Professor Xavier sits comfortably behind his desk and regards you.
“Now,” he says, “I know what you are thinking.”
He pauses an unnecessarily long time.
“Yes, fine, it’s not that funny. Let’s just talk about the X-Men shall we?”
Time: 30-60 mins
Legendary: X-Men is another new expansion for Marvel Legendary, and this time it’s a big one! An absolute ton of material is crammed into some 400 cards exploring numerous characters and villains from the X-Men comics. The X-Men have always been one of my favourite Marvel properties although as someone who never read the comics, I am well out of my depth here… Though there are a few more recognisable faces mixed in too.
Now, Legendary is a game hardly short on expansions. I’ve covered the most recent ones on this site already. So do you really need more? Well, probably not AND YET if there is any box over the last couple of years you should strongly consider more than others it is this one. The reason is simple too: it is hard. This is a great set for those who want a steep challenge! Let’s start the overview there.
X-Men comes with your usual selection of Masterminds varying from fair to outrageously difficult, but now the reverse of their rule cards features Epic variants… Which are even more insane. Let’s start with Onslaught, whose name could not be more appropriate. For starters he reduces your hand size to 5 cards for the entire game. That’s horrendous, slowing your entire game down. To make matters worse, his Master Strike is to casually Dominate a non-grey hero from your hand. This means he has brainwashed them (or something), steals them from your deck and hangs on to them, increasing his combat value by that many cards. To rescue them you need to fight him which was hardly easy to begin with. And you’d better do it before the next master strike comes out or all those heroes are dead.
That is his basic side. The Epic side turns the Onslaught into a slaughter with a master strike that steals two non-grey heroes at once, from each player. Fun! But get this, he isn’t even the most terrifying Mastermind in this set: that privilege belongs, of course, to Dark Phoenix. A fallen angel if ever there was one, Dark Phoenix will burn through the hero deck with each master strike leaving you as little more than squealing animals fleeing the flames. And that’s her basic side.
All epic masterminds will also add a new card type into the game, horrors. These apply a random global effect to the game that are naturally always bad and add a nicely dark thematic twist to often Marvel’s most mature group of super heroes. They are mechanically completely random and rarely clever but I still like them, even knowing that. Their effects are nicely shown to showcased in the Horror of Horrors scheme. The game kindly suggests you can make any Marvel Legendary game you play more challenging by adding in one or two of these at a time. Although I’m not sure I read that properly with all the fire and screaming…
Lights! Camera! Action!
Speaking of showcasing! Someone who likes to show off is the froggy Mojo, leader of the Mojoverse, and generally a TV obsessive. While literally spineless, and shockingly weak for a Mastermind, his powers revolve around surrounding himself with Human Shields. A new, unpleasant use for bystanders that require you beat the capturing baddie to release them, before you can hope to actually beat the bad guy themselves. Thus, Mojo is a battle of attrition as you try to claw your way (gently) through his shields faster than he grabs new ones, to actually get at the soft, pulpy flesh beneath. Of course, his favoured goons also like capturing human shields, and so does Arcade.
Arcade is another mastermind with a similar M.O. to Mojo, only more so. It’s a bit disappointing to see two Masterminds with such similar style, especially when Shadow King is also a… well… shadow of Onslaught. His shtick is also about dominating heroes, but not with the same brutal efficiency as our old friend. At least Deathbird, leader of the alien Shiar invasion forces, offers a different experience – being pummelled by battleships from orbit, primarily, but still.
One place that Arcade and Shadow King do differentiate themselves is with their preferred villains (although, naturally, anyone can fight with them). Arcade as the master of the pleasantly named theme park ‘Murderworld’ has a plethora of vicious rides that look suspiciously like Traps. Traps are another new card type in X-Men, that must be overcome (as specified) on the turn they appear lest you suffer the consequences. Shadow King, as a master manipulator, leads a gang of mind controlled heroes who you can gain when you defeat them. Always nice.
Let’s look at the actual heroes now, shall we? First to the scene of the action are naturally those with new rule Soaring Flight, who are so quick they won’t even wait to go through your discard pile when you buy them. Instead they become a bonus card in the next hand that you draw. Phoenix (of the non-dark variety), Cannonball (he who wears the exploding trousers) and Aurora & Northstar (the ironically monochrome twins) have a bunch of these cards. Phoenix though, is worth special discussion thanks to her unusual habit of KO-ing herself when you play her cards, but in return gives you a massive hit for very little cost when you pick her up. That sounds dodgy… Anyway, she also has the most insane unique card I’ve seen – if you have too much combat, Phoenix turns dark and everyone else loses except you. It is a hilarious, yet appropriate, card for her!
