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Subject: A review after 15 sessions: Destroying cards is fun, but is the game play any good? rss

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Chris
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Originally posted on menwithdice.com

This game is, without a doubt, something special. This is far beyond one new gimmick, but rather took several genius ideas, and compounded them into a gaming experience unequal to anything else. Risk Legacy is hailed for its innovation, and rightly so. At the same time, I don’t want to just gush over the obvious novelties Legacy is famous for, but also evaluate if there are interesting decisions in the game play itself.

It should be noted that this review is spoiler free. There is nothing discussed that couldn’t be discovered just by reading the starting rules or examining the immediately available components and cards.

I grew up on risk. I still remember my first game as an early teen. Can you believe I actually went for Asia? I stayed up all night fascinated by the strategic potential. Can you believe I actually thought there was tons of strategic potential? While my gaming tastes have exponentially grown, my fondness for the risk family has remained. I moved on from Risk to Lord of the Rings Risk, both Star Wars Risks, Risk 2210, and then reached critical mass to explode into hobby board gaming at large. To me, Risk Legacy represents my hobby coming full circle – the game that started the spark is now my biggest flame.

Legacy has at least 3 groundbreaking new elements. Foremost, you get to permanently modify the game in ways that has lasting impact on all future plays. If you’ve read or heard anything about Legacy, you’re probably already familiar with this feature. The game has a memory. You will be placing stickers on the board, writing on the board, and destroying cards.





These modifications will stay and impact all future games. This new concept has gotten a lot of attention and excitement, and like any bold new idea, a fair amount apprehension and skepticism. But there’s just nothing like the exciting payoff of when you make these forever decisions.

There are many things that trigger the ability to make a change to the game. Most of them happen at the end of a session. The winner gets to select from a menu of options, while those who simply were not eliminated also get a couple of choices. These rewards at the end of a session only last for the first 15 plays. Here are some of the permanent modifications you get to make:

Scars: theses are stickers that go onto a territory, and either enhance or hurt the territory. For example, you start the game with scar stickers that could either give +1 or -1 to defense die rolls in that territory. Forever. When you play these, you gotta think about not just the immediate impact to the current battle, but how it will shape continent balance and stability (or the diabolical lack thereof).



The game promotes, although it doesn’t necessitate, players being loyal to certain areas of the board. Shaping the board so that your area is advantageous in future plays is a decision of special significance. Risk Legacy, through scars, now has a number of ways to give a territory a special ability. For example, imagine hurting the defensive ability of Central America, and how that decreases the viability of controlling the continent commonly referred to as North America, and how that in turn increases the attractiveness of the continent of Strong Arm de Kilheffer, known in vanilla risk as South America.

Factions: For each faction, there are 2 powers to choose from before the first game. Select one, destroy the other. Additional faction powers will be unlocked as the game progresses. This means you’ll have factions with a unique set of 5 or 6 characteristics. It was a nice touch to have different factions for a risk game. It was a huge leap forward to have factions that are completely different than say, the same factions in my buddy’s copy of Legacy. It’s an extra layer of awesomeness to watch the factions develop, evolve, and grow over time. Much like an interesting character that develops in a story, you’ll start to watch these factions grow depth and personality. Your world will have a history, and so will your factions. Some will wax, some will wane.

One minor criticism is that most of the starting faction powers seem to have an obvious “better” choice, resulting in a lot groups selecting the same or similar sets of starting powers. This is mitigated by the powers unlocked later. As you get further into the game, the new powers will get more interesting, as will the method of assigning new powers.



Territory incentive: Each territory has a corresponding card, and that card is worth a certain amount of coins. At the start of your turn, you can cash in the sum of all your coins on your cards for troops. The more coin, the more troops. You may possibly draw an incentivized territory if you control it at the end of your turn. Players are in complete control of which territories get incentivized. If you don’t win a game but instead merely avoid elimination, you’ll have the option to add a coin incentive to a territory card. If you win, you even have the chance to destroy a territory card. As you get further into more plays, the choice of territory incentive becomes more interesting as the ramifications of high coinage increases.


Naming Stuff: At the conclusion of each session, players may have the option to found cities. As the icing on the cake, you get to name them. If you win a session, you have the option to name a continent. And, after 15 plays, the player with the most victories gets to name the earth. Naming continents and cities adds a type of creative outlet not often present in strategy boardgames. You’re not just crafting creative strategies, but you get the chance to put some funny or memorable names permanently written on the board.



