Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game Review
A few days ago I was in card heaven. I opened up Legendary Encounters: A Predator deck building game to find 700 cards that had to be separated, sorted and placed back into the box. Great joy was had in figuring out the best way to group the cards; grouping by humans and Predators seem to make more sense than grouping by films but this could differ depending on your personal choice. After a wonderful two hours or so I was ready to go to bed content and safe in the knowledge that all the cards were sorted and safely in the box. We can highly recommend Legendary Encounters to keep you entertained for hours. Oh, and apparently there’s some sort of game based on two movies you can play with the cards too!
As you may have guessed from the above drivel, Upper Deck have indeed brought out a Predator themed version of their Legendary deck building games. In it, players team up to battle the Legendary hunter (see what we did there?) as they play through iconic scenes from the first two films. Even though there are a huge number of cards which are split into dozens of decks, the game is rather simple to teach and learn. Each player starts with a character card called an avatar card which details their health points – take too much damage and you are out of the game. They also receive one card that is their signature card which allows you a special benefit. This is added to a pool of twelve cards (these are the exact same cards the other players get as well). All of the cards in the game are used to do one of two things: purchase other cards to make your deck stronger or attack the cards that represent the Predators and other villains from the films. The game is then started by shuffling your deck of thirteen cards and drawing six. On each turn you will:
A) Place an enemy on the field
B) Play your cards to buy new cards / attack the enemy
C) Resolve enemy attacks
D) Discard all your cards including your newly purchased ones into your discard pile and draw six new cards.
So far, so usual but where Legendary Encounters: Predator differs from other deck building games I have played is how the enemy is handled. At the beginning of each players turn, the first thing that happens is an enemy card is placed face down on the enemy track. The enemy track features five locations from the films and represents the enemy moving through the environment trying to get close enough to attack you. The only way to stop an enemy from reaching the combat zone and attacking you is to kill it whilst it is making its way through the wilds (the thematic name for the enemy track). But because the enemies are either natives to the jungle or Predators they are masters in the art of camouflage and invisible – signified by the fact the cards enter the wilds face down. Players can use the skill combat points from certain cards to scan areas of the wilds that contain enemy cards on them. This will flip the card allowing you to see what you are dealing with. You may also get a nasty surprise for revealing the card which may mean a free attack. All of this ramps up the tension as you essentially need to attack a card twice before you can kill it. This is stressful enough at the beginning of the game when attack points are limited but add to the fact you may be unearthing a surprise attack or an event which may move enemies directly to the combat zone and you feel like you really are being ambushed by a Predator in some South American jungle!
Amongst all the enemy cards, surprise hazards, and nasty events are also three objectives. These objectives are based on key events from whichever film you are playing through and need to be completed in order. The final objective – named “Get to that Choppa!” – has more than one way to achieve it; you can either defeat the Predator in a final battle or escape the jungle but it cannot be attempted until the previous two have been achieved. Defeating the Predator is the main overall main point of the game and considered “a major victory”. Should you choose to leg it out of the jungle you still win the game but the rule book makes it clear that this is considered a minor victory. Sadistic sods.
And while Legendary Encounters: A Predator deck building game does feel like the odds are constantly stacked against you, there are a few things thrown in to help the humans out. Using the coordinate properties of certain cards, you may “gift” a card you may not have a current use for to a player who has yet to take their turn. This is invaluable in earlier rounds when player are using the underpowered starting cards and two additional combat or recruitment points is manna from heaven. There are other powers on later cards that prove invaluable such as the ability to heal damage and repeat special actions on cards a number of times depending how many different cards you have played.
Thematically Legendary Encounters: A Predator deck building game is amazing. It has managed to perfectly capture the look and feel of the first two Predators films; the characters cards you recruit are characters from the films complete with bits of dialogue from the films in their titles. Although the card and play mat artwork is more the style from the comic series from years ago, it is absolutely gorgeous and fits the universe very well. The tension and difficulty of the game adds to the theme so much so that being defeated after six turns into a two player game results in a response of expected relief rather than frustration. The cool thing about the difficulty of this game is that although it is damn near impossible as a two player game, it’s easy enough for players to play as two characters. The rules also offer some friendly advice on how to soften the game should you be struggling. There is even a special deck of cards called Young Bloods that can be shuffled into the enemy deck to even things out further.
Playing Legendary Encounters: A Predator deck building game is a fantastic experience whether you are playing a solo game or with up to five players. The tension is in the mechanics of the game rather than the artwork which ensures the stress levels stay the same no matter the player count. And whilst we have waxed lyrical about the cooperative mode exclusively in this review, we need to point out that once you tire (if that’s even possible) of playing through the two films cooperatively, you can play a PvP version where each player is a Predator hunting the other for honour and glory.
Legendary Encounters: A Predator deck building game is a fantastic game with not many faults. The initial sorting of cards may be overwhelming but it is worth the two hour investment. The other downside that you may need to consider is the cost of sleeving the cards for your new game. To protect the 700 cards with decent sleeves will add another £10 to £15 to the £50 RRP which if you play the game often will be worth it in the long run. On the plus side Legendary Encounters: A Predator deck building game has the strongest implementation of a theme I have seen in a long time. It is also quite possibly the best game released in 2015 and cannot be recommended enough.
9 Get to the Choppas! out of 10.
But Wait, there’s more!
We should also point out that if you also own the Legendary Encounters: Alien game, it is entirely possible to combine the games creating a scenario where players play as Predators hunting Aliens. Now, if you excuse us we have another game to purchase…