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WOW! 
If you thought the fun had begun with previous LEGENDARY expansion decks then it goes into overdrive with this 100 card collection of all things poisonous and venomous.

The story of the 'Venomverse' (Oh I do love how creative folk in fantasy love to design this 'verse' and that 'verse' to blanket cover a myriad of tales) is told briefly but succinctly on one half of the front side of the rules sheet that accompanies these cards. The basics being that the symbiotic aliens that bonded with Eddie Brock to create Venom have been studied and researched by Dr Carlton Drake of the Life Foundation. He now wants to bond the symbiote with other humans to save the human race through numerous new symbiotes he has derived from the original Venom symbiote. This card deck introduces these new symbiotes, their hosts and their effects to the Upper Deck Marvel Legendary game.

There are two symbiotes (a class of characters appearing in Marvel Comics): the Venom symbiote which Peter (Spider-Man) Parker discovers as his 'Black-Spiderman' personna and which is generally recognised as first hosted by Eddie Brock the journalist who 'outed' a serial-killer by name only to later find he had publicly accused the wrong man and thus ruined both his and the victim's lives. Then there is the Carnage symbiote which as the name suggests is a lot more violent and most likely to be a raging adversary to the player's heroes especially while hosted by Cletus Kasady (IGN's 90th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time)

 

Venomous symbiote hosts can range from super-villains to super-heroes in the comic book stories. In this game the symbiotes in the Venomverse are basically Poisonous aliens that under Dr Drake's experiments have produced Agony, Lasher, Phage, Riot and Scream, five new symbiotes who have now fused together to create the world's first super--symbiote that becomes known as Hybrid - and thus for LEGENDARY is born a new Mastermind (flip the card over and you have the 'Epic' Mastermind version). The Mastermind cards are the only double-sided cards in the deck. Then we have Dr Strange using his powerful sorcery to summon Venomised Heroes such as Rocket Raccoon and Deadpool - this game just gets better and better.

Like all LEGENDARY games the cards work off of specific 'Keywords'. To ensure you use these correctly make sure you read the rules sheet thoroughly and take in how the keywords affect the game play. 

 

For example: Despite being two words 'Symbiote Bonds' is still regarded as a Keyword.  You will find 'Symbiote Bonds' on these cards: All eight of the Villain - Poisons cards and the seven Life Foundation cards but not on Dr Drake himself. It is also on three of the four Hybrid's Mastermind Tactic cards but not on Hybrid and the Research card. Villains with this special ability can combine with one other character forcing the Hero to fight the strength of both the Symbiote and its new host added together. This makes playing the villainous Thanos and his henchmen a lot of fun to play and allows for some clever strategies and tactics from both sides. The Thanos player wants to manoeuvre the symbiote target into such a position that they can take over their bodies and minds while the Hybrid player needs to use the Poison Villains at their command to turn the symbiote host into a Hero. It all sounds rather messy and complicated but it actually isn't. The rules book says it with far more clarity and eloquence than I seem to be managing at the moment; memory versus text is a no-brainer (so, a bit like me then really!).

The 100 cards in the LEGENDARY VENOM expansion is not a complete game for two or even one player, in fact it is of no use to you if you do not already own one of the LEGENDARY starter packs, and thus the basic cards and the general rules - there are no S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents or  S.H.I.E.L.D. Troopers in this deck. It is however a fairly well balanced cerebral battle between Poison Thanos and the symbiote Hybrid.  Thanos is on a mission to infect every planet everywhere with poisonous parasites, preventing them from being inhabitable or even useful to mankind. Much as the make-up characters of Hybrid might individually secretly admire his tenacity and long term planning, they wouldn't want him to get away with it, not even if they weren't Poison/Venom bonded. 

