Legacy game

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Permanent changes, such as adding stickers to the game board, are prevalent in legacy-style games.

A legacy game is a variant of tabletop board games in which the game itself is designed, through various mechanics, to change permanently over the course of a series of sessions.


Game designer Rob Daviau claims to have come up with the idea at a work meeting after jokingly asking why the murderous characters in Clue are always invited back to dinner. Realizing that each new game resets, Daviau thought about what it would be like if everyone would remember who the murderer was, and he pitched the idea of a Clue legacy game to Hasbro. While that idea was rejected, Daviau was later asked to use the mechanic in a new version of Risk. Risk Legacy was released in 2011 and was his first game to use this format.[1][2][3][4]

Daviau followed up with an award-winning[5] Pandemic variant, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, which was released in 2015 to positive reviews and praised as a leap forward in modern board game design.[4][6][7] Daviau continues to develop legacy games and co-developed a mechanic, the Echo System,[8] to retain permanent changes through subsequent games in a franchise.[7]

Daviau cited his work on Betrayal at House on the Hill (which was later adapted into a legacy version) and Trivial Pursuit: DVD – Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition as predecessors to the legacy idea. The latter was designed in such a way that pre-programmed games sorted the cards by difficulty. This caused some vocal backlash as the game was perceived by many to have a more definite end than other versions.[9]

Common mechanics and themes[edit]

Legacy games are designed to be played over the course of a several-sessions-long campaign, usually with the same players, and permanently change over time.[3][10] As such they have been compared to tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons.[11] New rules can be introduced as the campaign goes on, allowing for the game to expand both mechanically and thematically.[7] Games can use the expanding campaign as a mode of storytelling; Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 uses a three-act structure to tell its story.[4] Daviau describes legacy games as "experiential" in contrast to traditional games, which are "repeatable".[12] He compared his legacy games to that of a concert where you "buy a ticket for an experience"[13] while Haoran Un of Kotaku describes the idea as "avant-garde performance art".[11]

Legacy games break certain covenants that players expect from traditional board games.[14] Permanent, physical changes can occur to components based on game outcomes and player choices.[2] For instance players might be instructed to write names on cards, place stickers on the game board, or destroy some components.[11] This causes each copy of the game to be unique at the end[3] and has earned the legacy genre criticism in that there is a finite amount of replayability.[7][13] Some games have been designed to be replayable with refill packs or non-permanent stickers, while others are still playable with the final permanent changes once the campaign is over.[15] Other games have focused on the campaign-style aspect while forgoing permanent changes.[16]

List of legacy and legacy-styled games[edit]

Title Year
Notes Refs
Risk Legacy 2011 [17]
We Didn't Playtest This: Legacies 2012 [18]
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 2015 [17]
SeaFall 2016 [17]
Gloomhaven 2017 [19][20]
Android: Netrunner - Terminal Directive 2017 Expansion [21]
First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet 2017 Individual camgaign [22][23]
Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 2017 [24]
Charterstone 2017 [15]
Centauri Saga: Abandoned 2018 Expansion [25][26]
The Rise of Queensdale 2018 [27]
Ultimate Werewolf Legacy 2018 [28][29]
Betrayal Legacy 2018 [30]
Aeon's End: Legacy 2019 [31]
Zombie Kidz Evolution 2019 Children's game [32]
Machi Koro: Legacy 2019 [33]
Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated 2019 [34]
The King's Dilemma 2019 [35]
Vampire: The Masquerade - Heritage 2020 [36]
Terraforming Mars legacy variant 2020–2021 [37]
Zombie Legacy TBA [38][39]
Chronicles 1: Origins TBA Uses the Echo System [8]


