Best Legacy Board Games 2021 – Our Top 10 Recommendations

legacy board games collage

For most board gamers, the idea of intentionally doing any physical modifications – or destruction – to their game components is enough to make their skin crawl.

But contrary to this natural instinct, legacy board games – that is, games that physically evolve over the course of several campaign-style rounds – have managed to gain popularity in recent years, two of which reaching the #1 spot on BoardGameGeek.

There are many pros and cons to legacy games.

On the positive side, they can provide truly unique and unforgettable experiences as a group of players follow a shared journey over the course of several gaming sessions.

At the end of a legacy game, players will typically have a game board and characters that could not be replicated by another group playing the same game.

On the potentially negative side, however, they certainly require a level of commitment to experience and appreciate; that is, the same game must be played with the same group of friends, which can create natural complications in terms of personal schedules and time.

While the number of legacy board games currently published isn’t massive, here are 10 that are absolutely worth looking into if you are looking for a legacy game to enjoy with friends or family.

1. Risk LegacyThe Original Legacy Game

It’s hard to make a list about best legacy board games and not include the game that started it all: Risk Legacy, designed by Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis.

At the time this game was published in 2011, the idea of a campaign-style game in which the game itself permanently evolves over successive rounds of play was completely new. Yet, the game was a huge success and received the award for the 2012 Golden Geek Best Innovative Board Game.

Risk Legacy board game box cover

Risk Legacy at a Glance

Game Type
Science Fiction, Wargame,
Area Movement, Card Drafting,
Dice Rolling, Legacy Game,
Player Elimination, Variable Player
Powers
Play Time
60 Mins
Skill/Complexity (2.7 - 5)
Medium
Age
13+
Publisher(s)
Hasbro
Published
2011
Categories
Strategy
Players
3 - 5
Cost
$64.99 approx
Our Rating
8.9/10

The fact that this game is now 10 years old, however, shouldn’t deter you from trying out this game as it still manages to hold up as an exciting gaming experience.

Risk Legacy takes the core gameplay elements of Risk turns it into a 15-game campaign in which new components and rules come into play as the game progresses.

From the very beginning of the game, there is a sense of permanence and uniqueness as players select one of the 5 available armies and select a special ability sticker to place at the bottom of their faction card – and permanently destroy the sticker they did not select. Right in the game box, there are envelopes with instructions to open once certain conditions have been met. For instance, “Open the first time a faction is eliminated from the game.” Inside the envelope will be something that changes the game. The rulebook also has some blank areas, which will later be filled in with new game-altering rules.

If you are looking to create a unique and memorable gaming experience with friends or family who are fans of the original Risk game, then this is definitely a game to consider picking up.

An added bonus is that once the 15-game campaign is complete, the game can continue to be played. In other words, at the end of the campaign, you will have a truly unique copy of Risk to keep enjoying and to remember the exciting moments you shared along the way.

2. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 A Cooperative Legacy Game

Holding the coveted #1 spot on BoardGameGeek is an accomplishment very few games have managed to pull off, and have included famed titles like Puerto Rico, Agricola, and Twilight Struggle.

However, Pandemic Legacy Season 1 quickly climbed the ranks when it was released in October 2015, and reached the #1 spot in January 2016, which it held until December 2017 when it was outranked by Gloomhaven (which will appear later in this list).

Pandemic Legacy Season 1 continues to hold the #2 spot, so needless to say it is still a game that people very much enjoy.

Pandemic Legacy box cover

Pandemic Legacy at a Glance

Game Type
Medical, Action Points,
Cooperative, Hand Management,
Legacy Game, Point to
Point Movement, Set Collection
Trading, Variable Player Powers
Play Time
60 Mins
Skill/Complexity (3 - 5)
Medium
Age
13+
Publisher(s)
Z-Man Games and
Others
Published
2015
Categories
Strategy
Players
2 - 4
Cost
$64.99 approx
Our Rating
9.5/10

While Risk Legacy may have been the game that demonstrated what was possible in a legacy game design, Pandemic Legacy was the game that made one-time playthrough games more widely accepted and popular. It has been nominated for 30 awards since it was released, and won the 2015 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year award.

Pandemic Legacy builds upon the theme and mechanisms of the base game of Pandemic – it’s a cooperative game in which players are attempting to work together to discover cures for and eradicate diseases. They do so by moving around a map, building research stations, removing disease cubes, and sharing cards with other players which can be used to discover cures.

However, Pandemic Legacy is an entirely different game in the sense that it is a 12-game campaign, with each game representing a month of the year. As the months progress, the game changes substantially to the point where it becomes quite different by the end of the campaign. Throughout the course of the 12 months, rules will be changed, new components will be introduced, and some components permanently altered or destroyed.

