Culture Magazine

Board Game Review – Legendary: Marvel Secret Wars Vol 1 & 2

By Manofyesterday


I finally got my hands on volume 2 of Secret Wars last week and I’ve played through with all the new content so here’s my review of both the latest sets! For those of you who don’t know, Legendary: Marvel is my favorite game. I’ve done reviews of most of the other expansions and the base game so I’m not going to go into depth about how the game is played, but basically it’s a deck-building game where you’re recruiting heroes into your deck to fight villains and eventually take down the mastermind, who is trying to complete a scheme. There’s so much variety already and these two boxes add new heroes, villains,  henchmen groups, mechanics…just so much stuff! So I’m going to go through the new mechanics and talk about some of my favorite heroes and my overall impressions of the sets.

Now, as the name implies this is based on the Secret Wars storyline which I believe involves the smashing up of loads of worlds. As such there are many characters in here that I have never heard of before and I don’t follow modern comics so I can’t really speak for the storyline. But it means we get characters like Dr. Punisher Soldier Supreme, The Captain and the Devil (Captain America with a T-Rex) and many of the villain groups are alternate versions of characters. There are some long-desired fan favourites as well though, like Black Panther, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel, Captain Britain, and Beast! There is one notable exception though, and that’s Dr. Doom. From what I understand he plays a big role in the Secret Wars story but there’s none of him in these boxes, and I think that’s because of the merchandising war going on between Marvel and Fox. It’s a shame that it impacts the game like this because it would be nice to get more Fantastic Four content (and some people have speculated that the reason why Beast isn’t an X-Men hero and that we’re getting a lot of alternate versions of X-Men is because of this secret merchandising war as well). But anyway, let’s get on and start with the new mechanics these boxes introduce!

Multiclass cards –

These cards have two of the classes (strength, instinct, ranged, tech, covert) meaning that they can be used to trigger the class abilities. This is a great addition to the game and many of the new heroes make use of this. It adds a lot of versatility and allows for some great combos to be made, and it also has a nice artistic effect as the colours are blended in around the border. It also adds a little more freedom to the game as the designers can now be less rigid in what they class the heroes as. I like this new mechanic a lot and surely it’s just a matter of time before we see heroes that have multiteam icons?

Villains you Gain as Heroes –

Usually when you fight a villain it goes into your victory pile, but these cards actually get added to your deck and become a hero you can use. Thematically I like it as it refers to the classic trope of heroes fighting each other over a misunderstanding, and then eventually teaming up to fight together against the big bad. It also adds a bit more tactical thinking to who to fight in the city, as, to be honest, some of these cards may not align with the deck you’re going for. Some of them can be pretty useful though, like Wolverine in the X-Men ’92 villain group as one example. This is a cool concept and I like how it can add some more flavor to the game.

Rise of the Living Dead –

Zombies make an appearance! Basically if a cards says Rise of the Living Dead each player checks their victory pile and if it is a villain with a rise of the living dead ability, it re-enters play. Again I like this because it offers more tactical choices about the order in which you do things, and if you rescue bystanders you can basically use them to shield your victory pile. Taking out a living dead means you’ll be freeing up the city, but it also means that you’ll want to take something else out pretty soon after otherwise it’s just going to come back again.

Cross-Dimensional Rampage –

There are a few of these, Hulk, Wolverine, Deadpool, and Colossus so far. Basically when this takes effect each player reveals a hero of that name or type (so with Hulk you could have a Hulk card or an alternate Hulk like Maestro) from their hand or their victory pile, or gains a wound. This one I’m not so hot on. It’s okay, but the first person to do this does tend to screw over the other players because the card you just defeated counts for it as well. Usually it’s pretty easy to defend against as well so it doesn’t have that much impact on the game, so I’m fairly indifferent about it.

Multiple Masterminds –

Now this one I am definitely not indifferent about. I LOVE this concept. Some villains’ escape effects are that they ascend to become masterminds, while some schemes have you add additional masterminds when scheme twists occur. To win the game you have to defeat all the masterminds so it can become incredibly challenging very quickly, and it also affords the opportunity to use some of the weaker masterminds (I’m looking at you Red Skull). I love that feeling in the game where things are completely overwhelming and this makes things insane, especially when a masterstrike takes effect because you have to go through all of them!

Spectrum –

This takes effect when you have at least three classes of hero, and you don’t even have to have played them before you use the Spectrum ability, meaning that they’re quite easy to pull off, especially with the new multiclass cards. They’re usually stuff like draw a card or get a couple of extra recruit points so it can be a nice little boost and it’s always something that makes you think about the type of heroes you are recruiting.

