Legendary: Marvel Noir
It's time for another Marvel Legendary expansion! This set pits the heroes of the Marvel Noir universe against deadly adversaries and their sinister plots. The Marvel Noir universe was a limited comic series that ran from 2009-2010 that took place in an alternate-universe 1920's-30's setting, focusing on the noir and pulp elements of the period. Stories focused on gritty crime dramas, pulp science fiction, and adventure tales reminiscent of the kind found during the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression.
What's in the Box?
5 New Heroes, all from previously-established affiliations:
- Spider-Man Noir (Spider-Friends)
- Daredevil Noir (Marvel Knights)
- Luke Cage Noir (Marvel Knights)
- Iron Man Noir (Avengers)
- Angel Noir (X-Men)
2 new Masterminds:
- Charles Xavier, Professor of Crime
- The Goblin, Underworld Boss
2 new Villain groups:
- Goblin's Freak Show
- The Chameleon; Fancy Dan; Kraven, Animal Trainer; Ox; Montana; The Vulture, Carnival Cannibal
- X-Men Noir
- Bobby "Iceman" Drake; Comrade Rasputin, Steel Wall; Henry "Beast" McCoy; Jean Grey Noir; Ororo Munroe, Storm-Tossed; Scott "Cyclops" Summers; Warden Emma Frost
4 new Schemes:
- Find the Split Personality Killer
- Five Families of Crime
- Hidden Heart of Darkness
- Silence the Witnesses
Noir also features a first printing promo: a Detective Wolverine bystander.
Investigate - If a card has the Investigate keyword, then you can look at the top two cards of your deck and draw one if it matches the requirements. For example, Iron Man's "Mechanized Plate Mail" allows you to Investigate for a black tech card. If neither of the cards fit the criteria, you can place them back in any order. Most cards have you Investigate your own deck, but other Heroes, Villains, and Masterminds will ask you to Investigate the Villain deck, the Hero deck, and even the Bystander deck.
Hidden Witnesses - If a Villain, Mastermind, or Scheme captures a Hidden Witness, then a face-down Bystander is placed under them. For rules purposes, Hidden Witnesses are the same as Bystanders, except they are not revealed and they can only be rescued by spending 2 recruit points. A Villain or Mastermind that has any Hidden Witnesses cannot be fought until all Hidden Witnesses have been cleared. Sometimes Heroes in the HQ will have a Hidden Witness (ex: Charles Xavier's Master Strike effect), in which case they cannot be recruited until the Hidden Witnesses are removed.
Thoughts and Impressions
It's been difficult for me to come to a solid opinion on this set. For starters, my first experience with it was a four-player slog that took forever to complete. We played against The Goblin with the Scheme "Silence the Witnesses." This combination, along with both new villain groups (plus the "Streets of New York" and "Maggia Goons" from Dark City, and the "Spider-Infected" from Secret Wars Vol 2) meant that the field was constantly cluttered with Hidden Witnesses. We were constantly using our recruit points to clear the Hidden Witnesses, keeping us from recruiting actual cards that could improve our deck. Since the cards were new to us, some of the players had a difficult time figuring out what went best with others. One player had put together an excellent deck, combining Daredevil's "Discover the Bodies" with Luke Cage's "Private Investigations," whittling his deck down to 12-14 non-starter cards that were constantly being re-drawn every turn. I had used Investigate cards to some advantage, but had also taken Daredevil's "Hitting Rock Bottom" which turned out to be fairly useless since I cleared out most of my starting 0-costed cards. We had come away from the game feeling drained and worn out.
Since then, I played three rounds solo, mixing up which of the 5 Heroes I would use. This way, I had gotten a better idea of how the Heroes interacted with each other, as well as more time to explore the schemes. This culminated in a two-player game (which was recorded for this review) using Charles Xavier and the "Hidden Heart of Darkness" Scheme against the Noir Villain groups and the Sentinel Henchmen. This game went a lot smoother, which shows that player count and the correct combination of Schemes and Masterminds can really alter how a game is played.