This underscores just how personalized the game becomes, and allows all participants to have a sense of ownership. Every player gets the ability to make their mark, permanently add, and get personally invested in not just one game session, but their unique copy of Legacy. I may be the one that purchased my copy, but there are 9 guys that own it, because it has their name is on it, their input shaped it, they made decisions that impact all future players of this game, and they and they alone have bonuses and incentives in Earth 00001566.

There’s other ways you can permanently modify the game, which are very exciting and alter the game in enormous ways. I just can’t tell you about them. Maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh!

Another groundbreaking new feature for a boardgame is unlockable game elements. This is a double stroke of genius. The permanent decisions alone would’ve been innovative enough. But, combined with that, are sealed compartments in the game that are not to be opened unless certain game requirements are met. This coupled with making permanent additions to the board is double revolutionary. The concept of something that is hidden for you, the eagerness, the wait, and the excitement of the long anticipated revelation of a secret, is now all incorporated into a board game. Isn’t it incredible that board game reviews now have to be accompanied by spoiler disclaimers?



This takes something routine like learning new rules, and giving it the Christmas morning effect. Normally, turning the page in rulebook isn’t an exciting, thrill packed moment. But now, as you play, you can satisfy requirements to add new surprise rules to the game. Opening new components and learning new rules because you’ve earned the right to discover the secret is far more engaging than flipping to an “Advanced Rules” section of the rulebook.

A third innovation is not only will the game be uniquely customized through altering territory powers, adding permanent cities, etc, but there will be special powers and abilities granted to you. Even if two copies of Legacy happened to have the identical customizations made to everything, there will be special abilities granted to Theodore Geisel on one copy that he will not have on another copy. For example, if you get the honor of naming a continent, it will grant you and you alone the ability to get +1 dude for controlling that continent.

The joy is in the journey. But the customizations and sealed components will reach an end. When it’s all said and done, you will have a game no different than any other in your collection, in that it’s completely playable, yet static. This is often misunderstood, so to be completely clear, Legacy will never reach a point where you can no longer play it. It will never be disposable.

Just because it reaches the end of possible customizations, doesn’t mean it will reach an end in playability. It does not expire after 15 plays. And just because you hit 15 plays doesn’t mean every packet is opened, every scar is played, every faction power is assigned, and every card I can’t tell you about has seen play. Every other game you love works just fine without being able to write on it, destroy it, and put stickers on it, and so does Legacy. Although I must admit, Legacy has spoiled me. Every other game where I can’t sign the board has become a letdown.

The gimmicky (in this context I use gimmicky as a term of endearment) parts of this game have been much heralded, and it’s absolutely well deserved heraldry indeed. But Legacy’s other success hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention – the actual game play. Without interesting decisions with an exciting payoff, this would just be a cross between a board game and a coloring book. It’s important to know that the game, without the awesome gimmicky stuff, has satisfactory depth in its own right.

Territories, continents, factions, and players themselves will develop a unique set of abilities over time. Legacy gives you the opportunity to create cool combos, in terms of pairing factions, starting territories, and yourself. As factions gain more abilities, as continents become modified, as more scars are unlocked and placed, and as players themselves gain bonuses, you begin to be able to put together a knock out combo of yourself, your faction, and your continent. In this way Legacy gives you long term strategic choices spanning multiple sessions.

Players start in only 1 territory, and must expand through empty territories to reach other players. With all those empty territories and wiggle room, doesn’t that delay aggression? In Risk 2210, one of the small drawbacks is the potential for the lack of conflict in the first turn or two because of the empty territories. Legacy does not have that problem. It’s very common for the game to end with lots of territories still empty, because attacking your opponent is (usually) so much better than expanding into an empty territory.

Legacy plays fast and furious. The level of aggression that Legacy promotes is comparable to Nexus Ops or Summoner Wars. There are two things (that I can tell you about) that put players at each other’s throats immediately. One is the victory condition itself. You need 4 red stars to win. Each faction starts with an HQ. Each HQ you control counts as a red star. People will have to try to conquer bases and go right after the heart of their opponents in order to win.

