Just Remember What Ol' Jack Burton Does! - Legendary Big Trouble In Little China Review

Big Trouble In Little China is not the highest on my list of nostalgic movies. I like it, it's a good cheesy laugh, just not much of a Kurt Russell fan and I can't even remember when I last watched it. It is however a cult classic and it's no surprise that a board game would be made out of it eventually, though I admit I wasn't expecting Upper Deck to take the mantle and use it in their Legendary deck builder line up. I was expecting the usual "license + miniatures = big bucks" approach that seems to be creating so much hype in games right now.
One thing I noted was that it didn't have the word "Encounters" on the cover. That means it wasn't going to be using the same format as their Alien, Predator or Firefly titles and likely sticking much more closely to the original Marvel layout. I'm not entirely sure why this route was taken as the theme tends to get portrayed much more strongly using the Encounters format, but that's not to say Marvel Legendary doesn't have good theme as well, just not quite as juicy. Encounters has "bits in", Marvel is from concentrate.
So are there any new surprises to be found in this version or is it simply a re-skin?

Designer: Rob Heinsoo
Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment
Age: 14+
Players: 1-5
Time: 45-60 minutes
RRP: £39.99

All Aboard The Pork Chop Express!

Description from the publisher:
Become Legendary with the mystical arts seen in the cult hit film Big Trouble in Little China!
In the deck-building game Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China, players work their way through the co-op game trying to defeat Lo Pan and the three storms! Play as Jack Burton, Gracie Law, Wang Chi, and even the Pork Chop Express as you play schemes straight from the film.

A Tweak Here, A Tweak There!

First off, let's get one question answered immediately. This is a re-skin of Marvel pure and simple with some minor tweaks. If you know how to play Marvel Legendary, you can almost dish this out and get playing straight away. I've already done several video reviews/unboxings etc (a long, long time ago so go easy on me) for Marvel Legendary so go check out my dormant YouTube channel for that (I say dormant because I hope to ressurect this once I've settled in the new house, stay tuned!) For those in that category of "I've played a hundred Legendary games already", here are the changes from Marvel to Big Trouble:
1) The starter decks are different. You get 6 recruit starters, 4 combat starters, and 2 "Mediocre Heroes" drawn from a random pool. They are worth 1 Recruit each like a normal recruit card, but also has a minor bonus if a certain condition is met on the turn, such as a villain being in Chinatown for example. These are quite neat and add some variation to the setup beyond the same old cards you just want to KO as fast as possible, however some conditions are easier to meet than others.
2) Jack and Wang have 3 sets of 5 Common Cards as opposed to the traditional split of hero decks. You get a choice of which two to use when you select that character. An interesting change which makes more sense here as they are the main two characters, however I'm glad they restricted it to these two as otherwise the setup time would get ridiculous.

3) Uncle Chu is the equivalent of the "Shield Officer" except that this version also heals a wound if you don't fight someone that turn. That's quite a handy buff from the Marvel version, though it makes you wonder how often wounds are going to show up now. . .
4) The third and fourth squares of the City are collectively known as Chinatown. Aside from affecting cards that trigger based on Chinatown this doesn't really have much of an impact on the game.
5) The Final Showdown, previously an optional part of Marvel, is now an official part of Big Trouble. Everyone plays one hand after the 4th tactic card is defeated for a Mastermind. Whoever has the highest fight value total gets the actual Mastermind card. It was pointless in Marvel, it's pointless here as well, as I can't understand why anyone would play this in anything other than full Co-Op mode. Thankfully you can skip it and not miss anything.
Beautiful Enough To Be My Brid.......EUUUGHHH!!
Upper Deck really does need to up their game in the art department and not cut corners here. Marvel has improved in recent years and the Alien version was fairly decent, but Predator was questionnable and Firefly was for the most part atrocious. Here, it's still fairly bad, but some cards fare better than others. Not a big fan of most of the hero cards, but some of the Mastermind and villain cards are OK at best. I can forgive a lack of consistency in the artists used if they were all good, but I doubt players are going to be looking at these and thinking many good thoughts. It's a continuing issue with Upper Deck and frankly guys, it needs fixing, if you're going to charge us a packet for a box of cards, make the illustrations worth it.

