Legacy of Dragonholt Review & Ultimate Guide (2019)
Every great story begins somewhere. But before you rush into glory, you must first learn to walk the path of adventure. Your adventure begins with a simple letter from an old friend, but something is amiss…
Gather your band of heroes and journey to the edge of the Terrinoth in Legacy of Dragonholt!
The first game to use the Oracle system, Legacy of Dragonholt captures the spirit of a roleplaying game without needing a game master. This narrative game for one to six players allows players to build their own unique hero and embark on six noble quests. Battle goblins, foil the plot of an evil lord, and add a new story to your tale!
Legacy of Dragonholt is a shared-story board game in which players will create characters and embark on a quest. It’s built upon the Oracle System by Fantasy Flight Games and is currently the only game using it. So if you enjoy it, keep an eye on FF for similar games coming in the future.
What is the Oracle System?
The Oracle System is the framework in which the story will be told. Players have skills and take turns reading from the quest booklets. As they progress in a quest, the books will prompt readers to read certain passages that line up to the current point in the story. There are many branching paths that players can take, and this system allows multiple players to approach a situation and walk away with a different outcome and story, while still continuing on the same quest.
The further players go (and depending upon the decisions they make), they will mark down milestones on a Story Tracking Chart which will sometimes be referred to in the books. For example, if you didn’t successfully save an NPC (nonplayer character) you may be told to mark a certain box on the Story Tracking Chart. Later in the game when you return to that location, your characters may no longer be welcomed because they failed to save the character. In the reverse situation, if they saved the NPC they may come back to the location celebrated as heroes.
In the game, players create avatars to act in the world of Terrinoth as they journey to the small town of Dragonholt. As you progress, it’ll be up to you and your group to decide how you react to situations and what paths you’ll choose.
As a story-driven role-playing game, Legacy of Dragonholt might not initially impress upon opening the box. Don’t let that fool you, though, as the game is packed with content and some really unique elements that will keep you coming back for more.
The majority of the game is very similar to a traditional Pen & Paper RPG. True to form, the box is filled with books.
- The Core Rulebook
- The Character Creation Rulebook
- To New Roads (1st campaign) – 50 – 80 min
- Dragonholt Village- 7 Chapters 30-50 min each
- Whispering Leaves – 50-80 min
- Paper Faces – 75 – 120 min
- Crypt of Kharthuun – 50-80 min
- Sliver of Silver – 50-80 min
- Terror on the Prairie – 50-80 min
Legacy of Dragonholt also comes with 1 set of tokens, a deck of items & artifacts (don’t look at them yet!), and several very cool in-game items (a letter & a journal).
There’s not much else in the box. There are no dice or minis, but that’s okay. The game is entirely story-driven and will emerge from the pages of the various books as you play. If you don’t feel like drawing on the various game sheets that come with the rulebooks, Fantasy Flight Games has all of the sheets available as a printable format on their website here:
Legacy of Dragonholt is completely story-driven and learning the game is actually very easy. After a few intro rules found in the core rulebook, you’re basically ready to go.
The first thing to do is to pull out the Character Creation Rulebook and create your character. The book walks you through all of the aspects of character creation without giving any spoilers. It also has an example character with notes from the designer (Nikki Valens) in each section of the booklet.
There’s no wrong way to create a character. I highly suggest not trying to make a Min/Max character or party and just have everyone take a run at the book and make someone they think is interesting and would enjoy playing. It’s going to be a much more enjoyable ride if you actually like the character you’re playing.
Each race has two types you can choose from. This can help pick the direction you want character creation to go. Again, there’s no wrong way to choose and the different types are going to be mostly for RP flair. For example, humans are either Baronial or Free City. The Baronial are all associated with the noble caste and the Free Cities are like libertarians. Each side can pick the same classes and abilities, but these details add some fun background flair to the characters.
Next comes the really fun part (or the worst part) of character creation, depending on your personality. This is where you get to come up with physical appearance, personality traits, and personal history for your character. (There are also pre-made characters if you’re not into this part.)
Are you a hulking Ork who’s spent the last 10 years wandering the countryside?
Or are you an Elf that has used her extended lifespan to delve into the alchemical and arcane arts?
Maybe you are an abnormally short Gnome with a chip on his shoulder about his height that angrily charges into battle with an axe, cleaving ankles with mighty blows?
It’s entirely up to you and the Oracle system does give you free rein to make up your own story.
Only after all this is done are you supposed to pick skills.
When picking skills you do have to follow along with the archetypes that you’ve created in the previous steps.
You’re allowed to pick 5-8 skills.
2 – Must come from your race abilities
2 – Must come from your class abilities
Everything else can be chosen at will. You should probably justify them with your character background, though.
So, you may ask, if I have the option of 5-8 skills why wouldn’t I just choose 8?
The answer is that the more skills you have, the less stamina (health) your character will have. So a character that is a specialist will be able to do fewer things but has a much higher constitution. Whereas a jack-of-all-trades character will almost always be useful, but especially squishy.
