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MARVEL: LEGENDARY SECRET WARS expansion volume one
Published by UpperDeck  Designed by Devin Low and a development team.
Playable by 1-5 players. GGO opinion: Good for 2 players better with 3 players.

This is a feature for players who either have on the LEGENDARY game or are looking to purchase it and want to know if the expansions are worth investing in. 


SECRET WARS volume 1 is an expansion for the MARVEL Super-Heroes deck building card game. It is the second of the BIG BOX expansions, following on from DARK CITY (2013) which itself followed LEGENDARY VILLAINS (2014) the launch of the original game LEGENDARY (2012). SECRET WARS volume 2 is also currently available. 

MARVEL LEGENDARY is a deck building game and although I am pretty sure that anyone reading this about the SECRET WARS expansion will already know what such a game is it's probably best just to give a brief reminder. A deck building game is one where there is usually a general supply of cards which the players use to create a personalised deck that they then use either against each other or a universal enemy with a common aim or goal. This may be rescuing villagers from a dungeon, looting the recently defeated and dead monsters of a labyrinth, rebuilding a town or ... well you get the picture.

With MARVEL'S LEGENDARY the players are Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. working with or alongside Super-Heroes from the Marvel Universe to defeat a Mastermind and his (or her) henchmen from some dastardly world domination plot determined by a selected or randomly drawn Scheme. The 2014 release of VILLAINS allowed players to turn the tables and play the villains against the heroes.Secret Wars introduces the Illuminati, the Cabal and adds the Sidekick stack and Banker Bystander (3 duplicate cards). The Sidekick stack are 15 duplicate cards. I understand that it wouldn't make sense to have 15 different "sidekicks" with exactly the same effects because it would cause unnecessary expense (14 more pieces of art) and possible confusion (not being immediately recognisable for what they are) but it would have been nice aesthetically to have say, 3 different sidekicks as far as the art goes.

Whichever base set you decide on the best way to learn how to play Marvel Legendary is to read the first few pages of the rules and then setup the game as instructed and walk through it, preferably with a friend, literally playing the cards and taking the time to understand not just the cards you are playing but what they mean and how they are affecting the game. Once you know the system then the Schemes and Twists ensure that each game is a new adventure. Mostly you will play cooperatively but there are opportunities for player(s) versus player, Heroes versus Mastermind Villain and also the chance to be the most heroic.

To play with the 350 cards found in SECRET WARS box volume 1 you need to already own either the original LEGENDARY game or the LEGENDARY VILLAINS boxed set which is a revised contains all the necessary rules and cards. You do not need both of the base sets but if you are a Marvel fan and you enjoy deck building games then it is advisable to. There are also smaller expansions; FEAR ITSELF and GUARDIANS of the GALAXY, a 75th Anniversary set for Captain America, a Spider-Man set Paint the Town Red. DEADPOOL is coming soon, Fantastic Four are here, and there is even a Big Trouble in Little China tie in.


Legendary Hero cards have a cost to bring into play, much like cards in MtG, WoW tcg and other collectible trading card games. This is called the recruitment cost and is shown on the bottom right of the card as a white number in a golden circle. The cost is in Recruit Points which are shown on some cards as a number within a Gold Star. Most cards also have some game text on them which is pretty much straightforward  in its instruction and description, often coming into play After, During or Before a Player's Turn, and possibly in conjunction with one or more of the icon identified abilities.


Numbers with slash marks through them are the strength number, how many attacks it takes to defeat it. The player who lays the final blow gets to KO (Knock-Out/permanently remove) one of the cards they have in play which is a good way of removing dead wood from your deck. Deck Building games have mechanics that mean you are always cycling through your deck and gaining additional cards. Often the cards you pick up during play are of little or no use to you, they just bulk out your deck and hold up the cards that you want to come out, thus having a legitimate way to lose these from your Deck permanently is one to take when you can even if it occasionally means not cooperating fully with the other players; remember that you also need some cards to use for Recruitment.


SECRET WARS volume 1 has, on opening, four sealed packs of cards; these are not decks and two of these packs are identical. The first thing then is to sort these into the many different stacks and separating them for storage and ease of finding by using the double-sided blank Legendary cards. This will take you a fair while but it is worth doing before you begin to add SECRET WARS to your game. I am not going to list all 350 of the cards or name and describe every card in every stack but I will quickly break them into sets:

Villain Groups: Six New Groups in Secret Wars Vol. 1.
Limbo; Wasteland; Manhattan EARTH; Domain of Apocalypse; The Deadlands; Sentinel Territories.

4 MasterMinds: Madeleyne Pryor - Goblin Queen; Nimrod - Super Sentinel; Wasteland Hulk; Zombie Green Goblin. Each of these super-villains (they are way too powerful, interesting, fun and enigmatic to be labelled just as "villains") has 4 cards specific to themselves, plus each of them also leads one of the groups of villains.

3 Henchmen Villains: Ghost Racers; Thor Corps; M.O.D.O.K.S.

14 Hero Sets: Proxima Midnight; Namor the Submariner; Apocalyptic Kitty Pryde; Thanos; Ultimate Spider-Man; Maximus; Lady Thor; Captain Marvel; Old Man Logan; Magic; Superior Iron Man; Black Bolt; Black Panther; Dr Strange.