If you are looking for a gaming experience you will likely remember for the rest of your life, and the theme and cooperative nature of the game appeals to you, then Pandemic Legacy could definitely be the game to get.

Not only does this game provide an incredibly-immersive gaming experience during the campaign, but it can continue to be played and enjoyed at the end of the campaign.

3. Charterstone – A Worker-Placement Legacy Game

While many of the games on this list are heavily focused on storytelling, narrative, and thematic gameplay experiences, Charterstone, designed by Jamey Stegmaier, is a game that is more closely focused on its mechanisms which fans of Euro-style games will likely enjoy and appreciate.

Charterstone was indeed a highly-anticipated release as it was coming from the same designer of two extremely well-regarded games, Viticulture and Scythe.

Charterstone game box cover

Charterstone at a Glance

Game Type
Medieval Theme, City Building,
Economic , Card Drafting,
Catch the Leader, Hand
Management, Legacy Game ,
Solo/Solitaire Game,
Worker Placement
Play Time
45 - 75 Mins
Skill/Complexity (3 - 5)
Medium
Age
14+
Publisher(s)
Stonemaier Games and
Others
Published
2017
Categories
Strategy
Players
1 - 6
Cost
$55.99 approx
Our Rating
8.6/10

In Charterstone, players work together to build a village over the course of 12 games, but the game is competitive in the sense that a player will be the winner of each game.

Charterstone is a worker-placement game, meaning that players take turns placing one of their workers on an action space in order to perform that action, or retrieving workers from the board. This mechanism has a unique twist in Charterstone, however, in that players can place a worker on an occupied action space, which will “bump” that worker back to its owner for use on a future turn.

Throughout the course of the 12-game campaign, new building stickers will be added to the board, which provide additional action spaces for players to utilize and also permanently alter the game board.

The game is welcoming to players who haven’t played many board games in the sense that it starts out as a very simple worker-placement game, but gradually expands and develops into a more complex game by the end. In this sense, players don’t have many rules to memorize at the beginning, but can become comfortable with the flow of the game and learn additional rules as they become introduced.

The game is welcoming to players who haven’t played many board games in the sense that it starts out as a very simple worker-placement game.

As is the case with some other games on this list, players can continue to enjoy Charterstone after the end of their campaign as a stand-alone worker-placement game. For those who wish to reset the game and try new paths, Stonemaier Games offers a Recharge Pack which will allow players to start fresh from the beginning.

If you prefer a legacy game that leans more toward the Euro end of the gaming spectrum, Charterstone provides a solid experience and with beautiful artwork and components. For those who wish to try the game but aren’t able to play in-person with others, the Charterstone app available on Android and iOS is a great alternative.

4. My City A Polyomino Tile-Placement Legacy Game

2020 was the year that a legacy-style board game managed to be nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award, and that game was My City, designed by prolific designer Reiner Knizia.

Given its award nomination and designer’s pedigree, the game was certainly widely anticipated by many gamers. For fans of family-weight polyomino puzzle games, this one is definitely worth a look.

For fans of family-weight polyomino puzzle games, this one is definitely worth a look.

My City board game box

My City at a Glance

Game Type
City Building, Bingo,
Catch the Leader, Grid Coverage,
Legacy Game. Tile Placement,
Victory Points as a Resource
Play Time
30 Mins
Skill/Complexity (2.2 - 5)
Light
Age
10+
Publisher(s)
Thames & Kosmos and
Others
Published
2020
Categories
Strategy
Players
2 - 4
Cost
$70.99 approx
Our Rating
8.9/10

My City has a similar feel to a “flip-and-write” game in the sense that a card is flipped over and all players must simultaneously place the indicated polyomino-shaped piece onto their player board, and players gain and lose points according to the tile-placement rules for the given round.

The overall campaign consists of 24 “episodes,” and each group of 3 episodes makes up a “chapter.” At the beginning of each chapter, the players open up an envelope which provides rules and components for the upcoming episodes. Players begin the game with a relatively open player board, and over the course of the campaign they will add stickers that will permanently change the way they play in future rounds.

Being a relatively lightweight family-style game, My City could easily serve well as an entry point to the legacy game genre or a game to play with family members who haven’t played many games before.

However, it still has plenty of interesting aspects that will appeal to more serious board gamers in terms of how modifications to the player board game have long-term impacts to gameplay.

This game also features double-sided boards, with one side being for the legacy campaign and the other side being for stand-alone games with static rules.

5. Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated A Deck-Building Legacy Game

After it was released in 2016, Clank! became very popular as a game that blended deck-building with movement on a physical game board.

The goal of Clank! is to get the most points by sneaking through a dragon lair to gather loot and make it out in one piece before the dragon becomes filled with rage. Building upon this same core concept, Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated puts players in the role of leaders of treasure-hunting companies as they try to prove their success over the span of a 10-game legacy campaign.

The goal of Clank! is to get the most points by sneaking through a dragon lair to gather loot and make it out in one piece before the dragon becomes filled with rage.

Clank Legacy game box cover

Clank! Legacy at a Glance

Game Type
Adventure, Fantasy,
Card Drafting, Deck Building,
Legacy Game, Once-Per-Game
Abilities, Point to Point Movement,
Push Your Luck
Play Time
90 -120 Mins
Skill/Complexity (2.8 - 5)
Medium
Age
13+
Publisher(s)
Dire Wolf and
Others
Published
2019
Categories
Strategy Thematic
Players
2 - 4
Cost
$72.99 approx
Our Rating
9.2/10

As players explore in Clank! Legacy, they can uncover “waypoints,” which point to particular passages in the Book of Secrets, helping to both progress some story elements of the game as well as introduce new elements (both physical and rules-related) to the game.

As is standard for legacy-style games, players will physically alter the game in many ways from beginning to end, and it is fully playable after the conclusion of the campaign.

A couple other interesting aspects that differentiate Clank! Legacy from the original game are the fact that players can customize their starting deck, and that there are contract cards that come into play that give players special bonuses for completing them (or negative effects for not completing them).

If you and a group of friends are already fans of the base game of Clank!, and you’d like to take that core experience to the next level, then Clank! Legacy will likely be an experience you will enjoy.

If you have never played Clank! before, it’s still possible to play Clank! Legacy, but you will likely appreciate it more if you’ve already played the original game.

Clank! Legacy has proven to be highly-regarded in the legacy game space as it was nominated for the 2019 Golden Geek Best Board Game of the Year award, and is worth looking into if it sounds appealing to you.

6. Betrayal Legacy A Horror-Themed Legacy Game

The classic horror-themed, narrative-driven game Betrayal at House on the Hill is a game known for its crazy and chaotic yet immersive gameplay.

The game starts out as a cooperative game in which a group of friends stumble upon an eerie looming house that draws them in to explore its depths. However, about half-way through the game, a traitor is revealed and the game becomes a one vs. many style game.

If the theme of the original game is enticing to you, then you may want to consider Betrayal Legacy.

Betrayal Legacy board game box

Betrayal Legacy at a Glance

Game Type
Adventure, Exploration,
Horror, Miniatures,
Cooperative, Dice Rolling,
Grid Movement, Legacy
Game, Modular Board
Play Time
45 -90 Mins
Skill/Complexity (3 - 5)
Medium
Age
12+
Publisher(s)
Avalon Hill Games
Published
2018
Categories
Strategy Thematic
Players
3 - 5
Cost
$59.99 approx
Our Rating
8.9/10

Dim the lights, and turn on some creepy background music, because this isn’t just a single story of an encounter with a house riddled with paranormal entities – it’s the story of generations of encounters with the house over the span of centuries.

Betrayal Legacy is a 13-game campaign in which players take on the role of a family whose members continue to inhabit the cursed mansion. The game plays very similarly to the original game of Betrayal at House on the Hill in the sense that players take turns exploring the house, finding items, resolving events, and dealing with omens. When the haunt is triggered half-way through the game, players follow a certain scenario depending on different factors.

The game plays very similarly to the original game of Betrayal at House on the Hill in the sense that players take turns exploring the house, finding items, resolving events, and dealing with omens.

Betrayal Legacy differs from the original game in the sense that players pick a family, rather than a specific character, at the beginning of the game.

Over the span of the campaign, players will play different characters from within that family. The decisions players make can have long-lasting effects and which add to the overall narrative of the campaign, including the ability to mark certain items and family heirlooms.

The game also includes a legacy deck, which provides instructions for gameplay, as well as “The Bleak Journal,” which helps to guide the storyline as players progress through the campaign. Also, without spoiling anything, the haunts included in Betrayal Legacy have a wider range of different types of gameplay styles than the original game.

If you have a group of friends who are into the horror theme, and are willing to have fun investing in the narrative arc of a family over generations, then Betrayal Legacy is bound to provide a great deal of entertainment.

If you were not a fan of the original Betrayal at House on the Hill, then this game may not necessarily change your mind.

If you’ve never played the original game, you could still enjoy this legacy version – provided that you are okay with a great deal of luck and chaos, and are attracted to the theme.

