I have never been happier to lose a cooperative game than when we lost Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game for the first time. After winning our first 6 games I was starting to worry that it was broken as a 2 player game and basically impossible to lose. (We have been playing it as a pure cooperative and I realise that makes it easier to win as you are not trying to hinder the other players, but more on that later.) Reading the forums on BoardGameGeek only increased my fears. Although we love 2 player games and enjoy the Marvel universe I was starting to think that maybe this wasn’t the best purchase. However I am pleased to say we have now lost, albeit against the hardest mastermind – Loki, but without having to change anything else (we had previously tried adding 3 extra scheme twists using a different mastermind and scheme and still won easily).
Having finally lost a game I now feel more able to give my opinion on it (scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the setup we used when we lost). We both love the underlying theme and I was pleased that my favourite Marvel characters are included (Black Widow, Storm and Rogue). However, they very quickly just become abilities on cards that you are trying to combine together; it doesn’t really feel like you are playing as the heroes. Each hero has four different types of cards. Each of the different cards gives the hero a different ability. However, the artwork is the same on each which doesn’t help with feeling the theme. Although having the same artwork definitely does help when you have to sort the cards back into heroes to put away.
Even though I’m not convinced that the theme shines through, we do enjoy the game. The deck building mechanic is good, and you often feel if I had just one more star (buying power) or slash (attack power) I could complete what I wanted to do this turn, whether that is defeating a specific villain or recruiting a particular hero. The different abilities work well together and encourage you to think about who you have already recruited so that you can combine abilities together (often you get a bonus when you play a card if you have already played a card of a certain type). Some heroes also allow apparently bad cards (i.e. wounds) to be beneficial to you, as they can KO them to gain extra attack this turn. This means you have to balance carefully whether to take more wounds deliberately in order to use your hero to their full effect, but not so many wounds that you compromise your hand strength on other turns (a hand full of wounds is useless).
As the game progresses your hand becomes more powerful, but with most schemes the villains don’t, this generally means once you get so far through the game it becomes obvious that you will win as you have enough attack power to defeat the mastermind nearly every turn. Some schemes do increase the strength of the villains as the game progresses, I prefer these schemes as it means you have to keep increasing your hand strength to be able to defeat them.
One of the main things we feel the game should be encouraging you to do is to do your utmost to prevent villains escaping into the city, this surely must be a bad thing to happen. The punishment of KOing a hero from the market may be good for semi-cooperative play as an interesting way to cause problems for your opponents, but for purely cooperative play we are considering taking a wound each if a villain escapes. Even for semi-cooperative play it doesn’t seem in keeping with the theme that letting villains escape can be a good thing.
As mentioned earlier we have been playing it purely cooperatively. We find the idea of playing semi-cooperatively a big strange and don’t feel it fits with the theme, especially as in most of the Marvel films I have seen that the heroes do work together. It also feels clunky to finish a game and say we won, but now we are going to add up points and see who won the most. I’d rather play a game fully cooperatively and win or lose together, or completely competitively and work hard to beat my opponents. Several people on BoardGameGeek have commented that some expansions improve pure cooperative play, so perhaps in the future we will invest in an expansion.
As such we have been thinking about how we could make the base game more challenging as a pure cooperative game in general. We tried adding in more scheme twists and that probably would work for some schemes, but not for every scheme. We are also considering taking wounds when villains escape into the city as mentioned earlier. If you have any other suggestions that would improve the game as a purely cooperative game then do let me know.
Overall, even with the faults I have mentioned above we do enjoy this game. It is easy to understand and fun to play. There is loads of variety in the box, meaning no two games feel the same and you have to adapt your strategies to the heroes and villains you have selected. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes Marvel, wants to try a semi-cooperative game, or is happy to play around with set up combinations to make the fully cooperative variant harder.
For anyone else who would like a 2 player pure cooperative challenge, this was our set up for the game we lost:
Mastermind: Loki – has the highest number of hit-points of any of the base game masterminds, and gives a wound for each masterstrike if you don’t currently have a strength hero available.
Scheme: Portals to the Dark Dimension – makes the villains harder to defeat every time a scheme twist is drawn (so with this scheme the villains do get harder as the game goes on), and guarantees a loss if you don’t defeat the mastermind before the villain deck runs out.
Villains and Henchmen: Enemies of Asgard, Radiation and Hand Ninjas
Heroes: Emma Frost, Hulk, Black Widow, Deadpool and Nick Fury
If you try this combination, let me know how you get on in the comments.