Pairs well with: Tiny fancy glasses of sherry or enormous ones of brandy
Brutus rating: 2 tiny daggers in the back out of 10
Our international readers may not be aware, but it is currently an even 3,000 degrees Celsius in England (that’s 98269.6 degrees Fahrenheit for the Yanks). We Brits are utterly unprepared for this. We have no air conditioning, no clothes made of white linen, no enormous straw hats. Your friendly misery farmers are particularly miserable – Briony once got sunburnt in Scotland, while it was raining, and Bob is not much better off.
We’ve wanted to review Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy for ages, but had only played it once and with very mixed results. There are few experiences in the world more draining than learning to play a game as you’re playing it by simultaneously reading and explaining the rules, as Bob rapidly discovered. This approach is particularly ill-advised for Legacy, as it’s one of those games which, while reasonably straightforward to play, has an awful lot of stuff on the table. Each player has a board and counters, as well as approximately 568 cards all of which need to be placed face-up and visible for various reasons. And then of course there’s a central board with even more stuff all around it. You need a big table to play this, is what we’re telling you. But you do get to make some nice little family trees out of cards so it balances out.
Apart from anything else, everybody keeps getting distracted by the charmingly-rendered but deeply politically-incorrect artwork. There are 83 unique miniature portraits in Legacy, and presumably in order to stave off death by boredom in addition to severe carpal tunnel the artist (Mateusz Bielski) went for a heavily caricaturised style.
‘Cor, look at the tits on her!’
‘Nevermind the boobs, have you noticed what the moneylender looks like!?’
‘I’m sure his nose is just a coincidence.’
‘Um, alright then, what’s your excuse for the Moroccan then?’
‘Uh… well he has a nice moustache at least!’
Additionally, the game introduces itself with a beautifully-calligraphied but long letter. Bob should not have tried to read it out loud. Generic gaming buddy Andy questioned whether Anna Karenina (the novel, not the person) had accidentally been snuck in. Briony came close to giving up entirely but stuck around with a superhuman effort of patience for the sake of the farm, sustained by some wine. Part of our reticence was probably due to a mismatch in interests. Your misery farming friends are in their twenties and have expensive cardboard hobbies, intense relationships with gin, and demanding careers. The aim of Legacy is to marry and have lots and lots of babies. This is something that we just don’t quite understand. In fact it was down-right amusing watching ourselves as young adults failing to be young adults set in a different time period: in the end we were grateful to be living in the 21st century.
Essentially it works like this: You play as the head of an aristocratic family desperate to achieve wealth, fame, and honour. You have a secret patron who will reward you with all of these things if you fulfil certain objectives such as contributing to the arts or having tons and tons of babies. There are two kinds of resources in the game; gold and friends. It’s all very French. You can increase the amount of money you have by doing things like begging for cash from your friends or investing in business ventures, and you gain friends by doing things like going to balls and socialising. You can also do things like buy titles, contribute the community (obviously by wasting money on a giant feast, because French aristocrat), or buy a mansion. The main way that you increase your income, gain friends, and earn prestige (which translates to honour – the ultimate victory point of the nobility) is, however, to get married and have babies. Lots and lots o’ babies, as these are actually a resource that earns you victory points per round.
The game is played in three phases (‘generations’). In each generation you can marry your characters to friends, and then sprog. Sprogging happens immediately upon marriage and it’s 50/50 whether it’ll be a boy or a girl. There is also a risk of morbid ‘complications’ arising, during which you must choose who survives – mother or child. You may also visit a fertility doctor to have multiple babies (but you will lose friends in high society to do so) or pay money to choose the gender of the baby. You see, gender is important. It can cost a lot to marry off your daughters, while strapping sons can land themselves a wealthy wife and bring status to the family. Finding the ‘right’ sort of friends to wed can be a challenge as well though – it’s no good marrying off your most beautiful daughter to Paul the pig farmer, despite his impressive fertility.
Additionally, friends and relatives interact in different ways. Some of this is due to the secret objective of your patron, who may want your family to be full of artisans or scientists. Some of it is due to the unique characteristics of the friends and family members. Great-uncle Tufty the King’s fifth cousin may bring a lot of cash with him, but he can’t have any children and he’s Prussian, which means that no self-respecting Moroccan or Spaniard will join the family. Your sixth daughter may have wide hips and a charming smile but oh dick-balls there are no good male (yes, it’s a heteronormative game) friends for her to marry so we’re all fucked now.
At the end of each generation the children grow up, arranged marriages finally come to pass, and more babies are born. The table rapidly becomes full of family trees represented by cards, which is satisfying to see and a cool mechanic but definitely takes up too much space. For a three-person game you need a good-size table and any extra chairs you can lay hands on.
Of course it transpired that the first time we played this game we played it wrong (of course) so this week Bob was dispatched to the Reading Board Games Social under strict instructions to play it and play it right. She did manage to play it again, but playing it right…? Eh, close enough. It was, as discussed, very very hot. The RBGS is held in a nice but heavily under-air-conditioned pub called the Abbott Cooke, which serves gastro-pub food, expensive beer, and nice things like free iced cucumber water. And there was cake! Distracting cake!
Every year for their anniversary the RBGS has a cake baked in the fashion of the game they believe will win the Essen Spiel Des Jahres award. As you can see, their vote this year goes to Colt Express, the shooty Western-themed train heist game.
Anyway, between the heat and the cake several mistakes were made. Perhaps this is to be expected the first few times you play this game as while it is not difficult to play, there is an awful lot going on. Lots of symbols and tasks, as well as the long-term strategy you’re trying to keep in your head. We give it two daggers because while dickish interaction with other players is minimal, as with many worker-placement games you can place your workers on a space that another player would rather like and if you could please fuck off and let them hire the fucking fertility doctor they’d be very fucking grateful indeed. Which, naturally, can be quite frustrating.
Overall, recommended for medium-weight, engaging, vaguely-offensive fun, but try the single-player version before trying to introduce it to your friends, and get a big table.