Allow me to provide an unpopular opinion. It’s no secret that I deeply invested in the Marvel Legendary franchise, designed by Devin Low and published by Upper Deck. I have referred to it often as my favourite deck-building game, not just because of the depth of gameplay that it currently provides, but also for its versatility. It can be played as pure co-op, or as a cutthroat competitive game, and it scales from gateway to brainburner, depending on the company. No other deck-builder, in my experience, has the versatility to provide for such diverse audiences and gaming experiences. For that reason, it has pride of place in my collection.

But.

There is a limit to how deep I will go in my dedication to Legendary, and I found it this week.

Upper Deck have announced what seems to be a re-release of the original base game, but with art and characters from the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be unveiled at this year’s GenCon. The art will no longer be the gorgeous and diverse comic book art style that makes Legendary pop so hard on the gaming table, but stills and photos from the blockbuster Marvel movies. According to the publisher:

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.

I had this moment with the release of the Spiderman Homecoming expansion. It is one of the few Legendary expansions that I have passed on, and ultimately it was only due the fact that the use of movie image stills would just be so out of place with the rest of the game.

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Superficial? Maybe. But surely a big contributor to the love of the boardgaming hobby is the aesthetic. Part of what constitutes the magic circle of gaming, what transforms the experience of shuffling cardboard and plastic about on a table, is the immersion in the gameplay aesthetic. And the mix of art and screen capture is going to undermine the immersion in the consistent aesthetic. So, despite my abiding love of this game, the Legendary Marvel Studios: Phase One set is going to get a hard pass from me.

That said, I do hope it brings in a whole new audience for Legendary, and for deck-building games in general. Legendary is still the exemplary and quintessential Marvel gaming experience bar none, and if this leads to a revamp of the franchise and the production of more content in the longer term, I’m all for it.

You can find out more about this expansion as it releases over on BoardGameGeek.

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