Friday, August 5, 2016

What took you so long?

I'm not really sure why it took me so long to buy into Legendary: a MARVEL Deck Building Game. I'm a big fan of the superhero genre, and of deck building games in general. It could be that I already had several editions of the DC Comics Deck Building Game, although the two games aren't really very similar. I picked up Legendary Encounters: an ALIEN Deck Building Game on the first day it was released, and it remains one of my favorites. I also bought the Predator edition, and have plans to pick up the forthcoming Firefly and Big Trouble in Little China editions as soon as they are available. Maybe that's what finally got me to pull the trigger on the original Marvel edition.

It's interesting coming to the original Legendary game after playing both Encounters versions. They are recognizably the same game with only minor structural changes. Where Alien and Predator both use scenarios based on the films to structure the cards that players play against, Marvel uses different combinations of super villain masterminds, lower-level villain groups, and plots pulled from decades of comic book storylines.

Legendary's basic approach is a little abstract. Rather than each player taking control of a specific hero or a team of heroes, they instead start with a simple deck of cards representing SHIELD agents. Players then gradually add cards to their decks representing signature moves from a pre-selected group of superhero characters (usually five), so the game isn't so much "I control Wolverine and you control Spider-Man" as it is all of the players orchestrating Wolverine and Spider-Man's battle against the various villains menacing the city.

Plot cards provide all manner of interesting variants on the basic rules, creating different win conditions and sometimes making the villain cards behave in different ways. Each plot is presided over by a Mastermind villain who brings his own henchmen and tactics to the game, and with near-infinite combinations of plots and Masterminds, you can guarantee that no two games will ever be alike.

The Marvel version of Legendary really puts you in the middle of a superhero battle, so much so that it's all the more interesting that the game system seems so well suited to the Alien and Predator franchises too. Best of all, since the core Legendary game is more or less compatible with the Encounters editions, you can have the Avengers try to fight off an invasion of acid-blooded Aliens, or see how Wolverine matches up against the Predator...

Rating: 5 (out of 5) Legendary is a robust game system with a huge amount of replay value, especially if you're brave enough to start mixing and matching the different editions.