Game Review – Legendary Marvel
Legendary Marvel isn’t a new game, but it is one of the highest rated deck building games out there. So with it’s superhero theme, it seemed a logical first step into the world of pool building tabletop games.
Considering that Legendary Marvel is a card based game, we were quite surprised at the size of the box, especially when opening it up, and finding that the cards within take up less than 50% of the interior space provided.
As it happens, Legendary Marvel is a base game, with multiple add on sets that can be used to make the game more interesting or complex as time goes on. We assume then that the box size is simply well thought out forward planning by the makers, who have already set you up with extra storage space for the expansions you purchase in the future.
Unpacking the game is awful. Most board games that come with decks of cards include the cards packaged or sorted by card type. It is often easy to separate the cards by type this way, and then during setup it is not uncommon to then shuffle those decks of cards. Legendary Marvel does almost the exact opposite. The cards come pre-shuffled, so each pack of cards contains some heroes of varying type, some villains or henchmen of varying type and maybe some agents, wounds or bystander cards.
Unfortunately, when setting up the game for the first time, instead of shuffling every available card together, you first need to separate the cards not just by type (hero/villain/henchmen) but also by specific hero or villain group. This means that we probably spent close to an hour going through each deck and matching up all cards for each different hero, villain, mastermind and grouping all the other cards. THEN, after choosing the hero and villain/henchmen groups you wish to play with that game, you re-shuffle those back together to create your hero and villain decks.
What an utter faff!
Thankfully, after getting over the initial setup of our first game, things started to look up.
For our first game we used the recommended hero and villain groups, and although it wasn’t a very long game, the choices were good to give you a nice easy intro to the game mechanics.
Each player begins with a deck of very simple SHIELD Agents as their heros. Each hero can usually do one of two main actions (some can do both) either recruit, or attack. Better heros have better stats in either category, and most also have some kind of special ability.
On each turn, a player first draws a villain from the villain deck to attack the city. The player then takes their hand and decides in which order to play their cards. During the later stages of the game, the order of play can have great effect on how many recruit or attack points are accrued, due to combining different hero’s special abilities. Once all cards have been played and points have been totalled in each area, those points can then be spent on attacking villains in the city and recruiting better heroes from the HQ.
SHIELD Officer Maria Hill can always be recruited (up to 30 per game) and offers higher recruit points than the basic Agents. Alternatively, if you have enough recruit points to play, you can gain a hero from the HQ. The HQ always contains five heroes drawn from your hero deck. When one is recruited, another is drawn from the pile to take it’s place.
Attack points can be spent on villains currently attacking the city, and when you gain more powerful heroes and increase your attack capabilities, you can even attack the mastermind!
Once you have the basic gameplay down, it is the ability of this game to change things up that really makes it interesting.
The overall aim of each game is determined by the chosen scheme (11 different schemes available). This card might make changes to the initial setup of the game or tweak basic rules, and will also contain an endgame scenario for the mastermind to win.
Each game contains a different mastermind (four available), different groups of villains and henchmen (seven villain groups and four henchmen groups) and different groups of heroes (15 hero types). For each game played, the players win by attacking and defeating the mastermind successfully four times. The villain deck also contains five Master Strike cards, and each mastermind causes a different effect when one of these cards are drawn.
Even within each group there is vast differentiation. Each hero type has 14 cards, with four different sub-type cards, each having a differing special ability relating to that hero. Each villain group contains four different villain cards, each with unique abilities or effects, and each mastermind has four different tactic cards, so each attack on your boss will have a different effect on the players or game.
Put all these possibilities for variation together and you’re going to be hard pushed to have two games alike, no matter how many times you play, and this makes for an extremely re-playable game.
In terms of the heroes available, there’s a really good choice on offer. Four of the 15 available heroes are girls (yey) but to be honest we wouldn’t expect anything else. Considering the Marvel Universe if rife with amazing female characters, they would be hard pushed to make a decent game without a good offering.
It can be a little frustrating if you draw a group of heros who really don’t fit with the chosen scheme or mastermind. For example, playing against Magneto with no X-Men will see you struggle, and in a way, would not make sense. I must admit that we have played a few games with strategically chosen heroes and villains rather than choosing at random, just because it made sense in the Marvel Universe to group those characters together.
Some of the masterminds have really interesting effects on the games, and there’s a great variety of schemes to pair them up with. When you combine certain scheme and master strike effects you can find yourselves in some rather challenging scenarios. Disappointingly, even though we have played some of the more challenging combinations, we’ve never really come close to actually losing a game, and wonder if the challenge is not quite set high enough. The only scenario which we thought might stop us was Loki with the Legacy Virus, but even then we won first time.
The villain group can also have interesting effects. My favourite is The Skrulls who can take on the attack value of the highest powered hero in the HQ! This makes them tough to defeat, but when you do, you are also rewarded with a high powered hero in your deck.
The game board is great, but it would be nice to perhaps also include player boards, to easily keep track of your cards in play, draw pile and discard pile. After a while it’s not so difficult to keep track, but when first starting out it can be quite confusing when self sorting your cards on the table in front of you.
After the faff of first setup it does become much easier if you sort the cards back into the box sensibly, although of all the games we own, this one is near the top for time spent setting up and packing away, purely due to the need to separate all the cards after each game.
Overall we’re really glad that Legendary Marvel was our introduction to the world of Deck Building games. I love the theme, and adore the variations in each individual game. We also have the expansion Civil War to throw into the mix, so now we have the base game down, we’re looking forward to also delving into the world of expansions.
The RRP for Legendary Marvel is £49.99, and it can be found at independent game stores, which can be found using this store locatorThanks for reading!
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