“A Marvel-based deck-building game, you say? But I’m not even a fan of Marvel!”
Does it matter?
Let’s find out in our ultimate Marvel Legendary review. Suit up!
Brief Overview of Marvel Legendary
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game – or Marvel Legendary, as I’m going to call it for the sake of saving virtual paper – is a co-operative deck-building game for one to five players. Your team of Marvel heroes must battle and thwart the plans of an evil Mastermind and his henchman.
Players gradually build a deck of heroes and powers while defeating henchman that are attacking the city. When they feel they are strong enough, they can take on the Mastermind himself.
Once the Mastermind has been defeated in battle four times (you didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?), the players win. And, whoever did most of the hard work gets named the individual hero of the day. They probably get a photo on the wall of the HQ or something, too.
Unboxing Marvel Legendary
With more cards than Hallmark, the Marvel Legendary base game gives you:
- 210 Hero cards (making up 15 heroes)
- 56 Villain group cards
- 40 Henchmen cards
- 90 S.H.I.E.L.D. cards
- 30 Innocent Bystander cards
- 30 Wound cards
- 20 Mastermind cards (making up 4 masterminds)
- 8 Scheme cards
- 11 Scheme Twist cards
- 5 Master Strike cards
- 60 Dividers
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Game board
For a comic book franchise, the artwork of Marvel Legendary is unsurprisingly amazing. The box alone is a work of art. A striking scene showing several of the heroes bursting into the action, nicely setting up the premise of the game.
The rulebook doesn’t go heavy on the artwork or comic book style. But this isn’t really an issue as it keeps the flow of the instructions streamlined and makes it easy to get straight into your first game.
Then it comes to the cards. The first thing you’ll notice, rather than the artwork, is that there are loads of them. 560, to be exact. Great for a deck-building game, sure. But a hell of a lot to organize! Thankfully, you are provided with a bunch of dividers that you can write on to keep your cards sorted (they’re the real superhero here). But you should still expect to set quite a bit of time aside to do so in the first place.
The card artwork, of course, is astounding. Each one, in a beautiful comic book style, again with strong, bold colors and using very high-quality, shiny card. I especially liked the heroes, including Wolverine, the Hulk and Cyclops. Although there is a notable lack of female characters.
All in all, in terms of quality and design, the components are absolutely top-notch. Somewhat taking the sting out of having to organize them.
How to Play Marvel Legendary
To start, each player builds their starting deck by taking 8 S.H.I.E.L.D agents and 4 S.H.I.E.L.D troopers. Also, place the S.H.I.E.L.D officer, wound, and bystander card stacks face-up on the game board.
Now it’s time to reveal the identity of your evil enemy. Select a Mastermind card at random and put its four respective Mastermind Tactics cards underneath. Then randomly take a Scheme card – this is the Mastermind’s dastardly plan that your Marvel heroes must stop
Next, build the villain deck. This is a mix of Scheme Twist, Master Strike, villain, and Innocent Bystander cards. The make-up of the deck is affected by the Mastermind/Scheme combination to personalize it to the scenario. Put this face-down.
Finally, the hero deck. Choose five heroes at random and put all their 14 respective cards into a deck.
Before you start, shuffle all the decks and flip over five hero cards to make the HQ. Then players should take six cards from their player deck into their hand.
Players’ turns are split into three phases:
- Villain deck
Play the top card of the villain deck. If it’s a villain, you put it on the first space of the city track. If there’s already one there, it pushes all other villains down the track.
If any villain is pushed five spaces down the track, then they manage to escape. In this instance, three things happen:
- you must discard one of the heroes in the HQ.
- every player discards one card from their hand if the villain has any captured bystanders.
- resolve any escape actions the villain might have.
If you turn over an Innocent Bystander, they become captured and are put under the villain in the first space of the city track.
You could also turn over a Scheme Twist card, representing the Mastermind’s evil scheme progressing towards completion. In which case, resolve its effects.
Lastly, you could turn over a Master Strike. In which case, the Mastermind joins the attack. Again, resolve the effects on the card.
Now you get to play cards from your hand. There are two main things you can do:
- Attack – your hero cards all have an attack value and recruit values. You can use the attack level to attack villains on the board. If you meet the villain’s attack level, then they are defeated and removed from the board. These go into your personal victory pile, along with any captured Innocent Bystanders.
- Recruit – use the recruit value on any cards you play to pay the cost to recruit new heroes from the HQ, or S.H.I.E.L.D. Officers from the stack. These go into your discard pile. Refill any heroes you buy in the HQ from the hero deck.
Your heroes may also have superpowers. To use them, you must have previously played a card with a matching hero class that turn. You can only use each card’s superpower once per turn. However, if you have more than one card with the same hero class, you can use multiple superpowers in a turn.
Put all cards you played (and any in your hand that you didn’t) into the discard pile and take six new cards into your hand from your player deck.
If your player deck runs out, shuffle your discard pile (including all your new recruits!) to form your new deck.
Ending The Game And Scoring
At any time in the game, a player can choose to fight the Mastermind. This is done the same way as the villains. Once the heroes have defeated the Mastermind four times, they win and the game ends.
At this point, the players also tally up their victory pile to determine who among the players is the individual hero of the day.
Your First Game of Marvel Legendary
There are a few extra rules and cards to be aware of when playing Marvel Legendary.
