Better to Have Loved and Lost? The Value of Replayability

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Here at Chaos and Confetti, we recently wrote about the importance of protecting and preserving board games.  But, what about those games that aren’t meant to be protected or ever really reused?  Today we’ll be looking at Legacy, campaign, and puzzle games that are intended to be played through only once.  

“Do you actually destroy parts of the game?”

“Can the board and pieces be reset?”

“If I solved everything already, is it just done?”

“So you end up with junk instead of a game at the end?”

These are some of the questions we hear over and over when it comes to legacy, puzzle, and some campaign games.  Many people seem to have a harder time spending money on a game they know expires once it’s been played.

Thinking back to the first times we played a legacy game (Pandemic Legacy: Season One) or an Exit Game, having to rip game pieces, take pen to items, and permanently alter components was out of our comfort zone.  Should we actually do it?  We did and it made us feel woozy.

We are now at a point where we’ll happily go to town on legacy and puzzle games and think nothing of it.  What changed?  Our perspective and understanding of what these games are meant to be.  Let’s break it down.

The Overall Experience

We love games like Wingspan and Azul, but they don’t convey much story beyond their base premise.  Expansions might add some new elements to a game like Quacks of Quedlinburg, but the game itself doesn’t surprisingly evolve due to your actions.  There is no final big reveal or narrative ending when you play most board games.  Instead, a winner is declared and you can expect a similar experience next time.  Uncovering mysteries and plot developments is a huge contributor to the fun of puzzle, campaign, and legacy games.  Just like watching a tv show or movie, once you’ve watched it, you know what happens, but you don’t regret experiencing the show.

These “one time use” games and puzzles are often just as much about the experience as any of the actual gameplay mechanics.  If you go to a theme park or a real-world escape room, you don’t expect to leave with anything other than the memories (unless you spend extra on souvenirs).  These games are like that.  The twists of progressing narratives, the evolution of game mechanics, and the resolution that comes at the end are all elements that your standard board games don’t offer.  

If we make sure to look at these types of games as more than their parts but also as unique experiences, it becomes easier to appreciate them for the journey they take you on and not just the ability to sit on your shelf indefinitely.

Amount of Use

Legacy and campaign games are the types of games that encourage their continued use and play until they are completed.  Betrayal Legacy could be judged as a game that you only get to play about fourteen times, but it would more accurately be described as games you’ll actually play fourteen times.  Other legacy and campaign games vary in length, but will usually offer at least a dozen or so plays (shout out to Gloomhaven, which we’ve played close to one hundred games of in total).

We’re ashamed to admit that outside of our absolute favorite games, we have many purchased board games that see a few plays and then sit gathering dust for long stretches of time.  Just because a legacy or campaign game offers a certain number of scenarios or chapters doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily play them all, but the story and sense of progression will most likely push you and your gaming group to keep going. There has not yet been a legacy, campaign, or puzzle game that we’ve purchased and haven’t finished.

Whether as a two person team or with a larger gaming group, we often found ourselves trying to fit in just one more game to see what would happen next (we binged all of Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and Season 2 within two weeks and then waited impatiently for Season 0).  Like being absorbed with a good book, you want to see where the story is going.  If you’re a gamer, you want to test out new mechanics.  Either way, there is a feeling of exploration and discovering the unknown. 

Puzzle boxes and games are a little different since they are usually only one scenario, but the narrative often still pushes you to keep solving in order to get to the end. 

Reset Kits and Remnants

We admit that it can be hard to get rid of something you spent money and time on.  Once these puzzles and games are complete there is usually no need to hold onto them any more (though we have seen some awesomely framed legacy boards, and some nicely displayed “artifacts” from puzzle experiences).

Some games like My City and Betrayal Legacy leave you with boards that will allow you to play a base version of the game once you’ve finished the campaign.  Aeon’s End Legacy gives you characters you can port into other Aeon’s End games.  These are nice to have, but they are far from the norm.  Honestly, while we appreciate the effort, we have never gone back to play any of these post-campaign resets or remnants because they seem like they would pale in comparison to the experience we had before them.  Even without taking advantage of these extras, we still felt we had gotten our money’s worth.

There does however seem to be a growing world of reset kits for puzzles and a few games.  Cephalofair sells removable stickers for Gloomhaven and the upcoming Frosthaven (link to Kickstarter, where you can preorder!), so you can rewind time on a bit of your experience.  Some of the puzzle boxes we’ve played advertise themselves as resettable or allow you to reprint ruined components to set things anew.  Unless you really give yourself a lot of time to forget what you’ve already learned, reset puzzles are really best for passing along or reselling so someone else can enjoy the experience.  We have rarely resold games, but we have lent out our copies of games such as T.I.M.E. Stories (fun fact: we both bought this for each other for Valentine’s Day the same year), MicroMacro: Crime City, and Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game.  Letting friends share in the fun helps further justify costs, but again, it’s not necessary for us to feel good about our purchases. 

 The Wrap Up

We can’t tell where you should spend your money, but we hope you’ll at least reconsider campaign, legacy, and puzzles games as the experiences they are and not just the replayability they often lack.  

These are the thoughts of one gaming couple.  We appreciate the ability to bring unique play systems in our home and the chance to play challenging puzzles without having to always visit real-world escape rooms.  Where do you and your gaming group stand on the importance of replayability?  Is a game worth having if you know you’ll only get so many plays out of it?

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