Board Game Double Review: Legendary Firefly & Big Trouble in Little China

Recently we’ve been trying out a couple of new games based on the Legendary deck building system, and if you’re a regular reader of our reviews you might find that the Legendary name rings a bell, and so it should. A while back we reviewed the Legendary Villains game, which used the more regular Marvel setting to very decent effect, but these two new versions take a slight detour from the norm, and are based on two much loved TV and movie hits: Firefly, and Big Trouble in Little China.

Yes, you read that right, there’s a Legendary game based on the cult classic film from the mid 80s. Not exactly what you might call the obvious choice, but with Big Trouble in Little China being far more popular now than it was 30 years ago perhaps I shouldn’t be overly surprised. Both of these games have their own takes on the Legendary system, but they both play in a very similar way to what’s come before, so if you want a general idea of my feelings about how these games work then head over to the previous review and take it from there – what this review will do is look at what’s new in each game, and just how well the new features integrate into the existing way of playing.

First up, and to give it its full title…

Legendary Encounters: A Firefly Deck Building Game

When I sat down and started to look through the cards in this game, and read through the instructions to see just how an Encounters game would differ from the standard Legendary system, one thing very quickly made me realise this was going to be a tricky review: the fact I’ve got no idea about anything related to Firefly. Instead, this ended up being a fairly generic sci-fi game in my eyes, and while it was pretty interesting to play through the various episodes (which apparently match those of Firefly itself) I’m almost certain I was missing out on not knowing the ins and outs of the characters, ships and storylines.


But the very fact that I found this good fun to play despite being oblivious to the theme speaks volumes for the actual game itself, a view shared by the family members I played with this who shared my lack of Firefly know-how. What shone through in this was the fact that, unlike the previous Legendary game I played, the cooperative side of this was more emphasised. Instead of still competing with other players and only really joining forces if you felt like it, this time it makes a real difference to the success or failure of your games, and believe me, there’s a lot of failing to be had. Be warned, Legendary Firefly is hard. Really hard. Well, either that or we were just rubbish, but it certainly seemed harder than the others we’d tried. But the co-op side of the game extends to keeping an eye on other people’s turns, and even when it’s not your actual turn you’ll still be involved in the game, watching out for cards which might benefit you next time round.

There’s also the cool feature of being healed back into the game, so if you manage to screw things up for yourself and end up knocked out of the running, another player can revive you back into the action if they’re feeling nice towards you. It’s a tricky choice to be made sometimes, a bit like trying to choose between a locked-in teammate or keeping a crystal on the Crystal Maze – ultimately though, the more players you have fighting your corner the better.

Another neat feature is that instead of having strike cards which always carry the same effect, this time the strike cards can either impact the crew or the ship, making you constantly keep half an eye on your full surroundings in case your ship starts taking a bit too much punishment and being the reason why you’ve all ended up a bit dead.

Some things are the same; the play mat is absolutely fantastic. Seriously if they made larger ones of these I’d be sleeping on them. It’s heavy, it’s smooth and sticks to your table like a charm. it looks great too, and while some of the art on the cards looks a little ropey, generally I found them to be pretty decent. I’d heard people grumbling about the quality of the art, but I guess these people knew what the characters were meant to look like. For me, they were pretty acceptable generic characters and items, certainly nothing that would make you enjoy the game less.

Soooo nice...
Soooo nice…

Firefly is the first Encounters variant of the Legendary series that we’d played, and while the differences weren’t massive they were pronounced enough to make the game noticeably more enjoyable. It’s the co-op nature of the game which really made the difference for us, and while that means you’re going to need a group of players to get the most out of this, it really sparkles when you do. If you like Firefly as well, then you’re onto a winner.

Legendary Encounters: A Firefly Deck Building Game
Available Now, RRP £54.99
Find your local stockist here


Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China

The theme still feels weird.


Anyway, moving back into the “standard” Legendary system we have Big Trouble in Little China, a game which is pretty good at sticking to the main themes and characters from the film. It’s been a little while since I last saw the film, but the characters of Wang Chi and Jack Burton were familiar faces and well represented by the artwork on the cards. As with Firefly there’s a heavy lean on cooperative play with this, taking it away from the Marvel versions of the game (for the better, I should add) but generally there’s far more in common with the Legendary games in terms of how the games play out.

Again though, there are some very cool standout features which make this a more interesting game to play than just a reskinned version of what’s come before. My personal favourite were the cards which required the flip of a coin to determine which ability on the card to use, bringing not only a little tension but also some luck into the game. That’s not always seen as a good thing, but I quite liked it as a way of mixing things up a bit. The other main change here is the fact that the Final Showdown, previously an optional ending to the game, is now how the game is finished. It’s a suitably big ending to a game, and with everything often right on the edge of winning or losing at that point it can be a pretty cool way to finish the game.

legendary-btlcSadly there’s no option to play this alone, but the team based nature of this would mean that trying to shoehorn in a 1-player version wouldn’t really work anyway, so if you’re hoping to play through a Legendary game by yourself you might want to head back towards the Marvel versions, which work pretty nicely as a single player experience.

But everything else here is pretty standard Legendary fare. As before the playmat is fantastic quality, the cards themselves are well made but a massive pain in the backside to organise first time round (that’s not a problem specific to this version, that’s just the nature of the Legendary system), and the rulebook is clear and easy to follow. You can tell that a fair amount of time and energy has been put into making this slightly more than just a rebadged version of the same game, and it feels sufficiently different to make it worth picking up if you’re a fan of the film.

If I had to pick between the two games reviewed here though it’d be a very tough call, but I’d probably have to lean more towards Firefly. Despite not knowing the theme there were enough different features in play to make it feel new and interesting, and even though I played each game with a different group, I personally felt like Firefly held our interest more in the long run. Both games are good fun, and I’d certainly go back to them both again, but if you’re sitting on the fence and unsure which to pick up I’d definitely recommend the Firefly game. Just prepare yourself to lose quite a bit…

Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China
Available Now, RRP £46.99
Find your local stockist here

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