A few weeks ago, I was listening to yet another podcast that mentioned Risk Legacy, and I had a though: why hasn’t anybody tried adding legacy elements to a more traditional Euro game?
What do I mean by “legacy” elements? Elements that change permanently from game to game. This is a standby of most role playing games, where your character grows and changes equipment game to game. The idea was used recently by Risk: Legacy, in which some aspects of the game aren’t even revealed until you play several games, and taking certain actions requires you to physically alter or remove components in permanent ways. One of the big advantages legacy elements bring to a game is replayability, since you know that the games will change and be different on future plays. But there is another level on which it is interesting to players; you give players a chance to effectively “unbox” a new game each time you add in something new. This adds anticipation and excitement to each play, and adds a concrete real-world goal to doing well and accomplishing something in the game.
How could this be applied to euro games? It could be something like a village that actually grows from game to game. If you build a mill in one game, it becomes a permanent part of the fixed setup, available in every game thereafter. Or from the other angle, a fire might break out and burn it down, completely removing it from the game until it can be rebuilt. Euro games seem to lend themselves to sweeping growth and development themes, but typically do so within the coarse of a single game. Either projects are small enough to be accomplished within a few turns, or players compete to contribute to some central project as the main goal of the game. (Some of the minor improvement costs in Agricola make much sense on a single scale.) So the cost would have to be significant so that you couldn’t just build something from scratch at any time. But it could not be just an abstract thing that players are building to earn points. It must have a definite effect on gameplay.
The challenge is finding something that would translate to multiple plays with different players. The change could be something that changes a cost or resource permanently. Neglecting a neighboring town in one game could alter the entire economy. Certain characters live, learn, grow older, and die, changing the actions and abilities available in the game. Village has some elements of that, but yet again, you start from scratch in every game. The solo variant of Agricola captures this somewhat by letting you carry occupations over from game to game, but doesn’t attempt in a multi-player setting.
And of course, as I write this, I read an interview with Jamey Stegmaier on Happy Mitten Games, in which he describes the Tuscany expansion to Viticulture, currently doing very well on Kickstarter and it includes legacy elements, inspired by Risk Legacy. The winner gets to choose an expansion to add in to the game permanently. My own feelings were immediately “I don’t want to wait to try them all.” Perhaps that shows one reason legacy elements aren’t used in euro games as often, because players want everything to be available right away.
I’d like to try to add some legacy elements into some games I’m working on now. It seems like there is a lot of unexplored design space with legacy elements, which is both good and bad. It opens up new paths, but there is not as large of a knowledge base to draw on. It seems like working with legacy elements will be a lot like playing with them. It is exciting to venture into the unknown, to forge something unique.
achieve it myself, and I can see a way to add it into a game I’m working on, but for now it’s just another idea.