As a tie-in to the Guardians of the Galaxy film of 2014, Upper Deck introduced the third “small box” expansion for Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game (the game’s fourth expansion overall, following Dark City, Fantastic Four, and Paint the Town Red), themed after the titular team of cosmically-inclined heroes. While the previous expansions increased the cast of characters and added new objectives and keywords, the Guardians of the Galaxy set went a step farther by expanding the gameplay mechanics, most prominently with the Shards feature.
What’s in this set – 5 heroes in one new team, 2 Masterminds, 4 Schemes, 2 Villain Groups, and 18 Shard tokens.
New Keywords – Guardians of the Galaxy adds only one true keyword, but also includes a new game mechanic referred to as Shards.
- Shards – Represented by coin-sized cardboard tokens, each displaying a colored gem (the color is just for art purposes), Shards are firmly woven into this expansion, as Heroes, Villains, Masterminds, and Schemes all make use of them. If a player gains a Shard, he can spend it (returning it to the supply) to get +1 Attack. You may spend Shards on any turn, including the turn you acquired them, or you may stockpile them for future use. Since Shards provide Attack Points on their own, you can attack an enemy using only Shards, provided you accumulate enough of them. Villains and Masterminds can also gain Shards: a Villain or Mastermind gets +1 Attack for each Shard in his possession. If a player defeats a Villain or Mastermind who has Shards, then the player gets to keep one of them, and returns the rest to the supply. Similarly, if a Villain escapes with Shards, the Mastermind gains one, and the rest return to the supply. If the supply of Shards ever runs out, no player, Villain, or Mastermind can gain one until Shards are returned to the supply.
- Artifact – This keyword appears on some of the hero cards in this set and on the Infinity Gems Villain Group. When you gain a card marked as an Artifact, add it to your discard pile as you would any other hero. The first time you play that card, however, it remains in play as a permanent benefit for you. These benefits may be something like, “Once per turn, get +1 Attack,” or “Once per turn, draw a card.” Note that you only play an Artifact once, even though you get the effects on turns after the initial play, so if an effect counts the cards you have or cards you’ve played this turn, Artifacts only count when you put them out, and never again. This also means that you can only use the class and team of an Artifact to activate superpowers on the turn you played it, and never again. On the other hand, if an effect requires you to reveal a card of a particular team, class, cost, or whatever, you can point to your Artifact to satisfy the condition. Also, your active Artifacts are protected from all negative effects, since they are neither in your hand nor played on subsequent turns.
New Masterminds –
- Supreme Intelligence of the Kree – An 8 or 9 Attack seems to be the moderate value for Masterminds, with anything higher being “hard,” and anything lower being “easy.” The Supreme Intelligence is only deceptively “moderate,” as both his Master Strike and his accompanying Villain Group, the Kree Starforce*, allow him to collect Shards, and then penalize the players for the accumulation. Typically, the Supreme Intelligence builds up a nice supply of Shards while players build their decks early in the game, making the first hit on the Mastermind the toughest. Once over that hump the battle becomes easier, if the Mastermind hasn’t nearly completed his Scheme, that is.
*The strongest villain in the Kree Starforce, Ronan the Accuser, has the most amusing Ambush effect in the game: every player must accuse another player! Who cares if one or more players have to gain Wounds? Watching everyone point fingers at someone else (or themselves) is hilarious!
- Thanos – One of the biggest, baddest villains of the Marvel universe enters the Legendary world, fittingly as one of the biggest, baddest Masterminds in the game, joining Apocalypse and Galactus in Legendary’s exclusive
Mastermind elite. His massive 24 Attack ranks as the highest attack value of any Mastermind in the game. Fortunately, players can reduce it, but they have to go through Thanos’s Villain Group, the Infinity Gems, to do so. The Infinity Gems, once defeated, count as Artifacts and go into your discard pile instead of your victory pile. Once you play a Gem (“controlling” it), Thanos loses 2 Attack. This means that if the players are able to capture all eight of the Infinity Gem cards, Thanos would drop to a moderate attack value of 8! That is a very difficult feat, however, since the Infinity Gems have Ambush effects that give them Shards (yes, usually plural), and their initial attack value is already on the upper end for a Villain Group. Unlike his fellow elite, Thanos doesn’t have a way to win outright (proof that there is a God, right there!), but he does have an obligatory rage-inducing Master Strike, which permanently removes a valuable hero card from every player’s hand.
Forge the Infinity Gauntlet (Scheme) – I haven’t made a habit of discussing specific Schemes in these reviews, but this one deserves special mention because of an unique failure condition, which influenced game mechanics in a future expansion. In addition to a standard “Evil Wins” ending, this Scheme has a second possibility, in which one player can win, at the expense of all other players. This Scheme always requires the Infinity Gems group, and if a single player captures and controls four of the Gems, he is “corrupted by power. That player wins, Evil wins, and all other players lose!”
