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Legacy of Dragonholt» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Legacy of Dragonholt - Gameplay Impressions (Thus Far) rss

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Legacy of Dragonholt is a very challenging game to describe, but also one of the most interesting products I have seen from FFG in a long time. In many ways it is barely a board game at all. It’s more akin to an analog version of an old computer text adventure game.

Visually it resembles a conventional role playing game beginner box, such as D&D 5th edition’s Starter Set, with a small collection of rule and adventure books. You have a character sheet, but it is mostly composed of narrative fluff details such as what your character looks like and their personality. The only real game mechanics that are a factor in the gameplay itself is a small list of five to eight “skills”, and a Stamina value which is kind of like an abstract concept of hit points, but covers any type of negative outcome. These skills have no ranking or value component and you never roll dice based on them. You simply have a skill or you don’t. Beyond that there is nothing else needed to finish your character. No weapons, armor stats, magic spells, etc. Nothing. It’s a very abstractionist take on things.

The gameplay consists of taking your newly minted character and running them through a series of pre-scripted adventures. The adventures themselves are basically collections of multiple choice branching storylines read from one of the seven included adventure books, similar to what you would find in a choose your own adventure or Fighting Fantasy book. The story bumps along well and has a good mix of humor and action. At different junctions, usually after a paragraph or two, a question will be presented such as “Do you want to ask about the mysterious woods” or “ Ask about how you met your traveling companion”.

When a choice presents itself the players can decide who will make the decision. Who decides what to do is important because often a choice will require a certain skill. For example “You sneak up to the forest” (Requires Stealth) might be one of the choices but if you don’t have that skill listed on your character sheet you can’t even choose it as an option. It’s a very rigid system.

Each time a character makes a decision they flip over a small token. They can make no more decisions until everyone else has flipped their token, by making other decisions, then everyone resets it back. This prevents a group from just spreading the field and making a team of characters with all the skills, and just taking every easy choice. You have to do a bit of strategy on who is the best person for the job, and to make sure they are available to use their decision token when needed. Skills should really be treated more as a narrative match to your vision of your character and not just a way to min-max if you want to play true to the spirit of the game.

Beyond reading excerpts from the adventure books there are a few other elements to keep track of, such time that has passed, narrative story segments that have been triggered, and advancements to your character’s skills. These are all logged on a couple of story sheets that have a series of boxes with a corresponding number and letter combination. You might have moments in the text of the adventure where you choose to talk to one person and not another, and it will prompt you to “mark box E1” on the story log. Later you might be reading a story arc and you’ll see notes that say something to the effect of “If E1 is marked turn to ____” implying that your prior choice now steers the current outcome. Advancement works in a similar manner with a certain amount of story points essentially unlocking times when you can allocate experience you have gained into adding a new skill to your list. Due to the sparse nature of stats gaining a new skill actually feels like a great accomplishment, which is nice and rewarding.

Periodically you will also gain items to add to your party’s inventory. Items are quite a rarity so don’t expect to be piling up armor and potions any time soon. Nicely illustrated cards indicate what items you have and describe what they can be used for.

Overall we have had fun with the system so far. It’s tough to judge this game is it really has no precedent to compare to. You don’t play it like a board game as there is next to nothing for mechanics. You also can’t heavily role play with it as your choices are already predetermined and you are simply choosing from a small list of options. You can role-play with those given options but it ends up feeling very different than D&D and the like, which is what a lot of people are used to.

Instead you have to think about not what the game is missing, but more about what it’s minimalist nature offers. This is a very easy game to get into. People who normally would never bother to fill out a character sheet or learn a bunch of pages of rules can still be on the road and playing in a minimal amount of time, and the prewritten story means that there is no campaign to write as a GM or open ended outcomes to try to improvise on the fly. You just buckle up and ride along. That level of commitment and involvement is really the decision point of whether you will embrace this system or not I think. It seems like a common thing to ask for role playing style games that are light on rules and turn-key out of the box, but once you actually sit down with one will you actually accept it for what it is?

Personally I really like the system. It is probably one of the more interesting products FFG has released in a long time. What happens with it next could be fun to see. It is so loosely arranged and open ended that the system could really go any direction possible in the future.

Summary:

Pros:

-Very, very easy to get started with and play. All the prep work and heavy lifting is already done. It’s a turn key story game that looks like your playing an RPG without people knowing they are playing an RPG. People who would never touch D&D might actually give this try and could serve as a great gateway to fantasy adventure gaming due to the low barrier to entry, rules and prep wise.

-The adventure writing is very well done, with a good mix of humor and action scenes. People were chuckling at the jokes and invested in the excitement of the battle scenes. It was fun to see and experience.

-The Runebound world finally gets some real personality! FFG really needed to start fleshing things out and this product makes it more personal and alive then ever before.

