Legendary Encounters: An ALIEN Deck Building Game (I’m just going to call it Aliens from here) is part of the Legendary series of DBG’s from Upper Deck. It’s themed after the Aliens movies.
The game is semi compatible with other Legendary games, Marvel & Villains. There are rules to modify the games to work together. I don’t know how well that would work out thematically but comic universes have been known to cross with good results before.
It is as the name says a deck building game. For a description of what that is, check the Glossary.
For the TL;DR version of the review you can jump straight to the conclusion.
Opening the Box
The specs on the box:
- 1-5 Players
- Ages 17+ (it’s not a complex game, rather it has a mature and graphic theme)
- 30 – 60 min
In the box we have 600 cards some dividers to keep the different decks separated, a rule book and a really big (and pretty) playmat.
I have to say that opening the game for the first time is a chore. The cards come in shrink wrapped blocks that are setup in no logical order, so you have to sort through all 600 of them to split them into their correct decks. You do this by reading some insanely tiny writing on the bottom or near the top of the cards, the location is dependent on what type of card it is.
The dividers don’t really help that much either as they are blank, generic dividers so you have to label them yourself.
I have bought myself a label making machine last year. Hand writing labels for the kids school books and stationery every year was getting to me (2 kids in primary school have a bucket load of pencils and pens between them). Then we still had to cut the labels to size and stick them. The label maker does everything but apply the labels. I’m considering using the smallest label size available and printing out labels to stick on the cards and then sleeve them so that the labels don’t catch when shuffling the cards.
I just need to save up a bit to buy 600 sleeves…
Setup is not a problem, if the cards are sorted correctly, but during gameplay they get mixed fairly well so packing away becomes a bit of a pain. The labels will make it a lot easier to sort through especially at night.
This game is positively dripping with theme. The artwork, the quotes from the movies, the characters and the playmat are all very well done. If you’re a fan of the franchise this should be something nice to have on your shelf.
Playing the game also puts me in mind of the movies. It’s like the humans are fighting a losing battle against a superior enemy from the word go. Allies are being picked off one by one and you have nothing but some quick thinking to prevent you from becoming lunch.
This game is hard, unless you can plan and play off of each other well, it’s very hard. Then there’s 4 ways to adjust the difficulty, making it easier or even more difficult. We usually play with the difficulty cranked up. It just adds something, we don’t mind having a loss ‘cos we usually had some great plays in the game and the wins become all the more sweeter.
The rules are easy to understand and learn, the summary on the back of the book is handy. We only had to reference the exact rules when we had multiple things happening at the same time and needed to figure out what would happen. These were few and far between.
The game has 4 pre-set scenarios, 1 for each of the movies as well as rules for making random scenarios and how to make up your own. There are also lots of space in the box for more cards and with the Prometheus series of movies I expect an expansion or 2. I would love an AvP expansion.
Setup is not difficult, you select a location card for the scenario. Then select your 3 objectives from the pool of Level 1,2 & 3 objectives. Then you build a Hive deck for each objective, using the cards that you separated earlier.
This represents the board or enemy.
Next you select the characters that you want to use in the scenario and make a barracks deck full of the selected characters for you to play with. Then each player is assigned a role, which has an avatar and an action card. The Avatar tells you your job title along with Armour (you can attack other players) and starting Health Points. Your action card is a card unique to your role that allows you to do something special in game ie the Medic can heal someone while the Scout can go looking for aliens for free.
Then you try to stay alive, while attempting to complete the 3 objectives needed for victory.
The game plays easily enough, you start by moving an alien into the Complex which is a series of rooms in your current location. As the aliens fill up the Complex they eventually break out into the Combat Zone to try to attack you.
You then get a chance to play cards from your hand which will allow you to perform actions like scanning the Ventilation Shafts to see what is moving in there, attacking an alien that you have already found in the medlabs or draw more cards. You generate recruitment points which you use to buy new, more powerful cards to add to your deck.
Then any aliens in the Combat Zone get to strike at you. If you’re still alive you discard all your cards and draw a new hand of six.
The game adds an element of team work, mechanically, with cards that you can play during other players turn to assist them and also by allowing you to communicate and plan like regular co-op games. This can sometimes lead to ‘Quarterbacking‘, which is a risk with any co-op game, however the use of the optional Hidden Agendas rule will avoid that.
A player selected at random could be working for the company. His goal is to make sure all the other players die and then he needs to call in a rescue team to fetch him and a sample alien to take back to the company. You will only find out who this is during the course of the game, kind of like Battlestar Galatica.
Trust goes out of the window. It’s really bad when the medic is the bad guy, really really bad! You still have to co-operate though, purely because it will be in your best interest to side with the meat-bag standing next to you just so you can kill the thing that’s lurking in the corner!
Overall I really enjoy and recommend the game. It’s tactical, tense (just like the movies) and the game can change at the drop of a hat. Plus it’s crazy when you find a chest buster ripping through your ribcage, killing you and you get to come back as an Alien!
I won’t let the kids play as it is rather graphic but it is one of my favourite games from 2014. I even enjoyed the solo play which is something that usually feels tacked on.
Can I play this at a braai?
I will have to say no. 600 cards is a lot to cart around and the playmat takes up a lot of space. While the game can be played within the time specified on the box, if you don’t know the cards in play or what to expect then the games can reach the 2 hour mark and for that you’d rather prep a table and sit down and enjoy yourself without distractions.