Board Game

This Is Machi Koro

In keeping with the recent trend I find myself getting into skewing toward “lighter” games, Machi Koro popped up on my radar a little by accident.  I was in Barnes and Noble killing time before heading back to the office when I came across Machi, and was immediately taken by the artwork.  There’s a Katamari Damacy feel to the style which is immediately going to push all of the right buttons for me, and the price-point for Machi hovers just around board game impulse at $30.

Gameplay is relatively simple.  Players take on the role of a Mayor in a small town looking to make their home the best.  You win by building all four of your Monuments which are the same for each player – Station, Shopping Mall, Radio Tower, and Amusement Park – before anyone else, with your turn being a mix of die/dice rolling and card purchasing, in that order.  There are a pool of seventeen (I believe, going from memory) cards available representing the different locations you can purchase and build in your town, each with their own set of perks.  For instance, players start the game with a Wheat Field and a Bakery, the Wheat Field allowing players to get a coin from the bank whenever a 1 is rolled on anyone’s turn, and if you own multiple Wheat Fields, that’s 1 coin per Field.  In this, there are a number of small strategies to Machi.  Do you go for multiples of buildings which can trigger on anyone’s turn, or do you go for the higher end buildings which might be harder to “land”, but allow you to take coins from the pockets of others?  My only real experience was what I imagine initial forays to include, my approach being one of button mashing where I purchased what I could and when, opting for a little-bit-of-everything plan in which more is (hopefully) better.

It wasn’t.

Once everyone has the rules down, and depending on the number of players – it supports up to four, though there are expansions which may change that, I’m not familiar with them – you can get a game in in less than 30 minutes.  In some cases, you might even get two in in that time.  With turns being roll the dice,  collect coins, buy a card, players would need to actively work to get bogged down.  Machi is also a perfect introductory game for those who wouldn’t consider themselves gamers, and especially for those often intimidated by the learning curve they associate with them.

Easy to pick up, and easy to play, Machi Koro’s charm is a perfect fit for just about anyone’s shelf.  It’s the type of “filler” game certain groups could easily end up making a main course at their events.

Board Game

This Is Age Of War

As most of the board games I play tend to hover somewhere in the 2+ hour range, I’ve been on the lookout for a game which would be easy to set up and play in about twenty minutes or so.  I came across Age of War by accident, and it’s the perfect “filler” game when you want a palette cleanser in-between lengthier and more dense titles.

Age of War, like Elder Sign (and, if you’re not familiar with Elder sign, check out my review of it HERE, along with my review of the Gates of Arkham expansion HERE), is a dice rolling game where you need to match certain symbols on each die with a series of tasks laid out on a selected card.  AoW comes with fourteen small square cards representing different castles within certain Japanese clans, with six colors in total – Green, Red, White, Purple, Black, and Yellow – for each of those clans.  Each card, or castle, has a number of tasks associated with it which must be completed in any order if you want to capture that castle.  The symbols – daimyo, cavalry, archers, and infantry ranging in value from one to three – must be accomplished in a single roll, depending on what you might be trying to attain.  For instance, if one of a card/castle’s three tasks is an archer and cavalry, you’ll need to roll at least one of those symbols on two of your seven dice.  If you fail, you set one of those die aside, bringing your total to six, and roll again.  This continues until you either manage to capture the castle or are unable to do so.  The game ends when all castles have been captured and removed from the board.

Cards/castles come with a number of points which count toward your score at the end of the game.  If you have a full set of cards from a clan – so all of the red ones, say, or black – you get a bonus number of points as well.  Additionally, your opponent cannot steal any of those castles from you if you have a complete color set.  Stealing is Age of War’s greatest strength, and an interesting strategy mechanic in an otherwise largely luck-based game.  Say you managed to capture one of the yellow castles, and your opponent needs it in order to complete their set.  Every castle save one (green, as their clan is smaller, has only a single castle representing their clan) has a red daimyo symbol in the upper left corner.  If you have a card your opponent wants, they can attack your castle by rolling their dice just as they always do, covering any completed tasks – of which you can only do one at a time, in any roll – with the appropriate die.  In addition to fulfilling all tasks as they normally would, the attacker must also roll an additional daimyo symbol represented by that red task marker.  Should they, your opponent can steal the castle from you and place it in front of them.

