Legacy board games are one of the most fun I have ever had with board games. It combines my favorite elements of board games and campaign-style games. Basically, a legacy board game is a game where the rules continually change each game – often coupled with some kind of narrative. Often the legacy games will also have a sort of ending and after that, it makes little sense to play them anymore. Most of the time legacy board games will be cooperative board games.
As an example, Pandemic Legacy Season 1 starts out as a very normal game of Pandemic. After the first game, new rules and stuff unlock that you do not know about before you open the various legacy boxes inside the game. Some actions carry over from each game played.
The best legacy board games are just super exciting to play and provide a much different experience than traditional board games do.
This is our list of the best Legacy Board Games you should play.
We just have to start out with what I think is one of the best legacy board games and my all-time favorite board game. Yes, the hype for Gloomhaven is really and it is that good.
In Gloomhaven you play as a classic dungeon-delving adventure party. You go down in the dungeon, kick some monster butt and return to town to heal, level up and buy new equipment.
Each of the players controls a hero (represented by a miniature), with specific stats, equipment, and the whole work. The game really shines via the card mechanic that simultaneously acts as your abilities and your resources. This means you can blow up monsters left and right, but if you pace yourself too fast you might die before you complete the scenario. How you play your cards and coordinate with the rest of the group is the fun part of the game, so you should enjoy that sort of thing.
There is an overarching narrative to Gloomhaven. It is pretty stock standard, so in no way is it the story that carries the game. You play for the very satisfying crunch of how the card mechanic works, getting new loot and xp.
You will mainly unlock new heroes you can play. This might sound weird, but the goal of each hero is actually to retire from the legacy campaign. Once you retire a hero you will mostly unlock a new type of hero you can play and you start over with a new type of hero together with the existing party.
Some might say Gloomhaven is not a legacy board game, but more of a campaign or Dungeons Crawling game. That might be correct, but for me it still has all the elements I want from legacy style games (unlockable secret boxes, weird secret envelopes, progression, changing rules and story).
If you have the patience for one of the biggest board games out there, do give Gloomhaven a go. If you are a bit on the fence, you can also give Gloomhaven a go on PC (which is also a great way of trying out the game solo)
If you want to know more about why I just cannot stop playing Gloomhaven (and think it is one of the best legacy board games ever), read my full review of Gloomhaven here.
Jaws of the Lion
Some might call Jaws of the Lion “Gloomhaven lite”. While that might be true, it is in some ways a better game for it
Narratively speaking, it is a prequel to the original Gloomhaven game, making it an ideal place to start. The game simplifies Gloomhaven by getting rid of the game board via tiles and playing directly on a map in the campaign book. This makes for a much simpler experience and quicker experience (as well as being cheaper game).
Another neat thing is that the character from Jaws of the Lion can be used in Gloomhaven (and Gloomhaven characters can be used in Jaws of the Lion).
Some of the things you will miss out on are no personal quests, reputation, and prosperity as well as no enhancement feature. This is still a legacy game though, as it has the stickers, unlockable miniatures, and game-changing campaign decisions.
So do you fancy Gloomhaven, but maybe feel like it is a bit intimidating? Give Jaws of Lion a go.
I truly love this game and if you want to know why you should read my Jaws of the Lion review here. Yeah, I actually think this ranks in the top 5 of the best legacy board games list.
Pandemic Legacy Season 1
While it was not the first legacy board game, Pandemic Legacy has certainly been one of my favorites and the one that started everything for me. Simply put: if you like Pandemic and would like to try a legacy board game, this is definitely a good pick.
In Pandemic Legacy you are trying to stop the world from collapsing to various diseases spreading all over the place. It is a cooperative board game where each player controls a token with a specific ability. Cards are drawn at random to see where disease spreads and it is a frantic experience to try and keep control of everything.
Pandemic Legacy Season 1 starts out as a very normal Pandemic game, so if you have played that you will feel right at home. But already from game 2 and forward you can feel you are playing something very different. You unlock new types of abilities, helpful cards, and less helpful cards. Going through the 12 months / phases of the game felt good and something was always new and exciting. We always wanted to play the next game right away!
We felt that Pandemic Legacy Season 1 was quite easy and I only think we lost 1 or 2 games. But even though things always went our way in the end, the games were always tense because any mistakes would mean consequences for future games. This is because any outbreaks (disease spreading too much in one area) would carry over to future games with some negative quirks on it.
(And just to avoid any confusion: the colour of the game does not change what is inside. Just get the Season 1 version).