Patrol –

Basically you look at the space the card tells you and if it’s empty something happens, if it’s not then something else happens (so it might be patrol the bank, if its empty get +2 recruit if it’s not then you get +2 attack). Some of the cards will have you patrol the escape pile or your victory pile so I like that it involves the use of different parts of the board, and again it makes you think about the order in which you play things because you have to use a patrol ability when you play the card. Again it’s just a small boost like Spectrum but it’s pretty cool.

Circle of Kung-Fu –

Some villains will have text like “5th Circle of Kung-Fu”. This means that unless you reveal a hero that costs 5 or higher that villain is going to get +5 to its attack cost. If it was “3rd Circle” then you’d have to reveal a hero of 3 or higher or it would get +3 to the attack. This is pretty interesting as the villains can get very powerful unless you have the right cards to deplete the attack.

Fateful Resurrection –

This is kinda similar to Rise of the Living Dead in that it can bring things back from your victory pile. All you do is once you have defeated a villain and completed the fight effects, you reveal the top card of the villain deck. If it’s a scheme twist or a masterstrike then that villain re-enters the city. So again, it can lead to an overwhelming force and you have basically wasted your attack points. It also gives you a sense of what’s coming up in the villain deck so you can plan for the future, and it makes cards that reveal cards in the villain deck very powerful indeed.

Charge –

This is so much fun. A villain may have an ability that says “Charge one space”. This means that after they enter the city they will move forward one space, pushing anything else forward too. Many villains can escape this way and it can lead to a chain reaction, which is especially bad in schemes that end after a certain number of villains escape and it really makes you watch the city. There’s a mastermind, Hyperion, that charges three spaces and it’s always bad when that happens. It adds a new dynamic to the city though and sometimes it means that your plans get thrown into disarray because the villain you were going to fight this turn has now been pushed out!

There are also sidekick cards, where you can recruit them and when you play them you discard them back to their deck and draw two cards, which is really useful.

So those are all the new concepts in the game that I’ve played. I still haven’t been able to try the “One player is the Mastermind” option yet so I can’t comment on that but it looks a lot of fun and I really hope to try that soon. Now, let’s talk about some of the characters. I’m not going to talk about all of them because that would make this an essay and it’s already long enough as it is!

Some of my favourites so far have been Black Panther, Black Bolt (he makes use of cards with no rules text), Ultimate Spider-Man, Magik, Namor, Agent Venom (love cards that have both recruit icons and attack icons), Ruby Summers (her rare costs 8 but gives 10 attack!), and a probably a few more but there are so many that I can’t think right now. I’m also glad to see Old Man Logan in the game because that is a fantastic story.

Some of the characters I’m not so hot on – Thanos. Yeah, he’s a playable character in this and his whole thing revolves around KO’ing bystanders and I kinda feel like if you want to make him work you really have to devote yourself to Thanos. I might try him with the other Cabal members now that I have more from vol. 2 to see if it’s more fun to play with him. Captain Britain I was excited to see because I’m from England, even if I haven’t any real affinity with the character, and I was a little disappointed to see that he’s basically a re-themed Captain America, just using team icons instead of hero icons so that was underwhelming. Elsa Bloodstone…I love her rare but her other cards are just okay, it’s nice to have another powerful hero that has the SHIELD affiliation but other than that she didn’t really do anything for me.

The other cards that come with the game are fun as well although I really do wish that they would come up with some character bystanders (I’d love to see J. Jonah Jameson, Mary-Jane, Aunt May, Foggy Nelson etc to add a bit more thematic flavor to the game) but the content they have provided in these two boxes is incredible. But is one better than the other?

Hmm. I’m not sure. Since I have got vol.  2 more recently that is fresher in my mind but as much as I love the Charge mechanic I think I’d say that vol. 1 just shades it. It has Zombie Green Goblin and Wasteland Hulk as masterminds, who are really fun and tough to beat, and I know/like more of the characters within that first volume. But really I’d just suggest to get them both. You know you want to. You really, really want to. There are some many combinations now that I can’t wait until I get to play this more regularly to try more of them out, and with two more expansions (at least) this year it’s starting to become a behemoth but I absolutely love it. I love how they’re able to still introduce new concepts that actually make the gameplay more varied and interesting rather than just gimmicky things, so I’m obviously going to suggest getting both of them because if you love Legendary then you’ll want them both.

Also, the artwork for Silk is probably my favorite. I think I may go and play a couple of games now…

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