While there are plenty of family games out there, there are few that actually emulate the whole idea of having one of your own. Released at Essen 2013, Legacy from Portal Games aims to do precisely that, placing you at the head of a French family around the early 18th century – just before everything kicked off with the revolution. The game’s full title – Legacy, The Testament of Duke de Crecy – does a great job of telling you what you’re aiming to achieve, and designer Michiel Hendricks has created a wonderful game where you’re looking to solidify the future generations of your family.
Boiling it all down, you’re looking at a worker placement game where you’ll be looking to pull in Prestige – which converts to points throughout the game’s nine rounds – and Income. You’ll also have handfuls of Friends cards which will bestow special abilities as well as hopefully extend your family – something that you’ll soon learn is vital if you’re to come out on top. Among the actions that are available to you, the one that will invariably be used regularly is the ability to Marry (or arrange a marriage for a child in your family which will happen at the start of the next generation). A successful pairing means that a Friend becomes part of your family – complete with any bonuses they bring with them – and a child is immediately born.
Children, as you’d expect, are what drive the game. Each couple can potentially have up to three offspring, all of whom will hopefully be married off themselves, creating more children who will be married again… but it’s far from an easy task to build up the generations! Life has a nasty habit of getting in the way, and each Friend who finds themselves engulfed by your ever growing family could also have made some poor choices that may hamper your progress in the game. Yes, they may have become a successful pawnbroker and made a lot of money (thus boosting your income) but who’d want a person of that calibre on their family tree? Your Prestige drops as your reputation at the court becomes the subject of gossip! The only thing to do is to woo the beautiful but poor debutante, improving your standing but costing you a small fortune…
Also on offer are Titles that can be bestowed upon whoever you please, and “Contributions to the Community” that will show off your family in a good light. Both options are expensive but vital for success and they change from round to round, becoming more powerful and more pricey. By the time you reach the endgame though, you’ll surely be well on your way to being the head of one of Europe’s most respected and wealthy dynasties, so the opportunity to put on a Grand Ball or throw a Banquet will be a mere trifle! Well… hopefully. There’s the question of purchasing mansions and setting up your brood with businesses as well, and funds can occasionally get a bit tight; you’ll have to make the call on where the money goes, and keeping up that reputation is an expensive matter!
There’s also the secretive option of Undertaking Missions, where cards are drawn that will potentially grant huge bonuses throughout the game. This could be along the lines of ensuring there’s a certain amount of Artists or people from a specific country in your family, and the moment a target is reached you flip the card and reveal the bonus. The Missions can also be used to evoke the powerful endgame bonus that is given to you in the form of a Patron card – these are handed out at the start of the game and offer a potentially game-changing amount of points should you meet their challenging requirements.
As you can probably tell thanks to all the florid language, I’ve found this mix of Worker Placement and Desperately Managing To Balance A Bloody Load Of Stuff really rather entertaining. As is now traditional with Portal Games, it’s a lovely thing to look at – the art for all of the Friends is unique though the Sons and Daughters they spawn are not, sadly – still, you can’t have everything and I can see why that choice was made from a gameplay point of view. As the game progresses and this immense tableau starts to spread out before you, passers by are drawn in almost magnetically, wondering what on earth is going on and why you appear to be building some sort of pyramid while you rant about needing more money to give your great-grandchild the mansion they so desperately require. All the while your opponents are mocking your decision to marry off the youngest heir to the Gardener’s daughter but you did it anyway because love must prevail and it’s the only card you had at your disposal that worked…
And it’s this back and forth that makes Legacy so damned delightful. Every time I’ve played the game, intricate stories are woven as more and more people are added to the players’ families, and the tales of how they became a part of your clan (as well as the effects of their joining) become these glorious, ridiculous tapestries from a bygone time. Sure, it can be played as a straight Euro where you’re all vying for points, but for me the pleasure is not just found in the actions that are happening on the table itself but also the creation of this unique and sprawling bunch of lowlifes and thieves, artists and princesses who come together as one massive family – assuming you play it right. Legacy is very much a game where what you put in is repaid ten-fold, a game where if you play the role as much as the game you’ll have a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Legacy, The Testament of Duke de Crecy, was released at Essen 2013 by Portal Games. Designed by Michiel Hendriks between two and four people can play with games taking around 60-90 minutes. There is also a single player version of the game in the box which I’m yet to try – sorry! A copy will normally set you back around £35, but Gameslore will sort you out for a mere £29 – a bargain price for the opportunity to choose your family for once!