Pandemic Legacy holds a special place in my heart because it was such a great legacy game experience and a very memorable legacy campaign.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Following onwards from the storyline of Pandemic Legacy Season 1, season 2 is more of a gritty game. While you tried to save the world in season 1, well in season 2 (which takes place several years later), things are looking even more grim.
I and my group really liked this setting and that the game was significantly harder than the first season (although we have still not completed it). It was also in many ways more different from the original Pandemic, with recognizable but different mechanics, which in our case was a very good thing.
You do not have to play Pandemic Legacy season 1 to enjoy it (as the storyline from season 1 is very easy to understand). In fact, if you are looking for a Pandemic like experience but harder, this is the one for you. If you hate Pandemic, this is not what you are looking for.
Still, what ever you might think of Pandemic this is among the best legacy board games out there.
Pandemic Legacy Season 0
Pandemic Legacy Season 0 takes place several years before season 1, smack dack in the middle of the cold war. It is a good place to start if you want to experience all of the Pandemic Legacy seasons, but it is in no way a must.
Season 0 looks closer mechanics wise to Season 1 than season 2, so you will be right at home if you have played any Pandemic games before.
If you are ready for some coop board game block management, this could be the pandemic legacy board game for you and your group.
The Rise of Queensdale
Rise of Quensdale is a city-building legacy board game, based on a worker placement dice rolling mechanics (euro style). You roll dice and that determines where you can place your workers. There are elements and upgrades that bring the luck factor down, so you can form some sort of cohesive strategy. You can play against the other players to earn victory points each game. Buildings you build and upgrades to your dice can carry over from game to game.
It is quite a simple game, without a lot of story or anything going on. There are nine different phases (epochs) that you have to go through and it will take about 25 games before you are done (all at about an hour or so play time). Each one will bring in new mechanical elements. Rise of Queensdale sets itself apart from other legacy board games because it is competitive rather than cooperative – and for that alone it might be worth your time.
That said, you should love the mechanic of rollings dice and setting workers, as that is what you will be doing from the start to the end. The narrative is not what holds this game up. Each game will be slightly different, but it seems like upgrading your dice seems pretty fun as a legacy mechanic. This game is certainly on my “to-try” list, but I cannot really see myself and my group playing +20 games of this (we just love cooperative board games too much). But, this might be perfect for you and your gaming group.
Betrayal Legacy is a cooperative exploration game. You and your friends all get a character and go exploring in this weird haunted house. Slowly you explore the house, find creepy stuff and get a bit stronger (or a bit weaker). At some point the “haunt” of the house is release, and this is where the game (mostly) turns into a 1 vs the rest of the group game. One of the players gets a special win condition and the rest of the players another win condition.
I have a complicated relationship with the original Betrayal. On one hand, I really love the theme, atmosphere and idea of the game. On the other hand, it could be a clunky weird mess. Betrayal Legacy seems to fix some of my issues with the original setup, but then not completely.
There are 14 different time periods you will play in, and the narrative runs across the timeline. You pick a family line to be from and depending on how the games go, you can actually play a few games as that family (just aging from game to game). It is a cool setup and one that seems to work rather well.
One of the things that was a bit weird with the original game was how meaningless it was to find items or upgrades. With a legacy game it is much for fun to go explore, because if you find something really cool you can actually get to keep it!
While this is a good change, the randomness of the original game is still here. Playing a game of Betryal still feels like exploring random tiles, rolling random dice and getting random rewards or random negative effects. And in the end it might be ever before it all started because of how players (randomly) end up position wise with regards to the end goal.
So you have to really love the theme and context here, otherwise Betrayal Legacy might get boring quick. Also, that “Haunt” part where one player goes against the rest of the group is not everyone’s cup of tea. I hope they make a Legacy version of the upcoming Betrayal 3rd edition (as it looks to solve quite a lot of issues).
The King’s Dilemma
I have yet to get my hands on The King’s Dilemma, but the rave reviews and style of the game has put it at the top of my next “Legacy to play list”.
The game is played across roughly 15 games averaging about 45 min of play. Each game is set in a kings reign and each player is a Noble House trying to sway the decisions of the king. Each player wants the king to decide something that is good for their house (as they will play that house for the entirety of the legacy game) and something that will help them achieve their secret goal for that game.
You do this by voting on various dilemmas (and trying to sway other players with bribes). The moderator decides on a tie – and the moderator is chosen via a bidding round. If you elect to pass on a given dilemma you get to keep the coin from the previous bidding round. The other players are simultaneously your allies and your opponent, shifting from each dilemma to the next.