-Great future potential for the system. It is such a blank slate right now, and if FFG can thread in a bit more rules crunch and meaningful decisions while keeping the accessibility level nice and low this could become something of a story game cult hit.

Cons:

-Role playing is limited by the pre-scripted choices available and not as open ended as D&D-style games which is not what a lot of people probably are expecting. You really have to be ok with that or you are going to have a bad time.

-Not as repayable as I would hope. There are a good amount of story branches but you will know the main plot hooks already after the first play through and it will be more a matter of seeing the alternate outcomes of choices as opposed to a wholly contained story experience each time. Based on our pace so far this is probably going to end up being around a 12-14 hour campaign. YMMV.

-Kind of overpriced. At $60 it’s kind of a high price tag for what is essentially the Oracle system's version of a D&D Red Box starter set. The quality is great like most all FFG products but I think at $35-40 this would be a much easier sell, especially since it is the first foray for the system as a whole. I still bought it on day one and have no regrets doing so because I like story gaming, but I feel a lot of people might be on the fence with this one and the high price might be too much of a gamble for them.

Overall Rating:

I decided not to BGG rate this game until we have played through all six adventures and the town chapters, but after getting through about a third of the game I’m leaning towards an 8 rating. As a long time D&D and WFRP GM this game is tough to adjust to because it takes so many things out of your hands and puts them into the control of the adventure books, but on the inverse of that the players in my group loved it and as sad as it is to say, they were just as invested in and happy with the experience with the premade adventure books as they were with my own home-brew adventures that I’ve sunk hours and hours into. Watching their good experience with the game and the fun they were having however is really what sold me on its merits, and I am definitely looking forward to what they do next with Legacy of Dragonholt.
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Sébastien Patry
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Thank you for this in depth description. I am also a regular role-player. My wife loved playing Sherlock Holmes consulting detective with me. I think this game will be a good compromise for me and her.

It must be weird though to have combat where you cannot fail?
It’s never really combat is it?
You just choose how you tackle a fight like any other challenge?
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tim meyer
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Quote:
the players in my group loved it and as sad as iot is to say, they were just as invested in and happy with the experience with the premade adventure books as they were with my own home-brew adventures that I’ve sunk hours and hours into. Watching their good experience with the game and the fun they were having however is really what sold me on its merits, and I am definitely looking forward to what they do next with Legacy of Dragonholt.

Very glad to hear. Knowing other people are having fun is what makes me have fun. I'm even more excited to play this through with my group now. They love story driven anything. I think I will even adapt it some for use in one of my ESL classes.
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Scourn1
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Jacquemort wrote:
Thank you for this in depth description. I am also a regular role-player. My wife loved playing Sherlock Holmes consulting detective with me. I think this game will be a good compromise for me and her.

It must be weird though to have combat where you cannot fail?
It’s never really combat is it?
You just choose how you tackle a fight like any other challenge?


Based on choices and outcomes of those choices, your character may fail combat in a sense. If you lose enough stamina to go to 0, you disable a skill of your choice and cant use the skill til you somehow "heal" it in a sense.

what this would doto you is if you had enough disabled, youd have a lot less story options you could do.

There is combat. You choose a lot how you attack and what you do. Use a sword, use a bow, use magic, etc.

Fighting is like any other story choice point.

It is very very DND lite. If you like combat to where you could die/fail etc, roll dice, have a armor class or the such this wouldn't be a game I would recommend. that would be DND
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John B
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I recently bought the first Fabled Lands CYA for $8. This Dragonholt seems very similar (FL uses dice) for 7x the price. How do these compare? I can see that Dragonholt has more content, but not 7x more. I agree a lower price point would make it more attractive to me.
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Guillaume Pages
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It sounds more like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective which are not board games either. And just like Sherlock, it sounds like you can gift your copy to another pkayer after you are done with the campaign. Better than a legacy format.
Sounds interesting.
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Have you played/read Midnight Legion: Operation Deep Sleep? If so, could you compare the two?
 
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Thanks for the review!

Waiting for my copy; thins may be fun with the wife. She played D&D a few times but was generally turned off by all the mechanics so this may be more her speed.

We haven't played Sherlock Homes but this has me tempted to track it down.
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johnb4bgg wrote:
I recently bought the first Fabled Lands CYA for $8. This Dragonholt seems very similar (FL uses dice) for 7x the price. How do these compare? I can see that Dragonholt has more content, but not 7x more. I agree a lower price point would make it more attractive to me.


My experience with the FL books is fleeting but I would say the rules crunch in FL is much greater (well, not that much since they are both lighter than most anything else) and you have a seemingly greater amount of freedom. Legacy of Dragonholt is much more on rails and is free of things like skill checks and such. I think where Legacy of Dragonholt really excels is how easily it lends itself to multiplayer and just how easy of a game it is to manage in general, and I think the writing quality is better than most story games.