The other aggression incentive is the cards for combatants cash in system, which is rather clever. In order to draw a card with coinage at the end of your turn, you must conquer a territory from another player, not just expand into an empty region. At any given time there are 4 territory cards available to draw from, and the 4 that are available will rotate throughout the game. At the end of the turn, if you’ve taken at least one territory from an opponent, you will get one a card. If you own one of the four displayed cards, you take one of them. If you don’t own one, you’ll draw a generic coin card, worth only one. Those territories with more coins are enormously important, and those territories will be fought after with such force that it will cost the lives of many genetically enhanced bear riding muscular face painters.



Reading through the rulebook, it’s no spoiler that there will be starting placement rules to unlock. Once you’ve unlocked them, you will delve into new depth in the game. Starting setup is going to be a fascinating, challenging decision point. The weight, importance, and interestingness of the starting placement will be comparable to the starting placement in Catan.

Risk, in all its iterations, has fulfilled its titular promise to provide decisions based on risk. Every attack you make, you risk weakening yourself. Every success you have puts you at risk of being a target. Going for the victory presents a risk, which if unsuccessful, will make the next player’s potential for winning even higher. Even if it’s just to conquer a well defended but incentivized territory, each turn will have push your luck style decisions. Every session has given me agonizing decisions of “should I go for it, or should I gather strength and wait?”

Not only are you presented with the interesting decision of going for the risk, but you also need to figure out how to go about it. All of the faction powers and territory modifications really make for an interesting dudes on a map game. Instead of a board of 42 territories of equal value, the defensive and strategic value of the territories will have a lot of variability. Your evaluation of the map and forming your battle plan will become more interesting as the board and factions evolve. Minor tweaks are going to begin to have big consequences in your decision making. As more ways to gain red stars are unlocked, the more opportunities arise to put together a creative path to victory.



Missiles are another interesting decision point. For every prior win, you receive a missile token. Each missile can be used once per session to change any battle die rolled by anyone into a 6. Since each missile token can be used only once, judging the timing of the best use of them is an interesting decision. As the game develops, so will the difficulty of your missile choices. Trust me on that.



I tried to break this game. I really did. What’s the best continent in basic risk? Australia. Would Australia be broken if only one person could ever start in there? Would it be broken if that person got 4 troops for controlling it, not just 2? Would it be broken if the customization of that continent gave that same player a natural single handed advantage for the event cards that were unlocked? Close. As you start to have concerns over player balance, continent balance, faction balance, turn order balance, the game comes to its own rescue with new materials. Every time the game was about to give players pause, a pack was opened and saved the day. Trust me, this game knows what it’s doing. It’s like a toilet with a sensor that automatically flushes. It knows how to take care of the crap you leave.

When you make these permanent, game altering decisions, it isn’t just about tweaking a map feature that could impact anyone in future games in unpredictable ways. You are making strategic decisions to help yourself in later sessions. You can turn Africa into a well defended power house, and it could be something that only you would gain the most benefit from. Some of the most interesting and difficult decisions were the ones I made after winning a game and choosing how I would modify the board. Due to the gravity of the decision, more than once we allowed folks to think about their choice throughout the week to be finalized at the following game night.

The game rewards you for winning. The thrill of victory is no longer the only benefit of conquering your foes. This creates an incentive to win and play well beyond the naturally present desire to win. For starters, you get to sign the game board. Isn’t that cool? Then, you get to modify the game in a way that only the winner can. Then, in all future games, you’ll get one missile for every time you’ve signed the board.

For me, this is a highly potent tension creation function. Part of what creates tension in a board game is the desire to win coupled with the difficulty in obtaining it. As these grow, it produces tension, which results in being emotionally invested in the game. Since the game itself increases the desire to win the game, beyond just the normal competitive desire, it increases tension. Not just in one session, but across the campaign as the world is formed. The victor rewards also motivate players to keep the game balanced, because players are even more incentivized to prevent players from winning, in order to keep their overall advantage across sessions in check.

