Game Buzz: Legendary

With the success of Sentinels of the Multiverse, superheroes are back as a viable board game subject.  It was only a matter of time before the big boys made their appearance…

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Legendary is a cooperative deck-building game based in the Marvel universe, designed by Devin Low and published by Upper Deck.  1-5 players can play, and it takes around 45 minutes to play.  The basic plot is that a mastermind villain (Loki, Dr. Doom, Red Skull, or Magneto) is threatening the city, and the superheroes need to band together to stop them.  It uses a center tabeau similar to that used in Ascension, and heroes are drafted into your deck to defeat villains, henchmen, and schemes that will make life miserable for you.  You have to beat the mastermind four times to win the day.

In the box, you get a board and 500 cards.  The board shows the city, and has a cityscape that will fill up with villains; an HQ that will fill up with heroes to recruit; spots for the villain deck, hero deck, bystanders, wounds, mastermind, scheme, and SHIELD; a place for escaped villains; and a box for KO’d heroes.  15 different heroes are included in the game, each with 14 cards associated with them.  There are 7 different villain groups, each with 8 cards, and 4 henchmen villain groups, each with 10 cards.  Additionally, there are 40 SHIELD agents, 20 SHIELD troopers, 30 SHIELD officers, 30 bystanders, 30 wounds, 4 Masterminds (with 4 tactics each), 8 different schemes, 11 scheme twists, 5 master strikes, and 60 dividers for organizational purposes.

At the start of the game, each player gets a starting deck of 8 SHIELD agents and 4 SHIELD troopers.  One Mastermind is chosen at random, and his tactics are randomized and placed under the Mastermind card on the board.  A random scheme is also chosen, which will have some special rules for setup (including how many scheme twists will be shuffled into the villain deck).  2-12 bystanders will be used, depending on the number of players – the others will remain in a bystander stack on the board.  You’ll choose 2-4 villain groups and 1-2 henchmen groups (also depending on the number of players), and shuffle all those cards together with the scheme twists, bystanders, and 5 master strike cards.  Masterminds do have a particular group they always lead, but the others are chosen at random.  5 heroes are chosen (6 with five players), and their cards are shuffled into the hero deck.  Five cards from the hero deck are placed into the HQ.

You’ll begin with six cards in your hand.  On your turn, you’ll draw the top card of the villain deck, then play cards from your hand, and finally discard and draw a new hand.

DRAW A VILLAIN CARD: Draw the top card off the villain deck.  If it’s a villain, you’ll put it in the first space of the cityscape, labeled “The Sewers”.  All other cards in the cityscape are pushed over one space, at least until one is pushed into an empty space.  Some villains have ambush effects, which are triggered when it enters the city.  If a villain gets pushed off the fifth space in the city, it has escaped.  Some villains have escape effects, but all of them force you to KO on hero in the HQ that costs 6 or less.  If the escaping villain had a bystander, then each player discards a card.

If you draw a bystander, it is captured by a villain (or the Mastermind if the city is empty).  If you draw a scheme twist, then the Mastermind’s scheme is advancing.  You’ll follow whatever instructions there are regarding the twist and the scheme.  If you draw a master strike, then the Mastermind will do something, stated by its card.  These three types of cards do not move villains in the city.

PLAY CARDS: You’ll play each card in your hand, in any order you wish.  Wounds do nothing.  Some cards have special effects that activate when you play them. Cards will also give you attack points or recruit points.  Attack points can be applied towards fighting villains or the Mastermind.  You can attack as many as you want.  When you defeat a villain, you remove it from the city and place it in a personal VP pile.  To fight a Mastermind, you’ll draw one of the tactic cards and battle it.  Recruit points, on the other hand, can be used to recruit heroes from the HQ.  Spend your points and put the hero in your discard pile, replacing it with a new one from the hero deck.  You can keep recruiting as long as you have recruit points to spend.

DISCARD AND DRAW: Discard your hand and cards you played, then draw a new hand.  If you don’t have enough cards to draw, reshuffle your discards and keep drawing from there.

Players win when all four Mastermind tactics have been defeated.  Technically, you’re then supposed to add up all your victory points to find out who the one true winner is, but I always find that to be a stupid way of making cooperative games competitive.  Just enjoy the victory.  If the Mastermind fulfills the condition on its scheme card, then all players lose.

I compared this to Ascension before – as with that game, Legendary features cards that can be recruited to your deck that come out from one big randomly shuffled deck rather than in separated piles like Dominion.  However, Legendary separates the things you’re fighting and the things you’re putting in your deck into two separate tracks, while still providing opportunities to get wounds in your hand (think curses in Dominion).  Gameplay is fairly straightforward – it’s very card-driven, much like Sentinels of the Multiverse.

Speaking of Sentinels, it will be interesting to see how these two match up with each other.  They don’t play anywhere close to the same, and I think this one is probably more accessible.  First of all, you have an immediate recognition factor by using Marvel heroes rather than making up your own squad.  Second, the fixed decks of Sentinels are well-balanced to each other, but choosing which single card to play is not always easy.  In Legendary, you play everything, and just have to choose the order.

I’m not sure if this game will stick around for very long, at least in the hobby market.  It’s another DBG, and doesn’t really add too much to the genre that I can see.  On the other hand, it definitely speaks to a segment of geek culture that has been underrepresented in hobby board games.  The theming seems to be pretty solid.  If you want to see it being played, I’d recommend Rodney Smith’s Watch It Played series over on YouTube (this link takes you to the rules explanation, while this link takes you to the start of play).  Overall, I think it looks pretty interesting, and I’d like to play sometime, but I doubt it will be something I’ll want to add to my collection.  I’m just not a big enough fan of comic books, and there are other DBGs I’d rather play.  To each his own – thanks for reading.

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