The longest game of AoW we’ve played came in around thirty minutes, and that was a result of some truly spectacular dice rolls.  Spectacularly awful, I should say.  Age of War is perfect for wanting to unwind when you don’t want to think too heavily while talking around the table, and if you like mechanics where you can backstab (to a degree).  Nothing too strenuous, but the perfect light experience.  I think I managed to pick my copy up for fifteen bucks, and it’s totally worth it at that point of entry.  Won’t knock your socks off, but recommended for what it is.

Board Game

This Is Elder Signs: Gates Of Arkham Expansion

When it was first released, Elder Sign was called “Arkham Light” by both fans and critics.  The comparison was a loose one then, made on assumptions with the mechanics by those not having yet played the game given it and Arkham Horror are actually quite different in both gameplay and setting with the only real overlap being the protagonists and antagonists of Lovecraft’s universe.  Elder Sign, as discussed more in my review here is a dice-rolling game which takes place in Arkham’s museum where you – the Investigator(s) – try to keep an Ancient One from splitting the fabric of our reality by collecting a number of elder sign tokens from completing adventures and tasks.  Similarly in Arkham Horror (and now Eldritch Horror), as an Investigator you race through the streets of Arkham closing Gates, the manifestations of that crumbling reality, traversing wild Other Worlds, and locking the Ancient One away for good.  Arkham is quite a bit grander in scope, though Elder Sign captures the feel of the race and dread quite well as you battle monsters, collect resources, and step from the museum onto the Plateau of Leng or dreaded R’lyeh.  Elder Signs’ first expansion Unseen Forces added much to the base game through adventures, new items, new Investigators and Ancient Ones, and the largest change to date at the time, the Blessed and Cursed die.  Even with these additions, the experience was largely more of the same.  Not that that same was bad in any way.  Elder gave me my Lovecraft fix without forcing the hour-plus set-up of a cumbersome Arkham, always a plus in my book.  However with Gates of Arkham, the second expansion in the Elder Sign universe, things have changed considerably.

The “Arkham Light” moniker actually fits thanks to Gates.  Investigators have left the museum and taken to the city proper, visiting locations familiar to those of Arkham Horror – The Black Cave, Velma’s Diner, The Unnamable – with gates spawning in the streets.  Elder Signs original adventure cards are replaced by Arkham Encounters when using this expansion because, though the two function closely in style, their approach is much different.  In the museum, players place six adventure cards face up (and any Other World adventures which come into play as well) showing off all tasks needed completing in order to “beat” that adventure before producing a new one, along with what the penalties for failure might be, rewards for victory, and any other effects the card might create.  As a result, players can look over their abilities and their equipment to plan their moves accordingly, focusing on adventures where their resources will lead likeliest to success.  One of the chief complaints about Elder Sign was the ease of the game, yielding a fairly high win percentage in comparison to its Lovecraftian cousins which players felt didn’t fit well thematically leading to a number of house rules in order to up the sense of dread.  Gates addresses this complaint and then some.  Rather than place new adventures face-up, Arkham Encounters enter the board face down with indicators on the back of their difficulty level (with the exception of set-up where three are up, three down).  Like Arkham Horror, Investigators will sometimes have the option to engage that location’s special ability on the back of the card before flipping it over to see what dangers are beneath.  Those abilities range in usefulness, having a give-and-take mechanic as you can rush the timer forward in order to gain an Ally or an Item, trade captured trophies in order to heal Sanity, or any other number of effects.  Then the real trouble begins as the card turns over and you see your tasks – laid out just as they are in the base game – and whether or not you have the chops to complete them.  In one game, I sent an Investigator to The Unnamable in an effort to clear the difficult quest from the board, and this Investigator was loaded with answers to most of the problems I figured I’d see.  Now, had the card been played as it is in the base game face-up, I’d have just let it fester there from beginning to end.  But having no indicator of the pain lying in wait save for a red crossbones prophesizing “hard”, I didn’t know one of my dice would be unavailable, and the penalty for failure was a hit of five health which would immediately kill me.

The outcome went less than well.

Other Worlds enter much the same, face down, a gate token opening on a particular encounter and locking it until the portal is taken care of.  There are only three gates available in the game, and any which spawn after those are out birth a monster which can get rapidly out of hand if players lack the means to put up a fight.  In much the same way I chose to leap through The Unnamable’s threshold, I stepped into the gate unsure of what mad place it might be linked with, and in doing so, found myself on the steps of R’lyeh with little more than a gun and a prayer.

