I’ve always been a fan of the Predator films for both their brilliance and for their great quotes. So when I heard about the Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game by Upper Deck Entertainment I was interested quicker than you can say ‘I ain’t got time to bleed.’
Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game promises two-games-in-one where you can be hunter or hunted as you play as humans or Predator. Using an insane number of cards and a robust gameplay loop Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game looks to deliver a solid experience worthy of the source material. With up to five players engaging in competitive and team based game sessions there is a lot to be hand. So let’s jump right in and see what Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game has to offer.
The Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game comes with a lot of content and materials in one box that you’ll be surprised when you first see it all together. The box comes with the standard paper rulebook, a roll up game board suitable for all games modes and a shocking 700 cards all of which, are not sorted.
This is my first complaint with the Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game being that you must first spend around half an hour, if not more, sorting all of the cards into their own decks. Why they could not be shipped in these decks to start with is beyond me but that is just how it is. The trouble is that for your first few tutorial games you will only be using just under half of the cards. The biggest deck within the game is the Hunter deck which you’ll use when playing as the Predator. Also for the record, yes, there is a card which reads ‘Get to the Choppa!’. All of these cards and the play mat are to a high standard with stunning artwork found throughout.
When you’re playing through a game in Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game you will follow a turn order that helps to keep the game moving forward as well as keeping it simple. The turn order is basically the same regardless of if your are playing as a human or a Predator with a few small difference that are stated within the rules. That and of course the desks and objectives are different but that does not affect the core gameplay loop.
Pre-game set up
You’ll start each play session by setting up the required cards for each scenario that you will be playing based on the Predator films. You can also mix the cards with the Aliens set to further expand the game but this was not something I personal did. For a standard game you’ll have a location, a set of objectives, enemies/prey, strikes/armoury, characters, commands and then each player’s own mini starting deck. You can start to understand why there are 700 cards now. The objectives are key because each one has it’s own deck which you use to create the overall enemy/prey deck.
For example, your first objects might be ‘Expendable Assets’ followed by ‘Flares, Grags and Claymores’ and lastly ‘Get to the Choppa!’. You would place the objective cards in the objective section of the game mat and then take their decks and put them together as the enemy deck. Now, because ‘Expendable Assets’ is the first objective, that deck would go on the top of the enemy deck and so on. Of course you shuffle all of these up so that you end up with a nice random order of cards to enter the Wilds and move down to the combat zone. At some point during these draws your also find the ‘goal’ cards which match your current objective and therefore, allow you to progress to the next objective and hopefully victory. To make things harder you also add a number of Mercenary/Young Blood cards to these cards following the included chart to make the game harder, longer and more unexpected.
Each player also takes up a role from the role deck and the matching Avatar card. This card will also stay in front of them and is basically a players health and defense. The role card is put into their mini deck which is made up of seven Experience cards and five Brute Strength cards. This is the same for each player at the start of the game and will quickly grow once you start playing.
Enemy Phase / Prey phase
Now that you’re all set up it is time to get the party, or should I say hunt, under way. In this phase you start by drawing an enemy card, or a prey card if you’re playing as the Predator, and add it to the Wilds section of the play mat face down. You then also move the cards in the wilds along to the left by one space as well so that every time a new card is played, the others move along. Once they hit the end of the Wilds, the Hills, the next time they move they are placed into the combat zone and are able to start attacking the players. Until then, cards in the Wild simple move along unless they are revealed and have an ability that takes effect in the Wilds.
The action phase is where players can really start to do things and perform a number of actions in their turn. In fact a player can perform any number of actions, in any order so long as they can afford to do so. For example to recruit a new character into your deck you need to spend the matching recruitment points by playing cards that add up to that value. So to recruit a four star character you might need to play four one star cards or one three star card and a one star card – you get the idea. When you recruit a character it and the cards you played to do so are moved to your discard pile for now. Much like recruiting you can play cards to scan and fight cards by once again paying the matching attack value.
Scanning allows you to flip a card in the Wilds over to a face up position so that you can then attack it before it enters the combat zone and uncover the objective goal faster. Each zone within the Wilds costs a different attack value to scan and never changes unless affected by a cards ability and in some case, your characters can scan a zone for free which really helps move things forward. When attacking as well it is important to remember two key things. The first being that your attack value needs to match or be greater than the attack of the enemy to kill them. The second is that the card needs to be face up in order for you to attack it. When you have finished attacking, scanning and recruiting remember to move any played cards to the discard pile.
Now it is time for the strike phase which is when enemies are able to get there own back on your by returning the hurt. They can only attack if they are in the combat zone so if no one is you can simply skip this step. From right to left each enemy within the combat zone attacks you. You simply draw a Strike card for each attack and follow the on card instructions if any and apply the attack value from the card to your health. When your health hits zero you are out of the game and must remove all your cards from play and it is up to the remaining players to complete the objectives.
Finally it is time for the final stage of your turn which is the cleanup phase. A very simple phase in that respect which is to discard your hand and draw six new cards from your cards. If in the event you don’t have enough cards in your deck to draw six cards you take your discard pile and shuffle them into a new deck so that you can then draw the remaining cards. Once done it is time for the next player to have their turn and follow the same turn order.
In a nutshell that is the play experience of Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game which can continue for upwards of an hour in some cases. The biggest problem with Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game is not that it has too many systems or mechanics in place. Nor that it takes to long to complete a play session or the insane number of cards needed to play the game. It’s the core game loop itselfs. Of course a card game and board game will to some degree be repetitive as you go through the same phases each turn to complete the session but in the case of Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game the loop becomes dull very quick. Not only that but the game can become overwhelming and super challenging in no time at all which can put a damper on the mood of the players. Does this mean that Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game is a bad product? Honestly, no it doesn’t.
As a whole though the Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game is a solid product and a solid experience. It offers a lot of value for money and even includes a high quality play mat and a box big enough to store double the number of cards in. Furthermore, the game loop is simple and engaging once you get your head around it. Though the rule book could be a big more detailed on example things for new players. That and the sorting of 700 cards is a bit of a joke to be honest but let us overlook that. Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game does what you expect it to do and even offers a number of laughs along the way thanks to the source material it pulls from. Hearing a player yell ‘Get to the Choppa!’ never got old.
At the end of the day though I think Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game is a game that you need to think about before picking it up for yourself. If you’re looking for a killer Predator experience then you’ll find it here with a game that does the source material justice but for enjoyment, it’s hit and miss. The systems and mechanics work but you might find yourself losing interest fast so make sure you’re prepared to push through some serious down time during your games now and again. If you can overlook that however I think you’ll find a game for you and friends to play and enjoy without any problems. This just was not one for me, but I can still respect it.
Legendary Encounters: A Predator Deck Building Game is available for the RRP of £49.99 and if you’re looking to pick up a copy then check out the Esdevium Games store locator here to find your nearest retail store.
This review is based on a copy of the product provided by Esdevium Games.