Review – Legendary: Marvel Studios Phase 1 (Upper Deck)

Marvel Studios Phase 1
Marvel Studios Phase 1

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game Gets The MCU Treatment


Marvel Studios Phase 1 Cards
Marvel Studios Phase 1 Cards

Legendary: Marvel Studios Phase 1 is one of my Gen Con 2018: My Favorite Things. I was beyond excited when this new game was announced for Gen Con release. It combines two of my favorite things – the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Upper Deck’s Legendary: A Marvel deck building game. I have every expansion and version available, so what was one more?

Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the global theatrical phenomenon known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this limited-edition addition to the Legendary family of deck-building card games features star-studded, action-packed, iconic imagery pulled directly from Marvel’s phase one collection of movies. In this game, you are leading fan favorite Marvel Super Heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor to trounce Super Villains! This limited-edition release is 100% compatible with all previous Legendary Marvel releases, theatrical or comics based, for countless combinations of seamless scenarios.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is a semi-cooperative deck-building game for up to 5 players. Players choose a team of heroes to fight against a Mastermind and the Villains aligned with them. Players win the game if they successfully attack the Mastermind four times. They lose if the Mastermind is able to complete their Scheme, or if the Villain deck runs out. Imagine each scenario where heroes battle villains in an overall scheme or story arc, and it is much like a story told on the pages of a Marvel comic book!

Highlights of this new core set include 12 new Villains and 1 new Mastermind. The entire set also contains images from Phase 1 of the MCU. All of the contents are playable with all other Legendary: Marvel expansions currently available.

The Story

In Legendary: Marvel Studios Phase 1, the Avengers are back in a new setting with images straight from the Phase 1 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers). Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America and more face off against the Villains of the first six movies. Three Masterminds including the all new Iron Monger and his Iron Foes try to complete their evil schemes.


Marvel Studios Phase 1 Cards
Marvel Studios Phase 1 Cards

The game is set up by selecting Heroes, Villains, a Mastermind, and a Scheme, which is an overall plot that the Mastermind is focused on, much like a story arc from a comic book or MCU movie.

Each player starts with their own deck of basic cards. At the start of your turn, you play the top card of the Villain Deck for Villains to invade the city, capture Bystanders, and create special events. Then, you play Hero cards from your hand to generate Attack, Recruit Points, and special abilities. You use your Attack to defeat Villains. You use Recruit Points to recruit better Heroes for your deck.

If the active player reveals a Master Strike, this indicates a massive attack from the Mastermind. When a Scheme Twist is revealed, this will trigger bad stuff that the Mastermind or the other Villains will do to the heroes. Every Scheme card has a part that says “Evil Wins,” which tells you how the Mastermind completes their Scheme. If the Mastermind’s Scheme is completed, then the Mastermind wins the game, and everyone loses! If the Heroes defeat the Mastermind, all the players win the game for the forces of good!

In addition, defeating Villains and rescuing Bystanders earns each player Victory Points. After the Mastermind is defeated, the player with the most Victory Points is the individual winner.

There is also a solo variant where a player will try to defeat a Mastermind before all of their heroes are defeated or the Mastermind completes their Scheme.

What’s In The Box?

Marvel Studios Phase 1 S.H.I.E.L.D. cards
Marvel Studios Phase 1 S.H.I.E.L.D. cards

Of course, the big question is – what is different from the original base game? The difference is that the 10th anniversary core set is exclusively the heroes, villains, and other characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 1.

Because this is a scaled down set, it contains 393 cards, where the original base set contains 560 cards. The new core set contains 7 Heroes, 3 Masterminds, 5 Villain groups, and 4 Henchmen Villain groups. There are 8 Schemes, and 30 Bystanders, 12 of which are Special Bystanders with abilities that trigger when they are rescued. Also included are 24 S.H.I.E.L.D. Troopers and 48 S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents that make up the player’s starting decks. Other contents include 30 S.H.I.E.L.D. Officers, 30 Wounds, 12 Scheme Twists, 6 Master Strikes, and 60 card dividers.

Additionally, all of the artwork is changed from comic artwork to movie stills. Agent Phil Coulson and Agent Maria Hill grace the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents and S.H.I.E.L.D. Officers cards respectively, which is super cool!

The Original vs The 10th Anniversary Core Set

As previously mentioned, the new core set has several changes to align with the cinematic storylines and characters from MCU Phase 1.


There are 7 Heroes in the new core set – Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man, Nick Fury, and Thor. This is scaled down from the 15 Heroes in the original base game. (The 6 X-Men Heroes were omitted, as well as Deadpool. Spider-Man is also missing, as he appears in a later phase of the MCU.) All of the Hero’s abilities are duplicates from the base set.


