Since we talked about Caroline's start to board games last week, I thought it would be good to touch on mine this week. Similar to Caroline's I also started with a deck building game (likely why I have started my ever expanding CCG collection...). When I first met Caroline, she was massively into board games and I was massively into comics and our worlds collided and now we love both, but one of the first games that peaked my interest was Marvel Legendary from Upper Deck. The marvel universe has been part of my life since childhood, and the ability to become part of that world and play my favourite heroes as they battle the bad guys in a crazy scheme to take over the world is pretty epic. Although, unlike in the comic books we often get our asses handed to us...
So what is Marvel Legendary? For most of you reading this, you are likely familiar as it seems to be a staple in most gaming groups that we have met, but for those of you new to the deck building world or to board games in general, this is a cooperative deck building game based on the marvel universe. For you big comic book fans, this isn't just the Marvel cinematic universe, it includes some of the cool lesser known heroes which is always nice (Eg. Wiccan) and has expansion for all your favourites (Secret War, Civil War, Dead Pool, Spider-man, X-men, etc. etc). There have been a number of interesting expansions and spin off games that have come out over the years using mostly the same basic mechanic but adding a "keyword"/ new mechanic but this review will be focusing on the base game.
The setup for this game is pretty intense but also pretty cool, there are just so many options. Every game players create a villain deck and a hero deck, either at random or by picking your favourite characters. This starts with players choosing a mastermind villain - defeating this guy is how you win the game. Then you create the villain deck, which is modified based on the number of players, the mastermind chosen (each mastermind will have a specific villain group they 'lead' with, Eg. Green Goblin would lead with the spiderfoe), the scheme, and personal preference. The villain deck is made up of scheme twists, master strikes, bystanders, henchman groups, and villain groups. Once you have selected your villain group, next its time to make your hero deck! The hero deck is made up of the heroes you want to play, in a two player game you choose 5 different heroes, each hero will have a number of different cards with different super powers and attack or buying power and each turn you will have a chance to recruit these heroes into your hand to take on harder villains or the mastermind. While this is one of the best parts of the game because there are so many cool combinations, it is also one of the biggest reasons that this game doesn't get played as much as we would like. It is incredibly tedious to setup. The box comes with foam inserts to keep the cards from moving around and to keep them organized but it doesn't provide a good way to set the game up quickly. So often we end up playing something like Dominion where the cards are perfectly organized for quick setup, and have a sweet randomizer deck. Although on that note, Caroline and I invested in some new dividers thanks to Sean Finn of BoardGameGeek (https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/191904/item/3925465) so we will keep you posted on if this helps.
Once we finally get the villain deck and the hero deck made and shuffled, we deal out the starting cards, shield agents and shield troupers. These cards provide the basic attack and buy power to expand your hero roster and defeat the villain and mastermind cards. The attack power is used to fight villains and the recruit power is used to recruit better heroes. Each of the hero cards has an icon or multiple that give powers when player with other heroes with the same icons. These cards can allow for greater attack if you have multiple x-men or may allow you to pick up more cards if you have heroes with technology such as Iron Man. Sometimes these powers can be amazing, if you pick the right combinations these cards build on each other but other cards really aren't great - depending on your strategy. As Caroline and I often play as a team and don't worry about who won but more if we can defeat the mastermind, we try to avoid heroes that dish out wounds to other players as it isn't very helpful for the common good. If you are playing for points and keeping track of the number of villains each person knocks, than those types of cards might be helpful.
While each game has the same objective - save the world by foiling the mastermind's scheme/defeating the mastermind, each game has completely different losing conditions. Each scheme and Mastermind card have different losing conditions, such as running out of wounds, too many villains escaping etc and cards in the villain deck will trigger these events. Inside the villain deck there are cards called "master strike", which give the mastermind some type of extra actions or help. There are also "scheme twist" cards which make things more difficult for the heroes and brings the villain one step closer to victory over the heroes. When these cards appears, nothing good will happen. There are various lose conditions for the heroes s It really all depends on the mastermind and the scheme card. Some of the masterminds are easier and some are much more challenging. We recently played a game where the villain defeated us within minutes. Okay, it was multiple games, and we were rather sad. It was a combination of the "scheme twist" cards causing us to draw more cards from the villain deck resulting in more "scheme twists" being drawn leading to a quick loss for the heroes. Games where it is an instant lose aren't our favourite, but we do like that schemes, masterminds, villains, and henchman groups range in difficulty. Sometimes it is nice to have an easy win and feel like epic superheroes but other times we like the struggle of battling it out and trying to defeat the last mastermind before we accidental trigger the end of the game.
Overall, despite our issues with the setup, I love the game. The theme is great, the variety is good (there is always a new expansion), and the artwork is amazing.
Difficulty to understand: 4/10
Cody Frustration: 4/10
Difficulty to understand: 2/10
Cody Frustration: 6/10 (Cody was very frustrated with our quick death)
Analysis paralysis: 6/10 (mostly when setting up - I find it hard to decide between all the awesome characters)
The winner of the most recent games was the mastermind (we let the world down - sorry), but don't worry, we have had our share of victories. We have saved not only the cardboard New York but also the cardboard world!
Do you have a favourite deck building game or card game? What was one of your gateway games?