Legendary Encounters: Alien Deck Building Game

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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 …
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Awards

Dice Tower

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Tense and immersive.
  • Endlessly challenging.
  • Well-themed.
  • A great neoprene play mat.

Might Not Like

  • Cards really need to be sleeved.
  • Card sorting is time consuming.
  • Artwork could be a little better.
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Description

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 Age: 17+

The movie Alien was all about silence. Aliens was all about noise. Alien 3 was all about mumpy skinheads. And Alien Resurrection had cool, swimming Aliens. We don’t talk about anything ‘after-but-before’ because sadness ensues…

In 2014, Upper Deck, with a 20th Century Fox licence attached, released ‘Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck building game’. They couldn’t take my money fast enough. Just the box art alone, with its evocative, radar-green image of a hatching egg, opened my wallet like an Alien egg pod.

But can a deck building board game ever evoke the atmosphere, tension and outright creeping panic of a franchise like Alien?

Read on… we’re on an express elevator to hell, going down!

Components — “It’s very pretty, Bishop, but what are we looking for? 

The box is a beautiful, shiny thing, weighing in at 2.2kilos, and as you might expect from a deck builder, the box has cards, cards, and more cards...... 600 to be precise!! The backs have the ‘Legendary’ logo emblazoned across the middle but the cards are blue, which I thought was a little at odds with the green branding of the box and play mat.

Ultra Pro Matte Green card-sleeves (63.5mm x 88mm) soothed the unease. The cards are decent stock, but I can see that after a lot of shuffling, which is a large part of any deck building game, they might show wear… though not when dressed in their smart green combat jackets they won’t. No Sir!

The art on the cards is good, but not outstanding - you’ll find most of the main movie characters and their likenesses, along with Aliens, of which their are too many to mention. The game would definitely not have the same appeal, nor be as engaging, if the art did not reference the movies and characters.

There is no board in the game-board; it is a heavy neoprene thing of beauty. It unrolls with a satisfying slap onto your game table. The images and words, familiar if you know the movies, are all strangely… dare I say it… Alien - Ventilation Shafts; the Hatchery; the Hive; and Strikes! Oh dear god, Strikes!

And that’s it for components. Upper Deck has given some thought to the box layout, which is divided into three sections. The play mat rolls up and sits in the middle while the cards sit on either side, and they also had the foresight to supply square foam inserts to separate different card types from each other and believe me, this is a real time saver when you remember that the card backs, sleeved or un-sleeved, are all the same colour.

Set-Up —“Jonesy… here Jonesy!"

Once you’ve separated the cards into their correct piles, setup is quite straightforward. Each player has an Avatar card, whose sole purpose it to help track your character’s health-points.

Each player receives the same starting hand of 12 cards, along with their own character card (the same character as shown on their Avatar card). You will need to position the following decks, face down, on the play mat:

  • The Scenario Location.
  • The Hive Deck — This deck contains the main Alien threats in the game, along with the crew’s objectives for the chosen scenario. This deck of Aliens and objectives is seeded in such a way that objective-1 is in the top third of the deck, objective-2 in the middle, and objective-3 in the bottom third.
  • The Strike Deck — Only bad things happen here!
  • The Barracks Deck — Recruit crew members here. Populate the HQ with the top five cards of the Barracks, face up, and they offer specific skills or abilities that will (hopefully) delay your character’s decline during the game.

Gameplay —“They mostly come out at night, mostly.

You begin your turn and immediately a card from the Hive Deck advances, face down into the Complex, which has six spaces to fill. These cards move inexorably towards the Combat Zone where, revealed or not, they turn over and you need to kill them or face the Strike Deck. Oh dear god, the Strike deck!

The two currencies in the game are Recruit and Attack points. You shuffle your starting hand of 13 cards then deal yourself six. A card will either have Recruit OR Attack points listed on it, but never both.

Recruit points allow you to ‘buy’ characters from the HQ. As soon as you take a card, the top card of the Barracks deck fills the vacated space. Attack points allow you to do one of two things:

  1. Pay the cost to reveal (flip) a card in the Complex.
  2. Pay the cost to kill an already-revealed Alien in the Complex or Combat Zone.

You can do any of the above with enough Recruit and Attack points on the cards in your hand. When you have played all the cards that you can or want to, all of those cards (including unspent ones), along with any newly recruited characters, go into your Discard pile.

You draw six fresh cards from your remaining hand, play passes to the next player, any cards in the Complex move one area to the left, and the next card in the Hive joins the Complex.

When all of your cards are in your discard pile, or you need to draw a card and there are none, you shuffle the discard pile and deal those to create your next hand. This is when those new recruits appear, boosting your next recruitment drive or attack.

To win, players must resolve or complete the objectives seeded in the Hive deck before their life-points drop to zero.

Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
— “This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off."

Be under no illusions - Legendary Encounters: An Alien deck building Game is brutal. I have played it a lot and I still haven’t survived long enough to complete any final objective.

BUT it is also a brilliant game. From the beginning there is tension. The creep of cards in the Complex, seen or unseen, makes the whole game experience immersive. You become Pavlovian in your anticipation of how bad the next bad thing will be, and it is usually pretty bad.

You can play through each of the four movies, or you can mix-and-match characters, scenarios, locations, and objectives for a hybrid experience, though I would definitely recommend working your way through each ‘movie’ first, as I think this will give you the best experience with the game.

If you play solo, it is advisable to control two or more characters. Otherwise, the swarm of bad stuff will overwhelm you very, very early in the game. And there is so much more: Co-ordination, Character classes and Sergeants to name three, but they all add new layers of depth to an already great game.

If you like Aliens: Buy it - if you like Deck builders: Buy it

“I can’t lie to you about your chances… but you have my sympathies.”

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Tense and immersive.
  • Endlessly challenging.
  • Well-themed.
  • A great neoprene play mat.

Might not like

  • Cards really need to be sleeved.
  • Card sorting is time consuming.
  • Artwork could be a little better.