Aside from that, it's the typical norm. You'll get a box, a bunch of cards and the basic dividers, again seriously can we get these upgraded please? The box is smaller than your average Legendary fare, about the same as the Dark City and Secret Wars expansion from the Marvel set if that makes sense. Whereas this is better in terms of the cards within it causes another problem. The play mat not only now requires rolling up but also folding in half to fit in the box! Arrrggh, if it's not one thing it's another. Did no-one think that through in the quality control process?
Questionnable Design Decisions
Marvel Legendary introduced a points system where even though you won as a group, there was a single winner for whoever had the most victory points from enemies defeated. The vast majority of Marvel players, myself included hate this mechanic and only play it in full Co-Op mode. Seriously did the Avengers all vote on the most valuable player award when they despatched Ultron?

Unfortunately it's been regurgitated here, but you can just ignore it if you like as I no doubt will. The card classes are also represented a little strangely here. You've still got the same five class symbols as before, except they are named differently to suit the setting. That's fine, but two of them are Magic and Tech and you'll quickly discover that there are very few cards in the box with those symbols on them, most of them have the other three. So combo abilities are far easier to trigger on some cards than others. I'm not sure why they didn't just use the same descriptions as before as I'm sure they would have fitted fine.

Everything else is pretty much exactly the same as Marvel right down to the inevitable saga of sorting out the cards when you unbox it. Although here's a weird twist. The box size is the same as the Marvel expansion boxes like Dark City, not like the elongated Encounters/Villains boxes. This means that the playmat not only has to be rolled up, but also loosely folded to fit inside. That can't be that good for the mat, but I guess it's that or you have a box that's WAY too big for the cards present when the chances for expansions are next to nil.

Iron Man vs Kurt Russell
Combining the sets for Encounters with the Marvel system was never quite as "coherent" as you would have liked so most people don't do it. The mechanics are usually just too different. Because this one is so similar to Marvel though, you can actually combine the two much more easily for some interesting battles. The graphic design and mechanics would be pretty much the same and given that it's set in the real world with some fantasy elements thrown in, it's not too much to ask to chuck in the odd superhero as well within reason. Iron Fist and Dr Strange are two perfect examples from a thematic perspective. Granted Iron Man and the Hulk wouldn't be the first choices (though wouldn't that make for a fun movie?), but you'd be surprised what you can get away with.
It's not perfectly seamless though, for starters I wouldn't recommend using Marvel schemes and Masterminds in this set as the cards here all pivot around Chinatown specifically and I don't quite see how unleashing the nega-virus across the world or changing the outcome of World War II is going to really fit in here. Also why would Galactus be in China? The cards in Big Trouble want to be played together ideally, but don't be afraid to mess around a little with the hero decks from time to time for a giggle.
Of course not everyone has every set with all the expansions and what have you. So if you're not big on collecting them all, you might actually fare well with Big Trouble as I can't see how they could expand this one reliably and I don't think they ever will. So it makes for a more condensed, yet mostly straightforward edition of Legendary. Verdict On Big Trouble In Little China

In all honesty, this version of Legendary is a good game because. . . well it's almost exactly the same as Marvel Legendary and that's in my Top 20 so I can't fault it on the mechanics. But if you were hoping for something different, you're going to be disappointed as it is as close to a re-skin as you can get of Marvel Legendary. Right down to nabbing bystanders and fighting Masterminds multiple times with tactic cards, it's that similar. Unless you're an ultra- fan of the movie, there's little reason to get this if you already own Marvel.

On its own though, it does have some advantages for some players. Marvel is almost infinitely expandable at this point, it's already had a ton of expansions and anyone like me who owns the game will be flooded with cards. This one however I don't think could be expanded. So if you want a Legendary game that's simpler than the Encounter versions, but more condensed, this one is not a bad one to go for. Of course this is assuming you have a soft spot for the movie, otherwise the theme will be completely wasted, but that applies to every Legendary game in existence. Some questionable design choices exist with the box size, solo play and the card classes almost as if it was rushed out the door, but they're minor quibbles.
If you're completely new to Legendary, then as a deck builder, it's a simple and decent game with adjustable challenge levels. But then so is Marvel and you're not forced to buy expansions and out of the two I'm hanging on to Marvel without a second thought (granted I do have all but one expansion for it!). So essentially pick whichever theme you enjoy the most and have fun, but don't stare at the artwork for too long!
If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/


You're a fan of the film it's based on - it's pretty much designed with you in mind.
You liked the mechanics of Marvel Legendary, but aren't keen on superheroes.
You want a fairly straightforward deck builder game to introduce to others. YOU WILL NOT LIKE BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA IF:

You're looking for anything new from the Marvel version - it's essentially the same thing.
You don't know anything about the film or even enjoy it as the theme here will be lost on you.
You're not a fan of the sub-par artwork.