Storytelling is a huge chunk of why gaming appeals to me, something Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror, and Elder Sign to a lesser extent have in spades.  Elder’s narrative carried some fill-in-the-blank dependencies which is fine as the atmosphere makes for easy stories, but even so, Gates of Arkham greatly enriches the experience with the introduction of the Event deck, a set of cards triggered by an icon from an Arkham Encounter once the card itself is revealed.  Before beginning their tasks, players draw a card from the Event stack these, like all things Lovecraftian, a lift or a detriment, the flavor text offering brief snapshots into the experience giving a more anchored backdrop to the missions you’re about to perform.  Additionally, Investigators may find themselves recruited by the Sheldon Gang or lured by the Silver Twilight’s promise of mysteries, becoming members in these opposite societies in an effort to stave the darkness.  Occasional penalties will present themselves through the Mythos deck for members of either, but the reward outweighs the risk in most cases with the chance to gain extra items as part of an encounter, or avoid certain tasks altogether, making your mission that much easier.  Skills are introduced in Gates as another Investigator reward/perk joining Common Items, Unique Items, Spells, and Allies, these functioning in much the same way an Ally might with more long-lasting results.  Between the Event deck, the two membership opportunities, and these new Skills, the options for shaping your Investigator and, in a more real way, roleplaying them, increase dramatically.  There’s a significantly greater sense of foreboding when the chance for an Investigator to be devoured arises.  Before, it was a rinse/repeat feel where players would just pick a new Investigator with their starting cards but now, that person you’d worked so long to shape and build is gone.  A loss which was once little more than a blip of a wasted turn here has a greater potential to really put players behind making the need for caution all the more necessary.

Some last additions I want to mention quickly before wrapping this review.  The Entrance space of the base game (or four spaces if using Unseen Forces) inside the museum is replaced by the Streets space serving much the same purpose as hub between missions and place to collect yourself.  The Entrance was much more forgiving, allowing players to trade trophies for all manner of things like elder signs, health, items, allies, becoming blessed, the whole nine.  As Investigators became gluttoned by success, the ability to purchase the last materials to seal away evil makes the threat much less… threatening, removing much of the tension from the experience.  With the Streets, players can now only do one of three things: heal 1 heath and sanity, remove a card from the list of available encounters provided there are no monsters, gates, or locked dice, or flip a face-down card.  Purchase options are, again, delegated to the backs of certain encounters, more bonus than “always on”, and the decision to move those portions not only make the game far more difficult, but reinvents the player’s strategic approach as well.  Getting a card turned over to gauge your effectiveness is a must, it an ability I initially thought would be an unnecessary waste of resources but now seen as life-saving.  The clock has a good chance of advancing quickly now as well thanks to a handful of effects which makes the Mythos deck an increased danger.  Four new Ancient Ones are introduced in this expansion – Yibb-Tstll, Ghatanothoa, Atlach-Nacha, and an updated Yog-Sothoth – listed for your convenience from easy to insane, per the rulebook.  I’ve managed the first two, and then Atlach-Nacha came in and ruined my day.  A lot.  There’s a number of new Investigators as well, but I’ll leave you to look up their differences for brevity sake.

Gates of Arkham seems to be the game everyone wanted Elder Sign to be from the outset.  I’ve read some dissenters, but the experience thus far has been remarkable, and though I had yet to tire of the base and Unseen Forces, Gates is a near perfect experience in every way.  Nothing for me to complain about, which is a bit of a miracle in and of itself.  Absolutely recommended without reservation.  The $25 entry fee is practically a steal for what you’re getting.


Board Game

This Is Marvel Legendary: Guardians Of The Galaxy Expansion

Guardians is the most interesting expansion yet or, at the very least, the most complicated.  There’s a good deal more to keep track of here than in the previous I’ve reviewed/played (Fantastic Four and Paint The Town Red), but the result makes for a much more dynamic and exciting experience.  Though Guardians has my favorite team-up in the five heroes used for an expansion thus far, I would recommend starting off with one of the other two first as a stepping stone given some of the mechanics vary so wildly from those and the base game.  Experienced gamers should have little issue jumping in after a few hands, though I’d still recommend the ramp just the same.

