Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

What to play after you've finished Pandemic Legacy

The best legacy games to bring to your table once you're done saving the globe in Pandemic Legacy.

A bereft, boxless life is no life at all. Or at least that’s how it feels when you finally wrap up a beloved legacy campaign. If Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock’s Pandemic Legacy was your first experience of the format, you may have just created a new itch -- one that can only be scratched by the sultry delights of mysterious packages and delectable, board-changing stickers. 

Don’t worry, it’s no reason to call a doctor. The only side effect is that it might make returning to regular board games seem rather pedestrian by comparison. Before you go backing every single Kickstarter with “legacy” slapped in the title, however, allow us to intercede. 

Board games like Pandemic Legacy

Board games like Pandemic Legacy

The “permanently evolving board game” concept is a dangerously alluring one. Because designers are still mastering the art, there are some pretty dire games under the legacy belt. Even Daviau’s own SeaFall is a waterlogged mess -- seriously, how did pirate adventures manage to be so tedious? -- despite it being built explicitly for the format. Instead of rushing for that quick fix, consider checking out these excellent suggestions for your post-Pandemic Legacy pursuits.

The greatest legacy: Gloomhaven

What to play after you finished pandemic legacy

What is it?

A cooperative dungeon crawler centered on tactical combat. Also the highest ranked board game out there.

Similarities to Pandemic Legacy:

  • Cooperative
  • Punch-you-in-the-face difficult at times
  • Stickers! Secret boxes! Mystery!

In 2017, Gloomhaven plonked its hefty box on the top of BoardGameGeek’s ranked list with an authoritative thump. Since then, the vermling-stuffed package has refused to budge, fending off all contenders with a cavalcade of miniatures, monsters, and exciting scenarios. The fantasy theme might seem uninspired, but the game itself is so smartly woven and generous with its components that almost anyone who’s played it is immediately smitten.

Tactical, grid-based combat mixed with deckbuilding is already an exciting premise. Gloomhaven goes the extra mile though by packing in a bulging campaign of branching scenarios, stories, and characters. If you’ve played video games like Divinity: Original Sin 2 or Dragon Age, this is about as close as you can get to replicating them in board game form.

The core box is, however, an awful lot of money. For folks unsure if they’d even like the game to begin with, an asking price of over $100 is a bit rich. Thankfully, the standalone Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion offers the same grand brilliance but squeezed down into a much more affordable (yet still outrageously generous) 30-mission box. Gloomhaven might seem a far cry from Pandemic, but even the most elf-averse gamers deserve to give themselves a taste of the current king of the scene.

Co-op and cards: Aeon’s End: Legacy

The best legacy board games

What is it?

Cooperative deckbuilding where everyone plays as colorful wizards wielding powerful spells.

Similarities to Pandemic Legacy:

  • Cooperative
  • Legacy deck
  • Sealed packages of delight
  • You hold cards

You’d be forgiven for having missed the Aeon’s End series, which has quietly pumped out enjoyable cooperative deckbuilders for the last four years. Much like Gloomhaven, the theming can lead the eyes to scan right past the box with barely a blink of interest (though at least there’s some color at work here). Take a chance and crack open a copy, however, and you’ll find some genuinely entertaining and innovative ideas. Along with the careful management of your decks, Aeon’s End tasks you with handling a varying turn order as you battle with bosses and their minions.

The legacy edition is a great starting point for those scared by the idea of building decks up from nothing. It allows you to slowly expand your stack of cards into a powerful weapon over the course of the campaign. And there are plenty of neat boxes to unpack here, too. The story -- though uninspired -- comes spliced into chapter boxes which tease events and enemies to come. If you’re after a new cooperative (and evolving) puzzle to solve with your friends each week, Aeon’s End: Legacy is a solid next step after and shakes up the structure enough to keep the legacy style feeling fresh.

A taste of treachery: Betrayal Legacy

Games like pandemic legacy - Betrayal Legacy

What is it?

Explore a haunted mansion over and over again with your friends! Collect powerful items, pass sanity tests, and -- hold on, why is your friend brandishing a knife? And are those bat wings? Oh dear.

