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.