So what’s new?  Artifacts and Shards.  Let’s talk about Artifacts first.  Rather than being a specific type of ability like those introduced in previous expansions like focus or wall-crawl, Artifacts are powerful cards which remain in play after coming out – think of it like attaching a piece of equipment to your character – which grant specific bonuses.  For instance, Rocket Raccoon has an Artifact allowing him to gain a Shard (more on those in a second) every time an Ambush effect or a Master Strike effect is resolved.  Drax has a knife which grants one attack/combat per round.  Things like that.  These effects stack, making your heroes powerhouses with the right combinations.  Now Shards are handled in the form of tokens you place either in a pool or on certain cards, these tokens used as bonuses to grant an extra attack/combat (or, with use of a specific card, recruitment) in a one-time-use capacity.  You acquire them either through cards or attacking enemies with Shards on them, these also granting bad guys a bonus.  Once in their possession, players can hoard Shards in an effort to unleash super attacks, which becomes a necessary strategy when dealing with mega Masterminds like Thanos.

Speaking of Thanos, dude is a monster.  I mean, the Titan of Death should be a monster, though I found him an easier opponent than Galactus mainly due to his Master Strike attack being less limiting.  Thanos’ villain group are the Infinity Shards which are acquired by players after defeating them and used as Artifacts which also grant bonuses of their own.  His attack power is twenty-four, a disgusting number up-front, though for each Infinity Shard in front of the player (and Infinity Shards should not be confused with plain-old Shards), his power is reduced by 2.  I’ve had a tendency to get him down to around eighteen or sixteen, and though it can still be tough to reach those larger numbers, that’s where the token Shards come into play.  Thanos himself can gain Shards, which boosts his attack making him even more difficult, but the same rules apply.  He’s tough, but not mega-tough.  Sound strategy and planning can beat him where, again, Galactus, can just ruin your day with a string of poor draws.

The other Mastermind is the Supreme Intelligence of Kree who, I’ll be honest, I don’t know.  The only Kree I’m even familiar with is Ronan the Accuser thanks to the Guardians film.  This guy is all about buffing himself through Shards, both in his Master Strikes and the Kree villain group he leads who have a number of Ambush effects, all of which grant other Kree characters and the Mastermind Shards.  I didn’t find him, or them, too troublesome.  Both matches were blowouts, come to think of it, though part of that was luck on my part getting some powerful cards right out of the gate.  Gamora – one of the Guardians – has an Artifact which grants two Shards per turn, and allows you to spend five Shards to get ten power, which is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb attack for one card, and from there it’s a swift march to victory.

So heroes.  Starlord, Rocket, Drax, Gamora, and Groot.  Drax I find to be the least useful, which is a little surprising, he a hybrid support/attack character with a balance of around 70/30 on that.  Maybe I just played him incorrectly every time, who knows.  The others are all more balanced toward a specific style, and I’m curious to try them in matches outside of the Guardians Masterminds and Schemes, as I have a feeling they’re a free victory given how much of a wrecking ball they can become.  I’m also curious how well the heroes will work when split, and whether it will be a pain to use Shards and Artifacts when only dealing with one character rather than five.  Perhaps it will just result in a small boost with less item management than putting them all together.

The Guardians expansion is good.  The games have lasted the longest out of all others due to the Schemes and difficulty curve of them, with the exception of some unlucky run-ins with Mysterio.  Turns also take a little longer as a result of needed planning between turns as you juggle Artifacts, Shards, and card combinations.  That’s not a complaint, just something to be mindful of.  I sound like a broken record between these reviews, but Guardians is another must-have for Legendary fans.  I’d still ease in if it’s your first, and especially with younger players, but the result can feel more like a traditional Collectible Card Game at times over a Deckbuilder due to the mechanics, which is a plus in my book.  Scratches that itch just enough.



Board Game

This Marvel Legendary: Paint The Town Red Expansion

What the heck.  I keep waffling on whether or not to spread these Legendary reviews out or put them closer together, and all this inner debate could be solved if I just broke down and wrote it all out.  I’ll cover Guardians of the Galaxy on Friday and be done with it until I get my hands on Dark City (the expansion, not the movie.  Mini-movie review for you: it’s amazing.).

