Plenty of games will claim that your decisions matter when it comes to plot and progress, but no genre in the tabletop space keeps this promise quite as well as legacy board games. Here your journey through a campaign is marked by pen scrawls, stickers, or even destroyed cards. Legacy games offer a one-off experience, but it’s an experience that’s always unique.
Below you’ll find some of the best legacy board games, as of the good year 2023. It’s a board game type that’s well worth getting acquainted with, as some of the best board games ever made fit under the legacy umbrella. Some existing strategy board games, co-op board games, imposter games, and dungeon crawlers even have legacy versions to check out.
These are the best legacy board games:
- Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
- My City
- Pandemic Legacy
- Betrayal Legacy
Gloomhaven is perhaps the best-known legacy board game that hasn’t squeezed the word ‘legacy’ into its title. That’s because it’s far more than just a campaign game with extra stickers and envelopes. Mechanically, Gloomhaven is a dungeon-crawler that uses eurogame elements in combat. It also adds elements of roleplaying games like D&D, presenting a rich world with recurring characters, plotlines, and other details.
The most obvious legacy elements are as we said above: stickers and envelopes. You start the game with limited Gloomhaven classes, no reputation, and very few quests to pursue as a party. These can all be unlocked, with stickers added to the board to show locations found and medals earned, as well as entirely new characters to unbox once your current one is ready to retire.
For more on how this legacy game plays, check out our full Gloomhaven review.
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
Perhaps it’s cheeky to have two Gloomhaven games up top, but we think Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is worth recommending as a separate game. It captures many of the core mechanics (and legacy elements) of the original Gloomhaven, but it’s lighter in all respects.
By lighter, we mean there are fewer rules to learn upfront. There are also fewer player options and scenarios, but this means you also don’t end up with a box that weighs the same as a small child. For beginners in the legacy genre, this is the more approachable (and cost-effective) version of Gloomhaven.
My City is one of the best legacy board games to pick up if you’re looking for family board games. The rules are fairly simple, each session in a campaign is kept short, and it’s totally ten-year-old-friendly.
In My City, each player has a personal board and a collection of buildings in various shapes and three different colours. These buildings look an awful lot like Tetris blocks, and this should give you a hint at what you’ll be doing with them. As cards are drawn from a deck, you’ll be told which buildings to place on your board. The challenge is fitting as many buildings onto the board as possible to protect your score – as every building you can’t place takes some points away.
The legacy element in this game comes from various sealed envelopes. These include stickers for your board, new mechanics, new buildings, and plenty of new challenges.
Pandemic is already renowned as a board gaming icon, and Pandemic Legacy carries the torch on in the single-use gaming space. Technically, we’re talking about three games when we mention Pandemic Legacy: Pandemic Legacy: Season One, Pandemic Legacy: Season Two, and Pandemic Legacy: Season Zero. These take place in different time periods and introduce different features and stories to the series – if you’re looking to get started, Season One is generally considered the jumping-off point.
At their core, the Pandemic Legacy games aren’t too different from a regular Pandemic game. Players work together to travel the world and fight pandemics, spending actions and cards to contain outbreaks and research cures. You’ll be completing the objectives of your campaign over several in-game months, and both cards and characters can be gained or lost along the way.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a haunted house game that turns friends into traitors and offers a different haunting experience each time you play. But what if each of the superstitious happenings were connected? That’s where Betrayal Legacy comes in.
Players are still exploring a procedurally-generated haunted house (and eventually turning on each other as The Haunt is triggered), and the game is still heavy on narrative over strategy. However, there’s now an overarching story, one that takes place over decades and involves multiple descendants from the same families.
There are also some rule tweaks that improve on Betrayal at House on the Hill’s second edition (if you played Betrayal at House on the Hill’s third edition, some will already be familiar). This, combined with powerful family heirlooms and intriguing mysteries to explore, make for a haunted house experience even Scooby Doo would enjoy.