Should You Invest in Legacy Games? The Good and the Bad

Legacy games are polarizing. Some players can't fathom paying for a game they can only play a set amount of times, while others compare it to purchasing a movie ticket or a video game. In reality, the grossly disparate experience of playing legacy games probably comes down to the group more than the budget. And, of course, not all legacy games are made equal: Charterstone is a different experience from Pandemic: Legacy, which is a different experience from Gloomhaven.

Legacy Games Deliver a Lot of Value

Though a legacy game may appear to put a price tag on a limited amount of playthroughs, it needs to be considered that most people aren't going to play their games that frequently. You may only be able to play a legacy game 12 times, but that may be more than you play some of the other games on your shelf. Paying $60 for a 30 hour experience for multiple players is a deal for most people. So, though it can feel as though you're paying more for a legacy game than a traditional game, it's really very comparable.

There is a perception that legacy games are more expensive in general, but Charterstone, for instance, is only $42.50. Like any game, legacy games start off at MSRP and slowly trend downward; if you're willing to wait, you can get many of them on a budget. The cost of a legacy game really isn't that high; but that doesn't mean there aren't other issues.

You Need the Right Group

The failing, when it comes to legacy games, is not in the budget but in establishing a solid core group. For Charterstone, mentioned above, you would need to bring together players 12 times. Most people can't organize a game night twice in a row. When players come and go, the game itself becomes impossible to play. This can become a slog, as players quickly start to lose momentum, and the game can find itself relegated to the shelf half-finished. No one wants to be struggling through the same game two years from now.

With Pandemic: Legacy, our group started off strong and got through three months, before one player decided that they sincerely could not stand anymore Pandemic. Once they dropped out, we couldn't find someone else to take their space: no one wanted to jump into an already started legacy game. It was possible to recover, but the interest was no longer there. Before you purchase a legacy game, you need to be aware of the time investment involved.

The Perception of the Business Model

Some object to legacy games not because of the cost or because of the time investment, but for philosophical reasons: they see it as a cash grab and a shot at the secondary market. Legacy games can't be traded or resold. Legacy games are destroyed as they are played. And legacy games can lock you into purchasing them at intervals: instead of buying Pandemic, you're buying Pandemic: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3...

That wouldn't be such a big problem if not for the fact that many legacy games really don't need to destroy the game board as you go. Campaign games, like TIME Stories, have mechanisms that let you "reset" the game at the end. These campaign games have very similar value to a legacy game without the downfall of the game being ruined by the end. There are mechanics that could be used, such as game board slots and chits, to make the game replayable, like a video game. This isn't done because part of the appeal is "destroying" the game.

Ultimately whether legacy games are ideal for you is really dependent n your group, your budget, and your gaming goals. Legacy games aren't as expensive as they may seem, but they cost a lot in time rather than money.