As with Fantastic Four, Paint the Town Red introduces two new abilities to both boon and bane players.  Pretty sure I used those works incorrectly.  Since this is expansion centers around Spider-man, it stands to reason one of the abilities would focus on an iconic piece of his character: the wall crawl.  Traditionally when players purchase a card, that card first goes into their discard pile, only having a chance to enter the rotation once it’s shuffled into their deck proper.  A card with the wall-crawl ability, however, is placed on top of their deck, ready to be used the following turn.  Not only is it perfect thematically, but it can make for some interesting decisions (and big combo potential) when selecting newer cards.  There are times I would be able to buy a more powerful, stand-alone card, without wall-crawl, but I opted instead for the ability in order to buy it, put it on top of my deck, and then play a card allowing me to draw a card and get it in my hand right away.  I’ve run into situations where I fell just short of dealing with a villain in the City with no means of taking them out, only to be able to pull off the above scenario and save myself both a wasted round and opportunity for them to escape.  Though slightly innocuous on the surface, wall-crawl is an ability which has the potential to easily turn a bad situation around if handled properly, and it’s such a small thing leading to more thought-demanding card choices.

The next ability is for the Mastermind, specifically Carnage and his villain group Maximum Carnage: feastFeast KOs the top card of the targeted player’s deck with the possibility of triggering a snowball effect depending on the villain in question or the card removed from the game.  KOing a card (removing it entirely) is typically in the hands of the player, allowing them to remove unwanted cards in favor of getting their stronger ones out more quickly, or at the very least, choose between a number of cards in order to lose the least damaging to them.  With Carnage and his squad, that luxury is removed, and you can run into a quick string of bad luck, scrambling to make up for lost ground while playing the remainder of the game from behind.  It’s a bit of a press-your-luck mechanic when paired with wall-crawl, placing the card you want at the top of your deck, only then to have feast pop up and make you toss it before even getting the chance to use it.

Mysterio is the second Mastermind (leading the Sinister Six, finally), and quite possibly my favorite in the game so far.  I mention theme time and again when speaking about Legendary, but his is nailed so perfectly.  He’s (relatively) weak by other Mastermind standards coming in at just 8 attack, but his power rests not in his might, but his persistence.  What makes Mysterio great is his Master Strike ability.  When the card is drawn, you shuffle it into his deck, and it acts as one of Mysterio’s many illusions.  For other Masterminds, you need to defeat them four times in order to win.  For Mysterio, it can be up to nine if you’re really unlucky: four “real” cards, and five Master Strikes posing as Mysterio.  Nasty, especially when the villain deck gets increasingly low, and you’re in danger of losing by running out of time.

This is already getting long, so rather than focus on the new heroes, I’ll just give them a quick mention:  Spider-woman, Scarlet Spider, Symbiote Spider-man, Black Cat, and Moon Knight.  Spider-man comes in the base set, and I’ve honestly always found him a bit boring to play – he’s a good support character though not terribly interesting, as he revolves around card-draw, and more card draw.  This set at least gives him a few other friends to play off of and thus increases his focus, but he still doesn’t do much for me.  Black Cat too is somewhat of a letdown, feeling more quirky and gimmicky in her style than useful, the burglar tie-in one of the times theme is more cumbersome than useful (purchases and skills revolve around being boosted either by being in the Bank location or through drawn cards, all of which seem to be a bit too random to really make for sound strategic use).  And Moon Knight.  On his own as a Marvel Knights character until I pick up the Dark City expansion.

Like the others I’ve discussed, Paint the Town Red takes a good game to great.  Absolutely recommended.  Not as strong as Fantastic Four in my opinion with the exception of Mysterio, but not a poor purchasing decision by any stretch.  A definite pick-up.

Board Game

This Is Marvel Legendary The Fantastic Four Expansion

I was going to hold off doing any reviews of the expansions for Marvel for a bit, but I’ve been working through the new Schemes/Masterminds introduced in Fantastic Four, and I figure I might as well talk about the add-on while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Two new Masterminds are included, Mole Man and Galactus, both great additions to the base Masterminds.  Their respective Villain groups – Subterranea for Mole, Heralds of Galactus for, appropriately, Galactus – do a perfect job in both the thematic and gameplay departments.

