WBG Score: 9.5
Player Count: 1
Published by: Garphill Games
Designed by: Shem Phillips
I will start this by making a fairly bold statement. This is the best solo game I have ever played. I love Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, but the set up and tear down is such a hassle. Robinson Crusoe is fantastic, but just a little too hard and a little too long to get a high number of plays in. I adore Nemo's War but like Robinson Crusoe, it takes up just a little too much space and time to be something I can go back to that regularly. These are all brilliant games. But Legacy of Yu is better. Why? Let's get it to the table to find out in this SPOILER FREE review.
Getting Legacy of Yu to the table is so simple. It takes just a few minutes. Simply place the board on the table and then take out all the cards. If this is your first game, this is simple, just unwrap the two packs of cards and sort via the backs. If this is a repeat game, the box stores everything just in the right place for you. Look...
You can simply remove this insert and use as storage holders if you like, or decant into separate bowls or just piles on the table. Whatever works for you.
Place four Hut cards into the bottom right spaces. Place six canal cards into the six spaces on the right of the canal. Lay out six townsfolk cards onto the top row and one Barbarian card in the far right space. Deal ten townsfolk cards to yourself, placing six in the space in the middle on the bottom left of the board, and the other four will be your starting hand. Place the deck of townsfolk and Barbarian cards at the top of the board, the townsfolk on the left and the Barbarians on the right. Then get the victory and defeat cards. Shuffle the blue and black cards but keep the yellow cards separate. There is one specific to each pile. Then place these two piles, with the yellow card on the bottom of each by the board. Next, place the four purple outposts, the four green Huts and the three orange farms into their designated spaces. Finally, place the flood into the first space on the canal, and the barge onto the second spot. You are now ready to play. Set up for follow up games will change a little as you unlock new cards and rules, but this will be very easily explained as you go.
How to Win
There is only one way to win Legacy of Yu. You must build all six sections of the canal and survive to the end of the final round when you build the last space. If you achieve this, take the top card of the victory deck and read the designated space in the story book. However, there are three ways to lose, and you will lose some games. If the flood ever moves onto the same space at the barge or off the board, you lose. If you ever have to place seven barbarians on the character spaces, you lose. If you ever need to destroy a townsfolk card and have none left to destroy, you lose. If either of these three things happen, draw the top card from the defeat deck and read the matching section in the story book. Don't despair if this happens, as the game will now give you something to make subsequent games a little easier. New cards, rules, and other surprises that I won't ruin here will be revealed. But, yes! You guessed it, if you win, the game gets a little harder. This is a brilliant balancing mechanic that keeps all the games tight. You will play multiple games until you either win or lose seven games in total and draw the final yellow victory or defeat card. When this is done, the game will show you how to pack it all up, reset, and go again. This took me about 15 minutes to reset after I played (and lost) my first campaign. I won four games and lost seven if you're interested. It was epic.
How to Play
Each round starts with a Harvest phase where you will take cards and items based on what you have unlocked so far. This is shown clearly on the board. Anything with the yellow sunrise symbol over the blue river icon is taken. It starts off with just four cards, one white worker, a cowrie shell, and a provision, but you can quickly build this up by building farms, and playing cards to boost your harvest in later rounds.
Once your harvest is done you can then take actions. And this is solo remember, no waiting around, just crack on. You must use every card in your hand for one of the four available actions, but you can hold back resources and workers for later rounds if you choose. The first thing the cards can be used for is to claim the items or worker shown with the brown background, placing them into your exhaust pile to be shuffled back into your hand later. Or you can discard permanently from the game (just this game, not later games) to gain additional benefits shown in the red background as well as the brown. The cards also show food icons which is the third way to use the card, this will be explained when you open up new rules that I cannot explain here, but it is very simple and becomes a key part of the mid- campaign story.
The forth thing you can do with your cards is tuck them into an available space under the board to gain extra benefits in all subsequent harvest phases. You start with just one space to do this, but you can unlock more spots buy building more huts.
