Legacy of Yu - Barge and Flood (Photo by Kamio)

Legacy of Yu – A Perfect Solo Campaign Game?

Legacy of Yu - ready to start (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – ready to start (Photo by Kamio)

Legacy of Yu comes splashing in as one of my favorite solo campaign games of the year!

Legacy of Yu is a solo, nonlinear campaign game designed by Shem Phillips and artwork by Sam Phillips, published by Garphill Games.


As the Ancient Chinese legend Yu the Great, you not only have to tame the wild waters of the Yellow River but also defend your people against the relentless attacking barbarians.

Your campaign will unfold in a series of games, with success being a win of seven games or a loss by losing seven games, whichever comes first. The game tracks this with seven Victory and seven Defeat cards. After each game, you’ll read the corresponding Victory (win) or Defeat (loss) card, read a passage in the Story Book, and add something new for your future games.

This means a campaign will consist of 7 to 13 game sessions (which is how many games it will take for you to either win 7 games or lose 7 games, but most likely a combination of both.)

The Objective for Each Game Session

Build all 6 Canal sections and survive until the end of the round.

How do you survive? By not dying to the various threats. There are three ways to lose.

  1. Flood – If the flood ever reaches an unbuilt section of the Canal or off the right side of the board. You failed your job. You lose.
  2. Barbarians – If seven barbarians are in play. You got overrun. You lose.
  3. Damage – If you need to destroy a Townsfolk card, but none are left. Who is left to help now? You lose.

I think of each game session as an individual year. How did you do that year in diverting the flood waters to canals? Did you protect your village and townsfolk from the barbarian threats?

Gameplay and Mechanics

The title of the game is one of the most perfect titles for a Solo Campaign game – Legacy of Yu. While not technically a Legacy game (physically modify components permanently), your gameplay will evolve game after game, as in a campaign game.

Legacy of Yu - Storybook and Story Deck (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – Storybook and Story Deck (Photo by Kamio)

It’s a solo-only game where you are the only player. Speaking of you, Yu is an actual Ancient Chinese legend, and you play as Yu. Very clever!

Your story will change over time, and decisions and events in your first game will affect future plays. The game features a self-balancing system which adapts as you play. If you win, additional challenges will be added for future games. If you lose, you’ll get a boon to help you overcome those obstacles in the future.

Legacy of Yu has as its Townsfolk a variety of workers in five colors: White Laborers, Red Fighters, Black Riders, Blue Spearmen, and Yellow Archers. The worker titles don’t matter, only their colors; you’ll need to match color and number requirements to fulfill goals. You can send these workers to defeat Barbarians, help build Canals, and more. The White Laborers, in particular, will help build your town with Farms (orange), Outposts (purple), and Huts (green). Placing the buildings along the river will give a one-time benefit, with the individual buildings offering a benefit each round.

Farms are quick to build; they only require 3 resources and offer a one-time resource each round. Outposts give cowrie shells and the ability for workers to act as another color, making it easier to fill requirements. Huts open up a useful worker placement spot. As for which buildings are most important, I find that game to game, I might choose to focus on a different building mix.


Deck Building – Throughout the game, you’ll be recruiting and attempting to retain Townsfolk, which you will add to your deck. Townsfolk are helpful in that they’ll offer workers, resources, and more. They will take damage from barbarians, flooding, and even canal building and will leave your hand. Take care to keep enough of these Townsfolk around. Running out of cards is one of the ways to lose.

Legacy of Yu -Townsfolk Row (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu -Townsfolk Row (Photo by Kamio)

Worker Placement – As you gain workers, you can place them in spots that are uncovered as you build the green Huts to gain resources and more workers!

Legacy of Yu - Worker Placement (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – Worker Placement (Photo by Kamio)

Legacy of Yu’s Art and Components

I absolutely adore the artwork for this game! The game pulls you in with an image of Yu battling the flood. The colors of the board are vivid and appealing. As you build canals, the visual aspect of the river unfolds into various trading opportunities that are easy to see.

Legacy of Yu - Components (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – Components (Photo by Kamio)

The townsfolk and barbarians have a lot of unique artwork, and their multi-use features are easy to understand. The components are mostly wooden meeples and resources, but the more detailed Provision and Cowrie shell resources are sturdy cardboard. Their design is great, and they feel nice despite being cardboard. My only minor complaint is that the red meeple and brick look so much alike that I’m continually throwing them back in the wrong container. (See image below). I stand all my worker meeples upright as I get them, so I do use the resources correctly.

Legacy of Yu - components closeup (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – components closeup (Photo by Kamio)

Box and Insert

The box is the perfect size for this game – the same size as Garphill games like Hadrian’s Wall and Raiders of Scythia.

But the insert… Wow, this has got to be one of the most ingenious inserts I’ve seen in a game. The insert is very sturdy and should hold up with repeated use. Since it’s transparent, you can see the labels on the bottom of the box showing you where everything goes. I love it! The card slots are actively used in every game as you pull out Story Deck cards and archive cards to History. The component trays are scoopable, so you can use the entire box during your games.

The Legacy of Yu insert (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu insert (Photo by Kamio)

You’ll be using this box a lot, so keep it nearby. The Storybook will tell you when to take new Story Cards or archive to History. You could also very feasibly keep the components inside the insert during your games.

Legacy of Yu - filled insert at campaign start (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – filled insert at campaign start (Photo by Kamio)

Solo Play Experience

First off, I want to add a word about the Kickstarter experience. The Legacy of Yu Kickstarter was smooth and delivered months early! I’ve come to expect and appreciate this from Garphill Games now.

