In honor of the opening weekend of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – which is an excellent movie, by the way – I think it’s about time we take a look at my favorite game that’s inspired by Marvel Comics. We’re talking about Upper Deck’s Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game.
Legendary | Marvel Universe Crossover Epicness
Legendary is a semi-cooperative game for 1-5 players (we’ll get back to that “semi” part in a minute), where each player takes control of the heroes of the Marvel universe and tries to stop a supervillain Mastermind from completing his Scheme. The players aren’t so much heroes themselves, but rather agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. who recruit heroes.
The actual mechanics of the game are carried out through the deck-building mechanism, which originated with Dominion. At the beginning of the game, you construct two decks: the hero deck and the villain deck. The hero deck is constructed of 3-6 heroes (depending on the number of players), and every major Marvel hero is represented. Captain America, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Wolverine…they’re all here, and then some (no conflicting studio rights here). Every hero has several different cards representing them and their various special abilities. The villain deck is similarly constructed, with evil groups like the Enemies of Asgard, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and the Masters of Evil. The group must also decide on a Mastermind (an extremely powerful villain who leads other villains) and that Mastermind’s Scheme (a condition upon which the players may lose the game).
Each player starts out with a weak deck of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and troopers. Agents provide you with recruitment points, troopers give you combat points. At the bottom of the board that comes with the game is the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier (the HQ), which is really just a place to store a random line-up of cards from the hero deck. On your turn, you can use your recruitment points to purchase hero cards, which are usually much better than the agents and troopers you start out with, giving you more resources and better abilities. Better yet, hero cards can chain together, depending on their faction (Avengers, X-Men, etc.) and type (ranged, tactical, etc.). When you purchase a new card, it will go into your discard pile, and eventually you’ll reshuffle and be able to draw and use those better cards.
Legendary | The Marvel Method
But every hero needs a villain, and this game has tons of them. At the start of your turn, you must first draw a card from the villain deck. The villains will move from right to left through the City spaces of the board. Some of them have nasty ambush effects, or special effects that occur only when they move through the entire city and escape. They might even capture Bystanders as they are revealed Also buried in the deck are Master Strikes (which activate the special power of the Mastermind) and Scheme Twists, which push you farther and farther toward defeat.
The heroes are not helpless, of course. Using combat points, you can defeat the villains, much like purchasing cards, but this time the villains go off to the side into your Victory Pile. You must also use combat points to take out the tactics cards of the Masterminds, which is the only way the heroes can win. Each villain, tactic, and bystander is worth points. At the end of the game, the player with the most points is the winner and best hero…but only if you all survive the Mastermind and his Scheme!
Legendary | Your Own Unique Marvel One Shot
The game is a fast-paced, but very random, deck-builder. It has a very strong theme, and fantastic artwork. With numerous expansions, every major superhero and villain is represented. It’s a challenging game with adjustable difficulty, and with less players it can play very fast.
Legendary | Summary
While I enjoy Legendary, it does have some significant faults that many gamers can’t get past. For starters, the game has a very long and frustrating set-up and take-down time. You must take the time to construct decks every time, and sorting them out takes an equally long time at the end. The game has uneven difficulty, with some sessions being ridiculously easy, and others being crushingly brutal. And the semi-cooperative nature of the game can be a bit annoying. If you spend too much time just trying to win on your own, you can tank the entire game and make it even more difficult to win. Some cards are specifically made just to earn points, and I feel they are wasted filler.
Even so, this is by far one of the best superhero games on the market. Sentinels of the Multiverse is still the greatest, but it doesn’t have the backing of a “real” comic book franchise. The variety of choices in set-up, coupled with solid deck-building mechanics, makes this the ultimate card game for the Marvel lover in your life. ‘Nuff said.
Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game
5 out of 5
by Board Game Brawl