Legendary: Villains Review
Marvel and Upper Deck’s latest take on the Legendary deck-building game turns the tables on the classic good versus evil conflict. In Legendary: Villains, 1-5 players play as the bad guys as they try to stop the heroes from completing their missions. While this is a standalone game, it is fully compatible with the original Legendary and all of its expansions. Is the role reversal, new cards and a few new mechanics enough to justify the existence of this game?
Like the Legendary game before it, the primary conflict is between the players and a primary antagonist, which in this case is the Commander. In Legendary: Villains, Commanders include Nick Fury, Professor X, Dr. Strange and Odin. Each Commander provides a different level of challenge, as they possess unique health traits and abilities. In order to defeat the Commander, you must hit him four times before he completes his plot, of which there are eight different ones to choose from. Each plot dictates the terms for how the action plays out as the Commander gets closer to completing their goal, which adds a great deal of variety to the action.
Taking down the Commander may be your primary objective, but it surely isn’t your only one. Adversaries such as the X-Men and Avengers move their way towards your lair that you’ll have to fend off. Also, you’re likely to run into some resistance from fellow players as they try and get the upper hand. While this is a team-based game at its core, a winner is still determined at the end based on who has the most points.
You’re up against some stiff competition, but you’ve got a lot evil villains ready to lend a help a hand. At the start of the game, every player starts with the same base hand of Hydra cards. During your turns, you’ll use these base cards to recruit the likes of Magneto, Loki, Venom and more from the Lair. As your hand gets stronger, you’ll be better equipped to take down Commanders and Adversaries as they arise.
I’ve always loved how Legendary builds on the core deck-building mechanic in ways that make this game feel like a true battle within the Marvel universe. With Villains, this sentiment continues to hold true in virtually every respect. For instance, the plot cards from a story perspective make sense with the characters involved and the predicaments they might find themselves in. I also love the thought that went into designing the attributes of each card so that they’re fun to use and make sense within the lore. One of these nice touches involves the X-Men adversaries. Whether you’re up against any combination of First Class, Uncanny, or Uncanny Avengers X-Men, they all get stronger based on the number of X-Men are in the city to signify how much stronger they fight as a team.
However, Like Legendary before it, Villains is a cut above other games of this style, such as Dominion or DC Comics Deck-Building Game. Getting set up for the first time can be especially daunting for newcomers, as the cards are not sorted in a way that is conducive to setting up the game. Even after you figure out how to sort these cards in a way that makes sense, every game is going to take a lot of setup and tear-down time. I think the game is well worth the learning curve, though it doesn’t do itself any favours by packaging its cards in its current nonsensical manner.
For grizzled veterans of the series, there are a few small tweaks to the core formula that aim to make things fresh. Bindings (which are the equivalent of Wounds in the main game) can be dumped off on other players if you don’t recruit any villains or defeat any good guys on your turn, which adds a more confrontational element to the experience. Standard Bystandars cards return, though they’re also accompanied by a handful of special bystanders that give you special benefits when you kidnap them. Additionally, New Recruit cards provide players with a low-cost attack card option that can be drafted at any time. I think their impact on the experience is minimal, though it certainly doesn’t hurt to have them available.
By itself, Legendary: Villains is a great game that I think could benefit from a few more plots and characters. However, if you already own the original Legendary or its expansions, you’re really cooking with fire. Aside from a few terminology differences, they’re all fully compatible with one another, which means you can create dream Marvel match-ups with any combination of good and evil characters on either side. With this possibility now open, the potential opportunities to recreate classic comic moments or live out your own comic book fantasies is possible if you mix some or all of the sets together. This is a worthy purchase either as your first foray into the fold or as a giant-sized expansion to your existing Legendary collection.