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Q&A with Jason Brooks of Brookspun Games

Jason Brooks - Legacies Interview

Legacies is a thematic, mid-weight Euro strategy game from Brookspun Games. We spoke to the creator, and founder of Brookspun Games, Jason Brooks before its Kickstarter launch.

So, you're really close to releasing Legacies to the world via Kickstarter. Could you tell us a little about the story behind legacies, what's it all about?

You are famous in the early 1800s. You are so confident in the longevity of your fame that you and several other well-known characters make a bet over who will be the MOST famous 300 years in the future. Over the course of six generations, you and your opponents work to maximise your fame by making relationships, investing in industries, acquiring heirlooms, and appointing successors to carry on your legacy.

The idea for Legacies came to me when I saw the movie The Greatest Showman. As a child I loved the circus and was always amazed when I learned it had been around for nearly 200 years. During the scene where Barnum partners with Phillip Carlyle who ultimately becomes his successor, I instantly knew I wanted to develop a game focused on using successors to carry someone’s name and fame forward across centuries.

Having read your BGG page, you talk about several mechanics combining in this game. How do you go about balancing all the mechanics?

Legacies was one of my more unique designs. One where the addition or changing of mechanics actually helped me to balance the game and improve the player experience. About 30-40 playtests in, a fellow designer who prefers shorter games made the comment: “I really like playing the cards - that’s fun, but this round-end scoring/accounting is not fun”. I hadn’t thought much of it since some of my favourite games have “accounting” steps at the end of each round/phase.

That feedback led to the creation of the action-drafting and variable round-end mechanisms which added to the depth, strategy, and variability of the game. It did this whilst also removing that “not fun” accounting and integrating those elements into gameplay choices that are up to the players. The variable scoring tiles were a solution for runaway leader syndromes. In Euros of this length, it’s tough to recognise ⅓ of the way in that you’re way behind with little chance of catching up. The variable scoring tiles solved that and also fit well thematically as the things that made someone famous in the 19th century aren’t necessarily the same things that make someone famous today.

What part of your game do you think makes Legacies stand out from other mid-heavy euros that are on the market?

One of the questions on my playtest feedback form is “what game(s) does this remind you of”. The most common answer I got for that question is “none” with playtesters noting that Legacies truly feels unique. While it draws from elements that are used in many Euros, the way they’re integrated stands out. The four biggest standouts are:

  • 10 playable characters with double-sided player mats. At the start of the game you choose to play either aboveboard (with a more euro-style special action) or underhanded (with a more take-that-style special action)
  • Successors that alter your play-style (some for the better, some for the worse) while they’re active.
  • Global Actions that affect all players, but give one player a “bonus” for triggering it (and the Global Actions also drive the end of each generation).
  • My favourite (which was the idea of my amazing artist - Yoma); the board and cards visually evolve as you cross into each century so it truly feels like you’re passing from the past, into the present, and then the future.
Jason Brooks Interview - Legacies Game Board (Credit: Brookspun Games)
How long does it take to develop and build a game like Legacies? Could you explain some of the high points and challenges you have experienced along the journey?

Legacies has been in the works for nearly two years. I’ve generally worked on 3-4 designs at a time, but when I got Legacies to the table and in front of playtesters - they were very intrigued by it and I was as well. It has garnered over 80% of my design attention over the last two years since it has so many components and integrated gameplay mechanisms.

There have been many challenges with Legacies throughout the design process, but many of them solved themselves through additional playtests and feedback from my fellow designers. One of my biggest challenges during the first year was the “look” of the game. Players would call it the “spreadsheet” game due to the layout and the actual formulas I had printed all over the board. Along those lines, one of the high points came when I started working with my artist, Yoma. He quickly helped me improve the layout of the board and within several weeks we worked out a way to remove all of the formulas from the board. The result is a much more intuitive layout and reduction of most of the maths from the game (while still keeping the feel of inflation).

Another high point came when Legacies finished in the top five in the 2018 Stonemaier Design Day. The response from players made it clear that this was going to be the game I was going to put my focus on for the next year. (And that accolade came while the game still had the spreadsheet look & feel so it further reinforced the fact that the gameplay was rich and rewarding - it just needed to look more intuitive and appealing.)

I like the idea of working to build a legacy and leaving a lasting impression. What games do you have in your collection that have left an impression on you?

Many. Through the Ages is one of my favourites with its roots in history and clever mechanisms. Scythe is a beautiful game with an elegant player mat and lots of variability (especially when you add in the expansions). Terraforming Mars has the engine building that I love and provides a ton of paths to take. A Feast For Odin is a beast of a worker placement game and seems to include every mechanism possible (including the kitchen sink)!

I also love legacy style games and have played nearly all of them (some of them twice). It’s important to note that Legacies is NOT a legacy-style game. The original working title was Dynasties, but that didn’t fit well so it eventually became Legacies.

Other than Legacies do you have any other projects or game ideas in your locker you would like to share?

I have many in the works. The ones that you’re most likely to see in the near future include: A two-player light strategy game about performing autopsies on aliens, an epic 4x game that involves deck-building (and deck-destroying); a time-travel game with a mancala; and - if things go really well with Legacies, I have a vision for Legacies Legacy that I would love to bring to fruition.

Thanks for your time! Legacies is now live on Kickstarter. At the time of writing (November 11, 2019), Legacies has surpassed its goal of £19,540. Currently, just under 600 backers have raised just over £35,000.