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What are the "legacy style games"? I've seen them referred to as being a thing, but an actual definition turnd out to be consistently difficult to google due to generic terms involved.

I know a game called "Pandemic legacy" started the trend and "Risk legacy" is one of the followups, but I've never played either of those games (nor their base versions) and while I've read their descriptions, I can't tell which particular aspects of them were introduced to make them "legacy".

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    The legacy bit is the permanently altering the game during the course of play. Each play session leaves its legacy. Oct 6, 2021 at 20:23
  • @L.ScottJohnson More accurately it is playing the same game multiple times with each session impacting the next and generally played with the same group of players.
    – Joe W
    Oct 6, 2021 at 20:34
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    According to BGG listing Risk Legacy was from 2011 and Pandemic Legacy was 2015 afterward. I don't know if Risk was the first 'legacy' game but it's the first I recall using the title. Oct 7, 2021 at 8:45
  • "same group of players" is just common practice. It's perhaps better described as an emergent trait of many legacy games. It isn't a required trait or a trait that makes a game a legacy game, however. Oct 7, 2021 at 11:35
  • @StartPlayer looking at the games BGG labels with the legacy mechanic, it's the oldest.
    – Andrew
    Oct 8, 2021 at 18:07

2 Answers 2

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The short version is that a legacy game is a game that is played as a campaign, where you finish the game multiple times over the life of the campaign. Legacy games are generally played with the same group of players and permanent changes will happen based on the result of each session. As you play this means the game will get a different feeling and at the end it can be drastically different than the start. You could end up altering or destroying various pieces and parts of the game.

As a note there are people who have set up instructions to make a copy of a legacy game replayable from the start.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legacy_game

Legacy games are designed to be played over the course of a 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]

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From BGG:

Legacy Game - A multi-session game in which permanent and irreversible changes to the game state carry over to future plays.

See BGG:Legacy for a list of 78 (and growing) of games with legacy mechanism.

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  • I can see where it came from, but without recently acquired knowledge it's not a very clear description. Any sufficiently complex game might be played in multiple sessions, so that's not really a signifying feature.
    – VienLa
    Oct 7, 2021 at 16:01
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    @VienLa, but if you say that, it sounds like you missed the "permanent and irreversible changes" part. Of course it could say that those permanent and irreversible changes also (often) apply to the the game components too...
    – ilkkachu
    Oct 7, 2021 at 18:54

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