  1. ^ Rob Daviau (2017). Legacy Games: From 'Risk' to 'Pandemic' to 'SeaFall' & Beyond (Keynote). GDC Vault. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b Lane, Rick (10 April 2016). "The Legacy of Rob Daviau, the man who helped flip boardgames on their head". Eurogamer. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Winkle, Luke (26 September 2016). "Rebuilding Boardgames: Rob Daviau on SeaFall and the Legacy Games". Paste. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Daviau, Rob (22 November 2017). "'Pandemic' Board Game Proves Infectious". All Things Considered (Interview). Interviewed by Michel Martin. NPR. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  5. ^ Hall, Charlie (22 March 2016). "The best board games of 2015, Board Game Geek's Golden Geek awards". Polygon. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  6. ^ Jolin, Dan (25 September 2016). "The rise and rise of tabletop gaming". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Wilding, Mark (22 October 2016). "SeaFall: is the legacy format heralding a new era of board games?". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b Searing, Rob (28 July 2015). "Artana's Echo System Announced". Dice Tower News. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  9. ^ Rob Daviau (2017), 8:56.
  10. ^ Barriga, Jaime (1 February 2018). "The Definition of a Legacy Game". Board Game Fight Club. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  11. ^ a b c Un, Haoran (31 October 2016). "A Board Game Where Everything Is Permanent". Kotaku. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  12. ^ Rob Daviau (2017), 16:30.
  13. ^ a b Hune-Brown, Nicholas (25 August 2016). "This Man Will Change the Way You Play Board Games". Slate. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  14. ^ Rob Daviau (2017), 2:42.
  15. ^ a b "Scythe designer's Charterstone will let you reset the legacy game using a 'recharge pack'". Tabletop Gaming. 28 July 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  16. ^ Rob Daviau (2017), 49:50.
  17. ^ a b c Rob Daviau (2017), 0:30.
  18. ^ "We Didn't Playtest This: Legacies". Kickstarter. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  19. ^ Rob Daviau (2017), 49:14.
  20. ^ Theel, Charlie (7 March 2017). "GLOOMHAVEN OVERVIEW – THE 21LB LEGACY DUNGEON CRAWL". Geek & Sundry. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  21. ^ Guida, Eddie (26 November 2016). "New campaign expansion has been announced for Android Netrunner". Dice Tower News. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  22. ^ Guida, Eddie (12 October 2016). "First Martians is landing in 2017". Dice Tower News. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  23. ^ "About the Game". Portal Games. Retrieved 20 October 2017. The second one is strictly a legacy campaign – you will use its components only once.
  24. ^ Rob Daviau (2017), 50:58.
  25. ^ Fisher, Jessica (19 September 2017). "Centauri Saga Goes from Online to Board Game to Mobile". Gameosity.com. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  26. ^ "Pledge Manager (please read!) and Production Update". Kickstarter, Centauri Saga: Season 1, Update #18. 28 September 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  27. ^ "The Game of the Year-winning creators of escape-the-room series Exit have announced a legacy game". Tabletop Gaming. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  28. ^ Guida, Eddie (18 August 2016). "Bezier Games announces Ultimate Werewolf Legacy". Dice Tower News. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  29. ^ Searing, Robert. "Ultimate Werewolf Legacy Releasing At Gen Con 2018 | Dice Tower News". www.dicetowernews.com. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  30. ^ Wells, Adam (19 November 2017). "Betrayal Legacy Announced For Next Year". Kotaku. Kotaku Australia. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  31. ^ "Aeon's End: Legacy". Kickstarter. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  32. ^ "Zombie Kidz Evolution". Scorpion Masque. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  33. ^ "Machi Koro Legacy – From Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, Masao Suganuma with brand new artwork from Nobura Hotta!". Pandasaurus Games. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  34. ^ "Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated". Dire Wolf Digital. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  35. ^ "The King's Dilemma". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  36. ^ "Vampire: The Masquerade - Heritage". Vampire: The Masquerade - Heritage. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  37. ^ Zoch, Patrick. "Terraforming Mars Legacy in the Works". Dice Tower News. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  38. ^ "Zombie Legacy". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  39. ^ "Zombie Legacy". Slam Games. Retrieved 31 December 2018.

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