The Subterranea Villains utilize one of the new keywords brought by the FF expansion, burrow, which adds a good strategic layer to their encounters.  There are five spaces Villains can occupy on the game board (or City) – the Bridge, Rooftop, Streets, Bank, and Sewers – Villains escaping once they move beyond the Bridge location, and what makes the Subterranea group interesting with burrow, is the ability allows the Villain to, once defeated, move from their current space on the board to the Streets location, provided the Streets are unoccupied, the idea being they’re fleeing from danger and living to fight another day, as bad guys are want to do.  As players, you’ll want to time attacking Villains with burrow appropriately, striking when there are other Villains in the Streets space, or when that Villain is in the space, rendering the burrow ability useless and unable to trigger.  This makes for some interesting decisions as you play, choosing whether to allow Villains to proceed further into the City than you’d otherwise like in order to block the Streets as a means of moving through the more difficult Villains with a little more ease.  But, you need to be mindful of allowing the board to get too full, especially of Subterranea Villains, as the Mole Man’s attack allows all Subterranea Villains within the City to escape at once, and his combat value increases with each escaped Sub. Villain, a trait which can rapidly spiral out of control if you’re not too careful.  What seems like a weak Mastermind on paper can actually become quite formidable.

I’ve gone against Galactus near a dozen times now and lost every one of my attempts.  I’ve come close, once, but the other goes have all been decisive defeats, which makes sense as Galactus is a world devourer, and someone with that title shouldn’t go down without a fairly decent fight.  His combat value is twenty, a number astronomical from the outset, but a value which is mitigated the more you combo cards of a certain type (Instinct, Strength, Ranged, etc.).  For every type you play from a single class – a distinction made before attacking Galactus – his value decreases by three so, for example, playing four Strength cards will reduce Galactus’ combat by twelve putting him at eight rather than twenty, a much more manageable figure.  In this way, your choices when purchasing cards becomes more weighted to one side at times, not looking necessarily for combos which bounce well off of more another, but possibly building decks all of one type in order to face the Mastermind more efficiently.

What good would new Masterminds be without new heroes to fight them?  As the expansion title suggests, you’ll finally be getting to play as one of Marvel’s most… ahem… legendary teams, the Fantastic Four: Mister Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and Thing.  Joining them as their fifth is the Silver Surfer.  The second of the new keywords is focus used exclusively with these five heroes, an ability granting players an either/or choice in their card play.  For instance, a card valued at 2 Recruit may also have the text “Focus: 2 Recruit –> Draw 1 card”, meaning, you can either use that card as it’s original 2 Recruit or use it to draw a card.  The more costly cards – and therefore more powerful cards – offer more valuable choices, some ratcheting a single card’s combat value up to nine or more, a number which creeps close to Galactus’ often elusive hit box range.  What I like so much about focus again is the same thing I’ve mentioned a handful of times in this expansion: choice.  What the base game of Legendary lacked was variety, and though I’m not wanting to be overwhelmed by decisions right out of the gate, having the ability to look at my hand, realize there’s little I can do with it by traditional means and instead opting to craft some potentially lucky draws into removing a Villain or recruiting a stronger hero, helps make the game much more interesting and accessible.  There’s nothing worse than feeling as though you have little to do while sporting a full hand, and while that trouble still occasionally presents itself, the issue is much less prevalent here, a change I welcome.

I’m not going to discuss the new Schemes.  I like the surprise of discovery in the same way I enjoy going into a movie “blind” and just seeing what comes of the experience.  Maybe you feel the same way.  If not, you can look them up.  Know that I enjoy them, and some, when paired with a certain Mastermind, can be nasty, though a lot of fun.  These Schemes are my favorites yet, for what it’s worth.

Like Paint The Town Red, the Spider-man expansion, Fantastic Four is a must-own if you enjoy Legendary.  It adds so much to the game, inclusions which make an already entertaining game that much better.  I’ll try and get to Paint The Town in the next week or so.  Maybe even Monday.  We’ll see what comes up.


Board Game

This Is Marvel Legendary

Legendary is a deckbuilding game published by Upper Deck.  It’s my first real encounter with the genre outside a digital format, and it took a fair amount of reviews, gameplay videos and, finally, hands-on experience to push me over the edge into picking it up.  I don’t mean to suggest Legendary looked like a bad game for all that hesitation, only making sure it was something I’d want to revisit more than a handful of times before realizing I didn’t much care for it.  Since I have little experience with deckbuilders, I can’t say too well how it holds up in comparison to others.  The game itself is largely straight-forward with simple mechanics, the real draw being the ability to assemble a team of superheroes, battle evil, and thwart their machinations.