Marvel Studios Phase 1 Masterminds

There are 3 Masterminds in the new core set – Loki, Red Skull, and Iron Monger. This is slightly different from the 4 Masterminds in the original base game. Loki and Red Skull are duplicate Masterminds, just with movie stills. Iron Monger is a new Mastermind from the Iron Man movie.


The new core set consists of 5 Villain groups. 2 Villain groups are duplicates of the 7 Villain groups from the original base game, with some minor changes. In the Enemies of Asgard, Enchantress is now Hawkeye, with the same special abilities text. In Hydra, Hydra Kidnappers are now the Hydra Motorcycle Squad. Supreme Hydra are now Arnim Zola. Viper is now Hydra Tank.

There are 3 new Villain groups in this set. Iron Foes, Chitauri, and Gamma Hunters. Each of these has the new keyword “conqueror”.

Henchmen Villains

The new core set consists of 4 Henchmen Villain groups. All 4 of these are repurposed from the original base set with different names and movie stills instead of comic art. The Sentinel becomes the Ten Ring Fanatics. The Hand Ninjas become the Hydra Pilots. The Doombot Legion become the Hammer Drone Army. And the Savage Land Mutates become the Hydra Spies.

New Keywords

With the addition of the Mastermind and Villain groups comes a new keyword, “conqueror”. This represents their desire to conquer a specific part of the city. When a Villain has this ability, they get +2 attack if any Villain is in that city space. For example, the Gamma Hunters Villain has the ability “Streets Conqueror 3”. When Gamma Hunters are anywhere in the city, they take an additional +3 attack to defeat if any Villain (themselves included) are in the Streets city space. The Iron Monger Mastermind has the ability “Bank Conqueror 4”. If there is a Villain in the Bank city space when the Mastermind attacks, they take an additional +4 attack to defeat.


The new core set consists of 8 different Schemes. All 8 of these are repurposed from the original base set with different names and movie stills instead of comic art. The only change on the card text is on the “Replace Earth’s Leaders With Hydra” scheme (formerly “Replace Earth’s Leaders With Killbots”). The “killbots” are now “infiltrator” villains.

The Good

Marvel Studios Phase 1 Thor Cards
Marvel Studios Phase 1 Thor Cards

As someone who is an avid fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I enjoy this version of the game. I will admit, if I can pull out this game and look at Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, and Chris Hemsworth on the cards, I will choose that every single time. I love seeing the movie stills. It takes me to the scenes of the epic movies, reminding me how great these characters and stories are, and how much they mean to me.

And for that reason, I am very excited to see future expansions. Nothing has been formally announced yet, but there are characters from the later MCU phases all over the game box and rule book. There is a large pool of previous expansions to pull these characters from. Only minor tweaks will need to be made, and it would be a lot of fun to play with some of my other MCU favorites. (Please give me a Yondu hero!)

The Bad

Is this a set that we really needed? Maybe not. I can see the advantages – a smaller, less overwhelming set for players new to Legendary and deck building games. The theme is drawing enough for non-gaming fans of the MCU to want to try it.

A lot of longtime Legendary fans consider this to be a money grab. Yes, they grabbed my money. I was first in line to grab my copy at Gen Con, not even knowing what it contained. If I would have known it was a fraction of what I already have and mostly duplicates, would I have still gotten it? Probably.

Granted, I want the whole set – all 3 phases. If they decide not to print Phase 2 and Phase 3 and I’m stuck with a partial set with movie stills, I will be upset. But if they offer all of it to me, I will buy it all.

Let’s talk about this “updated playmat” also included. This is probably the most disappointing thing about this game. Though the art consists of Phase 1 movie characters, the mat itself is small. I’m not sure if they decided to reduce the dimensions of the mat to fit it in the smaller game box. There are spaces at the top of the board that have half of a space for those cards. So, half of the card is hanging off of the playmat. That is unacceptable. For that reason, I can see tossing this playmat aside for a more appropriately sized one.

Playmat and Box

Final Thoughts

Legendary: Marvel meets the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Shut up and take my money. Though everything is pretty much a duplicate of what I already have, I don’t care. I’ll still buy it all. Furthermore, there are many more completionists out there that mimic my sentiments.

Marvel Studios Phase 1 Bystanders

I hope that this new cinematic version of a stellar game will appeal to new gamers and introduce them to this fantastic, entertaining, and complex game.

I know that the Legendary fandom is divided on this release. So, we can only wait to see the success of this limited-edition and hope for future expansions with the later phases of the MCU.

Game Statistics

  • Release Date: August 2018
  • MSRP: $49.99
  • Playing Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Age Range: 14+
  • Player Count: 1-5



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About the author

Shanon Connelly

(a.k.a. “Super Muffin Girl”) is an avid board gamer, cosplayer, and all around nerd girl. She has been cosplaying for over 10 years, attending several conventions every year. She recently started a YouTube gaming channel, "Time to Play!", which previews and reviews board games. Follow Shanon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@supermuffingirl).

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