In the latter half of 2015, Marvel Comics ran a major series of stories affecting their entire superhero universe. It involved the various parallel dimensions and alternate universes colliding: two universes go in, only one comes out! Two teams – the genius-intellect heroes of the Illuminati, and the villainous Cabal – sprang into action to determine the cause of this crisis and how to stop it. This situation was known as the Secret Wars. Upper Deck decided to release a Legendary expansion to tie in to this comic
event while the story was current. However, the expansion had so much in it, that Upper Deck had to split it into two “big box” sets with 350 cards in each set.
Secret Wars Volume 1, which hit shelves in the summer of 2015, added far more to the game than any of the past expansions ever did. Such things as heroes with multiple class icons, recruitable “villain” groups, multiple Masterminds, the ability for one player to play as the Mastermind, and even a new stack of recruitable heroes called “Sidekicks” appear in this set, opening up a wealth of customization options and new ways to play the game!
Here are some handy links to previous sets if you need to catch up or refresh:
What’s in this set – 14 heroes with two new teams, 4 Masterminds, 8 Schemes, 6 Villain Groups and 3 Henchmen Villain Groups, 1 new type of Bystander, 15 Sidekick cards, and 30 Ambition cards.
New Gameplay Features –
- Multiclass – There are five class icons, each with its own color, and most hero cards have one such icon, allowing the player to string together powerful combos. Secret Wars: Volume 1 introduced hero cards that, instead of one class, possess two classes. This makes such heroes more useful, since each class icon can be employed to activate two different superpowers, or to activate a critical strike superpower with a single card, rather than two. However, this can also create greater competition among players to recruit these heroes, because that card’s Covert class benefits my deck, but it also benefits your deck because it’s multiclassed in Tech. It’s a great new feature, enhancing theme as well as gameplay. For instance, previously a hero’s powerful beam weapon would either have been a Strength or Range class, but now it can be both.
- Recruitable Villains – The concept of adding villains to your deck after you defeat them has technically existed in Legendary since its first expansion, Dark City, in the form of Professor X’s rare card, which “mind-controlled” any villains defeated with that card in play and added them to your discard pile. The feature was revived in Guardians of the Galaxy with the Infinity Gems villain group, which became Artifacts under your control. Secret Wars completed the concept, by introducing villain groups with full hero attributes, such as class, team, and even superpowers. Now, while these villains become heroes in your deck, the downside is that they do not go into your Victory Pile, nor provide Victory Points. Overall, not a major con, but it can affect some cards (Blade’s rare, for instance, which grants +1 Attack for each villain in your Victory Pile).
- Multiple Masterminds – Sometimes supervillains in comics and movies team up to accomplish their grand schemes, and now they can do so in Legendary, too. Some villains from various villain groups have Escape effects that allow them to “ascend” to become new Masterminds, fighting alongside all other Masterminds in play (some
Schemes can do this, too). If this happens, the game changes in two ways. (1) You have to defeat all Masterminds in order to win. You can completely beat the original Mastermind, but if an ascended one is still in play, then the game goes on, and the players can still lose. (2) Whenever a Master Strike occurs, apply the Strikes of all Masterminds. You get to choose the order in which the Master Strikes happen,
but that’s small consolation when you’re getting smacked two or three times in the face!
- Sidekicks – Prior to Secret Wars, players could recruit from a pool of five heroes in the HQ or from the S.H.I.E.L.D. Officer stack. With Sidekicks, players have a low-cost yet very useful option. Sidekicks, like starter S.H.I.E.L.D. heroes and Officers, are “grey heroes,” meaning that they do not have a hero class. They also are not affiliated with any team. When played, a Sidekick allows you to draw two cards – one to replace it, and one extra – before returning immediately to the Sidekick stack. They cost 2 Recruit to add to your discard pile, but you are only allowed to recruit one per turn. You can acquire an indefinite number per turn, however, if you get them from other sources, such as hero cards. Sidekicks are always a worthwhile investment regardless of your deck build or how early or late in the game it is, because they simply give you extra cards. So, if you have 2 leftover Recruit Points, grab a Sidekick; there’s no reason not to! Also, with the addition of Sidekicks, each player is now guaranteed the ability to recruit a hero on his first turn, since the starter hero combinations will always provide at least 2 Recruit Points. This is a huge improvement, as previously players might have to pass on their first turn if they had bad luck with heroes in the HQ.
