Aug 12, 2015

[Games] Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

So Tobie and I are already big fans of the Legendary Encounters deckbuilding game given how deftly the cards manage to capture the feel of the various Alien movies. And while it doesn't always feel feasible to win against the aliens, but that's all part of the experience.

But the game and the whole Legendary deckbuilding system had actually been created for another franchise. And after some thought, we finally got around to getting a copy of the original game, Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game. It seemed like a good idea at the time, especially since we have other franchises coming into the mix of things.

The game is still a lot of fun, although one can certainly notice things that were not present in this game but certainly made things feel a bit more fluid in Legendary Encounters.

Synopsis: Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is a cooperative yet also competitive deck building game created by Devin Low and published by Upper Deck Entertainment. The game supports 1-5 players and already has a number of expansions.

The game is firmly set in the Marvel universe and you and the other players are pretty much SHIELD agents trying to face evil villains with the help of various superheroes. You start the game with 8 Shield Agent cards, which allow you to recruit heroes, and 4 Shield Troopers, which allow you to attack enemies. You draw six cards at a time and thus you'll start with a mix of Agents and Troopers, which will ultimately determine whats you can do.

Like in Encounters, there's a deck of bad cards, this being the Villain Deck, which is composed of a mix of henchman and villain groups mixed in with some Villain Master Strikes, Scheme Twists and Bystanders - the exact mix differs based on number of players and the particular Scheme that your Mastermind is trying to complete. Each turn a card is revealed from the Villain Deck and enters the City.

As new Villain cards are added to the City, this pushes the older villains one spot starting from the Sewers all the way to the Bridge. Once a card is moved one more time, we consider that villain to have "escaped" and that tends to be a bad thing. Players take turns trying to kill villains, recruit new heroes and generally hope to survive the Mastermind's plot.

The Mastermind is an interesting mechanic since it's a big villain with a really high toughness. You typically need about 8-9 points worth of strike cards to hit them, and you have to do this at least four times before a Mastermind is defeated. Every time you manage to strike the Mastermind, you at least get the reveal one of his Tactics cards, which provides an immediate reward for the player. The Mastermind's special ability triggers any time a Master Strike card is revealed in the City, which is the equivalent of him directly attacking the heroes.

On the flip side, I wasn't super happy with how they handled Schemes. For the most part, Schemes seem to do more damage and harm to the heroes, which makes the Mastermind feel like a secondary threat. Sure, in terms of the lore this is the equivalent of the Mastermind working through agents to get the Scheme done, but it still doesn't quite feel the same. Plus all Schemes have the same card art, so it doesn't really make each experience feel all that unique on the surface.

Beyond that, the game is still pretty fun and when you start to gather hero cards of a particular hero, the way their combos work nicely reflect the nature of the character. For example. White Queen can get a strike bonus if she adds a Villain card to the City, which is so typical of Emma making it worse for everyone else. Hulk cards tend to do damage to everyone around him including other players. And Spider-Man cards reflect his speed and agility by being able to repeatedly draw other Spider-Man cards from the deck given the relatively low cost of the cards.

The competitive aspect to the game feels a little weird and nowhere near as refined as the Advanced play rules in Legendary Encounters. Here each Villain card defeated has a point value and players tally the points of all the villains they defeated in order to find a winner. I sort of understand the need to add the mechanic for players of that nature, but it just felt a little left field.

Then you have the SHIELD Officer cards (as represented by Maria Hill), which cost 3 to Recruit and in turn provide 2 Recruit points when played. That's about it. They only have the SHIELD icon and thus provide no other benefits for card combos based on hero-type chains. For the most part, I find that players skip the Officer cards unless Nick Fury is one of the active heroes or they just get the free Officers offered when defeating some Hydra villains. That's about it. The Sergeants in Encounters were a major upgrade to this mechanic which really made them have value.

Legendary is still a pretty fun game and a lot of my complaints have more to do with how it differs from Encounters, which is a little unfair. At least we saw how the developers tried to improve the game system and now I'm just curious to see how the various expansion sets added to the experience. Thus the game gets 4 clever hero combinations out of a possible 5.

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