When a playing a solo game, the player will receive 4 extra stamina to account for the increased solo difficulty. When playing a 2-player game, each player will receive an extra 2 stamina.
Let’s Get Started!
When playing with multiple players, each player will receive 1 of the tokens on the board. Players should decide as a group what actions to take and which player will take them. As they make decisions, their activation token will be flipped (exhausted). Once every player has exhausted their activation tokens, all players will flip them back right side up (refresh). This way there’s never that one guy who steamrolls the story and makes decisions for everyone. (You know who you are.)
Nikki Valens has created an amazing story that is amazingly easy to pick up and play. The initial story, To New Roads, does an excellent job of implementing a learn-as-you-play mechanic.
As the story unfolds, the rule system will gradually and clearly explain all of the rules needed to play the game. There’s not a whole lot of in-depth rule reading needed beforehand. But if you do need clarification, there’s an alphabetical glossary of information included in the core rulebook.
All you need to do is create your characters and start reading from To New Roads. That makes my job of rule explanation super easy and perfect for players who don’t want to get bogged down by a ton of graphs and charts.
The story will start out humble and small but will swiftly grow into an epic journey.
You’ll meet interesting characters and get a chance to show off and perform amazing feats.
You might win, and you definitely may lose, but as Brandon Sanderson puts it:
“Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination.”
—The First Ideal of the Knights Radiant is explained to Kaladin by Teft in the Stormlight Archive
The game is completely story-driven. That means that there are no dice, no miniatures, and the game is lacking a lot of components that many players will be used to seeing come out of a box. This might be a huge shock to some players. This, however, makes it extremely unique and pushes the boundaries of what is considered a board game.
The sidebar discussions that happen organically in the game are extremely fun and will be remembered long after the campaign is through.
A Gateway RPG
Legacy of Dragonholt is family-friendly. I honestly see using this game as a gateway for Pen & Paper. There’s no tricky DM knowledge needed or a master of rules to oversee the game and ensure everyone stays on track. It does all of this while still telling a compelling story.
The character creation and use of the exhaustion tokens make the game seem very fair and adds the bit of strategy the game needs. If you have your jack-of-all-trades character perform an action, then they can no longer perform an action until the next refresh stage in the game. This ensures the group will discuss their strategy on who will do what and in what order, adding to the social aspect of board gaming we all love.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Legacy of Dragonholt has been accurately described as a choose your own adventure board game. You will be railroaded into a particular story, but you should go into the game expecting that. There is a set story and there are several outcomes. Not all of them are good, so don’t expect to simply breeze through.
The setting is mostly generic fantasy. Some players will enjoy that more than others, but what I’ve found is that the setting is almost secondary to the story. Even as long-time D&D veterans, while playing we were more focused on the characters we created and how to accomplish the various missions.
Legacy of Dragonholt and the Oracle System will never be able to compete with the limitless options of traditional Pen & Paper RPGs, but it doesn’t have to. It doesn’t require a huge time investment and can literally be picked up and played as soon as the box is open, which most Pen & Paper RPGs can’t do.
The game does have a bit of replayability. In one playthrough you’re not going to be able to see everything the game has to offer. Different character and abilities can bring you down different paths, but there’s only so many to choose from. From the suggested playthrough times on the box, players will be looking at completing all of the campaigns within 8 – 12 hours over the course of a complete campaign. You can probably get 1-2 replays in without running into too many similar situations. It’s not as high as some, but for the experience that’s offered in one box, I think it’s worth it.
- Completely story-driven game.
- Easy to understand rules allow players to create a character and immediately start playing.
- No dice or minis, just words and story.
- It comes with 6 books filled with adventures.
- The entire campaign (8-12+ hours over many game sessions) can be replayed 1-2 times without becoming stale.
Stats at a glance
Legacy of Dragonholt was created by Nikki Valens, who is one of the biggest names in board game design today. She has been behind some big name games, such as Mansions of Madness, Eldritch Horror, and Arkham Horror. She is known for incredible world creation and we are not going to argue.
The storyline as I mentioned earlier is kid friendly. EVIDENCE: They serve milk at the inn instead of mead or ale (wtf). As much as I like this game, I think it would be interesting to make a darker version as well. (We should put Nikki in touch with Christopher Nolan and see what happens…)
New worlds on the horizon (hopefully)
I can easily see this system recreated for any genre. I’d love to see a Sci-Fi version, personally, or even a hybrid of Western and Eldritch Horror like Shadows of Brimstone. Currently Legacy of Dragonholt is the only game using the Oracle System, but I cannot wait to see what they come up with. I honestly hope they branch out into the weirder genres instead of just releasing expansions in the same world.
It’s an excellent game for those wanting to get a taste for role-playing games without too much hassle and is an excellent gateway game for those new to the genre. I personally had a great time playing and I’m very excited to see what else Fantasy Flight decides to do with the Oracle System.
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