7. Machi Koro Legacy A Family-Weight Legacy Game

Machi Koro was an extremely successful family-weight game released in 2012 which took the core mechanism of another popular game, Settlers of Catan, and distilled it down to an even more accessible ruleset.

The main idea of the game is that players take turns rolling dice, and can activate buildings in their tableau that match the value of the dice (some cards even let you use a building’s benefit on another player’s turn). The game is known for being quick, easy-to-learn, and fun, and Machi Koro Legacy takes this same game and introduces new mechanisms, cards, and rules over the course of a 10-game campaign.

The game is known for being quick, easy-to-learn, and fun, and Machi Koro Legacy takes this same game and introduces new mechanisms, cards, and rules over the course of a 10-game campaign.

Machi Koro Legacy Game

Machi Koro Legacy at a Glance

Game Type
Dice Rolling, Legacy Game
Play Time
30 -45 Mins
Skill/Complexity (2.2 - 5)
Light - Medium
Age
10+
Publisher(s)
Pandasaurus Games
Published
2019
Categories
Family
Players
2 - 4
Cost
$35.99 approx
Our Rating
8.2/10

In Machi Koro Legacy, players gain money over the course of the game from buildings that they own when activated by dice rolling, and then use that money to purchase additional buildings, build monuments, or contribute to the community landmark. Different buildings have different kinds of effects when activated (like gaining coins from the bank or taking coins from another player), and monuments can provide ongoing bonuses for the rest of the game (like the ability to roll 2 dice rather than 1). Community landmarks also provide one-time bonuses when players contribute to it, like gaining money for each building of a certain type that you own.

The first player to build all three monuments and contribute to the community landmark is the winner of the first game, after which point the game continues to change and evolve as players reveal new decks of cards and make physical changes to the game.

While many games on this list can continue to be played after the actual legacy game itself is finished, Machi Koro is definitely a game that does this well.

This game begins relatively simple and slowly introduces new concepts and rules throughout the 10 games of the campaign – but from games 11 and on, the game can continue to be played with some modified rules, which can serve quite well as an upgraded alternative to the original Machi Koro.

8. The Rise of QueensdaleA Dice-Placement Euro Legacy Game

Inka & Markus Brand are a well-known board game design duo who have brought us popular titles like Village, Rajas of the Ganges, and the Exit: The Game series.

Rise of Queensdale is their legacy-style game which is a unique stand-alone game system; in other words, it’s not a “legacy version” of a previously-published title.

The Rise of Queensdale box

The Rise of Queensdale at a Glance

Game Type
Civilization, Medieval,
Dice Rolling, Legacy Game,
Worker Placement,
Worker Placement with Dice Workers
Play Time
45 - 60 Mins
Skill/Complexity (2.9 - 5)
Medium
Age
12+
Publisher(s)
Ravensburger and Others
Published
2018
Categories
Strategy
Players
2 - 4
Cost
$55.99 approx
Our Rating
8.9/10

True to many of their games, The Rise of Queensdale is a Euro-style game and focuses primarily on mechanisms over theme or narrative elements.

For fans of worker-placement or dice-placement games, this is definitely a game to put on your radar.

In The Rise of Queensdale, players are attempting to develop the land of Queensdale and build a castle to impress the Queen. They do so by rolling dice at the beginning of the round, and then using those dice to perform actions, such as collecting resources and constructing buildings, in attempt to score victory points.

At the beginning of this game, the number of points players need to achieve to win is 10, but as the campaign progresses, players achieve different epoch levels which also increases the victory point threshold to win the game.

The overall goal of the game is to be the first person to complete the 9th epoch and score (requiring 90 points to win). Since players advance epoch levels at a different pace, players could have different winning objectives for any given game.

Being a legacy game, there are naturally some aspects of the game that provide ongoing or long-term changes to rules and player components. For instance, player buildings and some resources can carry over from game-to-game, stickers can be added to dice to upgrade their abilities, and there is also an overall storyline that players follow by reading story cards.

While The Rise of Queensdale may not be the strongest legacy game in terms of theme and storyline, gamers who are more interested in a sense of progression in games and enjoy mechanisms like worker-placement and dice-placement will likely appreciate what this game has to offer.

While it does have dice, it does have ways to mitigate luck by discarding resources to reroll dice or the ability to use resource dice for actions by paying resources), so it is unlikely to feel like fate is determined by luck in this game.

As an added bonus, it includes a game component rarely seen in modern board games: a plunger (used to remove tiles from the game board).

