Beginners' Guide: Legendary
This column is for new players wanting to get into the wonderful world of table top gaming. We explain the basics and point you in the right direction if you want to learn more about a specific game.
Deck building games are awesome. The concept is simple: you make your deck as you play! This mechanic has a few rewarding features. Through the course of the game, your deck’s power will steadily rise. Additionally, you get to choose the way you play. If you don’t like a certain card or play style, there are alternatives. Lastly, there’s an enormous amount of variety. There are hundreds of possible combinations of heroes and hundreds more combinations of Villains. This makes the replay value higher than normal for a board game.
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game brings a few extras to the table. You get to play with all your favorite superheroes with great art from the Marvel stables. (Ladies, be warned: There are naked women with body paint that poses as clothing.) Additionally, the cooperative element of the game helps keep everyone honest, and, if desired, can be a completely different way to play the game. Furthermore, the cards naturally combo well together. Wolverine’s cards, for example, let you combo off each other to draw extra cards. Then, his finisher rewards you with more cards, and if you’ve played another Instinct hero extra attack for every extra card you’ve drawn this turn! This kind of buildup makes the process of playing your cards very exciting as you realize how awesome your combination of heroes is!
With all that said, let’s take a look at how to play!
The goal of the game is pretty straightforward. The players will use their teams of superheroes to take down the evil Mastermind. Each Mastermind has several Tactics cards which the players must defeat. After defeating the Mastermind 4 times, the heroes collectively win. There is also an award for the Most Legendary hero, which is the hero with the most Victory Points.
Right off the bat, the game gives us the choice of how cooperative you want it to be. At my table, we normally view it as a competitive game. We all work to defeat the Mastermind, but we’re in it for ourselves. With some groups, they might choose to just ignore the Most Legendary Hero and make the game a complete coop. I’d recommend those groups increase the difficulty some, as the game’s balance kind of assumes that you are going to be at each other’s throats a bit!
The rulebook suggests that the easiest way to teach the game is to walk through a few turns. After playing quite a few deck building games, I am in solid agreement. So, to help you along, I’ll outlines a few turns here.
The deck starts with 12 cards total, and you’ll draw six for your opening hand. In the starting deck there are two types of Hero cards, though this hand has only SHIELD Agents. SHIELD Agents give you one recruit point each. These points can be used to recruit other cards. A card’s recruit cost is shown in the lower right-hand corner.
At the start of each player’s turn, they play the top card of the Villain Deck. For our walk through we reveal:
This is a Villain card. As a henchman it is pretty weak, only taking three attack to defeat. The player that defeats it gets to KO one of the cards they have in play. KOing is a way to permanently remove a card from your deck. Generally, this is a good idea. It lets you remove weaker cards from your deck in order to draw better cards more often.
After you play the Villain card, you can play cards from your hand and buy cards in any order. We’ll play all six of the SHIELD Agents, giving us six recruit points. These points can be spent all on one card (like Cyclops, Unending Energy), or on two separate cards. First, we’ll buy Hawkeye, Quick Draw. He’s a solid buy that lets us draw through our deck a little faster. Purchased cards go to your discard pile. As the game progresses, the discard pile will get shuffled back into your draw pile. After we buy a card from the HQ, we add a replacement card.
There is now a Wolverine, Keen Senses which we can buy. Since we don’t have any wounds in our deck yet (no Villain has hurt us), Wolverine’s Rapid Healing isn’t at its best. Instead, we’ll aim to combo with the Hawkeye card we already bought and purchase the Wolverine, Keen Senses. This has us waste a recruit point, but we get a card better suited for combos.
At the end of this turn, we put the cards we just played into our discard pile and draw a new hand of six cards. If we had had any cards left in our hand, those would get discarded too.
With this hand, we see the other type of starting card. SHIELD Troopers give you one attack power each. Attack power cannot be used to recruit cards, but it’s used to fight Villains like the Sentinel.
We start the next turn by playing the top card of the Villain Deck.
This is another Villain card. This henchman also takes three attack to defeat. However, the reward for defeating it is different; You gain one recruit point the turn you defeat it. Since our hand doesn’t have enough recruit points to recruit anything we want (the Spider Man card is solid but it’s not the same color as the other cards we’ve bought), it’s a good idea to fight the Hand Ninjas.
