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Weekend Warrior: Recalibrating Red Skull

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

Upper Deck’s Marvel Legendary is my most played game of all time, fast approaching 600 plays. Happily the unending release of expansions helps keep the game fresh and interesting. This weekend we took a trip down nostalgia lane returning to the very first mastermind we ever fought, Red Skull.

Red Skull is the one Mastermind I refuse to fight unmodified, even when the base game was released he was too easy to defeat with only 7 health plus a master strike ability and tactics that are beneficial to the heroes. 7 Health is no challenge at all, there are basic villains in the base game with similar stats and once the expansions hit the power level creeps up to where 7 is a mid level for basic villains.

So before we began I upped his health to a more respectable 9, added an extra life, requiring players to defeat him a fifth time and drew a random horror card. Horror cards were introduced in the X-Men expansion and are a great way of adding a small rule to masterminds to increase their difficulty. In this case I drew the Misery Upon Misery card that said whenever a bystander is drawn from the villain deck player another card. This combined with the extra life shortened our time to defeat Red Skull and his nefarious scheme.

Talking of, the Scheme was Mutant Hunting Super Sentinels, a scheme which pits the heroes against an ever increasing threat of more powerful Sentinels. They begin the game as 3 health minions but over time they increase their health up to a maximum of 12. They also, as a fight effect, KO a hero meaning the players need to be careful not to kill too many too early or they won't have sufficient buying/attack power.

Finally we had the heroes. I use a random generator to scour my ever increasing pool of heroes to pop out 5 to go adventuring. Today’s heroes were Cable, Daredevil, Kitty Pryde, Old Man Logan and Polaris. Two heroes in particular stood out above the rest.

Polaris combatted the scheme with prejudice using piercing energy. Piercing energy was a new resource introduced in the X-Men expansion which neatly circumvented quite a few schemes including this one. Players could spend piercing energy to attack an enemy via its victory point value, meaning that the Sentinels (1vp) posed no threat at all and Polaris could take out two at a time with a single card.

Meanwhile another player, running a Cable deck absolutely demolished Red Skull. Cable’s Disaster Survivalist card can be discarded after a master strike to draw 3 cards, allowing the player enough purchasing power to pick up the heavy hitting rare cards from the HQ. On the penultimate turn of the game a master strike came out and the Cable player was able to begin their turn with 13 cards in hand, including Cable’s rare, Army of One. This card grants you 5 attack plus you can KO as many cards as you like from your hand for +1 each. Combined with his Rapid Response Force cards he generated a whopping 23 attack and he took out Red Skull twice in a row for the win.

Legendary is a game that really lends itself to homebrewing, it’s easy to tweak any scheme or mastermind to make them easier or harder just by adding extra twists, strikes, horrors or even a few extra hit points. And because of this you can really make the game play exactly how you want. If I’d wanted to make the scheme harder I could have swapped out Polaris which would have put us under more pressure to keep the city clear, meaning the Cable player might have had to spend more resources on cards to deal with the Sentinels rather than powering up to go after Red Skull.

And because of the ever increasing card pool I really never have to play the same game twice, even when you've played the game 600 times!

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