Each decision can have various impacts on the game and story down the line and the game has different endings depending on what has happened.
The King’s Dilemma is very much a social game. Before you pick it up, think about how your group interacts with these sorts of games. I know just the people I want to play this with and I cannot wait to try it out! From all the reviews I have read, this is bound to end up among the best legacy board games out there for me.
My City is a polyomino (tile laying) Legacy board game. You lay tiles in a specific way and each game last about 30 min. Each game is a chapter and there is 24 chapters.
Each turn a card is flipped with a symbol of a piece (building). Each player has to lay that piece on their board. Each game has a different objective, so the optimal way to put down your buildings change each game. At the end of each chapter victory points are tallied. At the end of chapter 24 the one with most victory points wins.
The legacy element comes via stickers each players puts on their board, changing the layout of how they can place tiles. Each chapter also introduces and removes various rules.
The game has gotten very good reviews, so at some point I want to pick it up. That said, tile placement games are not super high on my list of favorite types of board games, so I might not get to play it for a while. If you like tile placement and polyomino games, this is likely one of the legacy games for you.
Aeon’s End Legacy
Aeon’s End Legacy is a cooperative deck building game. Each player picks a character and gets a personal deck of 10 cards and gain additional cards along the way. Cards are spells, attacks, and minions, which you use to bring down monsters. As with other deck builders, once you have used your cards you reshuffle the deck (making it important to add good cards and remove bad cards). You get add stickers to your character, keep certain cards and so on
The beauty of Aeon’s End Legacy is in using the combined powers of the characters at the table to help set up cool combos. You really have to talk through each turn with all of the players at the table to maximise your party and win the game.
Aeons’s End is another Legacy based on an original board game, and it is one that is extremely popular. I hope to give this a go someday, as deck builders are on of my favorite type of board games.
Shadowrun: Crossfire is a cooperative deck building game set in the Shadowrun universe. Each players picks a race and class and gets to keep their deck from game to game. You continue to develop your deck and character throughout the campaign and looks to be a really fun deck building experience.
The reviews for Shadowrun: Crossfire is quite good, and if you like the theme of Shadowrun cyberpunk sci fi, this could be a good legacy game to pick up.
It also seems to be a very hard game, so if that is not your cup of tea, you might have to try something else.
Dragonfire is a cooperative deck building legacy style game set in the Forgotten Realms setting (Dungeons and Dragons). It is very similar in mechanics to Shadowrun: Crossfire, so if that seemed good to you this might also be something to look for.
This is set in a fantasy setting that I just love way too much, so this is likely the game I would try and get my hands on.
Charterstone is a worker placement legacy board game. You build up a shared village over the course of 12 games. Each game you get new buildings, new goals and different rules are added.
The goal of the game, which is the case for many worker placement games, is to earn the most victory points.
You play with 1-6 players, games last from 45-75 min and is a very simple straightforward experience.
The art style is very cute and has that modern style to it. While it looks cute, it might not be for kids as the many choices you have will quickly become too much to handle.
Charterstone is one of the games you can actually play digitally, wich might be a great way to try it (and play it solo with AI if you cannot get a group together).
Clank! Legacy is a deck builder with miniatures and a game board. It is set in the Acquisitions Incorporated Universe. You play a group fo 2-4, each game takes about 2 hours and you get about 10-12 games from the campaign.
You are a group looking for treasure to build your branch of Acquisitions Incorporated. You move your mini around the map, buy cards, fight monsters and collect treasure. It is not really cooperative, but if you do not work a bit together the whole game sort of collapses. It has this weird thing where it is a competitive game, but one where you need to play cooperatively in a way. I would recommend watching some play videos of the game before you get it, as it will not be for all groups.
Frosthaven (Gloomhaven 2)
I put this last because it is, right now, not out yet (should retail release at some point in 2022). So while you cannot play the next version of Gloomhaven right now, at some point you can. Be prepared for another massive box, game board via tiles, tokens and all the other game components.
The big question is should you wait for this edition or play the old Gloomhaven?
While Frosthaven will be different, and a few things patched out, it will be based on the same mechanics. New story and a different place in the Gloomhaven universe. So it is just a matter of taste really. If you want to play right now, go for Gloomhaven. If you can wait, it certainly looks like it will be worth the wait.
No matter what, it will likely be among peoples lists of best legacy board games once it is out.