The workers and resources you gather this way can be used to do multiple things. Your main goal is to build the canals, but you can only do this once per round. To build the canal, discard the required shells and workers shown in the canal card, then remove the card to show the new trading post underneath. Place the barge off the table, to remind you that you have taken this action this round. If you want you can place the barge onto the convenient space on the back of the rule book which also shows the round structure and key icons for the game. I leave this out next to the board as I play. You will then get the benefits shown on the canal card, as well as having to destroy a number of townsfolk cards who were sadly lost during the building process. They are now out of this particular game. But, there is no other way sadly. Health and safety during the reign of Emperor Yao was infamously poor.
You must also pay close attention to the Barbarians that are above the board. The first round starts with just one, but more will come. As you remove the canal spaces, icons will appear that mean that more Barbarian cards will be added during later refresh phases. They multiply quickly and you need to stay on top of them to avoid what was for me, the most common way to lose. To defeat them, you must first pay the cost required to reach their location, either one, two, or three provisions. This is clearly shown on the board under the space that the card is located. Then pay the required workers, shown on the card itself. These are exhausted in the process of fighting off the Barbarian. The card is then discarded and you gain the benefits on the right of the card. But most importantly, you have avoided becoming overrun, for now.
Along the top row, alongside the Barbarians, will be new townsfolk, eager to join your tribe. The first card on the left is always available for free, you can simply move it down into your exhausted pile, ready to be shuffled back into your hand on a later turn. Or, you could take both the brown and red benefits right away if you discard the card out of the game, but this is a risk. Getting new cards is key as you will go through your deck quickly. Many will fall and you need to try to avoid running out. You can buy other townsfolk cards further along the row for one, two, or maybe even three provisions. If you have the required resource, this is very much advised.
The next thing you can do on your turn is to spend workers and provisions to build farms, huts, and outposts. The cost is clearly shown on the board. Simply discard the required resources and move the chosen building to one of the designated locations below the canal. You start with just one location to build in, but as you develop more of the canal, more spaces to build on will appear. This is a very clever way to stop you ignoring other parts of the game and just building all your buildings at the start. Everything is so delicately and expertly balanced. You need to work across all areas at the right pace to succeed. Even the resources are perfectly balanced, and limited to the perfect number. If they run out, they run out. You need to plan accordingly for all things, sometimes spending before you gain if you can see there are none of a specific type left when you are about to get some more.
Building farms improves your subsequent harvest turns. Building Outposts means workers can be used more more actions. Building huts allows you to open up new worker placement spots on the board to carry out new actions. You start unsurprisingly with just one spot like this, where you can place a worker to gain a provision. But as you build more huts, you can open spaces to do more exciting and useful things.
The final thing you can do on your turn is trade. As above you start with just one trade post, but building more of the canal will open up new, more powerful places to trade. This is a great way to turn one thing into another, and balance your resources to carry out the actions you need to.
Once you are done, return the barge to the next unbuilt canal card, if you built this round. Doing this reminds you that you can only build once per round, and keeps your focus on the space between the flood and the barge. Then, for any remaining barbarians that you did not defeat this round, you will now suffer attacks from them. Each card will show the consequence of an attack on the bottom of the card. Generally it will mean you lose one of your townsfolk. But you can bribe most of the barbarians, paying the shown cost of worker or resource instead. It is still a loss, but not as severe.
Then, finally, refresh the top row of townsfolk cards and barbarians, adding more based on how many barbarian symbols you have uncovered so far and filling the remining spaces with new townsfolk. You are now ready to go again, with another, hopefully improved harvest round. Keep playing until the victory conditions are met, or one of the many ways to lose inevitably catches up with you, such as the flood catching up with your barge as shown above. The flood moves forward every time you need to draw a new townsfolk card, but your ready pile is empty and you need to shuffle your discard pile.
Is It Fun?
Legacy of Yu is a brilliant game. It is so well made. So well balanced. So well structured. I cannot begin to explain how much I enjoyed the process of learning and playing this. But, I will try. You know, because this is a review and all.
Each game is so tight. I lost a fair few games, but every time, it was close. When I won, it was often the same. Everything is balanced to perfection, and continues to be like this as you play. No matter how good you become as the campaign balances out your wins by making it harder. Or a little easier if you lose.
