Can you name a game that I have played 61 times with various expansions but for some reason haven’t actually done a review for?
How is that?
Oh, it’s in the title of this post.
Anyway, Legendary: a Marvel Deckbuilding Game (I’m just going to call it Legendary from now on) is a deckbuilder published by Upper Deck Entertainment. It was designed by Devin Low with artwork by a bunch of different artists. And the expansions probably have even more artists!
The base game (which this is a review of) came out in 2012. I can’t even count how many expansions there are (though I may do a review of all of them eventually).
How does the game work?
Let’s go to the board (i.e. past the “More” tag)
Unlike some other superhero games, players are not their own Marvel Heroes.
Instead, each game has a number of Heroes in the game (depending on player count) and each Hero has a set of 14-cards. All of the Hero cards are put into one big Hero Deck, and five cards will be available to purchase.
These are Heroes you can recruit, but anybody can recruit them to their deck. You will be recruiting multiple Hero cards and you can have a bunch of different ones if you want. Or you can try to concentrate on only a couple.
Each game you are going to choose the Heroes to be in that deck, as well as a Mastermind who you are trying to defeat.
This Mastermind has a Scheme that you are trying to thwart.
There are tons of different Schemes if you have expansions, but even the base game comes with a good number to start with.
You’re also going to choose some Villains and Henchmen that will go into their own deck along with Master Strikes and Scheme Twists, which will advance the plot or have the Mastermind strike at the heroes.
Each player starts with a deck of 12 cards: 8 S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents and 4 S.H.I.E.L.D Troopers.
Your hand each turn will be 6 cards, and you will play the cards in them to get Recruit points to buy more Hero cards as well as Fight points to defeat enemies in the City.
Before playing your cards, though, you flip over the top card of the Villain deck and do what it says, if anything. It could be a Villain that just enters the city (pushing any Villains ahead of it if there is no room). It could be a Scheme Twist or Master Strike that will have some other bad effect.
Players are trying to recruit cards, defeat Villains in the City, and ultimately defeat the Mastermind.
Each Mastermind has 4 tactics, so you have to defeat him or her at least 4 times (there is a mode where you also have to defeat the Mastermind themselves, so technically just a 5th time).
Play continues until either the Scheme says you lose (by having a certain number of Escaped Villains, for example) or you defeat the Mastermind. If either the Villain Deck or the Hero Deck runs out, then it’s a tie. You didn’t lose, but you didn’t win (so ultimately, in my opinion, you lost).
Technically, the game is semi-cooperative, so each Villain you defeat, or perhaps Bystander you rescue, has a point value. If players manage to win the game by defeating the Mastermind, then whoever has the most points ultimately wins.
Many people just play totally cooperatively so don’t care about the points.
You can do it however you want!
Is Legendary: Marvel a Captain America who will lead all heroes to greatness? Or is it the Frog-Man of the gaming community?
You can’t really say too much negative about a base game that has spawned so many expansions and a lot of love in the nine years since its inception.
That being said, I will say a couple of things.
One major problem with the base set of Legendary: Marvel is that all of the Hero cards have the same artwork.
None of the expansions have the same problem, so it looks like Upper Deck learned their lesson, but the base game is pretty annoying because of this.
Sure, it makes it easy to sort the cards after the game is over, but it ruins the immersion in the game.
The second issue is that the Masterminds are pretty easy to defeat.
Again, the expansions start solving these problems as many of the Masterminds are considered almost impossible to defeat. But the base set has some really easy Masterminds.
The Red Skull (the “introductory” Mastermind) is pretty ridiculous, with each Mastermind Tactic (what you earn when you defeat the Mastermind each time) super-helpful to all of the players.
A case could be made that the game is trying to draw players into the system, and having the game beat up on the players all of the time really isn’t conducive to having people buy multiple expansions to keep trying. If the base game is tremendously difficult, how bad would the expansions be?
Still, it is a common complaint and I’ve seen multiple threads on Boardgame Geek saying essentially “Just bought Legendary: Marvel. Should it really be this easy?”
All of that being said, the game itself is a hell of a lot of fun and there’s a reason that it’s been around this long and expanded 2-3 times a year.
The base game has one kind of Bystander that you can “rescue,” giving you one point each time you do. There’s really no reason why you can’t have the Bystander stack face-up.
Future expansions have “special” Bystanders that have special abilities, so the stack has to be face-down so you don’t know which ones you’re getting.
The same goes for Wounds. Many Villains (and sometimes even Hero cards, if they’re assholes like the Hulk) give you Wounds. In the base game, all Wounds are the same.
There is one expansion that adds “Grievous Wounds” so the Wound stack has to be face-down.
The whole Legendary game system is so cool just because of all the things you have to keep in mind. You are trying to face off against the Mastermind but you are also trying to make sure you keep the City clear. If Villains are forced out of the City because each space is occupied, bad things can happen.
Thus, defeating Villains in the City can be very important. Especially when Schemes have a lose condition that mentions escaped Villains.
The other thing I love about the game is how different “classes” of Hero cards can trigger effects on cards that are subsequently played.
Many deckbuilders have this, like the “Unite” function in Ascension or the factions in Clank in Space, but I really like the way it’s implemented in Legendary.
You only have to play one of a certain type of card and then every card that’s triggered by that type of card that you play further on in the turn gets a bit stronger.
You can get a lot of combos that way and I love how that works.
The base game of Legendary: Marvel does leave a little bit to be desired, mainly in the artwork and the difficulty, but it laid a base to the game that subsequent expansions have built on to become one of the most fun game systems that I’ve ever played.
I did get away from it a bit, mainly due to storage and the sub-par Deadpool expansion, but recently I’ve been buying up most of the expansions that I’ve missed, mainly because I’ve missed the gameplay.
The Legendary: Marvel system is great and I will willingly keep going with it, keep having fun with it, and really enjoy combining Heroes and Villains from different expansions to have nearly limitless enjoyment.
Devin Low shows his Magic: the Gathering roots and has created a system that will stand the test of time far into the future.
If you do get the base game, however, I can understand why you may not be as impressed with the whole thing. The artwork and the gameplay isn’t as good as I would like.
If you get just one expansion, though, you will see the possibilities in the system that will give you much enjoyment for the foreseeable future.
As long as you like (or don’t mind) deckbuilders, obviously.
There is nothing in Legendary: Marvel that will address your general dislike of deckbuilding games if that’s the way you roll.
If you don’t have an opinion like that, though, you should definitely try this out.
Whether you play cooperatively or as a semi-cooperative game, there is a lot of fun to be had here.
I highly recommend Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game for anybody who likes cooperative (or semi-cooperative) games or deckbuilders.
Look for expansion reviews in the next few months.
This review was written after 61 plays, though many of those plays are with various expansions)