There’s also a few nice little touches to Legacy that are a little above and beyond and help create this new experience. First, on the game box you have to break the seal:



And its got a frickin handle to carry the game with. Who does that, anyway? (In this context I use frickin as a term of endearment) Then, before you play, you must sign a contractual agreement:



And then, as you try to pimp your game storage and remove the tray (or browse forums), you discover this little mind game:



It can’t be overstated just how brilliant this game is. It gives you the chance to make permanent decisions during play that simultaneously has immediate and long term strategic game play consequences. It gets better every time you play it in a very real way. Every copy of Legacy becomes an original. It becomes something you and your buddies created. It’s true what the box says – you play it, change it, and make it yours.


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mar hawkman
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so what was in your packet-that-shall-not-be-named?
 
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Sam E
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
Originally posted on menwithdice.com

Trust me, this game knows what it’s doing. It’s like a toilet with a sensor that automatically flushes. It knows how to take care of the crap you leave.


Quite possibly the best quote for a game ever.
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Alex P
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marhawkman wrote:
so what was in your packet-that-shall-not-be-named? :)


There are multiple versions of it, apparently, and they all add a sort of ongoing effect for all games following its opening. A "negative" effect, you could say, if you were living on that world.
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So would you be up for a review of games 15+? I'm curious how the game plays / how exciting the game is, after "all" the packets are opened. Of course, the DO NOT OPEN packet can be opened after game 15.
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Rob Daviau
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You play with Dr. Suess? That's pretty awesome in and of itself.
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mar hawkman
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Jesse Custer wrote:
marhawkman wrote:
so what was in your packet-that-shall-not-be-named?
There are multiple versions of it, apparently, and they all add a sort of ongoing effect for all games following its opening. A "negative" effect, you could say, if you were living on that world.
Yeah I know that, I was asking what was inside HIS copy.
 
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Karl von Laudermann
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
It should be noted that this review is spoiler free. There is nothing discussed that couldn’t be discovered just by reading the starting rules or examining the immediately available components and cards.

One of the photos shows the board with some scar stickers that come from a sealed packet.
 
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Nate Bivins

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Yes please edit the picture in question or the text in the review, as I read the review I definitely saw something that I haven't seen before.
 
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Guy Riessen
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So here's the question I have: how's the "rolling whammy" problem normally inherent in games where you improve your "stats?" Meaning there is a typical problem where the winners get more powerful and the losers sink farther behind. If I get this game, we'll have 4 regular players, two of which have played a lot of Risk, one that's played some back 15 years ago, and someone who's never played. Do you think the new player will be able to play and enjoy the game, or will they want to quit after a few games?
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David Siskin
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Chris,

That is one effective review! After reading, now I'm drooling for my friend's copy to arrive. This should help recruit a few players to our game.

Thanks!
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Sprydle wrote:
So here's the question I have: how's the "rolling whammy" problem normally inherent in games where you improve your "stats?" Meaning there is a typical problem where the winners get more powerful and the losers sink farther behind. If I get this game, we'll have 4 regular players, two of which have played a lot of Risk, one that's played some back 15 years ago, and someone who's never played. Do you think the new player will be able to play and enjoy the game, or will they want to quit after a few games?
Well, if you get scared of the big guy then that's a big problem. But if everybody gangs up on him it's not that big a deal.
 
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Chris
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Though here at journey's end I lie in darkness buried deep, beyond all towers strong and high, beyond all mountains steep, above all shadows rides the Sun, and Stars forever dwell: I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell.
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slackerb wrote:
Yes please edit the picture in question or the text in the review, as I read the review I definitely saw something that I haven't seen before.


I took the potential spoiler ramificaitons into account when I considered including the picture. I figured it's known that there are additional scars to unlock and known that those scars are represented by stickers. The image doesn't reveal what pack it comes from, what it does, the interactions that develop from what it does, or the backstory text included in the pack. I don't think anyone's Legacy experience will be impacted negatively by the image.
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Chris
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Sprydle wrote:
will they want to quit after a few games?


Absolutely not! The adhesive on the scars must have some addictive properties that seems to draw players back repeatedly. They'll want ot keep playing simply because it's a great game. As long as you're playing in a group that aren't complete idiots, the game will give you the tools to deal with the powerful players.
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Chris
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marhawkman wrote:
Jesse Custer wrote:
marhawkman wrote:
so what was in your packet-that-shall-not-be-named?
There are multiple versions of it, apparently, and they all add a sort of ongoing effect for all games following its opening. A "negative" effect, you could say, if you were living on that world.
Yeah I know that, I was asking what was inside HIS copy.


