04th Feb2019

‘Legendary: Marvel Studios’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail


Fans of the Legendary series of games will likely remember that we previously covered Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer here at Nerdly earlier last year, but beyond Buffy, the Legendary series spans a number of popular universes including Marvel, Alien and Predator, among others. The Marvel series of tie ins represent perhaps the most well known of all the Legendary games, yet until now they have focused entirely on the comic book universe, rather than the movies. To refer to these movies by their Sunday name, I’m told that I must call them the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” These movies have so far spanned a whole myriad of films which anyone reading this review will be familiar with, and the version of Legendary that I am reviewing today (Legendary: Marvel Studios – The First Ten Years) is focused more or less on events leading up to and around the first Avengers Assemble movie.

For anyone familiar with the Legendary mould, you’ll be in familiar territory here. The box contains about four hundred cards comprising of seven hero decks, three big-bad enemy scheme decks (including Red Skull, Loki and Iron Monger) and then a whole host of enemy groups and lower ranking henchmen, not to mention several decks of generic S.H.I.E.L.D decks, as well as wound and bystander decks. There’s also a very eye catching play mat included in the box, plus a fairly decent (but perhaps unremarkable) instruction booklet. I’ll tell you now that I am a little disappointed by the selection of enemies here, since I’d consider only Loki to be A-List really, although the hero list is much better – more on that later.

Legendary games are always solo friendly, semi-cooperative games in which one or more players build their own customised deck and use it to tackle the chosen enemy. During setup, one of the three enemies is chosen, along with one of the Scheme cards – either randomly, or based on the kind of experience that players want to have. Some combinations of big bad enemy and Scheme are easier than others, whilst some big bad’s lead specific groups of regular enemies. Loki, for example, always leads the Enemies of Asgard. The enemy groups and henchmen are then shuffled into a deck along with a number of bystander, Scheme Twist and Master Strike cards, as instructed by the Scheme itself.

With this done, the players choose which five of the seven hero decks to include in the game. Legendary: Marvel Studios includes a fairly decent selection, with only maybe two that I have no personal affinity for. Straight out of the box, players can include their choice of Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Hawkeye, which I think covers most of the big hitters than fans will want to see. Each hero has a fourteen card deck of their own, and the five chosen decks will be shuffled together and placed on a set location on the playmat – as will the enemy deck, big bad, the Scheme, the bystandanders, wounds and so on. The game can now begin.

Players begin the game with a twelve card hand which contains eight recruitment cards and four that deal damage. The first player will turn over an enemy card and place it onto the first slot on the row – in later turns, each enemy card in play will be moved up one space and can potentially escape, if not dealt with. The player will then use up to all six of the cards drawn to either recruit hero cards (five of which will have been laid out) or to deal damage to the enemy. During the early turns, it is most common that players will want to see lots of recruitment symbols so that they can draw one or even two new hero cards, which will then be placed into their discard pile. whilst drawing all four attack cards in these early turns can happen (and so a weak enemy might be defeated) it’s fairly rare.

After the player has performed all the recruitment and attack actions she wishes, then she dumps the rest of her hand into the discard pile and draws six new cards – at the end of the first turn, this will simply be the other six cards. Whenever a player must draw cards and can’t, she shuffles her discard pile and begins again. In this way, players spend early turns recruiting hero cards to place into their discard pile and then working to recycle that discard pile to bring the more powerful cards to bear ASAP. Whenever it does happen (which it will) a player that spends their turn dealing damage to an enemy card and defeating it will then add it to their trophy pile, with each defeated card worth victory points at the end of the game.

In general terms then, a game of Legendary: Marvel Studios unfolds with enemies moving slowly but inevitably towards escape, which has a number of negative possible impacts upon the players. For example, an enemy might force players to collect wound cards, which clog up their hand. Enemies might also escape with bystander cards, which can further compound the problems of allowing them to escape. Sometimes, the enemy deck will yield a Scheme Twist or a Master Strike card, which will have different effects depending upon the cards in play – Scheme Twists sometimes won’t do anything until an amount have been accumulated, whilst others will also dish out wounds. Master Strike cards tend to be more powerful, allowing the big bad enemy to fight back.

In most cases, the game is won when the big bad enemy has been defeated a set number of times, which involves dealing an amount of damage directly to him. There can be additional conditions or restrictions on fighting big bad enemies depending on the Scheme and which other cards are in play, but it’s all fairly simple to follow based on the instructions on the cards. Anyone who has played a deck building game in the past will be very familiar with this kind of approach and what it entails, as well as the core mechanic of building decks for maximum efficiency. For example, it may not come as a surprise to hear that Hulk cards compliment each other, but there are occasionally synergies between cards belonging to different heroes, so it pays to learn all the symbology and keep a close eye on how the game state changes.

Whilst I do enjoy the core gameplay in Legendary games and Marvel Studios makes for a great theme, I do find that the repetition among cards can become more tiresome as a result of the switch from comic book images to stills from the movies. The bystander cards, for example, are largely made up of the same image of a lady in a red dress (with Pepper and a few others thrown in for good measure.) Wound cards are all identical, many enemy and hero cards are repeated etc. I do realise of course that this is for simplicity of play – it would hardly make sense for bystander cards to show different images except when they have different effects (which is exactly where Pepper and pals come in) but still, it can make the game feel a touch repetitive to play.

Overall though, Legendary: Marvel Studios is another solid entry in the series which I am certain will be enjoyed by fans of the IP and of the Legendary games. To my mind, this iteration brings nothing new to the series except the theme, but for some players that will be exactly what they have been waiting for. If you like the sound of Legendary in general but would prefer a different setting then as I mentioned earlier, there are plenty to choose from. Whilst I’m not a fortune teller, I think it’s also reasonable to assume that the Marvel Studios line will be expanded over time through expansions and expandalone box sets, so this is a fairly safe investment from that perspective.

*** 3/5

You can buy Legendary: Marvel Studios – The First Ten Years online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.


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