Legacy of Dragonholt review
Don’t be misled by the word “legacy” in the title. This is not a legacy game. In fact, Legacy of Dragonholt isn’t, strictly speaking, a game at all. That’s certainly not how Fantasy Flight is describing this intriguing release. More aptly, the box proclaims it as “A Co-operative Narrative Adventure” set in Terrinoth, the same high fantasy world as the studio’s Runebound and Descent games. The legacy of the title instead refers to something literal in the aforementioned narrative: a thorny issue of local inheritance, which forms the story’s central source of mystery and conflict.
As soon as you squeak open the box, you’ll see what we mean. Certain components are noticeable by their absence. Like a board, for example. Or dice. There are no minis here, nor meeples. The only cards present are a slim deck of items, which you’re advised not to look at until instructed. (Each has a letter on its reverse to distinguish it.) There’s a map of the eponymous village, a reproduction of a handwritten letter that kicks things off and a small journal for perusal when the plot allows. The heart of the game is found in a set of seven A4-ish-sized books, filled with numbered entries that will strike a sense of instant familiarity for anyone who’s ever read a Fighting Fantasy gamebook.
That’s right: Legacy of Dragonholt is essentially a choose-your-own-adventure book with added trimmings and production value. If you were feeling especially charitable, you might describe it as a GM-free RPG – and that’s exactly what we were hoping for when our group first got stuck in – but it becomes quickly clear that it doesn’t really sing as a shared activity.
After creating their own characters (an orc apothecary, perhaps; or maybe a half-catfolk brawler) via some pleasantly stat-free, thematic guidelines, players are given activation tokens which they use to take turns at making plot-progressing decisions, checking off story point boxes and tracking the passage of time as they go. But that’s about the extent of the active involvement. Everything else requires either reading out, or listening to, often long chunks of narrative found by flicking backwards and forwards through the various quest books, with little visual or tactile stimuli other than the aforementioned paper props. In short, for most gaming groups, it will get old real quick, missing even a pure theatre-of-the-mind RPG’s appeal thanks to its limited-choice offerings and broadly linear momentum.
That said, Legacy of Dragonholt works very well as a solo activity – just like those Forests of Doom and Citadels of Chaos, except without all the tedious dice rolling, and with some commendably progressive story details (primarily along LGBT+ lines). Designer Nikki Valens (Eldritch Horror, Mansions of Madness) writes vividly and engagingly, and constructs the branching narrative in such a way that you really feel your decisions making a difference to the world as you explore and set off from the titular hub on your various quests – successfully or otherwise.
Whether that makes it worth the premium pricing is up for debate. 50-odd quid is a lot to ask for something that could, honestly, fit into a few paperbacks. You may just prefer to pull out your old Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstones.
An impressively- (but expensively) mounted text-based, branching-story adventure that’s best appreciated as a solitaire, off-the-tabletop experience.
Designer: Nikki Valens
Time: 30-80 minutes