A couple of years ago, Legendary, a deckbuilding game featuring Marvel's popular super heroes, was released to the gaming public. The game, the first real cooperative offering in the genre, proved to be very successful. Several expansions of varying sizes have been released, adding more heroes and villains as well as different mechanics to the already very solid base game. As a fan of super heroes, co-op, and deckbuilding card games, Legendary quickly became one of my favorite games.
However, one issue common to cooperative tabletop games in my experience is that they lose their luster very quickly. Legendary is a great example; I played the game every night for solid week, then once a week for a month or so, then only a couple times in six months. In the past year, it hasn't hit our gaming table a single time. Perhaps it was the long setup time, maybe it was the tenuous tie-in between the theme and the mechanics, or perhaps it was just burnout with deckbuilders in general. For whatever reason, Legendary has all but fallen off my radar.
Last week, I had the opportunity to play a new version of the game: Legendary Encounters. This is a new direction for the game, and despite the rather generic name seems quite promising. The first game in this new series takes out the tights and spandex, replacing them with xenomorphs and pulse rifles. Legendary Encounters is based on the Alien film series, and further games promise to add other famous movie monsters like Predator to the mix. I found this new version to be far superior to the original Legendary in almost every way.
The biggest advantage that Legendary Encounters has over its predecessor is the strong connection between the theme and the mechanics. The claustrophobic sense of menace and impending doom so masterfully presented in the Alien movies is flawlessly duplicated. Face-down cards from the Hive deck advance inevitably through the different zones of the Complex, moving closer at the end of each turn. By scanning, you can flip the cards over, revealing what type of alien you must fight. Characters like Ripley, Dallas, and Hicks can be added to your deck, bringing a whole host of special abilities with them. You will need luck and strategy if you hope to stay alive long enough to meet the victory conditions of the various scenarios included in the game.