07 February 2017
Is the first follow-up to the cinematic deckbuilder more of an Aliens or Prometheus?
As any fan of the horror movie masterpiece Alien knows, sequels can be a tricky thing. You could find yourself rewarded with another genre-defining work of brilliance à la Aliens or an ambitious attempt to reinvent a beloved series that ultimately crumbles under its own weight of expectation – that’d be Alien3, Alien: Resurrection and Prometheus.
The same burden of anticipation bore down on the acid-flecked, armoured-plated shoulders of the first expansion to Upper Deck’s Alien entry in the Legendary Encounters deckbuilding series, widely regarded as one of the best movie adaptations to hit the tabletop – as well as a marvellous card game in its own right.
Happily, the expansion (which awkwardly forgoes a handy subtitle) provides more than simply quantity to the already healthy stock of cards found in the base game, introducing significant new mechanics, major new game modes and, yes, lots more cards, too – with 400 cards, it's two-thirds the size of the original game.
Chief among the additions is the new Queen Mother mode, which turns one of the players (five is still the maximum headcount) into the xenomorph matriarch, complete with a new play mat illustrated with the same striking visuals as the cards.
While players in the original game could be turned into antagonistic aliens through facehugger impregnation, in the new mode one player starts off as the Queen Mother, building their own personal deck and deploying cards to oppose the human group. (Expect the difficulty to ramp up significantly.) This includes the chance to reveal incoming hive cards, directly attack players with strikes (there are plenty of nasty new injuries in the box) and turn character cards against the group, as they are grabbed, impregnated and eventually return as attacking xenos. If that wasn’t enough, the survivors must defeat the Queen Mother after the scenario’s normal final enemy – a tough task made tougher.
While the expansion certainly aims itself at those already well-versed in spraying acid blood around dank spaceship corridors, with hard mode versions of both existing and new objectives and locations, there’s still plenty for newcomers to enjoy. Some of the new xenomorphs take flight, requiring more advanced tactics to shoot down, while others can be enhanced with multiple different talents. (Mega-enhanced enemies must be defeated five times in order to be killed, making them especially deadly.) A new drone chart re-balances the number of enemies in the game to make playing with smaller crews more difficult, while larger parties are offered a very slight helping hand.
On the human side, there’s two extra characters and their respective barracks decks from each film (Prometheus remains absent), plus a universal Ripley deck covering all four entries in the series. These cards contain plenty of new abilities that make even more interesting use of the different card types and mechanics, helped by a number of fresh character roles and avatars – we’re particularly fond of the veterinarian who can heal strikes, including contaminated wounds. In general, we found more cards to help heal strikes and help the group survive longer – though this could just be the luck of the draw.
Rounding out the pack are two new locations and scenarios made up of the usual three objectives, which can be mixed and matched with any of the existing goals. These make smart use of the new gameplay rules (you’ll quickly learn to fear the beating of wings) and offer fun variants to the movie-inspired setups offered in the base game, while offering plenty of replayability and variety when combined with the existing decks.
Legendary: Alien was already an outstanding game on its own, but this new expansion manages to bring in such an impressive number of gameplay changes and additions that it’s hard to imagine a more fitting follow-up. The increased competitive options and optional difficulty handicaps are sure to be welcomed by groups seeking a new challenge, while the universal enlargement of almost every deck makes it a worthwhile upgrade for players at any level of skill and familiarity.
Stuffed with hundreds of new cards, engaging new rules and an asymmetrical competitive mode that makes the most of the Aliens theme, this expansion is the perfect sequel to an already exceptional movie adaptation – just be prepared to die a lot.
Publisher: Upper Deck
Time: 30-60 minutes
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