- New Bystander: “Banker” – Dark City added special Bystanders to the Bystander
stack, which granted benefits when rescued. Secret Wars continues that tradition with the addition of the Banker. When you rescue the Banker, you get +2 Recruit Points, but only useable towards the hero beneath the Bank city space. A situational bonus that often isn’t useful, but can have enormous impact if the hero you want happens to be beneath the Bank, and those 2 Recruit Points give you enough to grab him.
Playing as the Mastermind – Guardians of the Galaxy included a Scheme with a
competitive component, making it possible for a single player to win at the expense of
everyone else. Secret Wars took that concept and expanded it into an alternate game mode. One player can take on the role of the Mastermind, attempting to foil the heroes in order to bring the Scheme to completion. To simulate this, the Mastermind player gets a special deck, comprised of new Ambition cards. At the start of the Mastermind player’s turn, he draws one of these Ambition cards instead of drawing a card from the Villain Deck, and places the Ambition card in a row in front of him. These cards have an Attack value, more or less depending on how powerful the card is; if the Mastermind player spends enough Attack, he can activate any of the Ambition cards effects, which will hurt the heroic players in some way. After an Ambition is used, it is immediately discarded.
In most other ways, the Mastermind player operates like the other players, recruiting as normal, able to attack villains as normal, and affected by Scheme Twists, hero cards, and Fight effects like normal. However, he is immune to Ambush, Escape, and Master Strike effects, and does not discard if a villain escapes with a Bystander. The Mastermind player wins the game if the Scheme conditions are met, and loses if the heroic players defeat the Mastermind.
(The full list of setup and gameplay rules for this game mode are included with the Secret Wars: Volume 1 rules sheet.)
New Keywords –
- Rise of the Living Dead – A nasty mechanic that makes the order of the cards in your Victory Pile relevant. Rise of the Living Dead is a special Ambush ability. When you draw a villain from the Villain Deck with this keyword, check the top card of every player’s Victory Pile. If any of those cards also have this keyword, they reenter the city! And, of course, since they also have Rise of the Living Dead, you must check the top cards again, and repeat if any other villains return to the city this way. This can lead to some nasty chains, where an empty city results in escaped villains in a single turn. It’s just like the living dead to travel in hordes, isn’t it? Fortunately, you can bury the dead with other villains or Bystanders, and should aim to do so as quickly as possible! Oh, and unless you’re a masochist, only play with one Rise of the Living Dead villain group at a time, or you will have zombies munching on your brains!
- Cross-Dimensional Rampage – This keyword represents the various versions of certain characters crossing over into other dimensions. The only way to counter them is with another… well, them! You will always see this keyword with a specific name attached, such as “Cross-Dimensional Wolverine Rampage.” If a Cross-Dimensional Rampage occurs, each player must reveal a version of the character in his hand or victory pile; any player who cannot (or chooses not to), gains a wound. Any card whose name includes the character’s name, or any alternate version of the character (Weapon X or Logan for Wolverine, Maestro for Hulk, etc.), will fulfill the requirement of the Rampage. So, if you’re fortunate enough to defeat an appropriate villain, you will be immune to Rampages by that character for the rest of the game, although you would still be vulnerable to Rampages by another character. In Secret Wars: Volume 1, Wolverine, Hulk, and Thor are the only characters with Cross-Dimensional Rampages.
In addition to the new keywords, Teleport and Bribe return for the first time since their introduction in Dark City.
New Masterminds –
- Madelyne Pryor, Goblin Queen – Any Bystander captured by Madelyne becomes both an attackable villain and a shield for the Mastermind. Madelyne cannot be attacked if she has any Bystanders, but players for spend 2 Attack to fight each of her Bystander puppets. Her Master Strike garners her more Bystanders, and gives players wounds if she had at least one Bystander when the Master Strike occurred. These human shields make Madelyne a tougher Mastermind than she looks at first glance. She leads the Limbo villain group.
