Two grown men sit down to battle, guided only by the cards and fate. Liam Maguren and his board game svengali Douglas Moore test each other in a battle of card stacking with Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game.
Marvel is close to world domination. Over the last decade, the comic book colossus has successfully become a titan on both the big-screen with the Disney-powered Marvel Cinematic Universe and the small screen with three incredibly successful Netflix series. (I’m not forgetting that fourth one that shall not be named.) There’s also a gluttony of cartoon shows and videogames under their iron fi…
…claw. Under their iron claw.
There will be Marvel-themed poetry slams by 2020. Until then, Marvel Legendary is here to perform a hostile takeover in the board game scene – and it’s eerily addictive. My board game dealer, Douglas Moore, opened up his trench coat and gave me a free hit.
Liam: I like Marvel things. How do we play this Marvel thing?
Doug: So we play as S.H.I.E.L.D. who hire random heroes to stop a random mastermind and his random henchmen from performing a random evil scheme. We do this by having a deck of cards that we play, discard, recruit new hero cards, and then reshuffle to increase our power over the course of the game until we’ve beaten a sufficient amount of snot out of the mastermind.
As you are my guest, dear Liam, I’ll let you pick the heroes we will play with. Given the three sets I have crammed in here, I should be able to pick them ou-
I like Dr. Strange. Can I be Dr. Strange?
*sigh* OK, I don’t have Dr Strange. He’s from the Secret Wars Expansion… I think. Try again.
Can I be Wolverine?
Will that be X-Men Wolverine or X-Force Wolverine?
Oooooh, X-force please!
So what I have here are the hero cards for just one hero. We need to shuffle them in with four others to form the hero deck we will be recruiting from.
…can I choose Nightcrawler?
Yes, ya can.
…and Storm? …and Spider-Man? …and Groot?
Yes, yes, and yeeesssssss. I’ll go ahead and set up the rest of the game.
So what does this all mean?
The setup here is that the Mastermind, in this game Magneto, has decided to REPLACE ALL THE WORLD LEADERS WITH KILL BOTS. As such, when we draw baddies from the villain deck, who try to travel along the city track and escape, we need to keep an eye out for the bystander cards that are actually murderous machines. If they escape, we lose.
We each take our S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and troopers, shuffle them up, and draw 6 cards.
I’ll take the first turn and flip a villain. What an easy start – it’s a sentinel! These tin cans take 3 fight power to take out, but unfortunately my hand only gives 2 fight to my 4 recruit power. So I’ll pass on the can-dismantling, but I will use my recruit power to add a Groot card to my discard pile.
Given we are trying to play co-operatively, I’ll point out this Groot card works better for us both if I stack up on other red-coloured cards. We share the recruit list, so we should try not to get in each other’s way.
Ah, so even though you did nothing, your deck just got stronger.
Pretty much. Most of the cards you recruit are stronger than your base agents. Since your hand will always start with 6 cards, the better cards you get, the more you are going to accomplish. Let’s start your turn.
OH BOY. Don’t be deceived by the J. Jonah Jameson in the art, that “Bystander” IS A KILLBOT. GET IT GET IT GET IT!
I’ve got 3 attack and 3 recruit which means I can take out that kill-bot AND take one of those hero cards, eh?
You’re a quick learner, agent. I recommend the Spider-Man card. In the early game, his ability to draw low cost cards works with your lowly S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. This means that while he adds power to your deck, he doesn’t increase it’s ‘weight’, as he replaces himself once played.
But you can ignore me; I’m just circle-jerking about deck-building mechanics.
I’ll get one Spider-Man, please.
We played for nine rounds. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but here’s how each phase played out in my head.
Two sentinels show up. Doug is too weak to fight and asks Wolverine for help. Liam is also weak and recruits two more Spider-Mans to help.
Suddenly, Doc Ock, Juggernaut and Green Goblin show up. Liam learns the might of having many Spider-Mans in his deck. He draws approximately 6000 cards, beats the Ock out of the Doc, gets a Storm card, and saves a paramedic.
Magneto performs a MASTERSTRIKE (i.e. they can only draw four cards this round). Doug still manages to destroy a sentinel.
Doug recruits a Groot and throws Liam a shard who uses it in combination with Storm and Spidey to take out the Goblin. This doesn’t look anywhere near exciting as it sounds, but it feels twice as good as drugs.
Doug takes it to Magneto, though Liam is wounded in the crossfire somehow (i.e. a ‘wound’ card is added to his deck).
Doug and Liam dodge another Masterstrike. Except Doug. Liam delivers the eye of the Storm and KOs Sabretooth.
Doug takes out two kill-bots at once – what a legend. Liam sits there like a potato and does nothing in order to heal his wounds.
Doug kills Juggernaut with his ‘roided deck…
…while Liam goes for the glory and defeats Magneto with this destructive arsenal of cards:
Doug, that was surprisingly fun. Why do I feel so empowered right now?
This game has everything people love about Marvel titles – assorted good guys giving the beats to the bad boys, while the big bad boy does finger pyramids and smiles all evil-like until someone breaks their fingers.
Playing deck builder board games like these feels like setting up and toppling dominoes. First you buy up cards and consider what cards ‘work’ with those you have, and watch as your perform turns with cascades of cards, enacting the grand setup you spent the game designing. Yours was to keep your costs low and cycle your whole deck for consistent turns, while mine was to dick around with heavy face-beating.
We make a dynamic duo.
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