Legendary Encounters: Alien Deck Building Game, by Upper Deck, is a co-operative deck builder where all players start with a core deck that is identical save for their own specific character card that provides a special ability.
Players deal out a hand from their deck and use the cards in their hand to either fight an ongoing stream of alien characters or recruit stronger character cards to their deck, or both. Cards have either recruit or attack points and may also have additional actions that are used when they are played. Players can combine cards together from their hand to recruit (pick from a choice of character cards from the barracks or an unknown sergeant from the face-down pile) or they can play cards from their hand using combined attack points to scan for, or attack alien cards.
During each turn, players work through four phases: drawing aliens card and moving aliens along the ship, playing cards from your hand, spending recruit points to buy new cards that increase the strength of your deck, scan or fight aliens and then clearing up. At the end of your turn, the aliens get their turn to attack you. Drawing strike cards from a deck you character receives damage, some of which can be healed although some strikes will stay with you until the end of the game.
All the action takes place on a neoprene playmat that is clearly labelled to help set-up and includes the instructions for each phase. As a team, you work together as you attempt to complete three objectives but beware each scenario contains hazards and events that can deal some real blows to your progress.
Legendary Encounters comes with 500 cards to allow you to play through the complete alien saga, or you can choose to mix and match characters, locations and objectives to create your own film script. Whichever you choose, be aware the aliens are hard to beat and as the rounds progress, so the strength and frequency of the alien attacks increase.
The game builds tension throughout and creates so many memorable moments lulling you into thinking you have got it all in the bag only for an alien onslaught to change the course of the game. Strategy is vital and recruiting characters with the same icons allows the chaining of cards together providing additional actions to your turn. Recruiting coordinate characters allows players to provide a card for teammates to use, increasing their ability to fight or recruit.
Players can draw Facehuggers and will need to work together to dispatch them before the inevitable infection and subsequent grisly death. Players can be eliminated when the number of strikes outweighs their health score. Unlike some co-op games, play continues until all players have been eliminated or the final objective completed. Eliminated players can access an alien deck and play on as the aliens.
The artwork is excellent, but gory and supports gameplay that holds true to the original saga scripts. Legendary Encounters Alien is brutal... but the mechanics and artwork are engaging. The strong theme creates an atmosphere that feels like you really are part of the crew, floating, alone and lost somewhere in space, fighting for your lives against a predatory species intent on our destruction.
In the words of Ash one of the main characters aboard that first flight:
"I can't lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathies."
Player Count: 1-5
Time: 30-60 Minutes