9. Gloomhaven The #1-Ranked Board Game of All time

While you and your fellow adventurers may have different reasons for ending up in Gloomhaven, you all share one thing in common: the need to fight off the evil forces that threaten the town.

Over the course of a Gloomhaven campaign, players will level up their abilities, unlock and discover new areas of the map, and follow a branching narrative adventure that is absolutely massive in scope.

As mentioned earlier in this list, Gloomhaven was the game to dethrone Pandemic Legacy Season 1 for the #1 spot on BoardGameGeek.

Gloomhaven game box

Gloomhaven at a Glance

Game Type
Adventure, Fantasy, Fighting Miniatures, Action Queue,
Action Retrieval, Campaign/Battle
Card Driven, Card Play Conflict Resolution, Communication Limits,
Cooperative Game
Deck Construction
Deck, Bag, and Pool Building
Grid Movement, Legacy Game,
Modular Board, Campaign Game
Simultaneous Action Selection,
Solo/Solitaire Game,
Variable Player Powers
Play Time
60 - 120 Mins
Skill/Complexity (3.8 - 5)
Medium - Heavy
Age
14+
Publisher(s)
Cephalofair Games
Published
2017
Categories
Strategy - Thematic
Players
1 - 4
Cost
$99.99 approx
Our Rating
9.6/10

At the beginning of a round of Gloomhaven, players decide which location to visit on the map, and then follow setup instructions for the given scenario. Each player receives a secret objective which can help them upgrade their character. At its core, Gloomhaven is a card-driven game in which players use cards from their hand to perform actions, like attacking, healing, and moving. Players play two cards from their hand on their turn, and their “leading” card that they play determines player order based on its initiative. Each card is divided into a top half and a bottom half, and a player must use the top half of one card, and the bottom half of the other.

At its core, Gloomhaven is a card-driven game in which players use cards from their hand to perform actions, like attacking, healing, and moving.

If what you are looking for in a legacy game is an enormous and immersive campaign experience with a large number of scenarios that you likely won’t burn through any time soon, and you are a fan of fantasy-themed games or RPGs, then it’s hard to beat Gloomhaven in these regards.

One unique aspect of Gloomhaven is the fact that, while some of the narrative elements of the game may be missed, it’s possible for players to drop in and out of the campaign, making it so you can enjoy Gloomhaven without absolutely needing to play with the same group of players each time.

10. The King’s DilemmaA Narrative Negotiation Legacy Game

In terms of legacy-style games achieving high visibility and recognition, 2020 was certainly a solid year as two legacy games were nominated for prestigious awards: My City (mentioned earlier in his list) for the Spiel des Jahres, and The King’s Dilemma for the Kennerspiel des Jahres.

As a legacy game, The King’s Dilemma is unique in the sense that it is very heavily focused on the social negotiation aspect of gameplay, rather than staring at a game board.

The Kings Dilemma Game box

The King’s Dilemma at a Glance

Game Type
Fantasy, Political,
Negotiation, Bribery,
Legacy Game, Storytelling,
Traitor Game, Voting
Play Time
45 - 60 Mins
Skill/Complexity (2.2 - 5)
Light - Medium
Age
14+
Publisher(s)
Horrible Guild
Published
2019
Categories
Strategy - Thematic
Players
3 - 5
Cost
$64.99 approx
Our Rating
9/10

In The King’s Dilemma, designed by Hjalmar Hach and Lorenzo Silva, players take on the role of leaders of houses in the Kingdom of Ankist over the span of generations as they convene and council to make decisions on the king’s behalf. Each player has different secret objectives that they are trying to complete in order to achieve before the king dies.

In each round of The King’s Deilemma, a dilemma card is drawn which presents a problem that players will need to decide whether they support, oppose, or abstain from. Depending on how players vote will determine the narrative course of the game, and also help players as they work toward achieving their objectives. Over the course of the game, players will argue, discuss, bribe, persuade, deceive, and backstab to further their personal interests, and to ultimately try and win the game.

If the theme of political intrigue a la Game of Thrones draws you in, then playing The King’s Dilemma with a group of friends (5 is best according to BoardGameGeek) is a game that will no doubt get you and your friends hooked and having a great time.

Being a highly interactive game that offers a rich narrative experience, players can definitely have fun with getting into the role of leaders of their respective houses. Also, with each round only lasting 45-60 minutes, it’s easy to play multiple rounds in one sitting.

That’s about it in our Best Legacy Board Games top picks category. We do an annual review of these to see what additions could be worth adding and any removals for better games.

You Might Also Like!


best cooperative board games collage
collection of deck building games on collage
best worker placement board games collage
Gateway board games collection collage
economic board games collage
6 player board games collage