Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): 30-60mins
Play Time (Goof): 30-60mins
Producer: Upper Deck
Designer: Devin Low
Looking back at early TGR Instagram posts, I posted a bit about Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game. But playing again today I went to put the data into the BG Stats app and realised I haven’t played the game since I started tracking my plays in mid-2017. Looking through the reviews on TGR I haven’t really talked about it much either – which really surprises me. I’ve taught it at Boarding School a fair bit; and it’s one of the games my fiancé really enjoys.
I like Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game. When I was in university and owned but a handful of games in the back of a cupboard – balancing on top of a clutter of broken tents, a dodgy second hand ironing board, and Thanos knows what else – this was one I would play repeatedly.
The more times I play a game, the more I appreciate a bit of variety in it. Different strategies or combinations to try. Whenever I review a game, more in my full reviews but often in my Glances as well, I’ll play a game for hours and hours before I give my piece. Not because I don’t know after one or two plays if I’m enjoying the experience but because I’m trying to eek out every alternative strategy, try all the characters, or test as many aspects as I can of what the game has to offer. It’s important to me I haven’t just played one character or tried one strategy and thought “I have now seen enough to write thousands of words on this experience”. Part of me feels it’s not fair on the designers who have put so much into trying to make something enjoyable. Part of me feels it’s not fair on me, because I’m putting my opinion out into the world for anyone to read and judge me on. But most importantly, I know it’s not fair on you. If you’re looking at getting a game and I’ve half assed a review, it means you aren’t getting a good idea of whether or not you’ll like it.
My very longwinded point was basically the fact I play a game over and over so often it makes me happy when I know doing so will continue to create fresh experiences. Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game has variety in as many flavours as there are Xmen, and then some.
There’s variety in masterminds, variety in different villain types, variety in the heroes you can play, variety in the plot the bad guys are trying to achieve… honestly the base game feels like you could take half of it out and still be pretty satisfied (you’d want an expansion before long).
There are a couple of really well thought out thematic things. I really like the fact heroes can appear in a number of varieties, which help to capture the different elements of a hero – such as my favourite in the game: Spiderman. Web-head comes in technology, strength, and instinct varieties.
I like the fact the order you play the cards in matters. One day when I pick up some expansions I’m hoping they’ve played into this even more. Because certain cards will trigger if you’ve played say a ranged based hero first, or an Avenger.
My personal favourite idea was the way Captain Fury was used, where he benefits and empowers S.H.I.E.L.D. based heroes (thought it best to make it clear it was an acronym in case some people were adamant Captain America is the only shield based hero). Like a few other games I can think of, I wish Upper Deck had gone a bit heavier in on this idea. But it’s still super fun to play around with.
The theme always threw me. Playing games such as Marvel: Ultimate Alliance I expected something in the same vein – putting together a superhero team to bring the smackdown on some big bad. But this isn’t the case… not really. Sure, there’s something along those lines occurring but unless you’re playing multiple clones of Wolverine or Hulk at the same time as everyone else at the table it doesn’t add up. But my expectation was more from the point of view of a gamer who just came over from Tabletop Roleplaying games and who would inject immersion directly into his brain if he could (but not in like a Wolverine, adamantium bath kind of way. Waaaaay too creepy). Nowadays I can accept when games have more of a skin than a theme. In the same sort of way I accept lad culture – it exists. I accept it. But I don’t like it.
Thing is I’m almost certain with a bit of extra effort they could have fit the theme around Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game a lot better. Maybe each person has their own market of heroes, like one plays Xmen and the other plays Avengers or something. Thought of it off the top of my head. I haven’t thought about the balance or whatnot but I’ll be honest – I don’t think Upper Deck did either.
Does anyone honestly find Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game difficult? Sure, we lose from time to time. But only normally because of random chance in the draw deck when we pull a bunch of Plot Twist cards out and reach a failure before we’ve had a chance to get our engines up and running. Difficult is when you made a bad play which you could fix next time, or when the game comes down to the wire but one or two pieces of bad luck can cause you to not quite make it. Difficult is fun – because it’s a challenge you can overcome. Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game isn’t hard. You just sometimes lose and couldn’t have affected the outcome.
As for competitive play (which is honestly the only fun way to enjoy the game because of the aforementioned easiness), this is slightly more interesting except very few cards allow for direct player interaction. Which means what Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game really is: is a race.
Races can be exciting. Formula D comes to mind. As does Firefly: The Game, and to a lesser extent but still a very valid one; games such as 51st State, Alien Artefacts, Ars Alchemia, Ticket to Ride, Stone Age… games where you can see your opponents moving around the board, overtaking each other, and finally someone pulls out a victory. In L:AMDG, you really have no idea who is doing how well. In some games this in itself is exciting. Hidden scoring can be super thrilling. But there’s not just some hidden information, or even a sense you should be watching how well everyone else at the table is doing. You play, and if you don’t get cheated out of actually finishing the game, someone wins. It often rarely feels earnt. And it bothers me in ways I cannot even begin to describe (which… is more of a metaphor. Because I spent a fair portion of this article describing it).
I talked in the introduction about how I liked Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game but I hadn’t played it for nearly two years. To be fair, it has been suggested more than a handful of times as whatever group I’m gaming with at the time sits in front of my gaming wall trying to work out how to spend the next few hours. I’ve always said I didn’t feel like it. And I think I’ve finally worked out why.
I think I liked L:AMDG because it was one of my first forays into deckbuilding, a mechanic I personally love. But as I sit down to write this article I’ve realised there’s so many better deckbuilding games out there. And I own at least a handful of them. And yeah, I love Superheroes. But I’ve also got other games to scratch that particular itch.
When it comes down to it, as much as I can absolutely appreciate why people might like Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game, there are just better options to spend your time and money on.
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