The Queen’s Dilemma
The Queen’s Dilemma, the successor to The King’s Dilemma, is not out yet and will not be so in 2022. Go play King’s Dilemma in the meantime, but keep your eye on this if you liked the first game!
Other Legacy Games that might be worth a look
While most legacy games are top, not all are worthy of being “best legacy board games”. This is our list of honorable mentions and Legacy Board games you should at least know about.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage
If you like vampires, Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage looks the be a super cool legacy board game.
Android: Netrunner – Terminal Directive
Android: Netrunner – Terminal Directive is a unique legacy game because it is only for 2 players. It requires the base game to play.
Centauri Saga: Abandoned
This is an expansion for Cenaury Saga 4x board game. It requires that you have the original game.
Risk Legacy started the whole thing with legacy version and legacy style board games.
Sadly, the Risk legacy version of Risk does not do a lot to save Risk from being just a poor game. It is the same old dice mechanic, just with changes to the victory condition of the games and some other bits and bobs. Risk Legacy uses the same (horrible) dice and game mechanics as the original.
Sure, Legacy Risk is better than normal Risk, but then again a lot of things are. If you have played all legacy games, then Risk Legacy might be the one for you.
Zombie Kidz Evolution
Zombie Kidz Evolution is a very light legacy board game for 2-4 players. Each game takes about 5-15 min and you could play it from maybe 6 years up. It is very much aimed at being a legacy game for kids.
This is a cooperative adventure, where you together have to lock the 4 school gates before you are overrun by zombies. If you want to play legacy games with smaller kids, this seems like the perfect way to do it.
If you are looking for other family friendly games (that are not necessarily legacy games, check out this article from Porch.com with a list of good classic board games)
Zombie Teenz Evolution
Zombie Teenz Evolution is the same as Zombei Kidz Evolution, just slightly more complex and with a different story and so on. A perfect sequel if you have played and completed the original.
Legacy games for kids? What is not to love.
Ultimate Werewolf Legacy
Ultimate Werewolf Legacy is based on the original smash hit Ultimate Werewolf. If you liked that game, this could very much be a game for you.
Werewolf is a social deduction game, where you have to figure out who is on your team and who is not.
The thing is, you need a minimum of 8 players to play this. For me at least, getting 8 players together regularly for a campaign-style game is not going to happen. And even if you can, the reviews for Ultimate Werewolf Legacy are not that great.
I did not particularly enjoy Ultimate Werewolf, but I think that very much had something to do with the group I played with. I might give Ultimate Werewolf Legacy a shot at some point, but there are just other top legacy board games I have to play first.
Machi Koro legacy
Machi Koro Legacy is another normal board game turned legacy style for 2-4 players. Each game takes about 45 min.
Each player takes the role as a mayor, competing to build the most attractive town. Each game the winner gets to be the Best Mayor (and who does not want to be that?!).
Each turn the active players rolls dice and each player collects resources from the buildings that have this number (think Settlers).
The legacy is brought in via an increasing ruleset and a light narrative. The game is very simple to figure out, but that also means that the winning strategy is very easy to figure out. There are no great catchup mechanics and overall it is a very light legacy game (not really what I am looking for).
First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet
This game is like Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, but in space with legacy elements. It is a cooperative worker placement game set on Mars. Together with your mates you try and complete the various scenarios by optimizing your placements and the extra tools you have available for the given game.
There are a lot of random events that happen while you play, and this is controlled by an app. I really like board games that integrate apps, because it takes some of the bookkeeping of the games and makes them more accessible for beginners and faster to pick up and play for veteran gamers.
Sadly, the integration of the app is not the most seamless experience ever and this game is not reviewed well. The story seems to be off, the rules janky and just overall it does not sound like the best Legacy board experience. But still, you might want to give it a go as some people love it.
Seafall is an exploration “4x” style legacy board game. It was super hyped up until release and has gotten mixed reviews. Some just love it like nothing else, others hate it and think it is among the worst legacy games to come out.
You group of 3-5 players play games lasting 2-3 hours. It is designed to be played about 12-20 times. Each players starts as a noble house and 2 ships. You get to explore the mostly empty board via trading in the beginning.
The rules should be a but clunky. The length of the games can be massive (each turn can take quite long) or they can end super quickly, wich can be a bit frustrating at times.
This is a legacy game with a big L. I really want to try it out, but damn the time commitment is big (at least if the game is not amazing).
Critical Role Adventures
Not much is known about this upcoming legacy game, but it is bound to be hyped up. I am certainly keeping my eye on it!