Similarities to Pandemic Legacy:

  • Cooperative (almost!)
  • Random chance can decide your fate
  • Legacy deck
  • Rob Daviau’s handiwork
  • A motherload of stickers to apply.

Until 2020 rolled around, a globe-ravaging pandemic seemed like light, entertaining fair to sit  comfortably alongside other cliched horror scenarios. To that end, we’re really hoping Betrayal Legacy isn’t presaging any kind of impending ghost attack.

Built on the ghoul-infested foundations of 2004’s Betrayal at House on the Hill, this legacy story follows generations of families, each inevitably drawn to explore a haunted mansion.

Each of the 13 included games in this semi-cooperative experience builds up the tension with exploratory tile-laying as players delve into the dark, shifting halls. Eventually a scenario is unveiled that could see one, all, or no players turn on each other as a paranormal force strikes. Depending on who survives each game, characters may age, shift stats, or be replaced by their offspring as the legacy aspect delivers an overarching narrative.

Those who’ve dabbled in the core, non-legacy game of Betrayal will be well aware that part of the charm comes from the myriad weird and wacky scenarios. The 13 included games could prove plenty, but you’ll also be left with a unique and fully functioning game to play with once your story runs its length.

A lighter contest: My City

What to play after Pandemic Legacy

What is it?

A gentle Legacy game about flipping cards and slotting polyominoes into your grid.

Similarities to Pandemic Legacy:

  • Almost none

Attempting to wean yourself off legacy gaming? My City’s chilled-out affair of unveiling cards  and slotting together building tiles will weigh less heavily on your mind, emotions, and schedule. Depending on how you line up the tiles in your grid and what they cover, you’ll net your city a varying bundle of points. It’s a satisfying premise that’s simple enough for even the youngest (or most easily distracted) board gamer minds to wrap around.

The legacy aspect splits everything into chapters comprising three games. There’s minimal plot here -- it’s best not to think about why your cities are demolished so wastefully each game -- but new chapters mark a fresh era of development. These proffer an excuse to add new building types or board-altering stickers, along with rules that twist, squeeze, and toy with the scoring mechanics. You’ll need to be paying attention, but each game remains a quick, unflustered affair. After scrambling across the globe to shut down a deadly disease, picking where to plonk a new farm or factory is hardly a life-or-death decision. 

My City sells itself on family-friendly design, but there’s enough intricacy here to sate a seasoned, family-hating board gamer, too. That makes it the perfect legacy game to share with your siblings, parents, or kids. They can enjoy the systems while you mercilessly demolish their scores round after round. That’s a win for the family and your ego.

A spot of history: Risk Legacy

Pandemic legacy style board games - risk legacy

What is it?

The first real legacy board game and precursor to Pandemic Legacy. A game of dice rolling and world domination that spirals into weirder and weirder territory.

Similarities to Pandemic Legacy:

  • Sealed boxes, stickers, and surprises
  • It’s basically the foundation upon which Pandemic Legacy was crafted

And finally, if Pandemic Legacy has truly blown your mind, consider taking a trip back to where it all started with 2011’s Risk Legacy. We have to admit, we’re not really big fans of Risk’s heavily luck-based game of board-conquering powers. Yet it’s hard to deny the cool factor of whipping open this attaché case of a game to play with your group.

Much like Pandemic Legacy, there’s little more we can say about what’s contained within without stepping into the ever-present and poisonous mire of spoilers. At its heart this is still Risk. But opening the box today feels like uncovering the first scribbles of what’s become a staple genre of modern board gaming. There are some genius bombshells dropped onto Risk Legacy’s madly shifting map, and they still serve to outdo many of the more recent games to jump on the legacy bandwagon. 

Those are our picks for games similar to Pandemic Legacy, but we’ve barely scratched the ever-shifting surface of the genre. Titles like Clank Legacy and The King’s Dilemma offer brilliant, unique spins on the concept that are well worth checking out. If you have any others you’ve found to flex the same joy-sensors in your brain, be sure to share them with us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. And if you enjoyed this piece, you can also check out the Going Analog Podcast or our new quiz show as well!

Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Frosthaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found scouring the web for the latest and greatest games, then wondering why he never has time to actually play them. Share your love of deck builders with him at @Fernoface on Twitter or drop an email to henry@moonrock.agency.