We return with another Alien title based on a deckbuilding mechanism. Published by Upper Deck, Legendary Encounters is a (mostly) cooperative venture where players draft and play cards to reveal alien threats and kill them, while also attempting to achieve other objectives. Should the hidden threats reach the players, injury and death can ensue. And they will ensue.
The game comes with 4 distinct scenarios, each based on the four core franchise films: Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection. Each has its own roster of enemies, player cards and objectives. Theoretically, you can mix and match between the different movies, but I don’t like to mix my peas and mashed potatoes, so I keep them all in their appropriate films.
Despite the variability in cards, your starting deck is always the same combination of grunts and specialists. Grunts represent combat values, while specialists are the currency to acquire more cards. These two cards can be at odds with one another depending on what your team needs to accomplish and as with most deckbuilding games, you will have to manage your deck appropriately and begin shifting gears depending on the emerging threats.
A turn progresses in a simple fashion: draws cards, play them, add a Hive card from the complex and reveal any units pushed into the Combat Zone. Any enemies still present in this zone will force you to draw a Strike card, damage that your character takes. In some instances, these can be healed but some are permanent. Suffice to say you want to reveal and kill enemies before they ever have a chance to get close to you.
That being said, this is an Alien game and the odds are not in your favor. The Hive deck is merciless and it will take a skillfully crafted deck and a heap of luck to get out of these scenarios alive. This is the game’s greatest asset is how well it reflects the hopeless odds of the Alien universe. I generally don’t gravitate to deck builders (I don’t own any the Legendary card games) but the sense that you can barely contain what hidden threats are shuffling down the Complex is thrilling and exhilarating.
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the stunning artwork. The interpretations of all the iconic moments are fantastic and help establish its own flavor and take on the franchise. There is blood and gore aplenty on the Strike cards and the final enemies are intimidating.
There have been two expansions released over the years, one adding the hive as a playable entity, the other adapting Alien: Covenant. I picked up the latter and it’s a welcome addition to the other four films (Covenant being my second favorite film behind the original 1979).
Another big bonus is this game is played perfectly solitaire. Great for late night plays with the lights low and the Alien creeping above in the ventilation shafts.