Cooperative, Legacy

Learn about the Legacy Game Mechanic in Board Games

The ‘Legacy’ mechanic has transformed game design. This mechanic allows the game to evolve over multiple sessions, creating a rich, dynamic experience that is uniquely tailored to the players’ actions.

What is the Legacy Game Mechanic?

The Legacy mechanic is a system where the decisions and outcomes of one game session carry over to future sessions. This progression can manifest through permanent changes to the game such as modifying the board, altering rules, adding or removing components, or even permanently destroying them. Each playthrough builds on the last, creating a continuing story or evolving challenge.

Characteristics of Legacy Games

  1. Progressive Storylines: Legacy games often feature a narrative that develops over time, influenced by players’ decisions.
  2. Evolving Game Rules: As the game progresses, new rules and mechanics can be introduced, while others might be altered or removed.
  3. Permanent Physical Changes: Stickers might be placed on the board, cards torn up, or new components revealed. These changes are permanent, meaning they affect not only the current game but all future games played with the same set.
  4. Player Customization: Players often have the power to make significant choices that customize the gameplay experience
  5. Replayability with Consequences: While traditional board games reset after each play, Legacy games are designed for a set number of sessions after which the game might reach a conclusion, giving players a sense of accomplishment and closure.

Implementing Legacy Mechanics in Game Design

When designing a Legacy game, careful planning and foresight is required. An engaging narrative is essential and it needs to cater to various player decisions. Game components are designed for alteration or destruction, and rules must be clear yet adaptable. When designing the game, one must anticipate different paths players might take and ensure that the game remains balanced and compelling.

  1. Pandemic Legacy: Perhaps the most famous example, this game builds on the cooperative game Pandemic. Over a campaign, players face a year-long crisis tackling diseases with new challenges and rules added each month.a
  2. Risk Legacy: This game revolutionized the classic game of Risk by introducing the Legacy mechanic. Players make permanent changes to the board, choose different factions with unique abilities, and open sealed packets that introduce new elements to the game.
  3. Gloomhaven: Combining role-playing and Legacy elements, Gloomhaven offers an expansive story and a changing world, with players’ choices affecting not just their characters but the world around them.
  4. Charterstone: A competitive Legacy game where players construct buildings and populate a shared village, with each decision impacting not only the current game but all future games.

Enhancing Game Experience with Legacy Mechanics

Legacy games transform the play experience into a deeper, more personal journey where they are not just participants but co-creators of the game world. The mechanic fosters a sense of ownership and attachment to the game, as players see the lasting impact of their decisions. The narrative and evolving challenges keep the game exciting and ensure that no two campaigns are ever the same.

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