WDYPTW: Legacy Games are Dead to Me
Apologies to Rob Daviau
April 30, 2019 - We just finished Pandemic Legacy: Season Two, and by the end of the last game we hated it. We only continued to play to see it through to the end, and because we enjoyed our company, not because we were enjoying the game. This was a discussion on a recent Cubist chat sidebar, and others had also noted this trend. Others I’ve discussed the games with are loving their Legacy games -- so it is not necessarily the game’s fault, but this is the experience I’ve had with my recent plays.
First, let's take a step back. I'm going to talk about several legacy games and keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but may discuss game concepts from them that impacted our enjoyment that could be considered spoilers.
Let's head back to November 2015. Our play group was random meetups on Thursday nights in the game store. We'd maybe decide what to play in advance by email or by whatever someone brought that night.
Then Pandemic Legacy: Season One (PL1) came out and I reached out to my group for interest. Before long we had four players -- Dr. Jim, Jonathan, my teen son Allen, and me. Jim offered to host at his home and suddenly this became an event night. We were excited to play. None of us are really 'alphas' and we play well together. We took turns making sure everyone got an opportunity do one of the legacy effects, like ripping up a card, marking the board, or opening a secret. PL1 was a pretty linear story, but we enjoyed where it went and were surprised by a few turns along the way. We loved getting together, thrilled to see where the game was going to take us, and what the next secret would open. For those who don't know, PL1 is played over 12 months of 1-2 games each. We rarely won any month on the first try. Overall PL1 was great, although the last game was a bit of a downer. We barely lost our first attempt and the second just seemed mechanical. Still, it was probably my #1 game that year and a ‘10’ based on the experience.
After wrapping up PL1 we decided to keep Wednesday as 'epic game night' and played some longer format games that we could schedule for a little while, until we figured out what he next big thing as going to be.
Soon the Legacy itch was back. We decided to move onto T.I.M.E. Stories. Allen was off to college and Zach filled his spot. We started with the base box, and even with its poor rules -- better ones have since been published -- we had a good time. T.I.M.E. Stories has you jumping back in time into the bodies others and playing them in a scenario. You have a path you are trying to figure out in the game in a limited amount of turns. The trick is you can redo the adventure again if you fail. There are some red herring paths that waste your time and mechanisms to remember items between 'runs' to speed up future plays. Still the third or fourth time through, doing the EXACT same thing sometimes became monotonous. Nonetheless, we were hooked and completed about six modules before we decided to take break and went back to playing long games for a while.
Then Pandemic Legacy: Season Two (PL2) arrived. Having had such a great time with PL1, as well as I even play tested it, we were excited to get this started. PL2 plays a bit differently than PL1. Additionally, some of the PL1 mid-game surprises had us paranoid about what actions to take in PL2. Not to mention the thrill off the legacy elements were wearing off -- nobody was excited about ripping cards, or opening boxes or marking stuff. PL2 has a linear story, but is it hidden and gives you the impression that you have some choice to explore here or here and expand the map. Eventually the game opens the necessary areas to advance the story for you, so it felt forced anyway. Before this occurred, we struggled with times where we played game after game with no success because we didn't find the clues. Only after a few losses did the game give them to us. About half way through, Zach left the group and Rick joined in. Zach noted he'd be happy to go back to T.I.M.E. Stories. We plodded along, meeting because we had to so we could finish the damn game. Our second to last session, we played both games in November and revealed the December challenge. Technically there was no way for us to win, which was again disappointing, so we backed up some moves so we could at least have a chance. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to end of the night. We quickly scheduled the last night to play the end game. We thought we had it figured out, and, working really well as a team, got super close. Then something stupid happened and basically ended our chances of winning. We the decided we were done -- we ripped open the last few items to see what we missed, and threw the scraps in the box.
One challenge with legacy games is that you are really limited to the rules in the box, along with what you have revealed. You really need to interpret the situation and move on. There are some clever online resources, but are a challenge to use what is presented in game.
The worst part of all of this is that it has ended 'epic game night.' Jonathan would rather play Star Wars: Destiny and Dr. Jim wants to go to the gaming Pub on Wednesday now. Leaving me, just disappointed.