Time for some games-talk. Because I don’t talk about games enough, as you know. Today I’m going to talk about a couple of related deck-building games, so get prepared for a two-parter as I present: Marvel Legendary!
From the good folks of Upper Deck (with decades of experience in the trading-card business), Marvel Legendary came out in 2012 to what was a phenomenal response from the gaming community. With the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the IP had arguably never been so hot, particularly after Joss Whedon’s first Avengers film had been released earlier that year. To have a game that used this world would be an incredible boon to any business’ share price, but the success of the Upper Deck card game effectively gave them a licence to print money. From what I have seen, enthusiasm among the gaming community has remained at a near-constant high ever since, culminating in the recent release of a companion game, Legendary: Villains. I’ll talk about that in the second part of this blog, however.
I’m not going to go into any great depth over the theme of this game, as I imagine the superheroes from the Marvel stable have entered into the collective consciousness of the world sufficiently that people like Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine and Hulk are all pretty much staples of pop culture.
The basic premise is pretty much the same as the other deck-building card games that I have previously mentioned on my blog, Street Fighter and Dark Gothic. There are one or two subtle differences, though, which make Marvel Legendary a much stronger game in my opinion. While the players aim to build a deck to defeat the evil Mastermind much as happens in Dark Gothic, there is a Scheme that the Mastermind has put into place that the players are trying to foil, and sometimes victory isn’t down to simply defeating the big bad. In addition, there are a number of villain groups that the heroes must fight, all of which are tied quite strongly to a particular theme (Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Spider-Foes, etc). Each Mastermind has a specific group of villains he always leads, for example Magneto and the Brotherhood, and it’s touches like these that really make the game stand out.
Of course, the Marvel Universe has had a whole host of team-ups in virtually every combination imaginable, so when you select which heroes and which villains will be playing in the game, it promotes a creative side to come out and explain what’s going on!
You start the game, as expected, with a deck of basic cards, which allow you to buy stuff as well as fight stuff, though at the beginning you often can’t really fight anything unless you’re lucky. The villains (in the green sleeves above) emerge from the deck and, as the game moves along, they move across the board from right to left, trying to escape the city. It’s up to the heroes to prevent that, as any escaped villains at the end of the game will cost you victory points. Also within the villains deck are scheme twists and masterstrikes. The effect of scheme twists varies depending on which Scheme you’re playing (the scheme card is above the Mastermind, on the left), and the masterstrikes vary depending on which Mastermind you face.
The heroes you can buy all have different effects, some can allow you to buy better cards and some will allow you to attack more powerful villains. When you’ve eventually got enough attack strength, you can fight the Mastermind. There are four cards underneath the top Mastermind card, and the players need to defeat each one before the Final Showdown happens, where you have the opportunity to defeat the Mastermind once and for all! (That’s actually an optional rule, but I like it so much I usually always play with it).
The villains all do different stuff, much like the heroes, most often when you fight them. Some villains have an “Escape” effect, which only takes place if the villain is pushed out of the Bridge space on the left of the board. Others have an “Ambush” effect, which takes place when they are revealed. Either way, if you defeat a villain, it goes into your Victory Pile, and at the end of the game, the points in the red circle on the right of the villain cards are added up, with the victor being the person with the most.
It’s a really nice game – fairly straightforward if you know deck-builders, hugely satisfying as a game as well as having the deck-building aspect to it. People who are Marvel fans will enjoy it (at least, the Marvel fans I’ve introduced it to have!), and generally speaking, it’s worth the space in any game collection.
There have been three expansions for the game so far: one big-box expansion, Dark City, that brought slew of X-Men and Marvel Knights into the game (DareDevil! Yay!) as well as adding some new mechanics; and two small-box expansions for Fantastic Four (Galactus!) and Spider-Man. I believe another small-box expansion is on the horizon for Guardians of the Galaxy, which will tie in with the movie that’s due for release next month (though the game expansion is likely due around October).