The packet-that-shall-not-be-named is currently The packet-that-is-not-yet-opened.
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
marhawkman wrote:
Jesse Custer wrote:
marhawkman wrote:
so what was in your packet-that-shall-not-be-named?
There are multiple versions of it, apparently, and they all add a sort of ongoing effect for all games following its opening. A "negative" effect, you could say, if you were living on that world.
Yeah I know that, I was asking what was inside HIS copy.
The packet-that-shall-not-be-named is currently The packet-that-is-not-yet-opened.
Ah, I see.
 
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Karl von Laudermann
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Darth Headbutt wrote:

I took the potential spoiler ramificaitons into account when I considered including the picture. I figured it's known that there are additional scars to unlock and known that those scars are represented by stickers. The image doesn't reveal what pack it comes from, what it does, the interactions that develop from what it does, or the backstory text included in the pack. I don't think anyone's Legacy experience will be impacted negatively by the image.

Well, the icon on the sticker is very similar to the standard symbol for biohazard, so that's at least a hint.
 
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Chris
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karlvonl wrote:
Darth Headbutt wrote:

I took the potential spoiler ramificaitons into account when I considered including the picture. I figured it's known that there are additional scars to unlock and known that those scars are represented by stickers. The image doesn't reveal what pack it comes from, what it does, the interactions that develop from what it does, or the backstory text included in the pack. I don't think anyone's Legacy experience will be impacted negatively by the image.

Well, the icon on the sticker is very similar to the standard symbol for biohazard, so that's at least a hint.


Much like how a movie poster for The Empire Strikes Back depicting Luke on a taun-taun would be a hint, but not a spoiler.
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Jim §
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I'm looking at playing this with my boys, since they love Risk. Is it significantly better with 4 or 5 players, or would 3 players be good enough for an awesome game experience?

Thanks,

Jim
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Mike Renshaw
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My group is 12 games in with 3 players. It's a lot of fun with 3 players, but I think 4-5 players would be ideal. With 3 players, some of the envelopes take a little too long to open, although we have opened all of them but one (the World HQ) by game 12. (Without getting into spoilers, it's particularly tough to satisfy the conditions for the World HQ with 3 players.)

A couple of the factions are neglected because no one picks them due to their crappy starting power, which we picked randomly. In retrospect, I wish we had picked the better power deliberately. Maybe you could play a couple of practice games before you start permanently marking the board to figure out which starting powers would be best. In short, we have two factions with starting powers that require lucky dice rolls (e.g. all 6s or all the same number) that never get picked, and I wish we would have used the other starting power. (That's not a spoiler, it's something you decide before your first game.)

Also, I think the strategy/diplomacy would be more interesting with 4-5 players on the board because it would be more crowded. I'm not sure if the games go quicker or take longer with 3 players. On one hand, 4-5 players has more HQs to take over, but on the other hand, with 3 players the HQs are probably more weakly defended because you end up spreading out your forces more. Total elimination is rare in our game because there is almost always an unoccupied territory to flee to or respawn in.

Despite those comments, I would still strongly recommend Risk Legacy even if you only have 3 players in your group. Maybe try a little harder to find a 4th or 5th player if you can, but I think it's more important that you play with the same consistent group, so if you can only come up with a core group of 3 players, go with 3. My group of 3 has definitely had a lot of fun with it.

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Chris
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I’ve played Legacy with 3, 4, and 5 players. While I think 5 is best since the lack of wiggle room results in an increase in tension, 3 is definitely good enough to go for it. Playing with 3 means even if you’ve taken over all the HQs, you’re going to have to get your last point elsewhere, which makes it a little interesting.
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Daniel Schulz
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
Originally posted on menwithdice.com

But the customizations and sealed components will reach an end. When it’s all said and done, you will have a game no different than any other in your collection, in that it’s completely playable, yet static. This is often misunderstood, so to be completely clear, Legacy will never reach a point where you can no longer play it. It will never be disposable.


There is a difference. Games that I value have balance, almost always achieved through careful play-testing. Is this game worth playing after 15 plays?
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horrido wrote:

There is a difference. Games that I value have balance, almost always achieved through careful play-testing. Is this game worth playing after 15 plays?