- Nimrod, Super Sentinel – At a 6 Attack, Nimrod may be one of easiest Masterminds to hit, but you can’t attack him unless you also have 6 Recruit, forcing players to build balanced decks in order to fight him. His Master Strike helps protect him from attack by forcing players to give up all their Attack cards or their Recruit cards, but the Strike can be countered by Tech heroes. He leads the Sentinel Territories villain group.
- Wasteland Hulk – Like an old school video game boss, Wasteland Hulk gets tougher every time he gets hit. For each of his Tactics in players’ Victory Piles, he gains +3 Attack. So, the first hit might be an easy 7 Attack, but the next will be a 10, then a 13, and the final hit will be a 16. His Master Strike is a simple “Cross-Dimensional Hulk Rampage,” and he leads the Wasteland villain group.
- Zombie Green Goblin – The toughest Mastermind in this set, Zombie Green Goblin’s Master Strike has three effects. First, he activates a Rise of the Living Dead. Then, he KOs all cards in the HQ that cost 7 or more (all the rares, in other words). Finally, for each hero card that costs 7 or more in the KO pile, each player must discard a card. Yikes. Zombie Green Goblin also starts at 11 Attack, and gets +1 for every hero in the KO that costs 7 or more. He leads The Deadlands villain group.
New Villain Groups –
Secret Wars: Volume 1 contains six villain groups:
- Domain of Apocalypse – A higher-difficulty group that combines beneficial Fight effects with deadly Escape effects, including one ascending Mastermind.
- Limbo – An easier group, half of which grant special uses of Teleport when you fight them, and the other half involve capturing Bystanders.
- Manhattan (Earth 1610) – A group of Ultimate Avengers, all the characters in this group are recruited when defeated. On the lower end of the scale, we have Captain Mar’Vell and Wasp, the only playable versions of those heroes in Legendary at this point. The stronger characters in the group are Captain America and Thor, the latter of which initiates a Cross-Dimensional Thor Rampage if he escapes. All of the characters count as Avenger heroes when added to your deck.
- Sentinel Territories – A mid-level group that “alters the future” when defeated, granting some benefit to the next player when he starts his turn.
- The Deadlands – This group contains eight unique villains, rather than having multiples of some like most groups. Due to this, The Deadlands spans the greatest range of difficulty, from a 4 Attack up to a 9. All of the villains sport Rise of the Living Dead, and half of the group can ascend to become new Masterminds!
- Wasteland – Mostly a mid-difficulty group, but with one 11 Attack ascending Mastermind. That ascending Mastermind is the only villain with the Bribe keyword in Secret Wars: Volume 1.
The set also contains three new henchmen groups:
- Ghost Racers – One of the game’s most difficult henchmen groups, the Ghost Racers have both Rise of the Living Dead and a Fight effect that forces you to KO a hero with Attack Points.
- M.O.D.O.K.s. – This group’s Fight effect KOs a hero either in your discard pile or in the HQ, and grants you a 1 Recruit if the hero you KO had a Recruit icon.
- Thor Corps – Recruitable when defeated, the Thor Corps are multiclassed (Strength-Range) Avengers heroes who provide 2 Recruit, plus an additional 1 Recruit if you activate their critical strike superpower.
Build an Army of Annihilation (Scheme) – The setup rules for this Scheme state,
“Put 10 Annihilation Wave Henchmen in the KO pile.” This wouldn’t be at all noteworthy except for one thing: there is no Annihilation Wave henchmen group, either in this set or any other! In all likelihood, Upper Deck originally intended to include the group, but eventually scrapped them prior to release, and then forgot to change the setup text. The Scheme is not useless, however, as you can take any henchmen group and designate them your “Annihilation Wave” for that game session. Ironically, this makes it a better Scheme that it would likely have been, as you can increase or decrease the difficulty by using a harder or easier henchmen group.
New Heroes – This set introduces two new teams with four heroes/characters in each: the Illuminati and the villainous Cabal. The X-Men gain three more members as well, and the Avengers add two to their roster. Finally, Spiderman and his Spider Friends gain an ally from an alternate dimension.
