Marvel Legendary Secret Wars Review - What In The Multiverse Is Going On?

Oh Marvel Legendary, will you ever stop publishing expansions? Well I hope not because it's always great to have choice even if you don't like every one, but then saying that if they were to stop right now, I'd be content with what I have. Sentinels of the Multiverse announced the last expansion earlier in 2016 which of course makes me sad, but I know it will go out with a bang and let's face it when I'm sitting at my table with a signed Collector's box containing everything that's ever been released for Sentinels, I'll feel pretty content as well!

So we've had two boxes devoted to the new Secret Wars storyline which started last year, which involves a lot of dimensions colliding and all sorts of weird characters meeting up with each other and fighting, putting strange twists on the whole Marvel Universe in general. I've not read any of those comics so bare that in mind (though I have been tempted to give it a try), but I have it on good authority that it is one of the most confusing story arcs done by Marvel and that's saying something. However I'm certainly tempted to give them a read after using these cards and you'll hopefully see why later.

Now if you're reading this, you obviously know how to play Marvel Legendary so there aren't any rules explanations bar new traits to be found. This review is to give an impression of what it's like to use the content presented in these two boxes. And yes I'm going to cover both boxes in this review as they're too similar to write two separate articles about. That may or may not make this review twice as long though. . . .


Designer: Devin Low
Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment
Age: 14+
Players: 1-5
Time: 45-60 min (not including setup and takedown)
RRP: £29.99 each


Universal Smash Up


As the story line of Secret Wars implies many different worlds clashing, you can expect to see a ton of weird characters in these sets, usually odd twists on ones you already know. For example you've got Dr Punisher Soldier Supreme as a mash-up of Dr Strange and The Punisher as well as The Captain and the Devil, which is Captain America riding on top of a T-Rex - seriously I'm not joking, work that one out! Many of the villains are alternate versions of previous heroes and some well known villains are even on the heroes side! Thanos of all tyrannical overlords is actually a hero set here! It's a very surreal lineup and it makes me wonder just how this comic strip was planned out in the first place.

That's not to say they're all jumbled up incarnations though. There are some good fan favourites here we've wanted for some time, such as Dr Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Beast, who for some reason isn't an X-Men character here, probably Fox being a pain with merchandising rights again. These heroes you will at least recognise if you're a general Marvel fan and the majority of them are contained in Volume 1, making it unsurprisingly the easiest access point to start with. Volume 2 brings in most of the really crazy combinations and might require a little advanced reading on Marvel Wiki or whatever to comprehend some of these new characters. The majority of them have some cool abilities though and will provide a lot of enjoyment.



Anyone Hiding Any Shocking Abilities They'd Like To Disclose? 

Probably the best part of the Secret Wars set are the new mechanics brought in. They really do change the game up in many ways, even if not all of them are perfect in their execution. First up we have Sidekicks, a separate deck of cards that any player can spend 2 recruit points to take into their hand. Each one allows you to discard them back to the pile to draw two cards. Essentially a throw-away card, but they're never a waste and allow you to use up some of those spare recruit points you always find yourself with on a bad turn. Not to mention it makes up for anyone bloating their deck too much.

FINALLY we now have multi-class cards. I don't know why it's taken so long for these to feature but now players don't have to be so rigid in their hero choices when they're trying to focus on a specific class. Besides adding a nice blend colour effect to the card borders it allows for special abilities to trigger a lot more often and some new heroes actually want you to use multi-class cards specifically.

I've hinted that thematically this is an odd set, however it's clear some effort has been put in to make the mechanics gel with the whole multi-dimensional thing. Some of the villain groups will include heroes who actually join your side when you defeat them. I love this from a thematic standpoint as it represents the misunderstandings that arise when they all meet in the comic. They resolve their differences and then rally together to fight the bigger threat. It's a wonderful example of how theme can be integrated even into a deck builder.

Multiple Masterminds can now enter the game by various means. Now even though thematically this can work, I'm a little hit and miss with this one. On the one hand it snowballs very quickly into an almost impossible scenario to beat, although on the other hand it goes give the old Masterminds from the original sets a chance to shine again.

