Reviews / The Archmage's Ruminations

How to Make Your Friends Scream like Angry Monkeys, then Name a Continent after Yourself


or “Legacy Tabletop Games and Why You Should Play Them”

A couple days ago, a handful of my friends and I played a glorious, hilarious, ridiculous game by the name of “We Didn’t Playtest This: Legacies.” This is a variation on a similarly riotous game called “We Didn’t Playtest This at All” (though most just call it “Playtest”). Playtest is a simple game. Your turn goes like this: draw a card, then play a card. You start with two cards in your hand. Your only objective is to win, and you want all other players to lose.

If you are wondering why in the Milky Way I referred to this game as glorious/hilarious/ridiculous, this is why:

These are a few of the cards you may encounter while playing a game of Playtest. If they seem totally nuts, it’s because they are. In WDPT: Legacies, the cards boast the same level of absurdity with a few changes. You write your name on a card you use to win; you then own that card and it cannot make you lose. Sometimes you have to draw on cards, or write on cards to make someone else lose. There’s a card on which you write a body part and play it in front of someone else. The person can’t move the body part, or they lose (that was how we played an entire game where my friend Bryan wasn’t allowed to move his tongue). Legacies cards look like this:

You write on these cards with permanent marker. That is what makes this a legacy game; every time you play with your deck, the effects of your last game remain. This has awesome results. For example, one of my friends is Haunted forever. No, really–someone played the Haunted card on him, and now every time he plays with his deck (forever) he has to play the card on the table in front of him (forever). There is a card on which you write the name of an animal and play it. Before each turn, you have to make the sound of one of the animals written on the card or you lose. Someone played this card a few days ago and wrote “Angry Macaque.” This is a macaque:

Imagine a table of your friends screaming like one of these over a card game. source: http://db.csail.mit.edu/macaque/index.html

So of course, for the rest of the round, we all screamed like angry monkeys. Boxes of Playtest cards come with a base deck of cards, and a few special packs to open when certain conditions are met. One pack of Legacies cards, for example, may not be opened until a cat sits in or on the Playtest box. With a pretty reasonable $15 price tag, this game is worth picking up to wreak a little havoc.

A more well-known legacy game is a pretty recent version of the time-honored classic, Risk. Risk is a board game in which you place armies on a board that resembles a world map. You then try to conquer the world using your armies. I’m glossing over a lot of the finer details, but that’s the gist of it. Risk Legacy is a game in which you do something similar, but you play the game as a campaign with a group of your friends.

From game to game, the rules, the cards, and the board change depending on how you played the last game. The winner of each of the first 15 games writes her or his name on the board (see above) and gets to do awesome things like found cities or name a continent. During the course of a Risk Legacy campaign, new packs of cards will be opened (except for the pack labeled “DO NOT OPEN. EVER.”) and some cards will be destroyed. Really, destroyed. You are encouraged to throw them in the rubbish bin, rip them up, burn them, whatever. Just remove them from the game forever. Thanks to the malleable nature of the legacy board game, this keeps you from falling into the trap of replaying the same game over and over again. The only tough part is finding 3-5 friends willing to split the $60 price tag and play 15 games of Risk with you (even in the newer versions, the games last as long as 90 minutes).

I’m hoping game creators take inspiration from these games and work the legacy mechanic into a couple of others. Legacy games are fresh and tie people together in a more tangible way than some games might otherwise do. If anything, I know you’ve always wanted to force your friends to talk with hand puppets and then claim the glorious nation of Pizzaland for your honor.

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