Black Bolt – The leader of the Inhumans relies on cards without rules text for most of his abilities. “Rules text” refers to such things as superpowers or special mechanics listed in the box at the bottom of a hero card. The vast majority of hero cards have rules text, so if you build to Black Bolt you have only a handful of options: a Black Bolt common, a Proxima Midnight common, S.H.I.E.L.D. Officers, and starter S.H.I.E.L.D. heroes. That’s right, in order to get the most out of Black Bolt, you’ll want to keep your S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents and Troopers around! His primary power comes in his uncommon and rare. The uncommon provides 4 Attack, then copies the Attack and Recruit of a card with no rules text you already played. His rare, on the other hand, aims for quantity over quality, by letting you draw as many cards as heroes with no rules text you’ve played. If you’ve built a deck specifically around Black Bolt, then that rare should draw a lot of cards for you! A solid Legendary hero, provided you commit to his mechanics.
Black Panther – Every single one of Black Panther’s cards is multiclassed, with every single class represented except for Range. This makes him highly useful in a wide range of deck builds, but you can easily build around him if you rely on his second common, which gains bonus Attack for every double-classed card you play before it. His other cards provide utility abilities, the most significant being his rare, which gives you three Sidekicks every time it is played, and if you activate a team-based superpower, you can put those Sidekicks on top of your deck! With his ability to remain relevant no matter what other cards you bring in around him, Black Panther can serve as the backbone or the star of your deck.
Doctor Strange – The Sorcerer Supreme wields a superpower-heavy set, with all his cards but his rare possessing a superpower. His first common supplies his only Recruit Points, and as a multiclass of Instinct and Range, it can activate the class-based superpowers of his second common and his uncommon. The Range superpower on Strange’s second common gives you the choice of either drawing the top card of your deck or Teleporting it. His rare offers a similar option, but instead you get to look at three cards and decide which ones you want on this turn, and which ones you want to Teleport into next turn. This draw-or-Teleport system is a wonderful addition to any deck, since through it you can gain a quick boost now, or set up a future turn, depending on what cards you have available to you at the time.
Superior Iron Man – The base game version of Iron Man struck a balance between cards that let you draw more cards, and cards that provided Attack Points. Superior Iron Man blends that balance together a bit more. Instead of one common that attacks and another that draws cards, he has a common that grants Attack Points and lets you draw a card. It is also multiclassed in Tech and Range, perfect for activating the Tech superpower on Superior Iron Man’s other common, and simultaneously the Range superpower on his uncommon. The uncommon grants Recruit Points, something the original Iron Man does not provide at all, and the superpower lets you look at the top two cards of your deck, potentially drawing one if either of them has a higher cost than the other. Superior Iron Man’s rare encourages you to compete with the other players for Victory Pile totals, because it will draw extra cards for every player who has a smaller Victory Pile than you. Ultimately, the original Iron Man hero has the better set, as Superior Iron Man does not have a card of equivalent power to the original’s uncommon, although his commons are on par, if not better than the original’s.
Maximus – With his powers of mental domination, Maximus manipulates henchmen villains. His first common can defeat a henchman for free if you activate a superpower, and his uncommon puts that henchman back into the city in exchange for drawing a card. Rinse and repeat, if you can. Ideally, you’ll want to play his multiclassed uncommon first, sending a previously-defeated henchman from your Victory Pile into the city, then use the superpower on his second common to activate a benefit that will grant you a Sidekick every time you defeat a villain for the rest of your turn. Then, play the first common to insta-kill the henchman you sent back, gaining a Sidekick because of that standing benefit. Maximus’s rare lets you steal henchmen from other players’ Victory Piles, in a process that counts as defeating them, so if that superpower from his second common is active, you can get multiple Sidekicks this way. Maximus’s mechanics are complex, involved, and certainly well designed, and yet he’s still rather forgettable as a Legendary character. He’s a villain; it’s understandable.
Namor – The Submariner’s uncommon is the key to his entire set, and a very, very good card. It’s multiclassed, provides 2 Attack, and, without needing to activate a superpower, lets you KO a card from your hand or discard pile and draw a card for doing so. Understandably, the card costs 6 to recruit, but it’s certainly worth it for the free KO feature, regardless of whether you are building to Namor or not. The uncommon’s two classes activate superpowers on both commons, gaining a Sidekick with one, and +2 Attack against the Mastermind or villains on the Bridge with the other. His rare is a thing of beauty, instantly killing a single villain when played. However, if you can activate a massive critical strike of two Strength and two Instinct classes, you can instantly defeat the Mastermind instead! Namor’s card won’t generate large amounts of Attack or Recruit on their own, but his insta-kills and ability to clean out your deck more than make up for it. If you supplement him with other heroes, stick to Strength and Instinct so that you can more easily activate his rare’s automatic-Mastermind-face-puncher.
