"I know what a legacy game is!" the conversation went, continuing, "it's a game that nobody plays anymore, like Myst."
Indeed, there is an Old Joke around Old Programmer Circles, that goes something like this:
What is the definition of legacy software?
It's software that works.
(The joke being, at least partly, that once a program finally starts to work and does something useful, nobody wants to change it anymore; they just want to keep running it, so it can do its job.)
A legacy board game, however, aims for a different interpretation of "legacy".
In a game like Pandemic: Legacy, or Gloomhaven, when a player character progresses through the game, the game is fundamentally changed by the passage of the character. Paths once taken, cannot be taken again. Events that occurred before, shall not happen afterwards.
Mechanically, the games accomplish this by simple measures: pieces are removed from the game; the game board is altered; new pieces are introduced; rules are altered in minor, but meaningful ways.
It's a beautiful use of the word "legacy," and reclaims it, I think, from those snarky computer programming types, with their bitter insinuation that the old is to be discarded, ignored, forgotten, consigned to the category of "boring: it works."
Instead, "legacy" is properly restored to its original, better meaning: "that which you changed, because you were there."
I've been thinking about legacies a fair amount recently, as I've reached That Age, the point where people that you strongly identify with start to disappear from your life, in a permanent way.
And it seems to me that a person's legacy is a beautiful thing.
We don't just exist; we don't just occupy space. We act, we alter, we influence, we engage, we cause.
The future, whatever it may be, is different, because It Came After Us.
It may be good, it may be bad (oh, let us, surely, strive for the good, whenever we can, hard though that is!).
But, one way or another, each of us leaves a legacy.
And I applaud the creators of games like Pandemic: Legacy and Gloomhaven for restoring "legacy" to its rightful place of honor.