“Legacy” games seem to have become a staple in the tabletop world since Pandemic Legacy launched in 2015.
Board Game Geeks often expect a new game to have an inevitable legacy component or expansion. Due to the unique factors surrounding legacy game design and implementation, we’re entering a brave new era of game design.
Aeon’s End is the latest game line to get the legacy treatment, and with it come some very unique aspects that may be paving the way for the future of the legacy genre.
Aeon’s End is a co-operative deck builder, where you play as Breach Mages who work together to try and defeat a Nemesis. The game functions like a protracted -and epic- boss battle. With the release of Aeon’s End Legacy, the game will have close to 30 different Nemeses to do battle against.
I spoke with Nick Little, the Vice President of Production and Development for Indie Board and Cards. On Aeon’s End Legacy, he was the co-designer.
‘Assuming you know anything about games,’ Little said, ‘Aeon’s End is a market-style deck builder like Dominion. You’ll know what cards you can purchase at the start of the game, and you can make long-term plans.’
‘A lot of people who are experienced with deck builders, they come in thinking it’s Dominion or Ascension, they come in thinking they have to buy currency. But if everyone does that, you can’t kill the first minions.’ Little said of the unique aspects of Aeon’s End. ‘If nobody spends their first Aether buying a spell that does 3 damage, you’re gonna fall back. Communicate with your teammates, work together and make sure you’re not all doing the same thing.’
‘Just like an RPG, if anyone goes in and they’re all tanks or all healers, you’re not equipped as a team to take out the challenge.’
The most notable thing about Aeon’s End as a deck builder is that you don’t shuffle your deck. Ever. When you have to draw, you flip your discard pile over.
‘It allows for a lot of planning for powerful combos.’ Little said of the mechanic. ‘Since we give you so much control, we also give you some randomness.’
Turn order in Aeon’s End is determined by a deck of cards, containing 4 player cards, and 2 Nemesis cards. Once the deck has been drawn out, you shuffle it up and randomise the turn order again.
This adds a degree of uncertainty to a game that is otherwise very structured. One round you might have all the players sandwiched between the Nemesis taking swings, and others, you might have to suffer two brutal enemy turns in a row.
‘We loved the game, and I thought it would be popular.’ Little said. ‘It was the tenth game I was involved in, and it exceeded our expectations. We got a few months of feedback while the expansions were out, and approached Legacy in a way that it would be a good jump-off point for new players.’
‘You can come in and play Legacy and its got about 80% of the game.’ Little went on. ‘It walks you through the steps of how to play, and by the beginning of the third game, you’re playing with full rules. It’ll ease you in.’
While I’m a big fan of any game that can teach you to play as you play, Aeon’s End offers other unique aspects to it’s narrative campaign mode.
‘The biggest hook at the start is that you’re a blank slate. In regular Aeon’s End, you choose a character, they have some starting cards and an ability, and you can tell the playstyle you’re going for.’ Little said.
‘But in Legacy, you’re a newb. You sit down and all your cards are basic, you have no ability, and you have to make it through the first battle. Then you unlock your starting card. You open a sticker sheet, and you choose the path you wanna go down. At the end of game 2, you choose an ability, and again you have eight choices.’
‘You have to work as a team to craft abilities and Breach Mages that work together. It’s like you’re making a character.’
‘As far as legacy elements go,’ Little went on, ‘we listened to what a lot of people said they don’t like about legacy games, like destroying components. In Aeon’s End Legacy, you don’t tear anything up. It’s playable as an expansion, and reusable if you buy a reset pack.’
Aeon’s End is already a game line with multiple expansions. Little and the team at Indie Game Studios had a lot of work going into the legacy edition of the game, in order for it to feel fresh and interesting not just on the legacy game market, but also with established Aeon’s End fans.
‘We did a lot of research into legacy games, and we knew going in we’d be the first legacy deck builder.’ Little said. ‘Aeon’s End doesn’t have a board, which is hard, right? Most legacy games have stickers on a board. We had to figure out what it meant to still have a legacy game without that.’
Of course, the main focus of Aeon’s End has always been the Nemesis battle, and how players strategise to defeat the otherworldly beast. Having unique and interesting Nemeses keep the game feeling special, and with so many already in the wild, the team has to really figure out just what a Nemesis in Legacy was going to be.
‘We release new Nemeses with almost every product we’ve put out.’ Little said. ‘Some of them are functionally similar, but the vast majority of them make you approach the game in a totally different way.’
‘While designing Legacy, we set it up so we knew which Nemesis you’re gonna fight each time. We wanted people to change up their strategies and adjust to very different situations. It was an interesting amount of control to amp up both the bosses and the difficulty as you progress through the game.’
But the increased difficulty isn’t just a stock-standard ‘bigger-fish’ increase in enemy size or competency. In Aeon’s End Legacy, players will be given choices that will help the Nemeses evolve with the players over the course of the game.
‘There are a certain amount of Nemesis cards that carry on from deck to deck.’ Little said of the mechanic. ‘Every time you encounter those cards, there is a way to start evolving them which makes them tougher to beat. It gives you a decision point to see if you want to deal with it now, or allow it to get tougher later. Those cards in the Nemesis deck change and make it stand out.’
Narrative fans like myself enjoy the story building aspect of legacy games, where you feel as though your choices have an effect on the unfolding story. Little assures me that the lore and story in Aeon’s End Legacy are even richer than its predecessors.
‘In previous versions of the game, almost all of the lore is on the mats or the cards -you can play the game and never read any of it.’ Little said. ‘In Legacy, you’re told to read the prologue. It sets up the story, and then there is a legacy deck where it walks you through the story, tells you who you encounter, what happens, and the struggle that’s going on with the Breach Mages.
‘I don’t wanna spoil it,’ Little went on. ‘But there are several little parts within Legacy that are surprises, and everytime I watch someone play it, it makes me smile. “I didn’t realise this was gonna happen”, they say, and it always came at them from left field. And you love to see that shock- you don’t get that kinda thing in a normal game. You add some narrative they didn’t realise could even be possible, especially when they’re veterans and something new comes at them.’
‘Those are my favourite parts,’ he added.
Aeon’s End Legacy is due out soon, and is available for preorder right now at your local Good Games store!