The value proposition for FL is definitely better. Looking on Amazon I see that the reissues of Vol. 1-4 are only $8.99 each. That's a great amount of content for the price. I paid double that for used copies of the books a few years ago (and sadly haven't done much with them since).
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Antonio Tang
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Party Hats wrote:
I think where Legacy of Dragonholt really excels is how easily it lends itself to multiplayer and just how easy of a game it is to manage in general, and I think the writing quality is better than most story games.

I agree. The writing is vivid and stirs the imagination. The NPCs really come alive. Of course, this is expected from the author of Mansions of Madness: Second Edition and Eldritch Horror. Or at least I THINK Nikki's the lead writer...
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John B
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Coffee,
Thanks for the reply and perspective. I got lucky when buying the $8 game book. As you say, Amazon has it for $9, but they also had a seller offering the book(new) for $8 with free shipping. No brainer, I figured it's cheap enough for me to see if I like them. I'm not in a hurry and can wait for the honeymoon period to end - hopefully pickup Dragonholt later...
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I cant get past that this is a super expensive fighting fantasy iteration.

Thanks for the write up, but I think my excitement took a nosedive. I want to see some of it played but that would spoil it :/
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Eric Dodd
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Fabled Lands is actually free to play using the 'app' flapp here: http://flapp.sourceforge.net/

Another alternative if you want to try a similar system is Interactive Fiction gamebooks like Heart of Ice.

Legacy of Dragonholt does sound good though, but I might wait for a cheaper time to get it.
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Let me ask you this then: What would make this game more fun/different than the text based video games?

How would you compare it against Pathfinder Card Game? In terms of fun, replayibility etc...

How would you compare it against card based dungeon crawlers?
 
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Scourn1
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dustonthepath wrote:
Let me ask you this then: What would make this game more fun/different than the text based video games?

How would you compare it against Pathfinder Card Game? In terms of fun, replayibility etc...

How would you compare it against card based dungeon crawlers?


At a personal preference? A better skill mechanic. Some form of dice rolling would be nice to make it unpredictable.

Pathfimder card game was a vastly heavier game. Many more mechanics. It was never really an adventure or story like Dragonholt is. If you like story telling, go dragonholt. If you want a deckbuilder type game, go pathfinder

Card based dungeon crawlers like? Only one I know if that is more card based and has 0 dice is Gloomhaven. I like Gloom haven, but again, very heavy on mechanics. Its more a mechanic DND then actual DND. Plus your fighting the board and not a DM. Gloom is good if you have a steady group.

Dragonholt can be more of a pick up a new chtacter along the way and do an adventure, where gloomhaven is all about progression and you cant just give it to new characters.
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Ben Evans
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BloodyCactus wrote:
I cant get past that this is a super expensive fighting fantasy iteration.

Thanks for the write up, but I think my excitement took a nosedive. I want to see some of it played but that would spoil it :/


I actually played a fighting fantasy game right before I played this as I thought it sounded similar too. Personally I find this levels above that franchise, this certainly builds on that basic framework but the execution is tighter and as a player I feel like I'm driving the experience, not the crummy die roles I made at the start of the game. I do wish they'd made the intro quest downloadable so people could try it.
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Cor6 wrote:
BloodyCactus wrote:
I cant get past that this is a super expensive fighting fantasy iteration.

Thanks for the write up, but I think my excitement took a nosedive. I want to see some of it played but that would spoil it :/


I actually played a fighting fantasy game right before I played this as I thought it sounded similar too. Personally I find this levels above that franchise, this certainly builds on that basic framework but the execution is tighter and as a player I feel like I'm driving the experience, not the crummy die roles I made at the start of the game. I do wish they'd made the intro quest downloadable so people could try it.


good to hear. My experience with FF was back in the early 80's, and a lot of game theory design has gone under the bridge since then to now, so I'd hope LoD to be a better game. I'd just expect a lot more than "Do you choose A or B..." repeating over and over.

Do any of the choices you make actually cut out swathes of the game? I abhore game design that gives you the illusion of choice that isnt really a choice. (Video games like Elder Scrolls Skyrim do this, 99% all choices lead to the same answer, the exception being the civil war quest).

Im going to wait for some more reviews on this to show up.
 
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I totally agree with your assessment of the pros and cons.

It is a bit spendy for what it is, but it is an excellent introduction to gm-less role playing. We are having a great time with it - I think we're going to play it every night for a week or so, and then be done with it. Some people may want to play it again, but for me it would be like playing Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases multiple times. If they make a sequel, I'd probably get it though.
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Shall we say then that this mainly is a RPG book (like Fabled Lands) "disguised" as a board game? (not that something wrong with it?

And it is less-heavy, more traditional RPG-like than Gloomhaven?
 