New Heroes – All five of the new heroes belong to the Guardians of the Galaxy affiliation. If you’ve seen the movie, the five heroes in that are the ones you’ll see here. They all make use of Shards, and, with the exception of Groot, they all have Artifacts.
Drax the Destroyer – There’s no real system to building a Drax deck; just get the most powerful attack cards you can, giving Instincts heroes a higher priority, and go from there. One of Drax’s commons helps you make your next hand more powerful by discarding unnecessary or unwanted cards from the top of your deck, and will even let you KO those cards if you activate an Instincts superpower. Drax’s true strength, however, comes from his other common, an Artifact that grants 1 Attack every turn. Imagine picking up two or three of those cards, and knowing that you are capable of fighting at least a low-ranking villain every turn! Drax’s rare does one thing and one thing only, but it will likely be the most coveted card in the HQ when it comes up, because it doubles your total Attack Points! Shards, Artifacts, normal Attack Points: all of it times two and ready to destroy!
Gamora – While all the Guardians make ample use of Shards, Gamora is build completely around them. Her first common delivers modest Recruit for low cost, but supplies a villain of your choice with a Shard. This may be a bad thing early in the game, by making easy villains harder to hit or tough villains even more so, but Gamora’s uncommon gives you a way around it, by allowing you to ignore all of a villain’s Shards, thus reducing him to his starting difficulty. And, of course, you get to take one of the villain’s Shards when you defeat him, so you get to rearm for future attacks. Gamora’s rare is her only Artifact, and it grants you two abilities that you can use once per turn. First, you gain two Shards, and second, you may spend five Shards to get +10 Attack, twice the normal value for Shards. Gamora’s second common comes in handy for this, because with an easily-activated superpower, each one can grant up to three Shards! “Deadliest woman in the universe?” Several of Legendary’s superheroines can contest that title, but Gamora is definitely in the running.
Groot – Everyone’s favorite space-ent focuses on utility, and provides the most versatility of all the Guardians. His commons let you draw extra cards on your next turn and trim weaker cards from your deck, the latter making the former far more valuable over time. Groot’s uncommon seems almost overpowered for a cost of 4, as it not only supplies two Shards (already more valuable than normal Attack, since they can be stockpiled), but allows you to spent any number of Shards to gain Recruit Points instead of Attack. Additionally, the uncommon also has a superpower that gives a Shard to another player, reminiscent of Hawkeye’s “Team Player” card. Groot’s rare has a double effect, giving 5 Recruit up front and then encouraging you to spend those points on the highest-cost hero available by granting you Shards equal to the cost of the next hero you recruit, which means anywhere from one to nine Shards, depending on what heroes are available.
Rocket Raccoon – If Rocket’s uncommon remained unchanged, but every single one of his other care was complete and utter garbage, he would still be a worthwhile addition to any Hero Deck. His uncommon is just that good. It’s an Artifact that grants its wielder a Shard every time a Master Strike or a villain’s Ambush effect occurs. This means that you can get Shards on other player’s turns, and sometimes multiple per turn. During one game when I controlled this Artifact, between one of my turns and my next play, I gained a whopping twelve Shards! Twelve Attacks Points just for sitting there! Imagine if I had two of the uncommons at that time… In addition to his amazing uncommon, Rocket has one common that lets you discard a card and draw a replacement, and another that grants Shards for each other Guardian card you played this turn. His rare is modest as far as rares go, granting 5 Attack up front, with a Tech-activated superpower that gets stronger for each Master Strike that has been occurred (which hopefully gave you Shards because of that uncommon!).
Star-Lord – What Shards were for Gamora, Artifacts are for Star-Lord. Nine of his fourteen cards are Artifacts, and the remaining five grant the ability to copy any Artifact that you or another player controls. Interestingly, none of Star-Lord’s cards directly provides Attack Points, although one of his commons and his rare – both Artifacts – supply Shards every turn. From the rare you gain as many Shards as Artifacts you control, so if you want to get the most out of Star-Lord, stock up on Artifacts! On the down side, Star-Lord is easily one of Legendary’s highest-cost heroes, as his least expensive cards have a cost of 4. But it works out to a good bargain, due to the reliable power of Artifacts. And you can, of course, recruit other Guardians’ Artifacts to supplement Star-Lord’s, although Drax is the only Guardian with an Artifact that costs less than 4, and Groot has no Artifacts. Recruiting more traditional cards is still a viable option with Star-Lord, however, as his uncommon Artifact allows you to draw extra cards every turn.
Guardians of the Galaxy paved the way for the addition of new game mechanics beyond keywords, making it the most influential and important expansion during its time. Some of the concepts introduced here became full-fledged mechanics in Legendary’s following expansion. Next stop: Secret Wars – Volume 1!