I hesitated to start my first official campaign game by only reading the rulebook and no practice play, but that’s how you do it! I highly suggest not taking a “trial” turn. Don’t worry about losing, especially during your first campaign. The self-adjusting campaign will give you a helpful nudge to assist with future games.

The flood caught up with me on my last turn in my first game, which was a loss. In subsequent games, I started getting the hang of things, winning some and losing some, not minding if I lost a few. If you lose, you get presents for your next games! Mid-campaign, I lost track a few times of watching the Flood and Barbarians, so I lost a few in a row due to that.

Ready to start the last round! (Photo by Kamio)
Ready to start the last round! (Photo by Kamio)

I wrestled with agonizing decisions. Should I push my people to build a canal early? Should I do whatever it takes to fight off the remaining barbarians? Should I build a Farm, Outpost, or Hut? (Depending on the game, I chose different buildings to focus on building.) Should I destroy a Townsfolk card in hopes that it will pay off? Should I use this Townsfolk card to tuck beneath the board to improve Harvest in future rounds?

You’ll notice I exchanged the Provisions and Cowrie shells for more realistic resources. Both of them I found from separate Etsy sellers. I gotta say those provisions are probably one of the best sets of bling I’ve ever purchased!

Provision bling from Etsy (Photo by Kamio)
Provision bling from Etsy (Photo by Kamio)
Actual Cowrie Shells (Photo by Kamio)
Actual Cowrie Shells (Photo by Kamio)

Footprint and Time to Play


36″ long by 24″ wide will be plenty of space for the gameboard, the box, the storybook, the back of the rulebook as a reference guide, the card layouts, and all the resources. If you use the box for the components, you can shave off a few inches of the length.

This sets the game at a Medium footprint.

Legacy of Yu - Campaign Start (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – Campaign Start (Photo by Kamio)

Time to Play

Initial Fresh Setup for New Game (3-5 minutes)

The insert is so well organized that the setup only takes a few minutes. Using the insert to keep all the worker meeples and resources should only take 3 minutes to set up. If you’re like me and prefer all components in their own trays, add a few more minutes to the setup.

Setup for Repeat Game (3 minutes)

Put all the workers and resources back in their containers. Gather up all your Townsfolk and Barbarian cards, shuffle them and set them out in their places. Shuffle and lay out the canal and hut cards. You’ll need first to sort the canal cards. Repeat games consistently took me 3 minutes to set up for the next session.


Gametime should take anywhere from 40-60 minutes. Most of my games took between 50 and 60 minutes. A few games with early losses took 40 minutes.

Teardown Time (3 minutes)

The teardown time is just a few minutes, and it’s easy to save a game in the box mid-campaign, as the game has been instructing you to archive cards in history or add new cards to existing decks. Just make sure to keep your Win/Lose cards together with the gold cards in the back.

Legacy of Yu - end game (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – end game (Photo by Kamio)

Replay Value

Legacy of Yu - Campaign Story entry (Photo by Kamio)
Legacy of Yu – Campaign Story entry (Photo by Kamio)

After a campaign, I had about 30% of the story cards unplayed and probably even more of the Story Book unread. The instruction book says that you’ll only see about 40-60% of the hidden content. In each campaign, you’ll unveil Victories and Defeats in different orders, making each campaign unique.

The game is fully resettable, so you can play it again or give it to a friend. To reset the game, simply separate all the “0” cards and place them in their respective slots – Townsfolk, Barbarians, Win/Lose, and beginning Hut/Canal cards. The other cards are organized by number and set in the story card slot. That’s it!

A game reset should take between 12-15 minutes.

Will you want to play again? That depends on you, but I couldn’t wait to start a second campaign right away to see if I could do better than my first campaign. After my second campaign, I wanted to see if I could do even better! But I put the game away, having spent a week playing it.

There are several ways to increase the difficulty of your campaigns, so it will always be a challenge.

Legacy of Yu – Pros and Cons


The insert is one of the best I’ve seen: simple and super functional.
The artwork and components are of great quality and pleasing to the eye.
The game is great fun!
Seeing your visual progress in making the canals with your barge getting further down the river and the floodwaters on its tail is cool.
As a campaign game, you’re encouraged to play the game multiple times – you should get at least 10 plays.
After your campaign, easily reset it and play again.


A few Defeat “rewards” are overpowered.
After your first campaign, you may find the game no longer a challenge.
There are no expansions planned. Garphill Games does not do expansions for their Ancient Anthology series of games, so this is something to consider for those hoping for more content. That being said, a promo card is available to make the game more difficult.
As with most campaign games, some people may consider being done with the game after their first campaign.

Conclusion – Is Legacy of Yu the Perfect Solo Campaign Game?

Ready to start the last round! (Photo by Kamio)
Ready to start the last round! (Photo by Kamio)

Legacy of Yu is indeed the perfect solo campaign game – for your first campaign or two. The component quality and artwork are great. It’s quick to set up. There are many tough decisions to be made in your career as Yu the Great. You will learn from your mistakes and adapt.

For around $50, you should get at least ten games in your first campaign. And unlike a Legacy game, it’s fully resettable, so you can play another campaign! If you feel you have had enough, you can resell or give it to a friend.

Here’s hoping that this Ancient Anthology series releases more solo campaign games!

How About Yu?

Have you played Legacy of Yu? Did you finish a campaign? How many games did you play for your first campaign and subsequent campaigns?

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