games, there are things within to ensure the narrative is driven. You’ll always be able to progress and do more, however you may not like the outcomes of losing.

Unlike Betrayal Legacy, Pandemic Legacy runs the same narrative every time. You’ll always have the same events in January, March or November, and the same in game occurrences. What’s going to make the narrative unique to you is the decisions you make within the prescribed path. You may choose to do certain things to certain locations, certain characters, or certain diseases. The in game characters get named and have relationships with others to enable beneficial effects. And like in Betrayal, you’ll get attached.

You’ll want to play as specific people for their abilities, and then because you always play them when possible. Nothing hurts more than having bad happenings occur, and then having your character suffer. Pandemic is easily the hardest of these three games to master, but when you’ve got up to four players taking on a game cooperatively, you’d want the game to bite back!

Competitive Legacy?

Charterstone is a straight up competitive Legacy game. No semi-cooperation, just clear cut gain points to win. The objective of the game is to build a settlement as a collective that will thrive. What makes it competitive is that you want your specific sector to thrive the most! There’s narrative here, and it’s very whimsical and quite fantastic, but it’s not as impactful as the previously mentioned games. The want to win will supersede the attachment to characters in the game. To say this is the most visually accessible, it’s also the one you’ll be least attached to. Competition is the name of the game through and through.

Every game has a card that dictates the specific scenario in play and it limits or enhance players’ choices. As you progress you’ll naturally unlock new components for use and new “personas” to play as – effectively character cards. There are lots of truly unique ideas in Charterstone that we’d not seen in many other games, but on top of that you get to have some connection between games. The stickers on the board are always there until covered up! Each player gets a tuck box to collect their pieces in. On top of that, they can also keep so many of each resource type in the game in there too. As they progress they can add extras and enhance their storage capacity. Whatever goes in there gets carried to the next game, creating purpose behind gaining. So you can plan for the really long game.

You’ll collect resources and build buildings. These buildings will allow you to gain, convert or use resources in new and unique ways. You spend to earn. There’s a big emphasis on permanence in Charterstone… Things can be changed, but once you cover a building it’s permanent. This adds to competitiveness in a new way… you can spite others by removing a clearly useful building, so long as you don’t shoot yourself in the foot! We found ourselves enhancing our own areas and using them the most, but when we had to trek across to another’s area it was weird, but advantageous!

Charterstone is a game I’ll remember for that pure aggression play type it allowed me to adopt. All go, all the time. However, it also allowed the other to play their way too! One of us was patient and gained gradually, one cashed in, and one played on the fly. All tactics were plausible and worked, making it a game we were all able to enjoy and be comfortable with. What’s more is that it allows for play as a normal game when finished, and can be played as a Legacy game again using the Charterstone Recharge Pack! But again, the game’s high competitiveness and accessibility costs it its emotional attachment!

Cutting It Short

Legacy games shocked us. We loved them, but hated to see them end – we got attached! Any groups who enjoy a narrative and play regularly need to try a Legacy game or two if they’ve not already done so! We took our dose of humble pie and are so glad we did. In fact, we’re currently in the midst in Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and it’s different enough to Season 1 to be interesting, but still hard as nails! And then we’re off to Machi Koro Legacy! Even then, we’re already looking for our next adventure! If you’re not a fan of the Legacy element, like the tearing and the permanence, we’d suggest reading around them. We feel the narrative alone is enough to engage even the most reluctant tearer!