Each game ends with new cards being added. I won't go into the specifics as that will ruin part of the surprise if you were to play this yourself. But what I will say is that when you add news things, you immediately will want to play again. Each game lasts between 20-50 minutes. Quicker, if you lose fast. I did once lose in round two! But no matter the game length, you will always want just one more game.
When you are finished with the campaign and draw either the seventh victory or defeat card, the story book will lead you to a little end game story before encouraging you to reset and go again. Resetting took me around 15 minutes. The box storage is designed so well, you can very easily pack it all away and be ready to go again in a matter of moments.
As a solo game, the bulk of the experience will be you staring at the board, trying to work out the puzzle of these very limited resources, and multiple ticking time bombs. Processing how best to take your limited actions, and what best way to use the multi-use cards. If you like making tough decisions, you will love this game. It is full of moments like that. Every turn. Every round. Every game.
Often, when you carry out an action, it will cause something else to happen. There are so many opportunities for cascading turns in this game. Much like many other games by designer Shem Phillips, you will be overjoyed by the amount of moments that doing one thing will lead to another, and another. But be warned. With the cascading turns, you can get lost and forget to do something if you don't pay close attention. If that sort of thing annoys you, this game may not be for you. I often did this as the campaign developed and new rules opened up. I would often forget that doing "X" would now lead to "Y" and I would neglect to gain my extra benefit. It's up to you during these times if you want to retrospectively claim what you missed, or keep plodding on. But it will happen. I say, don't worry too much when it does.
The game itself is a beautifully composed puzzle that I love playing. I would score this individually as an 8. But the campaign on top adds a wonderful narrative and continuing story arc that develops (over the course of 7-13 games, depending on how many you win or lose), that drives up my score to a 9.5. It makes you want to keep coming back for more.
This is all contained in the story book and deck. Often you will see a gold turtle icon with a number on. When you do, turn to the section in the book and read what it says. It will often send you to the story deck to add new cards which brings in new rules, characters, and other surprises. It works seamlessly and is very easy to navigate your way through.
If you pause between games, the inlay allows you to everything pack away very easily. If you choose to play on, resetting the game takes just a few minutes. And trust me, you will want to keep playing. I found myself playing nine games in a row once. I came up for air a good few hours later, hungry, thirsty, and very much in the need of a big stretch! But very content.
After I finished my first campaign, the cards on the left was what I had seen and used. The cards on the right were all unused. And this was with an 11 game campaign. You could be done in 7 if you win or loose every game. There is a lot of content in this game. It has divergent paths, largely dictated by winning or losing and how you lose. Different things will appear each time depending on how you play the game. I lost most games by being over run by the barbarians, so the things that changed in my first campaign helped me with that. But in later campaigns, I found other things were changing based on how I was now doing in the game. It really is very clever and makes you feel you are in safe hands as you play. Something very important to me in a solo experience.
I like solo gaming. But I certainly don't love it. But I do love this game. The issue for me with solo games that have some complexity is I feel a little lonely setting it up. Playing a big game just by myself makes me a little sad. Legacy of Yu does not make me feel like that as it sets up and packs away all so quickly and simply. I want a complex, strategic game, ideally with a strong narrative when I play solo, to absorb me and replace the social aspect of multiplayer gaming. But with minimal set-up and tear down. Legacy of Yu does that. I want the game to pull me back, game after game so that I feel a reason to keep going. Legacy of Yu absolutely does that too.
Legacy of Yu for me is the perfect solo experience, and the only reason why I score it a 9.5 instead of a 10 is that each experience does not change that much, game to game. It certainly does change. Just not quite enough for me to give it a 10. I would have liked a few more big explosive moments in the story arc to really surprise me. I was expecting them and they didn't come. But you now know this won't be happening, hopefully you can prepare yourself for what this game is all about if you do give it a play. Legacy of Yu is a strategic, almost perfectly balanced solo puzzle that will wrap you up in its delightful style and engaging story and whisk you away to a simpler time. A time that happens to be full of devastating floods and rampaging barbarians.