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I like what I have read and seen about this game so far. Perhaps $60 is a little steep for what comes in the box, but I've been getting used to paying $100 for games packed with minis that are ultimately "meh" experiences upon looking back. If I can pay $60 for a good experience, that'll be a better sense of value to me, regardless of what is actually in the box.

I realize there are people that might comment on how there are even less expensive games that offer great experiences...which is likely true...but I might be interested in THIS experience. And if it is fun, and I can comfortably stomach paying $60 for a game, then I'd say it is money well spent.

Considering this is FFG...if this new game format seems a success, I'm sure we can expect the Star Wars version in a year or so. Which I would not mind.
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I think I'm going to have to start selling some old gamebooks at $60 a pop.
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It looks interesting (similar to Fighting Fantasy,)but many of the Fighting Fantasy books have been reproduced digitally, and some even have sound effects. The digital Fighting Fantasy books are also a lot more less expensive.
I think I'll pass on this game, although it looks quite enjoyable.
 
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I really like that designers are trying something new and looking to bridge the gap between board games and RPGs, but sadly this is a bit of a swing and miss for me. My hope is that this is a first attempt and the concept will develop, but as it is this just doesn’t have enough going on to make it a success - it doesn’t add enough to the choose your own adventure format for this to be a ‘game’, clever as it is.

What I would hope to see as they develop the system, is the inclusion of more game elements. I want more items, more cards and more weapons to make me feel like I’m playing as a character at the table, rather than just reading or listening to someone else read from a book. For this to become more of a game, I think we have to see the introduction of dice and more stats that open the world up more and take it off the rails somewhat. There has to be some form of combat beyond making a binary choice, or using a skill. It desperately needs another level of complexity to turn this into a game, especially a multiplayer experience which it really is not.

It’s so clever and elegant how it deals with retaining your choices, and how those choices shape the future of your world - but presently the system just isn’t meaty enough to make it a ‘game’. I look forward to seeing where FF or other designers may take this base idea in the future, as it is a step in a very clever and interesting direction, but as it is it’s not for me and doesn’t appear to be flexible enough to please RPG fans, nor gamey enough to attract non-RPGers and give them a gentle but true insight into what an RPG could feel like.
 
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Ryucoo wrote:
I really like that designers are trying something new and looking to bridge the gap between board games and RPGs, but sadly this is a bit of a swing and miss for me. My hope is that this is a first attempt and the concept will develop, but as it is this just doesn’t have enough going on to make it a success - it doesn’t add enough to the choose your own adventure format for this to be a ‘game’, clever as it is.

What I would hope to see as they develop the system, is the inclusion of more game elements. I want more items, more cards and more weapons to make me feel like I’m playing as a character at the table, rather than just reading or listening to someone else read from a book. For this to become more of a game, I think we have to see the introduction of dice and more stats that open the world up more and take it off the rails somewhat. There has to be some form of combat beyond making a binary choice, or using a skill. It desperately needs another level of complexity to turn this into a game, especially a multiplayer experience which it really is not.

It’s so clever and elegant how it deals with retaining your choices, and how those choices shape the future of your world - but presently the system just isn’t meaty enough to make it a ‘game’. I look forward to seeing where FF or other designers may take this base idea in the future, as it is a step in a very clever and interesting direction, but as it is it’s not for me and doesn’t appear to be flexible enough to please RPG fans, nor gamey enough to attract non-RPGers and give them a gentle but true insight into what an RPG could feel like.


You'll have to forgive me for reserecting kind of an old thread, but I wanted to add a couple points.

I think you and others are absolutly correct that LoD is very much more a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story than a traditional game, that it removes a lot of the randomness from the systems and so decreases replayability, that it zooms out and doesn't allow for granular control of events or character progression and even that it's not really an RPG or board/card game.

But...I kind of don't think any of those things are bad?

Like, I feel like this is kind of hurt because FFG published it and it looks like an RPG so we expect it to be a certain type of product. When in actuality it PLAYS like a straight CYOA with a little more control in the character creation process.

But if you acceapt what it IS...I think it has a lot going for it. For one, while I think it works BEST as a solo experience (mostly for the same reason any of these "reading" games stumble in multiplayer--when read aloud they rely on the performance and public speaking skills of the reader, which do not always do the writing justice), this is probably the best multiplayer application of a CYOA format I've ever seen. And sure, it's very mechanics-light. But that's because it's not a game. It's a story that's meant to be read with a minimum of granularity so it has the broadest base possible; ditto with the lack of randomness--again, not a game, a story.

I think the price is a more saliant concern. The entire thing should take you 8-12 hours (let's say 10) and at $48 there are certainly cheaper options. But...if you print off character and story sheets you can gift or resell this in near-mint condition after you've played through it. And even if you don't want to consider possible resale, it's worth noting that the writing here is probably a lot better than other storytelling/CYOA hybrids I've seen or played.
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