When we first got Gloomhaven, and there were little boxes to check off as the prosperity of the city of Gloomhaven was increased, I took a deep breath, found a pencil—yes, a pencil, because you can erase pencils!—and coloured in the squares… but it wasn’t legible enough. I got a black ink pen and—deep breath—made tiny little checkmarks that would still leave the boxes visible. Then we had an encounter or two and one of them ended with a symbol I looked up in the instruction book and it meant…
Destroy the card. Even the symbol was a card ripped in half.
Feeling like a complete fool, I instead went into the office, picked up an envelope, wrote “Destroyed cards” on it, and put the card in the envelope and hid it in the bottom of the box. What did I think was going to happen? The game police weren’t going to show up and arrest me for not properly disposing of one of the cards. Still. I couldn’t do it.
There was no coming back from stickers. It was one thing to put the location stickers on the map of scenarios as they unfolded—that was just making a map more, uh, map-like. But there were stickers that covered other stickers, and then—shaky breath of sheer anxiety—there were stickers that permanently changed how the game played. You adjusted your character, and it wasn’t just your character that changed, it was any future version of that character and who would do this to me?
Welcome to “Legacy” games, ‘Nathan
I have a complicated relationship with Legacy games. Or, well, I would have, if I’d played more than a couple of them. Look, the thing is, when I’ve bought a game and then I play that game and then the game says, “now destroy this card” I freeze. Destroy the card? Like… that’s not a euphemism for discarding or something?
You literally want me to tear up this card?
Is there a camera somewhere recording me right now?
Place a sticker on the board or game piece and change it forever going forward? But… But how do I start over with this game if I do that?
What do you mean I can’t? This is a one-way trip? Look, I don’t think you realize how many times I can binge-watch the same series (or even just one episode) of a show here. This is a fundamental part of my makeup. I make characters I’ll never get to play, for TTRPGs I might never get to have a session in, for fun. What you’re asking me to do, Legacy-game creators, is physically painful.
But I’m learning. Or, I’m trying to. Gloomhaven was my first real exposure to Legacy games, and here’s the thing: we got literal years of enjoyment out of that game on a single play-through. Can it be reset back to its original state? Not really. Or, I suppose it could if you mapped out a “new map” on a piece of paper, same with the campaign stickers, and with careful notes about how the cards should originally appear vs how they’ve been modified since—not to mention emptying that massive, massive envelope full of “destroyed” cards—but the truth is, since then, we’ve played the prequel and the expansion, and as of last night we started Frosthaven, the latest sequel that is its own entirely new game and…
I think I’ve made peace with knowing we’re going to permanently change this game as we play. Even the rulebook has big spots where stickers will eventually go to change how the game plays. It’s inevitable.
(But I totally bought the removable stickers.)
It’s not just Frosthaven, though
Thanks to our best gaming friends—the two others we play Frosthaven with—we’ve inherited their copy of My City, which is another legacy style game that starts out as a pretty basic Tetris-ish game of placing buildings of a city along a river, and then scoring based on how many rocks you covered, how many trees you didn’t cover, and how many empty bits you didn’t leave left over. After every game, you move forward a “chapter” and there are—wait for it—permanent changes you make to your game boards. They passed their game on to us because it can be played with two, three, or four players, and since they were a couple and we’re a couple, it’ll work twice from the starting state, since there are two unmodified boards left over.
And lots of stickers.
We’ve only played two rounds of it, and so far the game itself is trying to balance out my inability to be a math and spatial genius like my husband by adding stickers to my board that offer me more options to gain points and stickers to his board that offer him more options to lose points, but so far that’s really not helping, because did I mention spatial genius?
Like, my husband graduated university with a perfect GPA. Literally perfect.
And you wonder why I like co-operative games.
How is Frosthaven, though?
We’ve only played the Scenario 0 so far, which is a simplified version where your characters don’t even get to bring all their cards, and all you do is fight off some starvation-crazed wild beasts, but… ohmigosh I loved it. There’s just something about the mechanics of the -haven games that really works for us as a player group. My husband gets to do all his permutation/math/spatial stuff, and I get to create backstory that doesn’t matter even a jot, but explains my card choices and my votes on the encounter cards where the group has to react to some narrative change. Our gaming friends also approach it in different ways, with K often looking for really cool one-two combos (which the rest of us have a distressing tendency to accidentally upset with our own choices), and J being more like my husband, who likes to optimize every move with crunchy choices.
I’m playing a Quatryl Blinkblade—he has tech that messes with time to be super fast sometimes, and slow it down other times. It’s kind of a tradition that started accidentally. I played the Quatryl Tinkerer in Gloomhaven as my first character, and the Quatryl Demolitionist in Jaws of the Lion, and I just like the little tinkerer blokes with their technology and never-say-die attitudes. The Blinkblade is complicated, and I’m glad we did the Scenario 0 to give me a few “aha!” moments with how the cards work, but honestly, I’m already having a lot of fun.
Right off the bat, I can say the changes to the way looting works is really, really enjoyable. I ended up with some coins, some hide, and some metal, and I know there’s a crafting mechanic on the way and wow is that truly, truly something I’m going to enjoy. Because I’m a nerd. Also, my adventuring goal card is to collect various types of plants, so I’m basically a time-bending tech-wielding wee bloke assassin-slash-botanist, and how can that not be amazing?
And we’ve already put three stickers on the board.
(I’m so glad I bought the removable stickers.)