Community Focus: BGG Ratings Part 6: Conclusions and the Future


If you are coming to this article first, you may want to start at Part 1 of this series to be sure you have the full context. In this final part of the article we will review some conclusions and briefly look forward to what may be the future of Legacy games.

Round 1: The Story So Far

It is impossible to say what specific users intent has been, but generally, we have tried to demonstrate the following:

  • Some BGG users have rated Pandemic Legacy a “1” without recording a play of it and rated Twilight Struggle a “10” possibly to protect the top rating for Twilight Struggle. (Part 2)
    • While this seems to be a major motivation during the rise of Pandemic Legacy Jan 2016, it was a realtively small group of users who participated in it. Two users even had Pandemic Legacy on their Wishlist as "Want to Play" nad/or "Want to Buy".
  • Some BGG users have rated Pandemic Legacy a “1” without recording a play of it, but rated Pandemic highly or fairly typically for Pandemic possibly in response to the Legacy aspect. (Part 3)
    • This activity was fairly obvious at the time, but the data shows that it was a more prevalent motive than protecting the top of the rankings.
  • Some BGG users have sizable collections and have recorded a significant number of previously owned games. (Part 4)
    • These users have a reasonable complaint about "Legacy" games since they cannot leverage their investment the way the do with other games.

In the case of objecting to Legacy games for whatever reason, though, it must be more than dislike for the game that motivates users. There is nothing requiring a gamer to buy any game, much less one they don't like. With almost 90,000 games listed on BGG, there is ample seleection and with 198 of the top 200 "games of all time" not "Legacy" games, there is no reason to believe that there is a landslide of games that are going to fail scrutiny by these users. I have called this "Hate Rating" because like "hate drafting" it includes a motive of denying everyone else of something they want by taking an action myself that actually has no personal benefit.

Round 2: If One Person Says It…

… 20 more are thinking it. Statistically it is 20.3176, but who cares what the .3176 think? Although, the total number of BGG users that rated Pandemic Legacy a “1” in comparison to all who have rated Pandemic Legacy is very small (332 of about 15000), they may represent the sentiments of a larger community. Only a few have gone so far as to rate the game a “1”, but others would just not want to play or buy the game. The sentiments are certainly shared by others who are not motivated to do anything about it publicly - they are apparently content to just not buy and/ior play the game.

Round 3: What is "Legacy"?

Without getting into a deep discussion about what is "Legacy", let's take a quick look at it for context. As with any game mechanic, genre, theme, etc. we tend to lump similar games into categories. (This is true of most anything and is not unique to board games). Since "Legacy" is really only included in the title of a couple games and associated with a few others, what the term means is still up for debate. There are currently only 15 games and expansions listed in the Legacy Family on BGG. "Legacy" generally, but does it necessarily, include all these concepts:

  • Campaign/Continuing Narrative
  • Continuing/Perpetual Effects
  • Unique Component Defacing/Destruction
  • Unique Evolution/Endpoint

Most of these concepts are not necessarily new, but in combination and packaged as a board game, provide a new experience. The most innovative aspect is component defacing/destruction. Other games have done this, but not in a way that changes future plays of the game. Partly what is new here is that the components are unique and not usually destroyed (not like ballons or other naturally destructable and replaceable components or components created within the game intending to be destroyed). A similar effect has existed in RPGs, but the item destroyed was usually conceptual, not physical.

It is interesting as the concepts are better understood and implemented in more games that the new games embracing the moniker "Legacy". They seem to be shying away from it or are at least distinguishing themselves from what they think others think "Legacy" means. Consider how many games are called deck-builders or are said to include a deck-building mechanic. There are hundreds of them and when the iconic game for the genre, Dominion, was released, other game publishers embraced the association. In the case of "Legacy" games, publishers of new games with similar aspects are qualifying the term "Legacy-like" or inventing new terms "fable", "echo", etc. or more generically "experience" or "story". Perhaps, with so few games out to represent the category, "Legacy" will not be the industry term for any of them and some other term will come along and own the legacy.

Round 4: Building a Legacy

Some of the user sentiments discussed in this article have no viable response by game designers, developers, and publishers. In fact, having some users feeling the need to protect another top ranked game from the rise of a new game is a nice problem to have for the producers of that new game.

However, producers of new legacy style games are trying to address the sentiment against the disposable aspect of the genre by several means. A couple examples are:

  • The “legacy” aspects do not have a permanent effect on the game components (e.g. Fabled Fruit).
    • The players can restart any time at any place in the game.
    • Effect: This approach has a positive impact on both the limited plays and resale criticisms.
  • The "legacy" aspects do not make it difficult or undesirable to add/remove new players.
    • The players can introduce the game to a new group without having to drop the current progress or start the new group with half the smoothy consumed. (See Pressure Problems with Legacy and Disposable Games for some discussion on the difficulties Legacy games pose on user groups.)
    • Effect: This approach has a positive impact on both the limited plays and resale criticisms.
  • The game may be played indefinitely in the game’s final state (e.g., Charterstone).
    • The players can continue to enjoy the game after the entire story/campaign has been revealed.
    • Effect: This approach addresses the limited plays criticism, but I don’t think has a significant impact on the resale criticism.

Other changes are proposed in other games in this style of game and more will certainly come in the future. Since this is a very young design concept, but also a very popular one, it is likely that we will be watching the evolution of the style over several years to come.

Full disclosure: I have really enjoyed the "Legacy" and "disposable" games I have played and am looking forward to more. I was a playtester for Seafall and passed on an opportunity to playtest Charterstone (because I didn't want to spoil playing the production version - what I hope to be one of my top gaming highlights of 2017). Although, I understand the need to meet market expectations, the long term playability of a "Legacy" game actually sparks little desire in me. Playing a legacy game through its evolution is the whole attraction to the genre for me and worth the cost of the game.

Round 5: Continuing Challenges

The BGG administrators apply rules to the game entries that meet their (and the community) needs as they can. As games get reprinted, upgraded, expanded, etc., this gets complicated. For example: It was confusing to have two of the Top 10 games on BGG be essentially the same game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization (currently #2) and Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization(currently #13). Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 was recently added to the database as a separate game from Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. This makes perfect sense. These are two completely different games. If Season 2 is anywhere near as successful as Season 1, there will certainly be a Season 3. What if all these shoot up the ratings as Season 1 did? What do you anticipate will be the ranking for Pandemic Legacy: Season 2? Season 3? It will be interesting to see how quickly ratings are entered for Season 2.

I have looked at the ratings of other games that have risen quickly on the BGG rankings (e.g., Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, Scythe, Star Wars Rebellion) and have seen similar top rank protective rating activities, but to a much diminished extent (at least so far). Perhaps Pandemic Legacy was the watershed event that allowed users to express their angst, see the folly (it reached #1 despite their efforts), and make peace with the way things are.

Your Turn

Will Pandemic Legacy: Seasons 1, 2, … eventually command all the top spots on BGG? What do you dislike about "Legacy" games? What changes do you think producers should incorporate into “Legacy” style games? 

Continue with this series or catch up on previous parts:

If you find this article interesting, you may want to check out all the articles in the Analysis Paralysis category where we analyze and discuss issues in the tabletop industry and community.