One of these is the wound cards. When you acquire these cards, they go straight into your discard pile. Wound cards represent your hero picking up an injury and have no value, so when they get drawn they weaken your hand.
It is possible to get rid of these cards using some special abilities. Or, in the case of the Hulk, he can use them to his advantage. Wounds make the Hulk angry. And the Hulk is notoriously not the most pleasant company when he’s peeved.
You should also note the ‘Rescue a bystander’ card ability. When you play a card with this ability, simply take an Innocent Bystander card from the Innocent Bystander deck and put it in your victory pile. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you take one that’s been captured by a villain. They are going to take a little more work.
Versions & Expansions
You can get an expansion for most of your favorite Marvel superheroes or factions. Three of the more popular ones include:
Marvel Legendary: Dark City
One of the first expansions, and also one of the largest. You get new heroes, like Cable, Daredevil, Professor X, and Blade, and also the opportunity to defeat additional Masterminds Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, and Kingpin.
- Package dimension: 8.0" L x 3.2" W x 11.2" H
- Adds 17 New Heroes and 6 New Villain Groups and 5 Masterminds
- Mechanic Addition: New Unique Bystander ability
A whopping 350 cards get included, more than half what you get in the base game, alongside tweaks to existing mechanics.
Marvel Legendary: X-MEN
Another big box expansion, with nearly 400 cards, X-Men adds in all the X-Men characters the original was missing, such as Beast, Jubilee, Banshee, Polaris, Legion, Psylocke, Kitty Pryde, Dazzler, the Phoenix, X-23, and Havok.
Marvel Legendary: Fantastic 4
This slightly slimmer expansion means you can now play as the Fantastic 4 characters, too, who had so far been ignored. Galactus and the Mole Man are included as Masterminds, as well. This will add around 100 new cards into the box.
- This is not a standalone product, Legendary: A Marvel Deck...
- Ages: 14 and above
- Number of Players: 1-5
Pros & Cons
- Must-have for Marvel fans (but fun even if you’re not)
- High replayability and variety
- Works as a solo, two-player or group game
- Fun, but not especially challenging
I’ll admit, I don’t really like the idea of licensed games, so before playing Marvel Legendary I was a little apprehensive. They’re alienating to those that aren’t fans of the franchise, and there’s less incentive to actually make the game any good because people will just buy it anyway.
Marvel Legendary, though, was a real surprise. For one, it is actually a very good deck-building game! And you really don’t need to be a Marvel fan to know what’s going on.
I, for example, have never read the comics, and don’t bother going to watch the movies anymore (they’re all a bit too shiny and predictable for me). But I still have a general awareness of the main characters and their superpowers, and that was more than enough. Marvel fans don’t despair, however. There’s loads of theme in this game, rather than just being a crude badging operation.
Anyway, on to the gameplay!
With just three phases to a turn and two basic actions you can take (not including your superpowers), Marvel Legendary is very easy to get going with quickly. This doesn’t make it mundane, though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The order in which you take those actions really matters!
The real magic of Marvel Legendary is the mechanics of the game, though. Played out through the villain deck, they keep it impressively varied and the storyline exciting. Never knowing what twist or turn might emerge next – another villain, a Scheme Twist, a Mastermind attack… they’re all waiting for you in the deck.
This variance in play meant the state of the board kept evolving and made teamwork and communication between players especially important. Not always something that can be said about deck-builders, which often lack meaningful player interaction.
There is some great replayability in Marvel Legendary, too. With four Masterminds, eight schemes, and 11 Scheme Twists, there are plenty of different threats to defeat. What’s more, with 15 different heroes, there’s a whole load of potential solutions to them. Mixing the heroes and finding some killer combos was especially exciting.
The only major drawback, which also drains a bit on its replayability, is that Marvel Legendary isn’t all that hard. You’ll probably win most games, especially once you’ve played a few times. However, the challenge to rack up the most victory points per player does keep things interesting.
Marvel Legendary is a co-operative deck-building game in which your team of heroes must defeat an evil Mastermind and their band of henchman.
It’s a well-built and accessible deck-building game, which encourages strategy and communication between players. And, with 560 cards included in the base game, there’s a lot of content to consume before there are any deja vu moments.
Of course, it will be a real draw to any Marvel completist. And they won’t be disappointed.
A well-known, arachnid-infused superhero once said that with great power, comes great responsibility. And, on deciding to turn one of the most well-protected entertainment franchises into a card game, Marvel simply couldn’t afford to mess this up.
Thankfully, they Hulk-smashed it right out of the park.
Granted, Marvel Legendary may not be the most complex deck-builder or challenging co-operative strategy game out there. But there’s some real superhero fun to be had in a well-crafted and incredibly exciting game. Ultimately, Marvel Legendary feels like a must-buy for any Marvel fan.
Even those indifferent towards the franchise will find lots to enjoy, though. With very straightforward mechanics and an engaging storyline, it’s a solid entry-level contender in the world of deckbuilding. And, with 560 cards in total, it’ll be a long time before it starts to get repetitive.
Now if only you could say that about the films.*
*This opinion is the opinion of Joe Jones and Joe Jones only. It does not necessarily reflect the views of GameCows.com, or anyone affiliated with GameCows.com.
Have you tried Marvel Legendary? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment below!