As a newbie to the Deck Building Game scene I approached Legendary Villains with both eagerness and nervousness. The rulebook was plentiful, the cards needed dividing up into different sections and categories, and the included game mat (which is fantastic quality incidentally) had enough sections to baffle anyone who hadn’t tried this kind of game before. And yet, one solo game and a few team games later it was all making sense, so much so that we were able to plug in the two Secret Wars expansions pretty quickly and enjoy all they had to offer.
Despite the initially complex rules we soon realised that playing this isn’t actually difficult to get your head round at all. A fairly simple repeating sequence of draw cards, play cards, discard cards and process the enemy’s turn soon becomes second nature, and even if there are one or two little confusions which need a quick check of the rules it takes no time at all to understand what’s going on. The base game of Legendary Villains turns the usual formula on its head by having you control the bad guys trying to defeat the heroes, which is pretty cool and lets you take charge of some great characters from the Marvel world. I did wonder if this would make the expansions awkward to use considering that most base sets of the Legendary game make you play as the heroes, but there’s a pretty detailed explanation in the Villains rule book explaining how to mix up hero and villain based sets.
In terms of the cards themselves, the base Villains set contains some great characters to fight with and against. The main commanders – the main guys you’re trying to defeat – include Professor X and Dr Strange, and with several scenarios for you to try and beat with each commander you won’t be short of missions to try and beat. In your battle against the good guys (seems strange to say that) you’ll be dealing with the likes of Venom, Dr Octopus and Bullseye, each with their own properties and attacking skills, with the more powerful, rare cards needing more points spent on them before they can join your deck.
And you’ll want a decent strong deck as quickly as possible; in each round an adversary joins the city, meaning you’ll be having to deal with the threat from characters like the X-Men who get progressively stronger if there are multiple X-Men of the same type in the city at the same time, or Spiderman who’s awesome to have in the game just for being Spiderman.
Add in the two Secret Wars add-ons and you’ll get some really enjoyable additions as well. The first volume brings new commanders (although they’re called Masterminds here in line with the “normal” Legendary games) including Zombie Green Goblin and Wasteland Hulk, who are both as tricky to handle as they sound, and new scenarios to play alongside them. In terms of characters you’ll be finding Captain Marvel, Lady Thor and the lethal sounding Apocalyptic Kitty Pryde, all of which sit seamlessly alongside those which you’ve already got. You also get the chance to try out a new game mode, allowing someone to take charge of the mastermind instead of the game controlling the actions of that character. If you tend to play these games alone (as I’ve really enjoyed doing with this) then it won’t matter, but for playing in a group it’s a nice extra.
Crack open Volume 2 of the Secret Wars and there are even more goodies to enjoy. New Masterminds include Shiklah The Demon Bride (or Mrs Deadpool to her friends) and Spider Queen, again with a range of new scenarios to play out alongside the new characters. These new guys are really tough, and while I’m still new to the Legendary game I can see these needing a lot more understanding of clever tactics before they become fair fights. The other cards in this pack looked great, but not being a Marvel nut most of them washed over me in terms of their role in the universe. Captain Britain, Black Swan and Agent Venom are among the new additions, some of which containing some very handy and powerful attacks. The terminology gets added to again, and with the base game and both expansions all featuring new keywords and concepts we did start to feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount we need to remember. If you’re diving into these games starting at no experience like we did, I’d very much recommend you get your head round the base game first before cracking open the expansions. They’re great, and add a lot of variety, but my God they can get confusing at times.
But considering what I knew about DBGs before playing this (nothing at all) and what I feel like I know now (enough to enjoy a game without too many issues) I’m really impressed with the Legendary system. The main Villains game in itself gives you loads to do in terms of Commanders and scenarios, and there are enough cards in there to have a lot of games without worrying about repeating yourself. Add the expansions though and you get massive amounts more cards – the value for money here is very strong – but you definitely need a good grasp of the rules before making the most of them. By themselves the new terminology and rules won’t phase most people too much, but including them too early is a recipe for a fair bit of confusion, so think carefully about whether you’re ready to pick up the extras.
But if you’re dubious about DBGs, or really enjoy your Marvel stuff and want to try another side to it all, I’d strongly recommend this. It’s great fun alone or with friends, easy to pick up and has buckets of replayability.
Available Now, RRP £49.99
Legendary Secret Wars Volumes 1 & 2
Available Now, RRP £33.99 (each)