My First Foray into Legendary, the Marvel Deck Building Game

Aug 10, 2015
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legendary marvel deck building game box art Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

Publisher: Upper Deck
Format: Card Game
Number of Players: 1 - 5
Play Time: 45 Minutes
Price: $59.99
Release Date: 2012

I recently went to a free-play day at a local comic and game shop with a couple of friends. After looking over the options, debating on squeezing in a quick campaign of Risk: Legacy, and examining a game that was simply called Bears!, we opted to try out Legendary. Comic book heroes are definitely enjoying some popularity, and it was something we could all agree on. I'm glad we did, as it's certainly a fun game.

Legendary is a semi-cooperative deck building game set in the Marvel universe. I say semi-cooperative because, although the players do work together against the game, there is also an individual scoring system. So, while you all win or lose together, some players win better than others. Ironically, sometimes the way to be the best hero in this game is by screwing over your friends.

For our first game we used Legendary's suggested starting scenario: A battle against Red Skull as we tried to stop him from activating the Tesseract, using Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Hawkeye. It was a pretty easy battle, which let us get a handle on the rules and see a few different playstyles in action.

Legendary allows each player in turn a chance to see what is available from the hero deck (made up of the combined decks of all the chosen heroes), purchase what they can, and then attack if they are able. I ended up with a very Hawkeye-heavy deck that first game, which turned out to be a pretty straightforward damage-dealing playstyle. Wolverine, unsurprisingly, has a lot of abilities enabling you to eliminate Wounds (useless cards that go into your deck to mess up your draws) to stay in the fight. Iron Man is another damage powerhouse, slightly more technical than Hawkeye, who relies a lot on buffing himself with other cards. Spider-Man had far less raw power than the other heroes in that game, but allowed the guy playing him to go through almost his entire deck each turn with free draw and play abilities. My friend said afterwards that it actually felt sort of like web-slinging, chaining cards together into some pretty impressive combos. It's one of the big positives of the game, that each set of hero cards feels iconic.

The win condition in the basic game is always the same for the heroes: Defeat the villain by attacking him four times. While simple in theory, it's made more difficult by the fact that the city is under constant siege by henchmen and other villains. You need to protect bystanders, stop the bad guys from escaping, and manage to build up enough power to hit the main villain, all while dealing with attacks against your hand and deck.

marvel legendary villain cards

The top row is the villains and henchman attacking various areas of the city. The bottom row contains the hero cards available for purchase.

We won the first game handily, and decided to try a harder battle. We chose Apocalypse as our opponent, and very quickly regretted it. Nearly every turn saw us losing heroes and suffering Wounds, and we lost quickly and thoroughly. Losing the game was almost as fun as winning it, though. We realized afterwards that, during the fight against Apocalypse, none of us had even been concerned with points. We weren't worried about beating each other because we were too busy fighting just to stay alive.

It showed off the Legendary has some great variety in the main box in terms of scenarios, but it also highlighted the importance of teamwork and a good hero deck. When we chose our heroes for that game, we ended up with Thor, Hulk, The Punisher, and Forge - a mutant whose power is that he's really good with machines and inventing things, because apparently that's a mutation.

marvel legendary forge card

Don't tell Tony Stark that, though.

The four of them didn't work together especially well, leading to a lot of dead draws and wasted turns in a game where we absolutely could not afford them. Hulk is powerful but reckless, dealing out Wounds to all players in order to use his best cards. The Punisher has low attack values but some good deck-thinning abilities, which came in handy. Forge requires the right support, mostly other machine-based cards, which weren't plentiful in the deck we built. Thor is all about generating money, and if he generates enough in a turn, he becomes very strong. The problem with Thor is that he really needs to reach that critical mass to be any good. With Apocalypse constantly messing with our hands and decks I wasn't able to manage it, and he ended up being a lot of dead weight.

Realizing that we'd bitten off a bit more than we could chew, we decided to try something less ridiculous and played a third game against Stryfe, an evil mutant from the X-Men universe. We kept Thor, Hulk, and Forge and swapped out The Punisher for Cable. Cable and Forge meshed together well, while Hulk's power and Thor's money generation proved to be a pretty potent combination.

legendary marvel adventures deck building game random acts of kindness

We could have used Deadpool, but to be honest, we were kind of scared to.

We had to rush that last game a bit due to time constraints, but we did end up defeating Stryfe and walking away with a 2/3 win ratio. To give some idea of how much we got sucked in to the game, we only stopped because my friend realized that he was supposed to have met someone at his house an hour ago. It's always a good sign that a game is fun when 'just one round' becomes three or four, and you wonder why suddenly the day has passed you by.

Legendary has a lot to recommend it: It's built on a big franchise with a lot of familiar characters, it plays quickly and keeps the tension high, and it keeps you coming back for more.

I think the game's greatest strength is in its variety. Including the expansions, it allows you to play as dozens of different heroes against a wide array of villains with various schemes and henchmen supporting them. There are even options to ramp up the difficulty to keep things interesting as you keep getting better. I've only scratched the surface with the three games I played, and I can't wait to play some more.

9/10, would get curb stomped by god-tier mutants again.

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Eric Henn

Head Writer