Recently at NAGA I played Legendary:A Marvel Deckbuilding Game and this prompted me to take the plunge and buy a game I had been watching for a while now, Legendary Encounters: An ALIEN Deckbuilding Game. I decided to run a playthrough at NAGA last night so here goes my little report. Players were Brent Jay, James Christie-Green, Derek Maynard and myself.
Firstly it takes an absolute age to get the same set-up straight out of the box. If you include the time taken to sort through 602 cards into the correct decks and separate them then you’re looking a good hour and a half at least. The cards come in no particular order and took me and my OH a good hour or so to sort through. There is also the small possibility that “some” cards might be missing so its worth checking before you play.
I list 602 playable cards because that’s what the card list I downloaded told me there were. Here’s the card breakdown:
- 10 Role Avatars
- 10 Role Character cards
- 35 Specialists
- 25 Grunts
- 10 Sergeants
- 224 Character cards (16 characters, 14 cards each)
- 4 Locations
- 12 Objectives
- 132 Hive cards (12 mini decks, one for each Objective)
- 24 Drone cards
- 14 Hatchery cards
- 40 Strikes
- 4 Alien Avatars
- 36 Alien Player cards
- 15 Agenda cards
- 5 Secrets Revealed cards
Once set-up has been done once I’m sure it will get easier for me.
Rather than complicate the matter we decided we would concentrate on learning the new and different mechanics that had been added and we would run though a 4 player, basic version of the ALIEN game using the following Objectives:-
1 – The SOS
2 – No One Can Hear You Scream
3 – The Perfect Organism
The objectives play out like the plot of the ALIEN movie. We would be using a famous location from the movie to generate Hazards and conditions for our game. The location for ALIEN was The Nostromo so that was our location but the core set covers all four films in the quadrilogy so the others were:-
Fiorina “Fury” 161
The game also includes characters from all four movies in the set and during tonights game as we were playing the ALIEN storyline we used the characters from that movie. Each film adds four characters, once you are comfortable playing you can mix and match the characters even to the point of using four versions of Ripley. The main characters from the ALIEN film that formed our Barracks were:-
Chief Engineer Parker
Warrant Officer Ripley
You may be forgiven for thinking that stacking your deck with Ripleys will help as she managed to survive the movie but a good combination of each will allow you to function well and combine cards at the right time to do the right thing.
Before the game begins each player gets 7 Specialists and 5 Grunts to populate their draw deck. These represent the resources at their disposal to battle enemies and “recruit” Heros and Sergeants to help them. Grunts add to your Combat score (denoted by the slash icon in the bottom left of the card and a number above it) and Specialists add to your recruitment” (shown with a star and a number in the bottom right). Certain cards may require you to spend “recruitment” points to perform certain action or Combat points to “Scan” a room but more of this later.
They each then select an Avatar which represents how much Health that player starts the game with and allows them to add an additional card to their Draw Deck. The basic example game limits which Avatars are used:-
Medic (4 player game)
Scout (5 player game)
as you gain experience in playing the game more and more Avatars can be used and if you wanted to you could simply pick any of the Avatars from the deck. Derek had the Gunner, I the Researcher, Brent the Medic and James the Technician.
There are actually a couple ways to play Legendary Encounters: fully cooperative, fully cooperative until somebody dies, semi-cooperative with a potential hidden traitor. I’ll only cover the basic fully cooperative mode first, and then explain the other variants in later reports as we add layers of depth to the game.
In the basic cooperative mode, the goal is to accomplish three mission objectives before everyone dies—these objectives will be selected during setup.
If you’re already familiar with Legendary Marvel or Upper Decks other Deckbuilding games there are a few key differences, which we’ll cover first, and then get into more detail later:
Hidden enemies: Enemy cards aren’t revealed as soon as they’re taken from the deck. Instead, they enter the Complex face-down and you must spend “Combat” points to scan the rooms to reveal them.
Strikes: Instead of Wound cards that just fill up your deck with useless cards and deny you heros to do battle etc, there are Strike cards that sit next to your Avatar card and do damage. Take too much damage, and you die.
Roles: Each player starts with the same deck of Specialists and Grunts, but then gets an additional role character card that gets shuffled in, giving each player a slight specialization.
Alien Players: If a player dies because of a Chestburster, they can become an alien with a new objective: kill the humans.
When you start your game the only cards placed on the gaming mat are the Sergeants Deck (generic USMC Sergeants to help you fight the Alien), the Barracks Deck (made up of the decks of the four characters named above), the Strikes Deck (the damage that Players avatars take when events occur or Aliens attack you), the Hatchery (comprising the three objective decks and one Drone card per player per deck), the Location Card (in our case “The Nostromo”) and the Objectives (the plot of our game – loosely following the ALIEN movie in our case. Before play begins you move the top five cards from the Barracks deck into the HQ area of the gaming mat. These represent Heroes you can “recruit” to help you fight or save you from Alien strikes etc.
Each players turn is broken down into four phases:-
Each turn you move the top card from the Hive Deck (made up of the 3 relevant Objective Decks and a number of Drone cards from the Drone deck – 1 per player per deck) into the Complex starting with the Ventilation Shafts moving through the locations (Ventilation Shafts – Power Station – Weapons Locker – Med-Lab – Airlock) until the enemy eventually drops into the Combat Zone whereupon they are instantly revealed and any abilities etc resolved.
