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.