Proxima Midnight – You won’t have to balance a tack hammer on your head in order to head off your foes with a balanced attack if you use Proxima Midnight. All of her cards have the potential to provide equal numbers of Attack and Recruit. It starts with her first common, which grants 1 Attack and 1 Recruit (and is also of interest to Black Bolt, as it has no rules text). This feeds her second common, which gains +2 Attack if the card you played immediately before it had an Attack icon, and +2 Recruit if it had a Recruit icon. Of course, if the previous card had both an Attack and a Recruit icon, then you would get both benefits. Her uncommon provides 3 Attack initially, and 3 Recruit through an Instincts superpower, which either common can activate. Finally, Proxima’s rare comes with 4 Attack and 4 Recruit, but doubles both benefits if you activate its Covert superpower, which is easily done if you have her first common or her uncommon. Powerful and balanced, Proxima pairs well with any hero cards that contain both Attack and Recruit icons, the Versatile heroes from Dark City being a good match.
Thanos – Yep, you can now play as Thanos. If you have the Guardians of the Galaxy expansion, you could fight Thanos with Thanos. If you use The Deadlands villain group, you could even fight Thanos and Zombie Thanos with Thanos! Now, if there’s one thing Thanos can’t stand, it’s those pesky Bystanders. So he kills them to get more power. Because he’s Thanos. His first common can KO a Bystander from the Bystander stack, and then gains bonus Recruit Points for every three Bystanders in the KO pile. The other common slays a Bystander in your Victory Pile, converting it into bonus Attack Points. His uncommon lets you steal Bystanders from other players, so that you can keep slaughtering Bystanders on the altar of Attack Points. His rare sticks a giant Infinity Gem-clad finger in the Bystanders’ faces, KOing six of them in one go. Then, you get to insta-kill any villain or Mastermind whose Attack is less than the number of Bystanders in the KO pile. If you haven’t killed any Bystanders by other means, then you can defeat a villain up to 5 Attack on your first play of the rare, an 11 Attack on the second play, and 17 by the third! Kill just one other helpless Bystander with another card, and by your fourth play of the rare, you can punch Thanos in the face with Thanos!
Apocalyptic Kitty Pryde – Sadly, not the main universe Kitty Pryde, who has yet to make an appearance in Legendary, but heck, it’s still a Kitty Pryde! She works best in a support or supplementary role, but her cards do have a loose synergy to them. Her first common manipulates the HQ, allowing you to place a hero in the HQ on the bottom of the Hero Deck, and replace it with a new one. This is an incredibly valuable ability, one shared with only one other hero: Professor X. The ability, although almost universally useful, is intended to support Kitty’s uncommon, which gains +1 Attack for every Tech hero in the HQ. Her second common assists in purging unwanted cards from your deck, while her rare ranks as one of the single best defensive cards in the game. The rare gives you the ability to cancel any Fight effect, villain or Mastermind, by discarding the card. If you do so, you get to draw three cards in compensation. If you don’t, you can still use the rare on your turn to get 5 Recruit. I wouldn’t recommend building a deck around Apocalyptic Kitty Pryde, but with her range of utility you’d be hard-pressed to find a better support hero!
Magik – Colossus’s little sister does two things very well: Sidekicks and Teleport. Her first and low-cost common nets you a Sidekick when played alone, or two Sidekicks when played with another Covert hero. Play a couple of these commons together, and you just might be able to draw your entire deck in a single turn in the near future, and be set up to do it again on a subsequent turn! And not only do all those Sidekicks draw you an army of cards, they play right along with Magik’s uncommon, which gets +1 Attack for every Sidekick you played. Didn’t have a big hand of Sidekicks this turn? Teleport that uncommon until you have enough minions to make it worthwhile! Magik’s second common and rare can also Teleport. The rare is interesting in that it rewards you for beating tougher enemies: you get to add the Victory Points of a single villain or Mastermind in your Victory Pile to your Attack. In most games, that will max out at a +6 Attack (the number of Victory Points for most Masterminds). With her Sidekicks and overall mechanics, Magik is a powerful and entertaining hero to build towards, or simply include in any decks. Among the people I normally game with, she is arguably the most-liked Legendary hero besides base game Captain America.