The player can then spend his cards each turn to “recruit” new Heros, “Scan” a room or Battle an enemy. Scanning is a new mechanic. To keep the game suspenseful and interesting enemies now move through the complex face down and remain a mystery until it is scanned by spending “Combat” points. It is then revealed and you action any “Reveal” abilities on its card. It may also trigger other events such as the Hazards on the Location card or the Events on the Objective card.
You can spend “Recruitment” points to hire Heros by paying their recruitment value. When a Hero or Sergeant is acquired in this way they are added to their discard pile for use later. This is how you go about building a deck to do battle with the Xenomorph menace.
Players can also spend “Combat” or “attack” points from cards to attack any face-up enemy in the Combat Zone, the Complex or infront of that player I.E Facehuggers.
There are five “classes,” represented by little icons at the top left of each card. Each card has at least one class. Many cards will have a class icon followed by an ability in the description section—to use that ability, you must have already played another card with that icon on your turn.
There’s also the new “Coordinate” ability: some cards say “Coordinate” in the description section. During a player’s turn, each other player may play one Coordinate card and draw to replace it. The active player may choose to use that card as if he played it, counting any card effects (including the class icons). It’s a way to share icons for needed effects, as well as boosting attacking or recruiting power for a player who needs a few more.
Players then get attacked by any Enemies in the “Combat Zone” taking “Strikes” dependant on the enemy performing the attack. These “Strike” cards damage the player directly by reducing the health value shown on the bottom left of their Avatar card. Once a player takes “strikes” equal to their health they are dead and removed from the game.
Lastly each round each player discards all cards in their hand or in play unless they have the “Vigilance” ability and redraw 6 new cards from their Draw Deck. You tend to cycle through these cards very quickly.
So the game progressing slowly to begin with and many checks of the rulebook were made. Sometimes a cards text isn;t so clear and having the rulebook handy will certainly help. Each player took their turn attempting to recruit new Heros or Sergeants and Scanning rooms. Almost immediately an Egg was revealed. The Egg lays dormant until an Event card is revealed, which could be at any time and then the player that revealed the Event suffers both the Event effects and any other Event effects from Egg’s and the Objective, etc.
Eventually, in my absence I hasten to add, a card dropped into the Combat Zone on my turn, when it was revealed it was an Event. That event triggered the effect of the Egg which forced me to take the Facehugger card from the Hatchery Deck. Through some other mechanism I also managed to acquire a second Facehugger on the same turn. This was leaving me in a very bad place as I could only kill one this turn and relied on my fellow players to attack and kill the second one or risk me falling prey to a Chestburster.
About the Facehuggers, there are a lot of these, and they can crop up in a couple different ways. If you get a Facehugger, it sits in front of you, and you have until the end of the next player’s turn to kill it. If it isn’t killed, then you put a Chestburster card into your discard pile. As it says: “When you draw this, you suffer extreme pain and die.”
I had enough “Attack” to kill one of my Facehuggers but was reliant on Brent, James and Derek to co-operate and co-ordinate and kill the second or I die.
I survived my turn but had a Facehugger leftover. Brent took his turn unable to kill it. This chain of events, much like the film caused a knock-on affect where other players then began to suffer because they hadn’t co-operated and aided me. At the end of Brent’s turn my second Facehugger turned into a Chestburster and was put into my Discard pile. Only once I drew that Chestburster was it “Game Over Man, Game Over!” for me. I had enough cards in my Draw Deck to survive another turn but my number was up, eventually I would succumb to the beast and die.
Brent had his own issues to worry about as he took drew a Facehugger and was unable to deal with it, so it remained in front of him waiting to be killed by James.
James was unable to help Brent during his turn and by this point both Brent and I had been affected by Chestbursters.
The play progressed and after James turn Brent and I were no longer affected by the Alien Strikes as any player with a Chestburster is considered to be “part of the family” and is ignored by the Aliens. My wounds got ignored and any bad stuff would affect the next player, Brent, who too had a Chestburster so had the same effects. All our collective bad stuff was passed onto James.
During James’ turn he scanned and revealed our ultimate enemy in the game “The Perfect Organism”. It was unkillable except for a single chance. If it was within the Airlock location and the Airlock Controls event card was attached to that location then the guys had a chance to kill it, if they could muster 10 attack. As neither could do anything about it the beast passed down into the Combat Zone. This was pretty full now and there were a number of nasties in there doing Double Strikes and Strikes that were unavoidable. During the Strike Phase of James turn he was forced to draw 8 Strike cards which killed him outright.
This left Derek as the only living player, although that wouldn’t be the case for long. The situation got far worse for Derek as another enemy dropped into the Combat Zone. Without enough attack to do any serious damage to anything in the Combat Zone and without enough “recruitment” to move “The Perfect Organism” back into the Airlock Derek was forced to draw 9 Strike cards in the Strike Phase which rapidly reduced his health, not helped by the fact that one was a double damage card.
All in all a brutal example of how this game can work. I cannot stress how important it is that players co-operate and co-ordinate attacks and share heros etc. This is the ONLY way to win this game. Playing solo wont help. I like the idea of the Strike Deck as you pick up minor wounds, some of which can be healed, etc. The suspense of never knowing what damage you will receive makes taking Strikes a real threat rather than simply acquiring useless cards in your draw deck like Legendary Marvel.
This is a great game and gameplay will never be the same twice although a limited number of Objectives will mean that playing the same missions will feel samey but there is replayability there. I can reccommend a basic game first to get your head around the new mechanics etc before you move onto fully-cooperative mode (until someone dies) and finally semi-cooperative mode (with hidden agendas). I’m going to play through each movie one by one to see how each plays out and then start to mix and match decks and Heros.