“Here. Review this,” said…someone from the shadows as they handed me a game. “Tony?” I queried as I removed the game from his (her?) hands.
“DON’T USE NAMES” he barked at me and quickly followed up with “Trust no one.” I glanced at the game. Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck Building Game. I should have known.
“Aren’t you taking this a little too seriously?”
Instead of responding, he took out a cigarette, lit it, took a drag, and blew smoke in my face. Then he turned and walked away.
“Alrighty then. Guess I’ll get right on this” I said to no one in particular.
Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck Building Game (X-Files going forward) is a cooperative deckbuilding game based on the popular television series. The game length varies based on number of players, lasting from 60 to 120 minutes.
The game is played over several turns, during which the following four phases occur:
- A card is added to the Shadows, moving those cards already in the Shadows – if a card is moved out of the shadows, it is immediately revealed (flipped face up) and moved to the Field
- The active player uses the cards in their hand to recruit (purchase) new cards from the Bureau, fight revealed cards in the Shadows/Field as well as scan cards (turn them face up so players know what they are fighting/recruiting)
- Enemy cards in the Field attack the active player
- Players discard the cards played as well as those in their hand and draw six cards
The game ends when either a player is defeated or if the players defeat the End Game card.
Let’s play a game I just made up called “Belief or Doubt”
This is the most thematic Legendary game: BELIEF
X-Files takes “Trust no one” to the extreme. EVERY card enters play onto the board face down and must be scanned (pay fighting or recruiting points) to reveal their identity. On top of that, the Academy (the deck from which you purchase cards to build your deck) has been compromised. The deck, normally safe in deck building games, includes enemies (called the Syndicate). To balance this, the enemy deck (called the Conspiracy deck) contains Informants and Leads that benefit the players. Informants provide ongoing benefits until they are moved out of the Shadows and Leads, if collected, weaken the End Game card that must be defeated to win.
The new mechanisms are great: BELIEF, with some DOUBT
BELIEF (I love the following):
- The Belief/Doubt system – generic belief or doubt cards are added to your deck during the course of the game. Their resolution, when played, depend on the players Avatar (character). For example, Beliefs for Mulder allow all other players to remove a Doubt from their hand whereas Scully gets +1 attack for every defeated Alien.
- Powers have been assigned to each slot in the Bureau so that players gain a bonus every time they purchase a card.
- The gameplay changes created for handling enemies, Informants and Leads (discussed above), but it leads to…
DOUBT (this creates an issue…)
The thematic gameplay changes can cause a randomness that makes the game too difficult. The second time we played, the most powerful Syndicate card appeared in the Bureau in round one. It required 7 recruit point to remove it. Your staring cards in total only have 6 recruit points. Needless to say, it sat there blocking one of the five available slots. This, combined with the fact that the other four slots contained expensive cards, forced us to reset the game.
This is the Legendary Encounters game with the most replay value: BELIEF
The Conspiracy deck is made up of a blend of seasons (each season has 14 cards) and not every card is used. As an example, for the two-player basic game set up, eight cards are used from Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3; therefore, 18 cards from Seasons 1-3 will not appear in that game. Three Informants (from a pool of 15) and 3 Leads (from a pool of 12) will be added as well. This leads to a randomness not seen in previous Legendary Encounter games.
There are also multiple ways to set up the game. The first time you play it is recommended that you play Seasons 1-3. The game contains 9 seasons that are grouped by difficulty into 3 ratings (A, B, and C). You have the option to play Seasons 4-6 or 7-9, all of which present new challenges, or you can combine any season from “A,” “B” and “C”. In addition, there are eight End Game cards that change how you win. Finally, the game has a lite campaign mode where you play Seasons 1-3, then 4-6, and finally 7-9. X-Files includes Cliffhanger cards for this mode that impact the game based on how you performed.
The additions to the game are efficient: DOUBT
The unfortunate side effect of these additions is that the game is more fiddly. Setup and take down take longer due to the number of card types spread across the Academy and the Conspiracy decks. Strikes (damage your character takes from enemies) must be kept in the order they are received as some gameplay elements refer to your oldest or most recent strike received. The enemy discard pile will need to be reviewed for multiple characters (see my Scully example above) and, unless you memorize what is in the discard pile, you will need be reviewing the discard pile when character abilities refers to what enemies are in that pile.
The card art is awful: BELIEF (for me) or DOUBT, depending on your tastes
The cards use still shots direct from the TV show, not illustrations/sketches. Personally, I prefer this presentation for this game because they come straight from the show it is based on.
I enjoyed playing Legendary Encounters: X-Files. It is the most thematic of the Legendary Encounters games. I loved the fact that the enemy can pop up in your Bureau and, on the flip side, Informants and Leads will appear in the Conspiracy deck. I really enjoyed the addition of special powers when recruiting a character as well as the Belief and Doubt mechanism.
So why not a higher final score? I prefer Aliens. To be fair, I like the Alien franchise more than X-Files. As a game, Aliens is less fiddly while still providing a 100% cooperative experience. It is also paced better and does not have the randomness that can occur in X-Files.
That being said, I believe there are several types of gamers that would prefer X-Files:
- They love the X-Files franchise
- They want a very thematic deck builder,
- They want more wants randomness and replay value from their game
- They do not mind owning both Aliens and X-Files.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A thematic deck building experience that builds on the previous Legendary Encounters games yet can be a tad fiddly at times.
• The most thematic Legendary game
• Significant replay value
• Fully cooperative, you win or lose as a team
• Randomness can create games in which it is next to impossible to win
• The fiddliest of all Legendary games
I bought this game recently as my partner loves The X-Files and we had a good time with Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle (she is a newbie, I’m a bit more experienced) – so we thought given the similar mechanic and theme it would be a good one.
Suffice it to say from a two-player co-op POV it was a disappointment. The art is really bad, it’s possibly even more fiddly than described above and it’s really hard to track everything unless you’re pro gamers. We found it frustrating and had the exact same Syndicate Enemy problem, which was not only extremely difficult to beat but just not thematic at all.
I agree with all of the above but just wanted to add that if you’re not a pretty experienced gamer/deck-builder, I’d leave this alone. The storage is also maybe the worst I’ve ever seen for any game I’ve bought, which is some achievement. Designing my own insert as we speak!