The New Year has welcomed the boardgaming community with a great change. Twilight Struggle, the number one game in the BoardGameGeek ranking has been dethroned by an upstart – and one that people had been bombing with preventive ones for some time now.
If for some reason this comes as a surprise, you can go and check here. It’s true, Twilight Struggle is no longer number one. It was not taken down by Terra Mystica, the cannibalistic Caverna didn’t do TS in, not even the glorious Through the Ages. It was Pandemic Legacy – a game that makes you commit unspeakable crimes against cardboard.
Personally, I don’t really know what the whole fuss is all about. Legacy games don’t work on me the way they seem to work on other people. I do see and acknowledge, however, that they have a great potential, and I know that the idea of a deep narrative that not only influences the here and now of a given game, but also makes permanent changes to its structure has a heart-grabbing potential, but it’s still not really my thing.
In all honesty, although I would never rate a Legacy game – Pandemic, Gloomhaven, Risk – a ten just because of the titular component, I’d never go as far as some people, who are already up in arms, and sometimes acting – well, let’s just say they’re acting a bit silly – just because a game follows the Legacy format.
The quotes above are just a few of a very large bunch, and while there are others (with lot of them not really just going after the Legacy thing), it seems that some people are either genuinely scared or simply appalled by the fact that their games are severely limited when it comes to replayability, or that they get irreversibly damaged during the course of play.
Well, the sad news is that all games get damaged almost every time you play them. It’s something so hard to accept, that we tend to sink a lot of money into protecting them (I know I do – I’ve bought literally thousands of sleeves since I started playing modern board games) – but for some reason nobody is trying to call anyone out on making money off of other games’ natural perishability. Just as nobody seems to remember – as soon as the word “Legacy” rears its ugly head – that a glass of water is usually enough to completely ruin most games – Legacy or not.
I’m not trying to belittle anyone putting those opinions in the comments, I’m not even trying to poke fun (well, apart from the one person that suggests the existence of hired individuals rating games on BGG – and if I’m wrong here, please tell me who’s hiring for that gig, as I’d certainly love to make few bucks on the side that easily), but the fact that the Legacy thing causes really fervent reactions is a bit funny, especially if you meet people who genuinely think that this will change the face of gaming forever.
The truth is that if you’re a gamer with a sizeable collection, apart from maybe a few favourites, or games that are very short and light, you rarely play the same game more than six to eight times – and last time I checked, Pandemic Legacy had a few more games to play before it’s “destroyed”. Although I know that it’s different when a game can potentially be played many more times (even despite the fact that it never will), than when a game has a clear number of plays almost written on the box. It’s different, as we feel that we are being deprived of something.
The face of gaming will change, but not just because of Legacy games. The new big thing will come, and we’ll have another deluge of the new worker-placements, dekcbuildings or drafting games, just as we will have a number of Legacy games appearing – a few each year maybe, or maybe more if the genre catches more traction – and that will be it. And the fact that you won’t be able to play your Pandemic Legacy in ten years will most probably not matter that much, unless all publishers suddenly go out of business, or Pandemic Legacy becomes your favourite game of all times, in which case… you’d probably buy another box anyway.
And finally, for all of you thinking that it is a money-grab that will dominate the market, let me tell you this: it won’t. Making Legacy games is a lot of extra effort, and although this one Legacy game went straight to the top of the BGG ranking, it is by far not the most profitable game in tabletop gaming history. I don’t think it will ever even come close to the real titans. And if “play once, throw away” games (which Pandemic is not, but that’s how some people picture all Legacy in their fever dreams, so work with me here) were such a cash-printing no-brainer for publishers, everybody and their brother would already be doing this. And somehow, most of us are not.