When preparing the Villain deck you need to shuffle a number of Scheme Twist cards into it; the number you put in depends on the Scheme card randomly chosen at the beginning prior to play actually starting. As your card collection builds up it is a good idea to keep all sets separate if you intend to play decks made up from the basic cards and a specific Hero or Heroes. The Schemes are generally playable in any game as long as you have the necessary required additional cards. In LEGENDARY VENOM the four Scheme cards that come with the deck need 11, 10, 8 and 6 Twist cards, the larger the number of Scheme Twists the more disparate the games.


LEGENDARY uses an extremely simple but effective combat mechanic. Character cards (Heroes & Villains) have a numerical 'Attack' value shown on the bottom right (Villain) or bottom left (Hero) of the card. This can be a little confusing at first as you would expect the same type of value to be in the same place on both card types, in this case, because there is no 'Defence' number; combat is Attack versus Attack, higher value winning. Some cards have a + (plus) symbol instead of an actual value and these cards are used to expand the value of the Hero/Villain to raise them to the necessary number. Attack numbers are shown to have three red claw-mark slashes through them. The number on the bottom right of the Hero card is the cost to recruit the Hero to your deck and the number on the left of the card in a 'Star' are points used to recruit more Heroes. In LEGENDARY VENOM the Mastermind Poison Thanos appears to be extra hard to defeat with its Strength/s of 12 but it doesn't have Symbiote Bonds, whereas the Mastermind Hybrid which has only Strength/s of 6 does, therefore Hybrid can bond with another character, if possible, when in conflict.


As well as the two Masterminds there are two groups of Villains: The Dr Carlton Drake 'Life Foundation' with Agony x 1, Lasher x 2,  Phage x 1,  Riot x 2, Scream x 1 and the Poison Villains: Captain America, Dr Octopus, Hulk, Sabretooth, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Storm and Symbiotic Armor.

There are 5 Hero sets of 14 cards: Carnage (Carnivore x 5, Feast or Famine x 1, Gruesome Feast x 3,Rending Claws x 5), Venom (Devouring Drool x 5, Insatiable Hunger x 1, Razor Teeth x 5, Symbiotic Adaption x 3),  Venompool - a nice combination of Venom & Deadpool (Can I Get A Little Gratitude? x 3, Digest That Chimichange x 5, Play To The Crowd x 1, Shenanigans x 5), Venomized Dr Strange (Cauldron of the Cosmos x 5, Complete the Grand Ritual x 3, Crystal of Kadavus x 1, See Future Timelines x 5) and Venom Rocket (Hungry for Action x 5, Serious Overkill x Spring the Trap x 5, Ultimate Survivor x 1).


Hybrid and Thanos really need to be used in decks for/against opposition mainly comprising of Symbiotes and Poisons otherwise their abilities are of little use. Using the Life Foundation and Villain Poisons cards can be used out of context but they deal with specifics cards that other sets may not have. All 5 Hero sets can be used to great effect in and against decks from other expansions and base sets. 

I have mentioned the Poison and Venom and the Symbiote already. There are other keywords that need addressing - Excessive Violence appeared in the brilliant Legendary Deadpool for the first time (well it would have to have been Deadpool wouldn't it?) and is also found here. Venom and Carnage have the delightfully disgustingly gruesome 'Digest' keyword which is shared by the tongue-in-cheek Venompool with it's morbidly humourous 'Indigestion' keyword, brilliantly described on the rules-sheet "Let's just say you don't want to see what happens when Carnage is eating somebody and gets indigestion .."

All the cards in this set are designed with comic-style artwork, illustrated in spectacular dynamic fashion so that before playing a card you thoroughly enjoy the visual experience of it - first couple of games thus play a mite slow. The LEGENDARY game itself, including this card set, is designed by Devin Low, for the VENOM expansion the creative card art arrives by way of Iban Coello, Matt Yackey and Cam Adams. As is usual with these expansions there is a double-sided colourful information sheet that covers any changes that these cards may offer compared to the base rules.

Under £20.00 online and in Local Game Stores this is another really fine expansion that adds a lot of macabre fun to the Legendary card game.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015