And as if I couldn't escape them forever, even Marvel has put zombies into the mix. I didn't think they could stoop that low, but apparently in Secret Wars there are zombie versions of many of the heroes and villains that you know. . . . . and in all fairness, not only are they a significant challenge to keep them dead, but this is some solid and graphic artwork on these cards. Might be a bit much for young kids playing this game, but generally it should be fine.

And there's more, there's a ton of new mechanic content here and as such Marvel Legendary with these sets is pushed to a new level of challenge and also complexity. If you enjoyed this for being a good entry point or a simple deckbuilding experience, then this might add a little too much complexity.


In The End, You Will Always Kneel

The Masterminds can be described in one word - unique. There are some very distinctive foes here and thus a variety of tactics that are required to defeat each one. Wasteland Hulk will get stronger the more you hit him and if you're not packing any Hulk cards in your deck, expect to get loaded with wounds. Zombie Green Goblin will make you hate zombies for the rest of your days with his Resurrection techniques. The Spider Queen (someone I will hate just because. . . . spiders) can be easy or hard depending on your ability to keep bystanders safe and King Hyperion physically comes at you personally charging villains out of the city, which is a nice twist.

To be honest there isn't really a Mastermind in this set I would consider so far to be "easy" per say. They all offer a big challenge and certainly I don't recommend you put new players up against these guys. I've found it's particularly tricky to beat these guys when you use mainly older heroes as the heroes in this set have clearly been slightly geared up to take these foes on. And I haven't even begun to see how well most of the Villains set holds up when you start mixing them in, though that does make for one hell of a diverse mix-up of heroes and villains on both sides of the fight.

The Henchman groups are pretty "meh" to be honest. Some of them are quite cool in that you recruit them into your deck as extra recruit points or similar although you have to be careful not to clog your deck up with them. Others however aren't just basically there to be beaten up and without any Secret Wars comic knowledge, they just seem out of place especially if you mix them up with older heroes. I'm pretty sure the Kingpin has an army of Magma Men just hanging about. . .


Fine. . . . . I'll Do It Myself!

After so many expansions there is now finally a method for incorporating PVP mode into Marvel Legendary. Based on theme alone this sounds like a good move especially with all the Villains expansions released and some "role reversal" heroes in this set. However when put into practice it's not as engaging as playing in co-op mode and it gives me that same feeling of being an afterthought that the PVP mode in Legendary Encounters: Alien gave me. Legendary: Predator did a better job with its PVP hunting mode, but that might be due to the strong thematic setting that it offered based on what we know of how Predators operate. But it's a small element among all the cards so it's a minor negative, but I do now have a bunch of cards relating to that mode that I'll never use again taking up space.


Verdict

Whether you will enjoy these sets depends entirely on what you get out of Marvel Legendary in the first place. Do you enjoy setting up thematic battles and "what-if" scenarios? Then you might want to be a little careful unless you've read the Secret Wars comics, but there are some well known characters in the first volume to offset this. If you are a completionist or like to throw together whatever characters you can into the fray, then you'll still get plenty of enjoyment from both of these sets.

The Masterminds feel very distinct from each other allowing for very unique games to take place, however you will definitely require some Secret Wars knowledge to fully get why they are even there and take note that some of the earlier heroes in this franchise will struggle against them. Turning Marvel Legendary into a PVP affair is probably the weak point of the saga, but it's a minor aspect that can be left out.

Overall these sets are both solid for the purposes of gameplay, but they push Marvel Legendary into gamer territory rather than being a fairly standard introductory deck builder. For veterans that's a good thing, but don't suddenly start off a new player with the content featured here. I definitely prefer Volume 1 to Volume 2 and I'd say you can safely stick with that if you've never read the comics, but a lot of that is based on my lack of knowledge of them - devoted readers I'm sure will get an equal kick out of both.




If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE SECRET WARS IF:


You want every card in Legendary whether you like it or not - there's a ton of content here.


You've read the comics and know the back story for all the characters - cue some thematic fights.


You want to take Marvel Legendary to a new level for challenges and meaty mechanics.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE SECRET WARS IF:


You've never read the comics and only want to engage in thematic battles with heroes you know.


You want to keep Marvel Legendary nice and simple.


You're struggling to store it all when combined with everything else you've got.

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