All MasterMinds need a Scheme and there are 8 new ones in this boxed set. Schemes determine the setup for the adventure as well as explaining any additional rules, Special Twists, and How Evil wins.The aforementioned Twists are extraordinary additional rules that can affect all players, just the Heroes or just the MasterMind. If a Scheme has several Twists then each of these is usually explained separately. Ensure you read the Scheme card and fully understand it.

Twists are basic cards that are added to the Villain Deck and when they are drawn they activate the specific rules on the Scheme cards - each Twist card is the same (but each Twist isn't always the same - it depends on the Scheme) - place them aside when they come up so you can keep count as Twists on Scheme cards come into play according to how many are drawn. Twist cards are not found in the Secret War volume 1 expansion.

The Schemes in SECRET WARS vol.1 have 10 Twists;8 Twists; 8 Twists; 2 Twists per player; 8 Twists; 8 Twists; 5 Twists and 9 Twists.


It is these Schemes that really set MARVEL LEGENDARY apart from other Deck Building games. Each DBG has its own special Goals and aims but Legendary's Schemes change, alter and yes, twist, every game so that each session remains as constantly replayable, fluctuating and changing adventures. As far as the other games of this genre that I have played goes, and I have thoroughly enjoyed playing them, but they are mainly fantasy or sci-fi based, so the fact that this is about Super-Heroes, MasterMinds and Super-Villains is simply the icing on the cake.Knowledge of the MARVEL Universe is not actually required as knowing who is who doesn't really aid you except that it may make you play cards differently from those without the full understanding of the pecking order, but then anyone with no interest in the Marvel Universe is unlikely to purchase the game anyway - this is where some of the other LEGENDARY sets can bring new players into the game for they, as I understand it, play using the same (similar) basic system and thus if Marvel isn't your thing then perhaps Predator or Aliens are. Legendary is flexible.

Back in SECRET WARS; a couple of the Villain groups, the Thor Corps and the Ultimates, can be persuaded to become Heroes when you fight them and turning these to your side can, no guarantee, turn the war your way too. Some villain cards can (sort of) resurrect if they have the Rise of the Living Dead status and are drawn from the top of your victory stack. Other cards now have multi-class symbols so that Strength can be conducive to Range; having these cards in your deck is a great way to enhance your powers.

There are two new factions bring new conflict and more thought into the play and are a main ingredient in this boxed expansion's title - SECRET WARS.The CABAL and the ILLUMINATI; both of these contain geniuses of one mentality or another, there's a fine line between hero and evil at times. Namor and Thanos are strong, charismatic examples of the Cabal, with Dr Strange and Black Panther being enthralling members of Illuminati.


It isn't just the illustrations on the cards that impress me, though they are excellent and leave the players in no doubt as to whom the Hero or Villain, Sidekick or Henchman are, it's the effects that the cards have that so readily depict the character for whom they are advantageous. They contain fairly simple instructions but they are simple instructions that you can envisage the specific character employing. I have yet to play a card for an effect and though to myself that the effect is good for me but this character wouldn't really do that, the cards, apart from generic actions, are tailor made to fit both the character and the MARVEL world.


SECRET WARS is devised as a cooperative game with the super-hero players in a timed (by cards not by clock) race to defeat the MasterMind's scheme but it can also be reversed so that the players are super-villains or MasterMinds set against the game mechanic of the Heroes, and let's face it in most cases the villains and MasterMinds have by far the more cooler powers and abilities which makes them a lot more fun to play. There is a third option though (actually there is a fourth, playing solo but I have to admit although it is a good way to learn the game and the cards it isn't really that enjoyable without friends) and that is to play against one or more of your friends. In this game the friend (or yourself) are the MasterMind and the other player/s are the Heroes. This is an option brings the new Ambition cards into play, though sometimes they tend to get in the way of the player's own thoughts while other times aiding or enhancing or augmenting them, thus putting the game somewhat on par with many other TCGs because you are now facing human opponents and not a specific game mechanic, thus bluff, over-thinking and doubt become either your friends or your enemies. Don't try this option until you are happy that you all know the base game but once you do it is actually possibly the best way to play, especially one on one (which can be rather tough for the Hero).


SECRET WARS is the only expansion I have played to date so I cannot make comment on the other additions other than the earlier brief mention to make you aware of them. A quick flip around the internet's most successful search engine, Google, will bring you up to date on what is available though it is also advisable to visit your local game store. Comparibly the games and expansions are reasonably priced especially when you consider the licensing and copyrights etc but if you are going to buy online read every word of the deal carefully as I have noticed a few unscrupulous sellers (not true retailers) who are pricing the games to grab your attention and slipping enormous postage costs in under the radar (eBay and Amazon are particularly guilty of allowing this). I'm not going to make a list of prices here as they do vary quite elastically, but I would say again to look to your local retailer as that should guarantee a safe purchase. Also despite the Guardians of the Galaxy set which has obvious movie connections you shouldn't think of the films when playing Legendary Secret Wars as it doesn't continue along any movie theme lines.


Seek out your Local Game Store and discover which LEGENDARY set suits you.







© Chris Baylis 2011-2021