Upper Deck Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

One of my biggest hobbies of the past, and one that I really would like to revive, is board gaming.  I remember enjoying board games from a very young age.  My dad enjoyed chess, so he taught me how to play, and I was a decent player for my age.  I also have fond memories of playing board games with my family (Monopoly stands out, for example), and later have friends who either shared my interest, or who I managed to hook.  I used to game at both science fiction and board game conventions, and later on after college, I joined a large board game club.  I actually used to write reviews and articles for them.

Things kind of died down on the gaming front for me after I relocated to Jacksonville, Fl (for work), and later, to Columbus, OH.  And I’d still find the occasional game here and there.  But none of the friends I’d made really were avid gamers (we did play penny-ante poker on occasion, but that’s different).

Things are starting to change a bit now, so I’m slowly getting to play games again.  One of the first games that I purchased when I started getting back into gaming was Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game, along with a few of the expansions for it.  Each game is different in that you randomly choose a Mastermind (aka arch-villain), say, Magneto, or Kingpin, an evil plot that that Mastermind is trying to accomplish, and a group of heroes that you can use to defeat that plot (egs. Iron Man, and/or Spiderman).  Each turn, you will use the cards in your hand to recruit heroes, or attack villains, henchmen and when you are strong enough, the Mastermind.  Villains and henchmen appear on the board and are displaced to the right as new villains and henchmen appear.  If you do not defeat them quickly enough, they can escape off the map, with various consequences, and if enough of them escape, you’ll likely lose the game.

Nearly every hero card that you recruit will have unique abilities — for example, you may get bonuses to recruit or damage bonuses, or you may be able to draw extra cards, destroy cards,  or heal wounds (which are useless cards that can be added to your deck — each wound you draw is one less actually useful card that you’ll have in your hand).   Villains also can have special abilities that will take effect as an ambush (when they first appear on the map) or as fight effects (they take place when you attack them).    Combat is non-random — you simply have to equal or exceed the strength of a henchman, villain, or Mastermind.  And Masterminds must be defeated several times to win the game.  And that’s the basics.

Well I’ve played the game a few times now — a couple of times I tried it solo to learn the game, and I’ve played it with my nephew.  First the positive:  The game is fun.  It certainly has the flavor and theme right of a superhero game.   Between all of the expansions, you have most of the more important superheroes and the most important villains of the Marvel universe.  The difficulty of the game varies from very hard to fairly easy, depending on the initial set-up.  There’s even a few apps on the Android store (probably in the Apple store as well) that can help generate random setups, based on whatever expansions you have, and various preferences (I prefer Legendary Randomizer of the two I’ve tried).  Also, the game is not terribly difficult to learn or to teach, but there can be some confusing things because of all of the different combinations that can come up — I was able to teach my middle-school-aged nephew how to play fairly quickly.  We did make a couple of mistakes in the rules (at least I’m convinced that we did something wrong).  But we both really enjoyed the game, so I’m not beating myself up about that.

The biggest negative to the game is that it takes a lot of time to set up and to put away, because there are so many different cards available in the game, and you have to find the particular ones that you want to play with.  At one point, I was getting frustrated setting up the game for me and my nephew, so I simply substituted the first cards that I had found for ones that I was still looking through my collection for.  That may seem like a minor negative, but it is one that can prevent you from bringing the game into certain situations.  And the game is big, meaning that it is less portable than other games, and requires a decent play area (not usually a problem, but we were playing on a table that made things cramped).  And one minor thing…  if you like The Fantastic Four, you are out of luck, because that expansion is out of print, and if you do find it for sale now, odds are the price for it will be totally outrageous.

Anyway, I do give the game a thumbs-up.   It’s the first deck-building game I’ve played, and I do think that the mechanic is very clever.  You start with a very weak deck, and as time goes on, you buy stronger cards, and get rid of your weaker cards until (hopefully) you are either strong enough to win… or not.

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