WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Unplugged Entertainment

By on October 18, 2016

Legacy board games are changing the way we backstab each other.

In Seafall, unexplored islands contain blank spaces where players can write the names of their new discoveries.  (Photo: Andrew Munz)

In Seafall, unexplored islands contain blank spaces where players can write the names of their new discoveries.  (Photo: Andrew Munz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The silver province was one with a dismal past and an uncertain future. Seeing the connection to the Starks of “Game of Thrones,” I named the province Úlfur—the Icelandic word for wolf. After an unanticipated turn of events, Zhango, the former leader of Úlfur, was killed and a new leader had to take his place. Aomame, his wife, rose above the ranks and became the new leader of the province and countess of the empire. Seeking revenge for—

“Dude, that’s kind of racist,” my friend Zach said, looking at the artwork of the Asian girl on my leader card.

“What? Aomame. It’s Japanese,” I replied.

“Still…”

“My province is Icelandic-Japanese. They’re like Viking samurais. It works.”

Zach, Chris and I sat around the table looking over the expansive spread of the new board game, Seafall. Each one of us controlled a province and two ships, and the goal of the game was to expand our provinces into the open sea, discover islands and resources, and ultimately earn enough glory to be crowned emperor.

But unlike a regular board game, the players don’t start with a clean slate every time the game is unboxed. Instead, Seafall is what is known as a legacy game, which is a customizable board game that evolves each time you play it. 

Imagine ending a game of Monopoly after getting totally pummeled by your friend. You’re down to only $215, you’ve had to mortgage three properties, and for some reason you keep landing on your friend’s Park Place with a hotel. Normally you’d pack up the game and be done with it. The next time you play, everyone’s odds of winning are equal. But in a legacy game, you would start the next game with your $215 and three mortgages right off the bat. And perhaps a card is revealed that says a hurricane has destroyed all hotels on the red, yellow and blue spaces. You continue the game with these new constructs and there’s no knowing what will happen by game three or even game 12.

Because the thing about a legacy game is that there are pieces and cards hidden from the players that don’t come into play unless they’re called upon. So with a game like Seafall, the campaign of the full game lasts 15 individual games, and the glory you earn in one game is carried over to the next time you play. Sealed boxes inside the game possess new pieces, new cards, and even new rules; players must keep them sealed until the game tells you to open them. And the decisions you made in game two might come back to haunt you later on.

It’s admittedly a strange and unfamiliar way to play a board game. Who would have thought that the heyday of board gaming would be in the 21st century when we’re so wrapped up in technological dependency? Board gaming gives us a chance to hang out with our friends without distractions or electronic involvement (although playing the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack during a game of Seafall might be fitting).

A legacy game pushes that camaraderie one step further by offering you and your friends the ability to customize a board, name the characters, rip up cards, etc. The way your board gaming group plays a game like Seafall will be completely different than that of my friends and me. And how incredible is that?

Seafall can be a bit technical in comparison to something like Settlers of Catan, but there are also two other legacy games that you could try. Risk: Legacy is just like the classic game of world domination, but, once again, the continents you attack in one game could rise up and wipe you out in the next. Pandemic: Legacy expands on the original game (which, if you haven’t played Pandemic you most certainly should), by offering up a globetrotting, yearlong horror tale of deadly diseases that are spreading at an alarming rate.

As we enter the period of dreary weather and rattling teakettles, there couldn’t be a better time to get your friends together and geek out behind closed doors. PJH

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