This set took some time to grow on me, and my initial sour impression was quickly replaced with a grudging appreciation. For one thing, the Schemes are actually brilliant. If you're looking for some quality games, Noir's got your back. "Five Families of Crime" is a unique and challenging approach that changes up how villains enter the city. "Silence the Witnesses" works best without other Hidden Witness-heavy Masterminds and Villains. "Find the Split Personality Killer" is a fun little murder-mystery approach to the game that should appeal to players looking for a new experience. And "Hidden Heart of Darkness" is by far my favorite Scheme, as it turns Mastermind Tactics into Villain cards while giving you the opportunity to end the game quickly with the right set-up.
The Heroes also do a great job standing out. Iron Man is my personal favorite, with a powerful blue ranged common "Steam-Powered Arsenal," the incredibly useful "Mechanized Plate Mail," and his ultimate "Adventurers Assemble!" that turns your deck into an Investigation powerhouse. The Spider-Man cards offer a lot of attack power for a cheap price, making this one of the stronger Spider-Man Heroes available. The Luke Cage cards are pretty incredible, and his uncommon "Unbreakable Cage" is a great take on the protective cards like Captain America's "Diving Block" from the base set. His ultimate card, "Weight of the World" is ludicrous, and can easily wrack up double-digit attacks in the right setup. (Side note: all of Luke Cage's cards are green or red. "Sweet Christmas" indeed.) Angel is another Hero with a powerful ultimate card: "Missing Person Case" adds a card from the Hero deck directly into your hand. His other cards allow for some versatility, and while he might not be the most powerful hero, he definitely gives you a range of options.
Of course none of these things work without the Investigate mechanic. There are so many different ways that Investigate works well that it's surprising they haven't used it before. For one thing, it fits thematically: this is a world of shadows, intrigue, and mystery. Sometimes it takes some hard-boiled detective work to solve the crime. Mechanically, Investigate allows for extra card draws (which is always good) as well as deck manipulation. With the right set of cards, you could easily draw your entire deck. And most of the Investigate cards work with each other across several Heroes. It's by far one of my favorite mechanics.
Hidden Witnesses is a neat idea. If fits thematically, and the mechanic makes sense. But in the end, it doesn't really add difficulty as much as tacked-on tedium. Spending recruit points to essentially rescue bystanders slows the game down considerably, making it more annoying than difficult.
Daredevil's cards are weird. "Balancing Act" essentially has Wall-Crawl without the keyword. Daredevil can also easily reduce the size of your deck ("Discover the Bodies"), but this card runs counter to his ultimate, "Hitting Rock Bottom." In one game where it was taken early on, it was able to hit for 8, and then 5 attack, which is excellent. But in another game, it didn't hit anything, making it a 7-costed 3 attack card and definitely not worth the purchasing price. Cards like this are often hit-or-miss, but the low attack and lack of synergy with his other cards makes it stand out even more as an oddity.
There's noting I really hated about this set, but some of the artwork is rather drab. The Angel, Iron Man, and Spider-Man cards have dynamic and exciting art, whereas the Luke Cage and Daredevil artwork are static and blasé. I like the style of the Daredevil artwork, but I wish it was a bit more exciting. The X-Men Noir, Bystander Wolverine, and Charles Xavier art is bizarre. I'm not sure what the artist was going for, but it's not the best.
After playing through this expansion several times, I have to admit that parts of it did impress me. It's clear that Upper Deck and creator Devin Low still have plenty of ideas to help keep Legendary fresh. It did strike me as odd that Marvel Noir was the next expansion on the list when there are so many other more relevant and potential ideas floating around (where's my Agents of SHIELD expansion?).
So should you get the Marvel Noir expansion? That depends. Do you like the theme? Do you enjoy the Marvel Noir universe? Then by all means pick this up. If the Schemes and mechanics interest you, then you could do a lot worse than this set. But even thought I love the Schemes and the Investigate mechanic, I don't think this is an essential buy if you're on the fence about it. It's definitely not a bad set, but it's not one that we got really excited about either. I believe my rating reflects this: it's a good, solid set, but in the world of small box Legendary expansions, it's not a first-pick.
This copy of Legendary: Marvel Noir was purchased from Cardboard Castle Games, located in Evans, GA. Mention Geekundspiel and receive 15% off MSRP on any board game that can be ordered or is available in-store.
The Legendary playmat seen in the photographs and video is custom made. It's designed by Board Game Geek user Randall Worley (MrWorley) as "Universal Mat." It was made at Inked Gaming on a 14" x 28" mat (the "Oversize Playmat").