Have you ever played Love Letter? If you’re into tabletop gaming, chances are good that you’ve encountered one of its many iterations at some point. Following the huge success of Love Letter, Alderac Entertainment Group released a spinoff series of similar games called the Lost Legacy. Originally released as one game with two decks in Japan, the game was split in two for the international release – Flying Garden and The Starship. Since the initial release, three further expansions have become available (two decks each) – each of which I will review individually on the tabs above.
The story behind the Lost Legacies is both interesting and well integrated ̶ something I’m beginning to expect from these designers. Knowing the story isn’t essential to gameplay however, it does make for an interesting framework and provides context for the actions and characters depicted on cards. The lore of the series starts in the distant past, when a huge starship from a distant world appeared in the sky. Damaged from battle, it quickly broke apart, scattering various pieces all over our land which, over time, have become enshrined in legends as the Lost Legacy.
Each deck in the Lost Legacy series has players hunting for a piece of this ship – that is,. one of the Lost Legacies. Whether it be the Flying Garden, Vorpal Sword, or Sacred Grail, each deck has its own unique set of cards which directly affect how the game plays, despite the core rule set remaining the same. Better still, if you have multiple sets, you can combine decks to vary gameplay or accommodate a larger group of players.
If you’ve played Love Letter the rules for these games will feel very familiar. If not, then you needn’t worry as it’s incredibly quick to learn and easy to play. To begin, shuffle the 16 cards and place them face down in the centre of the play area. The top card is then placed sideways beside the draw deck to represent some ruins (a crashed piece of the aforementioned starship). Players are then dealt one card each and play until only one player is left or the draw deck is empty.
A player’s turn is simple in nature but grants room for strategic decision and bluffing. On their turn, a player must draw a single card from the draw deck then play one of the two cards in their hand. To play a card it is placed on the table in front of a player and the text on the card is resolved. Some cards are actioned immediately, others are passive, and some have effects which only apply when a certain condition is met. For example, if you play the Curse card you may name a number between 1 and 8. You then look at another player’s hand and, if they have that number, they are eliminated. This is an example of a card whose effect is resolved immediately. Alternatively the Saint card is an example of a passive card. When played it has no immediate effect. However, if you are eliminated but have the Saint card face up in your discard pile you may turn it face down and draw a new card instead of losing the round. The King card has a conditional effect – if played after a 1 or 2 card then its effect is ignored and it is played face down. Otherwise, it allows you to look at one card from another players hand and, if it is a 1, you win the game.
As with Love Letter the variety and balance of the various cards is what makes or breaks these games (see my deck reviews for examples of each). However, unlike Love Letter, the Lost Legacy games have a few additional gameplay elements whichmake for a far more strategic and enjoyable experience. The first of these is the win condition for a round. To win a round players must locate a piece of a Lost Legacy. This is represented by a card in the deck which, depending on the deck, may have actions that resolve when played.. Once the draw deck has been depleted, players take turns guessing the location of the Lost Legacy card and, if they identify the location successfully, are declared the winner. This is called the Investigation Phase. The Lost Legacy card can be either held by a player or located in the ruins (the face down pile of cards created during setup). This means that the earlier stage of the game is as much about surviving as it is about learning the location of the Lost Legacy card.
Once the Investigation Phase begins players are allowed one guess each. Turn order is determined by your current investigation speed (indicated by the number printed in the corner of the card each player holds at the conclusion of a round). Some decks allow for additional guesses whilst others either increase or decrease this value based on cards in your discards. This makes for an interesting end game where your strategy can really come into play. Do you end the round with a high card in your hand, hoping that incorrect guesses from other players will increase your odds? Or do you hold onto a low card, thinking you have a good idea where the Lost Legacy card is positioned? Perhaps you hold onto the Lost Legacy card, confident that the other players either don’t have a lower number or won’t guess what is in your hand. With a set deck size and constant card numbers the Lost Legacy games allow for basic card counting, meaning that you always have a fairly good idea what your chances are.
The only thing I feel is missing from these games is a quick reference card detailing the quantity and effect of each card. Most decks encourage card counting to some extent and, for a game where the deductive process is key, I feel that the lack of clarity will prove a small barrier for new players. Each 16 card deck always has a set number of cards however, the effects of each vary – and it’s not until you either remember or reference these effects that you can implement any sort of strategy. I assume these were left out to avoid confusion when mixing decks and to encourage players to learn the cards.
The Lost Legacy games offer players a variety of different ways to play. Decks may be played standalone or combined with others to create a different experience. The first such mixed set is referred to as the Megamix Set. For this set, you combine two complete decks but remove one of the Lost Legacy (number 5) cards. This gives you a deck of 31 cards, which is suitable for a group of up to six players, instead of the standard maximum of four. At the time I wrote this review I only owned four decks however, I found the deck mixing to be a very interesting and varied experience. It was quite surprising just how differently the game played out depending on which decks we combined. There was a distinct variance in the strategies used to negate and exploit opportunities depending on what we’d mixed together.
The second way to play is to build your own deck using your favourite cards. Custom decks are built in the same manner as the standard decks. This means that you must have a single card for numbers 1 through 5, two number 6 cards and three each of 7, 8 and X. When using multiple copies of the same card , players must ensure they are all from the same deck. i.e. You couldn’t use the Wound (X) card from Flying Gardens alongside two Royal Court (X) cards from Staff of Dragons. While this worked well the specific effects of each deck work better in standalone or Megamix sets. For example, the Sacred Grail deck introduces an eye icon to cards which lets you ignore certain effects. This only works with cards in that deck however as all other decks don’t feature the icon.
So, what’s the end verdict? These games are quick, enjoyable and easy-to-learn. The artwork is stunning and the card design married perfectly to the gameplay. They’re inexpensive and a valuable addition to anyone’s tabletop collection. If you like simple, more straightforward games, buy Love Letter. If you’re after something a little more complex (but with the same basic mechanics), buy a game in the Lost Legacy series – they’re far from complicated but not quite as simple as games like Love Letter.