There is a trend going on in the board game world that focuses on legacy games and one time use games. Legacy games follow a campaign, and permanent changes are made to the board. The majority of these games can be played 10-12 times in a campaign, and then the game is over and can no longer be played. There are exceptions being made to this format of legacy games, with games like Charterstone and the upcoming Betrayal Legacy creating a permanent game with the campaign. One time use games usually focus on a puzzle experience for players, and while some destroy components others would just not be fun to play because players understand the puzzles. Some games that are one time use are the Unlock! series, the Exit the Game series, and the Time Stories Modules. Now the great debate is, are they worth spending the money on to only be able to play a set number of times?
My answer? Most of the time. Both of these kinds of games are giving players a unique experience. The kinesthetic engagement of making permanent changes to the board in a legacy game is something that is exciting and engaging to almost all players. The feeling of progression from beginning to end is very clear. However, there is the cost factor of legacy games. Legacy games are full fledged games, and generally cost more than fifty dollars to purchase. This could be seen as a downside for a lot of people. However, the campaigns usually take in total 12-15 hours to complete. I live near Chicago, where cost of living is pretty high. Any experience I have with my family of five, whom I usually play legacy games with is generally around 50$ (or more) for one hour. For me, comparatively doing something where the whole family is playing together for 12 hours makes the cost worth it. Especially when the game is good, people are engaged, and there are great discussions happening.
Those 10-12 hours make the high cost of legacy games worth it…but what about those one hour escape room style games? Unlock! and Exit the Game are both under 20$ to buy the whole game. Which brings me back to the there is nothing I can do for that cost around me…but I also look at the experience that we are having. Escape rooms around here cost 25$ a person to go to. I personally love to solve puzzles and love the challenge of figuring out escape rooms. These type of games provide a new genre that allows me to do this from the comfort of my own home. However, there is no good way to make this genre re-playable and keep the challenge of the puzzles at the same level. They did the next best thing and made the game cost effective. I especially like Unlock! though, because they do not have players destroying cards, so while the original player cannot play it again, they can hand it off to another. I keep all of my Unlock! games, and take them to my classroom so that on a free day I can challenge my students. I do not have enough yet to play with my entire class, but I am slowly getting there. I have done Squeak and Sausage with a group of 4 while other students played another game and they loved it. If you have Unlock! games you are done with, consider donating them to a school/ library or trading them with another! Then you have made it more than a one time use.
Then there is the puzzle game Time Stories..Each time story’s module is around 25$ to purchase…but we end up playing them normally for 4-6 hours. The puzzles are difficult and the timing is hard to get just right. I find that their fun and time consuming nature overrides the slightly higher cost when compared to the Unlock! series and the EXIT the game series!
Finally, what do people do with these games once they are destroyed? If you are a crafty person, some people have created some very cool shadow boxes, especially for games like Pandemic Legacy. This takes the board game from being a one time use thing, and turns it into a lovely discussion piece for your board gaming room. It also will remind you of whether you crashed and burned or were successful in your ventures. I love when art pieces can give such fond memories.
While I understand the argument that board games are intended to be unlimited use, sometimes in life we pay for the experience of something. I pay 20$+ every time I go to the movies, to get into a zoo or museum can be anywhere from 30-50$ and an actual escape room can be 100$+. I try to keep things relative when buying board games, and remember that games give me more engagement and long term entertainment than many of these other attractions. I treat these one time games and legacy games less like a board game, and more like an experience.