What's Eric Playing?

#177 – Legacy of Dragonholt

Base price: $60.
1 – 6 players.
Play time: 60 – 90 minutes / session.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 4

Alright, let’s go a bit out into right field with Legacy of Dragonholt. Generally speaking, I’m more of a “pieces and dice and throw stuff onto a table” gamer, but I have a deep love for narrative games, as well, from the more classic D&D-style games to games with a major narrative component, such as Pandemic Legacy, Near and Far, or Spy Club. I’ve been trying to figure out how to review legacy games (board games with a significant narrative component that play out over multiple games with persistent game-to-game effects and consequences), so reviewing a game like Legacy of Dragonholt (which, while not a legacy game, does have a major narrative campaign) hopefully will help me flex that part of my brain.

In Legacy of Dragonholt, you play as one or many characters called to Dragonholt Village by a friend of yours who expresses her desire to see you again after a while, but couldn’t be bothered to spell anything correctly in her letter. Nonetheless, you journey that way and encounter a whole new adventure. Will you be able to complete the quests, solve the mysteries, and uncover the intrigue in Dragonholt?

Contents

Setup

So setup kind of depends on where you are, gameplay-wise. The first thing you’re going to really need to do is create your character, so you’ll want to get out the Character Creation booklet and one of the character sheets:

Follow the instructions in the book to finish creating your character.

Generally speaking, for subsequent plays, you should use whatever book you were last using (I have omitted a photo of the books for spoilery reasons). For your first game, that’ll be “To New Roads”.

You can set aside the Item cards, but don’t look at them:

And if you’re playing with more than 2 players, give each player an Activation Token (you can use them at two, but it doesn’t super matter, so we typically don’t):

Honestly, once you’ve done all that, you’re basically ready to start!

Gameplay

If you haven’t created a character, yet, you should do so now. You’ll need to pick a race and a class, and each race and class have skills that members of that race or class tend to have, like Thievery or Streetwise or Performance. Generally, you take at least 5 skills, but you may take more at a 2 Stamina penalty per additional skill. At two players, you gain two additional maximum stamina, and if you’re playing by yourself, you would gain an additional four maximum stamina.

Anyways, once you’ve built your character, you can start your campaign. A campaign of Legacy of Dragonholt is tough to complete in one session (as each session is generally about an hour of play), so I’ll talk more about one specific session. Again, this assumes you’ve already gone through the process of creating a character.

If you’ve never heard of Legacy of Dragonholt before, it’s going to play like a simplified version of a tabletop RPG in a lot of ways. Rather than rolling a D20 for skill checks, like in Dungeons and Dragons (or some other RPGs), the skills your character has taken are just sort-of-checked as a binary “you have this or you don’t”.

What will happen is that you’ll generally read the given passage up to a choice, like so:

3742

As you continue reading through the Legacy of Dragonholt review, you come across Eric. “Hello, traveler!”, he says, vaguely blurring the lines between a bad meta-joke and a complex narrative. You ask him what he’s doing, and he responds that he had meant to type a small excerpt from the Legacy of Dragonholt story book, but remembered that he didn’t currently have it on him, so similar to other narrative game reviews he’s done in the past, he’s just going to make it up on a whim. He wonders if you have any suggestions? Then again, given how lost he is in thought, you could probably just steal his wallet…

Steal this goof’s wallet.
Requires thievery (skill).
–> Read 6113.

“I don’t know if you fleshed out your own character enough; maybe explain his motiviations?”
–> Read 2005.

“Here, let me act out what you should do next.”
Requires performance (skill).
–> Read 7992.

“Maybe this book on metanarrative construction could help?”
Requires Book on Metanarrative Construction (C). 
–> Read 7992.

think that’s how it’s formatted; remind me to take a look next time I play. Either way, certain choices require certain skills, but only the active player’s skills are checked. If your actor / thief isn’t the active player, well, hope you like listening to someone explain character motivations for a few paragraphs. Either way, in To New Roads, you generally take turns having players be the active player by exhausting their Activation Token (flipping it face down). If your Activation Token is exhausted, you cannot make the current decision. If every player’s Activation Token is exhausted, you all flip yours face-up. In some later scenarios, players will have an “encounter” in which they are the active player for the entire duration of the encounter.

As you can see by the bottom prompt, some choices require that you have an item of some kind to proceed:

They’re labelled with letters (and I’m not showing the other side for again, spoilery reasons). You’ll pick them up through certain choices, and other choices may cause you to lose items or gain new ones.

Similarly, some choices may cause you to lose stamina. Once you’re at 0 stamina, you become exhausted, and must deactivate one of your skills in order to regain 1 stamina and keep going. It’s not lost forever, though it may take you a while to get it back.

Regardless of the outcome, other choices may cause you to mark Story Points, which may unlock a variety of good (or bad) new options as you progress through the campaign.

A “game” of it isn’t really “won” or “lost”, it’s just sort of played. You stop when you feel like, essentially, and as long as you keep track of what book you were using and what part you left off on, you can kind of keep going whenever. It’s very much like a more complex, game-y Choose Your Own Adventure book.

To that end, play until you either complete the campaign or feel like stopping!

Player Count Differences

The nice thing about playing solo is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time reading things out loud and you get a bonkers stamina boost (basically letting you have two extra skills for free). At two players, you get a pretty good stamina boost, as well, so knock yourself out. I feel like it probably excels in the one – three-player space unless you’re trying to use it as a ramp into more traditional tabletop RPGs; experienced players may get frustrated by the long amount of time between decisions they can make.

That said, I quite enjoy it at two or three, and I’m sure I would have fun playing it solo, as well.

Strategy

Honestly, it’s a narrative, and I haven’t played to the end of the campaign, so “strategy” may not be the best name for this section.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

Mehs

Cons

Overall: 8.75 / 10

This is a very good “Game in Progress” photo and you’re glad you looked at it and read this caption.

Overall, Legacy of Dragonholt is super! If you’ve never tried a pure narrative game before, this isn’t a bad place to start, and I’m not even a huge fan of fantasy! I won’t delve into that further but I imagine the reasons aren’t that hard to guess, but anyways. It’s got a lot of the nice parts of say, Dungeons and Dragons, but without as much complexity, making it feel more casual. Sure, there are things you can’t do here that you can do in D&D (mostly unscripted stuff since the entire game is kind of, well, pre-scripted and generated, to some degree), but you have to make tradeoffs somewhere. There will be some who lament that this isn’t a narrative game more in the vein of Near and Far (where there is a board game component but also a strong narrative) and I do love those kinds of games, but I would say that this wasn’t meant to be a game like those games, so I try not to judge it in the same way. To me, this is meant to be a more interactive form of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure-style books (as I’ve said), and I think it’s a really interesting system, in that regard. If you’re looking for a fun and straightforward narrative game or it’s your first time going anywhere near a narrative game, I’d highly recommend Legacy of Dragonholt! I’ve had a great time with it.