The parameters of each game is determined by the scenario you choose, known in Legendary as “Schemes”, with situations like Invade the Daily Bugle, The Legacy Virus, and Unleash the Power of the Cosmic Cube all, I’m told by my buddy, well-known stories within the Marvel universe.  I’m sure having that history adds to the appeal, though as someone with only a passing knowledge of the industry in spite enjoying it immensely, I never felt as though I was missing something by not having those references to pull from.  Your goal is to thwart the Mastermind behind the Scheme, defeating him before he is able to unleash devastation upon the world and/or universe.  The four available in the base game – Red Skull, Magneto, Dr. Doom, and Loki all vary in ability and difficulty, allowing for a fair amount of replay value as their powers along with the changes enforced by the Scheme, and too the heroes you select, will vary things widely game to game.

You assemble a team of five, each with their own decks ranging from decent to awesome in card value, purchasing these from your starting deck of twelve lousy cards in an effort to boost yourself enough to keep the city safe and take on the head honcho.  Knowing what to buy when is key, understanding the strength of the deck you’re shaping by utilizing the differing types of heroes available – Strength, Covert, Tech, etc. – in order to create the best combos possible.  This is where the game’s potential really comes through, stringing together a long series of card draws and power ups by timing your plays just right, the simple nature of the two-card system (Attack and Recruit) is bolstered through card bonuses targeting certain factions and types which can make for some very powerful turns.  These choices are mitigated some, however, limited, more, by that straight-forwardness, which opens into my one real complaint with the game: it’s a little bland.  And easy.  Mostly easy.  I’ve heard the game doesn’t scale too well when played with four or five people, and maybe it doesn’t.  That’s not something I’ve done.  From a two-player standpoint which is how I often go, I didn’t lose once in the base game.  Though varied, the Schemes themselves aren’t all that difficult, and the Masterminds feel like background noise most of the time.  I wouldn’t even go so far as to call them annoyances, merely someone who buys themselves an extra round’s reprieve before the inevitable fall.  And while planning your card purchases are a necessary process here, I could just as easily see a scenario akin to button-mashing where you just buy what’s available to create a brutal mutt of a deck.  Even then, I’d be hard-pressed to believe victory wasn’t assured.  I suppose a situation would exist, yes, where luck is simply not on your side and you’re faced with impossible odds thanks to, well, impossible odds, though these would be very few and very far between if my experience counts anywhere.  I mentioned above the potential of the game comes through in those decisions, and in that potential it falls short, because it’s all we’re really left with when all is said and done.  The expansions do an incredible job addressing this, as they add so much more interest to the game in Schemes, Masterminds, and abilities (the wall-crawl ability introduced in the spider-man Paint The Town Red expansion seems almost criminal in its exclusion, allowing players to place newly purchased cards at the top of their deck rather than in their discard pile initially, making for some interesting choices) it practically feels incomplete without them, but from a stand-alone point of view, the game is all vanilla ice cream.  Not that I dislike vanilla – in fact, it’s my favorite – though I understand how unexciting it can be without some dressing.

Not Ranch.

If the above makes it sound as though I dislike the game, I don’t.  I still had a good time with the base even with the ease of entry, and I admittedly didn’t up the difficulty using the methods suggested in the rule book to know if my complaint would be curbed any.  Card selection and non-obvious choices would still be an issue, but perhaps I would have seen a nail-biter or two.  If you’re a fan of Marvel, it’s tough not to recommend Legendary.  Being able to go against Magneto with some of my favorite X-Men is always going to be a good time, and now owning the Fantastic Four expansion, I feel I can finally have a proper match against Doom.  If you’re looking for depth, I’d then factor the expansions into your purchase.  Without them the game is merely okay, but with them, it’s excellent.  So much so, I really want to get my hands on Upper Deck’s new game in the Legendary system: Encounters, based on the Alien films.

This is a two-part recommendation.  Definitely recommended for some.  Hesitantly recommended for others.

If there’s enough interest, I’ll do some reviews of the expansions themselves down the road.  They’ve all proven great.