Old Man Logan – He may be the third edition of Wolverine in Legendary, but he is far from a clone of his predecessors. While the other two versions revolved around drawing cards, Old Man Logan depends on a small deck of quality cards. One of his commons helps you get rid of weaker cards, while the other common rewards you for not recruiting heroes during your turn, making it very useful in the late game, regardless of what kind of deck you’re building. His uncommon is not group-friendly, activating a Cross-Dimensional Wolverine Rampage and gaining +1 Attack for every player who does not/cannot resist the Rampage. His rare can provide up to 10 Attack, but will only give you half of that if you happen to have any S.H.I.E.L.D. heroes in your hand or in play. Parts of Old Man Logan’s set may work in supplementing other heroes, but as a whole he is not worth building towards. Use him in support, particularly in decks heavy with Instinct heroes.
Captain Marvel – Carol Danvers’s set revolves around her first common. On its own, the card’s +1 Attack and “draw a card” effects are good, but they don’t seem like much of a game-changer, until you notice that the card is also multiclassed (Strength-Range). Every other Captain Marvel card plays off one or both of those classes, so putting down two of more of that initial common will work wonders. Her second common gets +1 Recruit for every Range hero you play, and her uncommon builds up Attack based on the number of Strength heroes you play before it. If you build a Captain Marvel deck, you’ll want to supplement her cards with other Strength heroes as the game progresses, in order to stack Attack Points. You will want to keep a few Range heroes around, though, in case you manage to obtain her rare, which provides 5 Attack up front, and 6 more if you activate a powerful critical strike requiring two Strength and two Range icons to use, which is what makes her multiclassed first common so valuable to her skill set!
Lady Thor – Ignoring the weirdness behind this character’s name and status (Thor is the name of a male Norse god; it is not a title, dang it!), she is solid as a hero in this game. Like the original (*cough* actual) Thor, Lady Thor uses Recruit Points to build up power and generate bonus Attack Points. Both commons and her rare grant additional benefits if you make at least 6 Recruit during your turn, which shouldn’t be too difficult if you build around her, as both commons and the rare provide 2 or more Recruit apiece. Her uncommon is Attack-heavy, generating up to 6 Attack if you activate a critical strike superpower. Needless to say, Lady Thor teams up well with Thor himself, but she also synergizes with fellow Avenger Captain Marvel, since both use the Strength and Range classes.
Ultimate Spiderman – Like the base game Spiderman and Symbiote Spiderman, Miles Morales’s cards all cost 2 and let you draw the top card of your deck if they cost 2 or less. In addition to that consistent benefit, each card provides a situational bonus, such as granting you a Sidekick or +2 Attack under specific circumstances. His rare is where he shines, as it provides +2 Attack for every card you’ve played that costs 1 or 2 (including Sidekicks, of course). If you build your deck with a bunch of Spidermen (any of the three versions) and Sidekicks, you could very well draw your entire deck each turn, and this rare will reach massive amounts of power! While the previous two Spidermen may be better in areas than Ultimate Spiderman, it’s this rare that completes any deck built with their cards.
If someone owned the base Legendary game and could only buy one expansion, Secret Wars: Volume 1 is the set I would recommend. Dark City may have added more iconic heroes to the game, but the variety of new features in Secret Wars: Volume 1 – multiple Masterminds, Sidekicks, recruitable villains, and a new game mode – puts it solidly ahead (Sidekicks alone might be enough to put this set in front). Plus, the heroes of this set are, as a whole, very well designed; several of the characters here quickly became favorites among my gaming group. Not to mention that Secret Wars expanded three base game teams (X-Men, Avengers, Spider Friends) and added two new teams (Illuminati, Cabal), while Dark City only expanded one affiliation (X-Men) while adding two (X-Force, Marvel Knights). Bottom line: Secret Wars: Volume 1 is currently the expansion to beat, so if you can only get one expansion, get this one.
Next, the dimension-hopping continues in the sequel set, Secret Wars: Volume 2!