For my first game of this new Legendary expansion pack, I just dove in without really reading up on anything. I picked the mastermind with the lowest hit points (Mojo) thinking that would be easier, selected a scheme with some interesting mechanics, chose my heroes and villains and let battle commence.
Within an hour, half the city had succumbed to a nuclear explosion, and we hadn’t even gotten close to our first attack on the mastermind. OK, maybe a little more forward planning would be required for our next encounter…
Let’s take a step back – what is Legendary? It’s essentially a deck-building game by Upper Deck, based around Marvel comics. The base game sees you select a random mission to play (a ‘scheme’) which has it’s own set of winning conditions, and a Mastermind to defeat (four times). You build up a Hero and Villain decks based on the scheme you are playing and the number of players, which determine the heroes available for you to recruit and the villains prowling through the city for you to defeat. You start with 12 low level SHIELD grunts, but as the game progresses, your individual deck will grow to include more powerful heroes, so you can eventually take the Mastermind down.
Since the game came out in 2013, Upper Deck have continued to support the game with at least one “big box” and several “small box” expansions each year (some of which we have reviewed here).
This X-Men expansion is the thirteenth(!) such expansion, and adds 394 new cards, their biggest expansion to date. As a relative Legendary newcomer (I only have the base game and the small Spider-Man themed expansion) I was interested to see just how this would change things.
So firstly, what new cards does this expansion give us? Here is a quick run down of how those 394 cards are made up:-
- 15 new sets of heroes, all taken from the X-Men comics. Aurora & Northstar, Beast, Banshee, Cannonball, Colossus & Wolverine, Dazzler, Havok, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Legion, Longshot, Phoenix, Polaris, X-23. However, if like me, you are less familiar with the comics, the characters and timing all fit quite nicely with the recent Logan movie, and the Legion TV series.
- 6 masterminds – Arcade, Dark Phoenix, Deathbird, Mojo, Onslaught, Shadow King
- 6 villain groups – Dark Descendants, Hellfire Club, Mojoverse, Murderworld, Shi’a Imperial Guard, Sisterhood of Mutants
- 5 henchmen groups – The Brood, Hellfire Cult, Sapien League, Shi’ar Death Commandos, Shi’ar Patrol Craft
- Schemes – Alien Brood Encounters, Anti-Mutant Hatred, Dark Phoenix Saga, Horror of Horrors, Mutant Hunting Super Sentinels, Nuclear Armageddon, X-Men Danger Room Goes Berserk!
- Horrors – a brand new type of card, more on these later
Almost more important are the new mechanics that the game introduces.
- Epic Masterminds – not finding this expansion hard enough? For the first time, each of the new Masterminds are double-sided, with a harder “Epic” version on the back
- Divided cards – a concept that was introduced in the Civil War expansion returns here, some Hero cards are split into two halves and you get to choose which half you play adding some strategic options
- Traps – each of these new villain group has at least one card that acts as a trap when revealed. These give you a challenge you must complete by the end of your turn or face a penalty (for example: Pay some recruitment points, then reveal the next Hero card, if you paid enough, recruit it, if not, KO the hero and play two extra villains next turn)
- Recruitable Villains – some of these new villains (such as the Dark Descendants) join your deck when defeated which is a great way of expanding your deck rather than just relying on recruiting
- Heroic Bystanders – these are generally student X-persons who get caught up in the fight, the same as ‘regular’ bystanders, but if you rescue them they join your deck and fight for you.
- Horrors – these new cards are used in certain schemes to make things harder for our heroes (such as reducing your hand size, or increasing Mastermind’s health, or even adding an extra Mastermind), or can be combined to optionally make any game more difficult
- Human Shields – some villains use bystanders to defend themselves from your attack, which leads is nicely on to…
- Piercing Energy – this is a major departure from the base game, and introduces a whole new method of combat. For heroes with this, you compare their Piercing Energy score with the villain’s victory points. This gives you a different strategy in defeating villains without harming any human shields they may have.
Some of the new keywords that appear on cards also add a load of new variety into the game
- X-Gene – this replicates how well certain characters work together, and can be triggered by cards in your discard pile, not just your hand
- Berserk – probably my favourite of the new keywords – you look at your next card and gain that card’s attack as a bonus. Especially fun on certain cards than invoke it multiple times. “Berserk. Berserk. Berserk.”
- Lightshow – if you play more than one Lightshow card, you can trigger one of the Lightshow bonus actions.
- Soaring Flight – these cards can help you set your next turn up – when you recruit one of these cards, instead of putting them into your discard pile for future use, they are set aside and added to your next hand as an extra card.
- Dominate – this reflects villains taking control of, or dominating, heroes. This increases the villain’s fight score for each dominated hero, but if you beat them, you share the dominated heroes out between the players.
So in summary, if you are already into Legendary, then the X-Men expansion does a fantastic job of, well, expanding the game. It offers not just a great selection of heroes, but enough new mechanics to make it feel like something new, rather than just more of the same. While it does increase the difficulty, it also give you a whole range of new tactics and strategies to take on this increased challenge.
Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I have a repeat appointment with Mojo, and this time I am more than prepared…