Legendary: Marvel & Legendary Encounters: Alien Review

Legendary: Marvel & Legendary Encounters: Alien Review

  • about 2 years ago by NiK Walker-Smith


  • Fantastic artwork
  • Fun, fairly easy to pick up system
  • Captures settings and atmosphere of scenarios and IP very well
  • Highly replayable


  • Setup time is fairly long
  • Rulebooks are weak and not very well thought out

Legendary is a deck building board game system made by Upper Deck and first released in 2013. Upper Deck have also produced several flavours of the Legendary game, currently there are Marvel, Alien and Predator versions available, with the Marvel game sporting several expansions. A Firefly version has also been announced. The game is for 1-5 people, so you can play it solo if you wish.

When introducing Marvel Legendary recently to friends I described it as “Cooperative Dominion”. So players of Dominion or other deck building games will have a fairly good idea of the mechanics of this game. In deck builders you generally have a base of common starter cards and use these to purchase better cards into your deck and playing cards with actions to affect yourself or opponents.

Marvel Legendary involves building a team or deck from a selection of hero cards. You can then deploy these cards using the various abilities to stack to fight against villains (henchmen and lesser villains) or complete the objective of defeating the mastermind. Each game has a mastermind - think Magneto, Doctor Doom, Loki, etc - and a mastermind scheme - this sets the scenario and victory conditions but also provides a unique scenario to each game and a massive amount of replayability.

So in one game Magneto may be trying to Unleash the power of the cosmic cube, where if scheme twist cards are revealed from the villain pack, the game becomes more and more difficult, if 8 twists are revealed the game is over and evil wins. The masterminds come with henchmen and lesser villain groups. The heroes have a selection of about 5 or 6 characters per game, of which each character has a dozen or so cards. Once per player turn a villain enters the city or an event occurs, depending on what is revealed from the villain deck.

The player then has the opportunity to fight the villain and recruit a hero from the hero deck to use in a future turn’s hand. Each player gets 6 cards per turn from their deck. These cards have an attack rating (noted by slash claw marks from Wolverine’s claws) or a recruit rating (noted by a star) or sometimes both. The super heroes also have unique powers such as Captain America gaining more strength from other different types of heroes or Spider-Man rescuing bystanders or providing extra cards to your hand . They can also stack with other cards, creating a sort of Avengers style combo smackdown on the villain. If the villain is not defeated, they remain in the city (5 spaces on the board), each new villain pushes the previous villain along until they are displaced off the board, which is played as escaping the city. Usually this means bad stuff - either the mastermind is one step closer to their objective - which usually means game over, or something like losing a hero.

If you are strong enough, you can fight the mastermind, the victory condition of most scenarios is to beat the mastermind 4 times. If you win, each player counts their trophy pile of defeated villains & masterminds, with each having a different victory point value based on difficulty to defeat. This is where the competitive aspect comes in - you could decide you want to hoard all the fight-y heroes, but this may weaken your team and result in none of you defeating the game, it becomes a bit of a gamble.

So that was a lot of explanation of the mechanics of the game - but how does it play? Is it fun? Well on the whole I would say yes, it’s really quite a good game, with the super heroes realised quite well. The agents of shield are portrayed as expendable grunts with one of Nick Fury’s powers to essentially kill off an agent to provide an upgrade to a better officer. What can sometimes be a bit weird is having multiple of one character in your hand, it’s like having 4 Spidermans fighting at once. I guess it’s actually one super-hero and just multiple moves being performed, but if you can get over that then the game works. Whilst there is a competitive element, we have found that you’re essentially playing against the game, and randomness of the shuffled villain deck.

What I dislike about Legendary is how it’s packaged - For a really quick setup, you need all your characters, actions, etc stored separately, grouped per card type. But for some strange reason Upper Deck package all the cards mixed up together, so it necessitates a LONG sorting session when you first unbox. The rulebook is also the weak point of the game. We regularly had questions about how a certain rule should be played, and we failed to find the rule in the supplied book, or the rules were ambiguous and not clear. Luckily the boardgamegeek forums are fantastic and we found all our answers and clarifications there.

Legendary Encounters: Alien uses mostly the same mechanics as the Marvel version, but I found the scenarios, that attempt to follow the story of each of the 4 films, much more atmospheric. Goals such as clearing and sealing the air vents or getting to the escape pod before the Nostromo explodes.

The game also feels more difficult too, perhaps it is rebalanced for a more adult audience. The improved setting does come at the expense of fewer characters, but they are all still fantastic quality and represented well by the skills on offer. They utilise the source material really well - you have to scan cards to reveal what they are - it could be an Xenomorph to fight, Jones the cat to recruit, or an catastrophic event is triggered. Alien pushes the cooperation further, allowing you to share cards, and as far as I can remember, there is no single player goal or victory points - the game is hard enough to beat when playing together!

Overall, I really enjoy the Legendary system and would recommend you try it, you can even mix the games up and have Iron Man fighting the Queen Alien, or Hicks and Hudson fighting Magneto.