Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game allows you to build a roster of your favorite Marvel super heroes, save innocents from villainous goons, and face off with the likes of Dr. Doom, Magneto, Loki, and many other… well… legendary bad guys. The game feels a bit like they wanted to make a board game version of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, a fun co-op video game that came out a few years ago. The results are mostly fun, but the game has a few odd design choices that kept me from loving it like I was hoping I would.
Legendary is played with up to five players, although I found the game has a sweet spot at three or four total players. For anyone that’s played Dominion, most systems will feel familiar. Before the game starts, you’ll have to decide what hero cards can be purchased using “recruit points.” As players are gathering up hero cards, villains are running about the city, occasionally snatching civilians. Defeating a villain that has a bystander card under it gives points that count toward the end game victory point totals.
Every game can be played a bit differently as there are a ton of variations to add between super heroes, villains, henchmen, masterminds, and schemes. The mastermind and the scheme are what players will ultimately need to overcome in order to meet the game’s win condition. Depending on what mastermind is in play and what their evil scheme is, the players must adjust.
This aspect of the game is probably one of its strongest: you can play the game several times and see almost all new cards in both the hero deck and the villain deck just about every time. You will find that certain masterminds are tougher to beat when combined with certain villains, and that putting certain heroes together can make for some powerful synergies.
Every set of hero cards has several variations. For example, some Hulk cards will give a big bonus to your attack power if it’s played along with other cards of the same color, allowing you to defeat more and better villains. Building a good deck often means buying up cards that play well with each other. It’s the only way you’ll build up enough attack power to bring down the mastermind, and it’s the best way to keep the villains in your city under control.
The game board does a nice job of organizing the cards in a way that paces the game nicely. My guess is that the board wasn’t a part of the original design, and it became a necessity when the villains needed a more tangible place to move.
Too Much of the Same
One of the clearest missteps that Legendary makes is that so many cards have identical artwork, other than the change in color to the card’s textbox and borders. One would think that decades of comic books would provide the makers of this game with plenty of art to choose from, yet we’re stuck drawing roughly the same ten-ish cards all game. Functionally, this doesn’t really matter, but it makes the game feel that much more repetitive.
Fun but Falling Short
There’s a lot of things to like about Legendary, but it just seems like there were more than a couple of aspects to this game that didn’t get the attention they needed. As a cooperative game, Legendary is quite good, especially for a deck building game, where you won’t find the genres crossing over very often. The competitive side of the game is a bit disappointing. It feels like they built a game to be cooperative, then decided to throw in a scoring system and a few basic “screw your neighbor” cards.
Legendary struggles to balance itself between the cooperative and the competitive. Every time you take an action that harms another player, you’re making it more difficult to beat the mastermind and win in the first place. I didn’t particularly enjoy toeing that line between “let’s work together” and “make sure you get yours.” Not only does it not work all that well from a game mechanics standpoint, but it also doesn’t suit the theme of the game. Super heroes can have their own agendas in a storyline, but rarely are they going to be sabotaging each other in their struggle to defeat The Red Skull.
Rather than adding the weak competitive elements to Legendary, I feel as though the game would have benefitted immensely from some more fleshed out cooperative features. I want to send my heroes into battle to take down the big bad, not edge out my teammates by gathering more victory points than them. It just doesn’t feel quite right.
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building game has potential, especially with the newer expansions fixing a few of the problems mentioned here, including the repetitive card art. But I still come away from most games wishing I was able to interact with my teammates in more interesting ways.