Aurora & Northstar also flash us with another new keyword, Lightshow, which is sort of limited in usefulness, unless you get the right cards. So if you have more than one Lightshow card in hand, you may activate one of their abilities. Which might mean it’s only worth having a couple of these, except some of those powers will scale with the number of Lightshow cards in either your hand or your discard pile. The explosively colourful Jubilee, the very blue Havoc (no really, his entire deck is blue), and the all singing all dancing Dazzler, love a good Lightshow.
Ok, those new powers are fine but hardly the most exciting. Let’s save that for Piercing Energy, a whole new resource! Dazzler produces that, which may or may not be a comment on her singing. As does the strikingly green Polaris, Psylocke (whose sword is presumably entirely ceremonial), and Banshee whose cape might be the largest I’ve seen. Piercing Energy is, like the claws, for attacking but it targets the victory point value of cards. This is exceedingly powerful, since bad guys are often worth far fewer VPs than their wounds, but it is much harder to read said values from across the table. While this is an excellent opportunity, it is also a potential trap. Mix up your piercing and your conventional combat too much and you’ll never get enough of either to be effective! These piercing characters need to stick together.
As the film franchise has taught us, it’s not a real X-Men product without Wolverine in it somewhere and this is no exception as he appears with his metallic buddy Colossus (bringing back the split cards from Civil War). Surprising no one, Wolverine perfectly embodies the new Berserk rule that really doubles down on your traditional combat cards. For each berserk keyword (and you can have quite a few…) you discard the top card from your deck and add its combat value to your current value. Female Wolverine, X-23, gets this along with a habit of KO-ing guys on her team, as does Longshot who has some unusually cheap but powerful cards, that require you to return a card from your hand to the top of your deck to play.
One of my favourite characters, Beast, is also in this set and feeling some berserk rages, but coupled with some more refined deck manipulation skills. As it should be. Kitty Pride, and her walking through walls tricks, is very much a support character. Finally, FINALLY! Legion, whose cards are all split to match his split personalities, features every mechanic in this set on one half card or another.
In arbitrary order then… nasty neurotoxin is being pumped into X-Men Danger Room Goes Berserk. Do you have a danger room at home? I feel like I’m missing out. Anyway, this is simply a lose if too many scheme twists flop out but you are given the option to pay to shuffle a twist back into the deck, an excellent tweak which has you considering the risks against what you can gain by spending that cash on heroes. A similar dilemma features in the Televised Traps of Murderworld, where to avoid a painful punishment you must spend combat equal to the number of scheme twists that have come out so far (the traps only get bigger!) Failure to do so results in a wound for every player and there are only so many wounds deck…
Some of the schemes focus on the more well known X-Men story lines. Anti-Mutant Hatred stirs up scheme twist shaped mobs that go into your deck and wound the player next to you when they come out. This is obviously hilarious and maybe undercuts the seriousness of the subject matter, but it’s certainly different. Mutant Hunting Super Sentinels are classic baddies and in this scheme they just keep getting bigger! Don’t let them escape the city! I’m pretty sure this was the plot of The Incredibles. Finally you can play out the Dark Phoenix Saga in full (Legendary Style) requiring you to shuffle the Jean Grey hero cards into the villain deck and prevent them from escaping. Except Jean Grey is a hero only available in the Dark City expansion. Fortunately you can substitute her for any Phoenix hero variant, like the one in this set, since they are the same person in the canon, which is fine if you know that. Still, it’s a fun scenario: the Phoenix cards you do overcome go into your deck, but only until the next scheme twist.
Finally we have the generic Nuclear Armageddon, destroy the city style scenario, and the nasty Alien Brood Encounters which sees villain cards staying face down until you spend some combat to scan them to flip that card over. It’s a mechanism borrowed from the Legendary Encounters series of games and it makes for an extra tense game!
X-Men demands you choose a team carefully: the wrong group of heroes won’t just miss out on opportunities, they might actively work against each other! Sadly, in implementing this we seem to have a collection of new hero powers that basically all reward the same thing, collecting that particular keyword to the exclusion of others and that is the one disappointing thing about this set. While there is some subtlety within that, it doesn’t live up to some of the cleverer powers we’ve seen in previous sets. But the real reason to pick up this set is to push yourself to your limits with the fantastic mix of enemies, epic masterminds, horrors, and schemes. Finding the right team of heroes to take on a mission becomes an important part of the process and that feels so right for a game about the X-Men. There is a ton of stuff to explore in this set and it is well worth your time!
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