When they are defeated, we add them to our Victory Pile. The number in the red circle in the middle of the card is how many Victory Points they are worth at the end of the game. The Hand Ninjas are only worth one since they were easy to beat. However, the points start to add up!
At this point, we have 3 recruit points. We can spend them on Wolverine, Healing Factor which is in the HQ, or we could purchase Maria Hill, Shield Officer. Since we’ve got a solid number of yellow cards in our deck already, buying another one probably makes more sense than increasing our recruiting power.
We place the Wolverine in our discard pile because we’ve purchased it. We’re finished with the turn and the cards we have in play are placed in the discard pile. Now, we should draw six cards from the draw pile. Since we have no cards remaining in our deck, we shuffle our discard pile and it becomes our new draw pile. Now we have a chance at those super heroes we recruited!
The following turn is a dramatization. It hasn't occurred in a game I've played. But, it could happen.
We again play the top card of the Villain Deck and reveal:
A Bystander! Bystanders attach themselves to the Villain closest to the Villain Deck, in this case that's the Sentinels. If we kill the Sentinel, we'll pickup an extra Victory Point from rescuing the Bystander. On the other hand, if we let the Villains pile-up some of them will escape. A Villain escaping with a Bystander will force each player to discard a card!
The board after attaching a Bystander to the Sentinels.
Now we've drawn one of our newly recruited cards. We play the SHIELD Troopers and Agents and then play Hawkeye, Quick Draw. We draw...
Wolverine, Keen Senses. This Wolverine gives us two benefits. First, we get one attack. Second, if we have player an instinct hero this turn (a yellow bordered card), we draw an extra card. The Hawkeye we played was an instinct hero. The extra card we draw from Wolverine, Keen Senses is Wolverine, Healing Factor. Playing this (we don't have to KO a card to play him), we get a whopping seven attack and three recruit points.
With seven attack we can attack the Mastermind! After fighting the Mastermind, we take one of his Mastermind Tactics cards from his stack and add it to our Victory Pile. Also, we gain the "Fight" text from the card, which in this case gives us three more attack. We'll use this attack to defeat the Sentinels and rescue their Bystander adding three total cards to our Victory Pile in one turn!
Lastly, we'll use the three recruit points to add another Hawkeye, Quick Draw to our deck to increase our chances of doing that again. That wraps up our walk through, now let's talk about the last few kinds of cards in the Villain Deck.
The Mastermind's Remaining Tools
We noted earlier that defeating the Mastermind ends the game. However, the Mastermind doesn’t sit around patiently for the heroes to defeat him! Each Mastermind is working to achieve a diabolical Scheme. Schemes, if successful, result in a loss for the heroes. Each time a Scheme Twist card is revealed from the Villain deck it is placed next to the Mastermind's Scheme.
The Unleash the Power of the Cosmic Cube Scheme has an ability trigger when the fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth Scheme Twist is revealed. For the fifth, sixth, and seventh Twist, the players each have to add some number of Wounds to their deck. Wounds are blank cards that water down your deck. The more wounds you have, the less you can do! However, you can heal them by spending your whole turn healing (as described on the card). Alternatively, you can use a card like Wolverine's Healing Factor to get rid of them without skipping your turn.
The last Scheme Twist will end the game for the players. Each Scheme gives the players a time limit for defeating the Mastermind. While Unleash the Power of the Cosmic Cube deals just a few wounds before the player lose, other Schemes are even more dangerous. For example, The Legacy Virus gives each player a Wound each time a Scheme Twist is played. This can leave the players floundering much earlier in the game!
Beyond the Mastermind's Schemes, sometimes the Mastermind just wants to smash some hero face. This is represented in the game through Master Strikes. When one of them is revealed from the Villain Deck the players follow the Master Strike text on the Mastermind's card.
In Red Skull's case, each player has to KO a card from their hand. Normally, KOing a card is a benefit which helps your deck. However, losing the card from your hand means you'll be down a card on your next turn. Like many a sinister Mastermind from the comics, this takes something good and ruins the experience.
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is lots of fun, and now you're prepared to play your copy as soon as you get it! Upper Deck has already announced that they intend to release two expansions a year starting August 2013. While I'm excited to hear that there will be plenty more to play, I'm totally satisfied with what's already in the box! Happy Holidays!