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Against “Legacy”-style board games

When Risk Legacy first came out, it shocked many. You are tearing up cards, writing on the board etc. Destroying the game?

But, I understood it as you were personalizing and completing the game, ending up with a playable and finished and interesting artifact or heirloom – I never played Risk Legacy so I don’t know to what extent that ever was true or not.

When Pandemic Legacy came out, all those pretenses were thrown out the window. There were fan-made house rules posted that allowed you to use the board and pieces for Pandemic still, and I applaud those house rules, that initiative (and I hope those who are combining their Legacy board with On the Brink and similar expansions are having fun), but the main game sells itself as being a “one-campaign-and-then-it’s-consumed” game.

Now, I’ve heard this argument many many times: “How often do people play their board games anyway? And you are four people, divide the box’s cost by four and by the number of sessions and you’ll see that it’s not so expensive.”

That’s not the point. It’s about our planet, about our mindset of wasting plastic and other fossils, about shipping boxes around the world and back, about climate change.

One group at one table playing through one campaign of this, that’s no big deal – but it’s been ranked the best game of all time according to BoardGameGeek. It’s not just a one-shot game anymore.

And, the philosophy that you just play games a dozen or so times anyway? That’s not good either. Games should be made to last. To be loved and played over and over again.

If you’re tired of a board game, pass it on to someone who’ll play it. Don’t just fuel the landfill machine.

It might look a bit silly or windmill-tiltingly of me to rail against the “Legacy”-style of board games when there are much bigger problems in the over-consumtion, climate change realm. But it’s almost like a marquee issue. I react against it almost disproportionately because it looks so spiteful to me, so après-nous-le-déluge to indulge in this sort of consumtion.

There are other approaches to the campaign style board game that can be replayable, reusable… Hero Quest and Space Hulk both had campaign books. D&D’s modules can be treated with care and then resold (I just got a bunch of used ones). I heard about a deckbuilding game (based on the Harry Potter books) released at GenCon this year where it’s sort of like a legacy game that you open in boxes and the game grows gradually, but you don’t destroy anything and you can rewind / replay / resell as you wish.

The idea of an “evolving campaign” game is great, but can be done with more care. Simple pen and paper, or apps. Something more frugal… take care of each other out there, all right?

PS: I also didn’t think Pandemic Legacy was that great of a game, mechanically. But that’s neither here nor there.