That is my concern as well. It may be nice to look at the board and remember all the good times you had creating it, but will it stand up to repeated plays?
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James Buchanan
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horrido wrote:


There is a difference. Games that I value have balance, almost always achieved through careful play-testing. Is this game worth playing after 15 plays?


I suspect the game will be pretty balanced for many groups. I would predict that most groups would develop a pretty strong habit of taking down the leader and that therefore the initial campaign will end up pretty close. Therefore the players who played will have roughly equivalent advantages no by design, but through the process of play.

New players (who didn't participate in the first 15 games) I suspect will be at an advantage. That's because I have a hard time thinking of a list of advantages that I would trade for a victory point. A VP is worth 4 cards. 4 cards is worth about 10 - 20 troops. The best winning advantages can only net you max 1 troop per turn. And there are diminishing returns (you can only start in One major city, fortifications eventually burn away). I'm going to need more than 3 or 4 wins before I have an advantage over the new players.

The one house rule I would suggest is that after game 15 allow any player to abdicate their identity and act as a new player. That way if they only got one win in the campaign they can just go for the VP.
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Rogue Marechal
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
It can’t be overstated just how brilliant this game is.

I think you can, you just did :-)

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the game so far but it suffers from the same problem as any campaign games. I'm sure if the first couple of games are played by a group of veterans, possibly with a couple of spins to get a 'feel' of Legacy before altering the board / assigning advantages then it probably can realize its full potential.

The biggest problem as I see it is that, as you noted, the game tends to reward an agressive tactic and the truth of the matter is that the game combat system is heavily luck based (it is Risk after all!). I could live with that if it was not for the 'missiles'. It is not particularly difficult to time their use to make them a gameplay advantage way above the extra 1VP towards victory at the start of a game.

And the more missiles you have the more the 'Risk' of being (carefully) belligerent is eliminated. So I am still to see the 'in-built' regulation for the 'rolling-whammy' issue (re-using a term used by another poster earlier). The only viable way I see in retrospect is the ganging-up strategy.

And there lies the problem - unless you have experienced gamers, familiar or perceptive enough to realise this off-the-bat, by the time all the players are conscious on the rather few (and IMO gambling) alternatives, it is rather too late and essentially requires a single strategy for all games after that: ganging up on the leader arguably on a home-run every session.

Add to this that, with all reasonable initial possible placements, it is pretty difficult to really efficiently gang-up on the leader more than 2, if lucky 3 players per game, without in practise denying yourself gaining advantages over the other players and completely opening up to a opportunistic backstab.

It is possible to not have an unreserved 'one for the group' attitude, but goes against the only one option: an altruistic gang up on the leader. If you spare any thoughts for the possible shakiness of the (temporary) alliance on a particular game, you completely undermine the goal, and you'll eat in at the lead in bites that make little difference.

Maybe that's not necessarily a game-breaker, but I would not assume like you do that the game is 'fun' in all circumstances, with any mixture of newcomers and veterans taking part. It simply can not the case and the game benefits from a fairly good grasp of how the game/campaign plays out from the word go.

And this is not to say I think our game, after 5-6 sessions, is uninteresting, but it would be I believe immensely more enjoyable if the first couple of sessions had been less of a 'discovery' of how the game plays out over multiple games (i.e campaign) than it did.

Fair enough, the first game for us, lasting only 1 turn, was an aberration that may have affected how game 2-3 was approached, in a more defensive and self-conscious affair than was required (tacking on straight away with the 'rolling-whammy-to-be', but it is still a problem, and I would suspect that a perfectly levelled campaign is the exception rather than the rule.

So in conclusion, (Craig, if you are reading this, this is no way disputing your lead so far, just an assessment that I'd be surprised you do not agree with), it's a good game, but let's not overstate how brilliant it is.

It is innovative for sure, and I'm glad to have had a chance to play it but I have to temper your enthusiasm, or at least make sure other people reading don't take your review at face value, especially the statement that it is so awesome that it cannot be broken or all players around the table surely must be wanting to come back to it as soon as a game end.

... then again, it seems your stance is that if the campaign does not develop as perfectly as it did for you, the group is made up mostly of complete idiots. I'll be sure to pass on the message to my fellow gamers ;-)


EDIT: a gazillion edits because I can't stand to be unclear or leave typos behind!
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