Legendary Encounters: Alien Expansion Review - Mummy's Very Angry!

This one sure took its time! I've been waiting for more Alien content for ages! Not that I was bored with the base set by any means, it's still a Top Ten game for me, but who doesn't like adding more cards and variety to a deck builder? And here it appears that we're getting not only a bunch of new cards, but some tweaks to the difficulty rules and even a chance to play the Queen against the Humans.........oohh........

That last bit has me concerned. In the base game there were two variants that on paper sounded amazing. One was to have a player come back as an Alien to ruin everyone's day upon death and the other was to have a Corporation traitor within the group. Unfortunately, in practice, neither of these variants worked particularly well and I never use them. Some could argue I'm been therefore generous at giving the base set a coveted 10 rating, but they were minor additions and a game does not have to be pitch perfect to get a 10. The main focus of the game, being the full co-op thematic experience, was enough to get that ranking.

So even though I'm expecting good things from the added variety, will the Queen mode be simply another variant that never gets played? Also why couldn't they give this expansion an actual name? And given that Easter is fast approaching, is this really the best time to be reviewing a game that involves giant eggs with giant spiders in them?



Designer: Ben Cichoski, Daniel Mandel
Publisher: Upper Deck
Age: 14+
Players: 1-5
Time: 60-90 Minutes
RRP: £34.99


From the publisher:
New expansion to the 2014 acclaimed game, Legendary Encounters: An ALIEN Deck Building Game.
  • More facehuggers, more ALIENS and, finally, more ALIEN QUEEN!
  • The roster of characters grows with this expansion to include Lieutenant Gorman, Superintendent Andrews, Captain Elgyn, and Kane!
  • There will be a new unique playmat to allow players to play as the ALIEN Queen!
  • 400 new cards featuring all original art.




THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!


With over 400 cards in this expansion, enough to be its own separate game, this is expanding every part of the original game with two new scenarios, nine character decks, ten avatars, difficulty modifiers, new drones and strikes, and a new "one vs all" Queen Mother mode, which I'll talk in more detail about a little later.

As we've run out of movies to explore, we get two completely original stories. I would have given extra brownie points if they used a couple of stories from the books, but let's not be picky. Alien Incursion takes place in The Aviary, essentially a zoo of the future giving the designers a reason to state that "flying cows" are a thing. This does lead to some fun encounters with winged Aliens utilising the new Flying mechanic, which essentially lifts the enemy above the Complex to move of its own accord rather than be "bumped" by the Hive deck. Simple, thematic and a legitimate threat as you can't simply scan your way to delaying their arrival. Not to mention the concept of flying Aliens is just so cool and scary. I want to see them in action in Alien 5 please.

Alien Evolved reminds me a little of Ressurection's plot with genetic experimentation on Science Station Echidna, the intent to breed xenomophs with genetically enhanced clones to create augmented, obedient super-aliens. Yeah that never goes south does it? However the Enhanced keyword is very good for replay value as every an Enhanced enemy appears you use a card from the HQ stack to determine additional special abilities. Another way to boost variety and create unexpected surprises.

The new avatars are designed with the new scenarios in mind, but could fit elsewhere. Five space-zoo employees with unique abilities (the Animal Handler in particular has saved my bacon in solo mode) and five clones who excel at one particular class trigger. These are quite nice to use as introductory characters if you're worried that players might struggle to deck build effectively.


GET AWAY FROM HER YOU BI..........!! 


Keeping it family friendly where possible! But isn't that just the best moment from the entire Aliens franchise? Ripley is just so cool, best heroine ever!! Whoops, fanboy moment there! We've already had a variant where a player can play as an Alien (sort of), but now you can actually play as the Queen herself. You have a selection of cards and abilities and deck build exactly like the rest of the players, except you're trying to actively hurt or hinder the players while they plough through the scenario and eventually get to the point where you're in their crosshairs for the final battle. Sounds awesome right. . . . well almost anyway!

It's certainly much better than the Alien player variant from before, I never use that one anyway. Rather than just a few cards, you use the same "recruit/attack" value mechanisms that the Humans do and can enjoy the deck building aspect as well. You can vary your tactics across actively biting players (not literally), accelerating the Hive deck and my personal favourite thematic touch, removing character cards from the HQ and impregnating them so that they come back later as alien drones. That's really cool, I always loved doing that in the old Aliens Predator CCG.  

There's even a slight bluffing element where you can view the cards in the Complex, but you don't have to reveal them if you don't want to. Sometimes you want an enemy or objective to remain hidden or perhaps you want that event triggered right away. Of course the players can gleam information from your choices, but you could try to bluff a tough alien foe as that last sentry gun turret and mess with the Humans.

So for the most part, it's actually a solid way to play. The only real flaw with the Queen mode is the insane difficulty spike it offers. If you thought Legendary Encounters was hard before, you ain't seen nothing yet. Getting through the scenario with a Queen player is hard enough but then killing her at the end as well? Expect to see a high ratio of Queen wins to Human wins. The rulebook actually recommends to you that you use some of the difficulty tweaks to make the game easier and I believe this is almost mandatory to balance it out. I will generally opt to play the game in full Co-Op mode first, but occasionally will bring out the Queen for those who fancy the challenge.


VERDICT ON LEGENDARY ENCOUNTERS: ALIEN EXPANSION


The best thing this expansion has going for it is the substantial increase in variety. Combine this with the base set and you have a ton of characters as well as starting avatars and roles to use allowing for endless replayability. Having new soldier aliens, strikes and scenarios also adds to the experience. The difficulty tweaks are nice too whether to make the game harder for solo or in general or to make it easier for large groups, you essentially have full control to make your perfect experience.

The Queen Mother mode is solid and it can be good fun to play, but it's not the best way to play Legendary Encounters and if you thought the game was hard already, this is basically sadist mode from the Alien perspective. You will most likely need to use some of the easier difficulty tweaks to balance this out, but this is a minor issue. It helps to add to the games already impressive versatility and makes the Alien Player variant from the base set redundant.

I think this is actually just under borderline essential. Lots of extra content, a new mode that works even though it's not the best thing ever and tweaks to the existing rules to address balance and difficulty. There's very little to fault directly because there's so many ways to tweak the settings if you're unhappy. If Legendary Encounters was the "Alien" movie, this expansion just made it into "Aliens".





BROKEN RATING - 9 SUSPICIOUS LOOKING EGGS






YOU WILL LIKE LEGENDARY ENCOUNTERS: ALIEN EXPANSION IF:



You simply want a ton of extra variety in characters, roles, scenarios and aliens.


You like the sound of Queen Mother Mode regardless of the tweaks required.





YOU WILL NOT LIKE LEGENDARY ENCOUNTERS: ALIEN EXPANSION IF:



You thought the game was too difficult already and don't need to make it worse.


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