A to Z Gaming: Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck-Building Game

We investigated aliens and weird phenomena in Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck-Building Game, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck-Building Game
Players: 1-5
Time: 45-60 Minutes
Designers: Ben Cichoski, Daniel Mandel
Artists: n/a
                                                                       Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment

Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck-Building Game is, as the name implies, a deck-building game where players take on the role of FBI agents recruiting team members, investigating weird phenomena, and taking down enemies, both inside and outside the bureau. If players survive all of the enemies and take out the End Game card, they win.

The game is set up with the mat in the middle of the table and a number of decks set up as specified: the Beliefs, Doubts, Special Agents, and Strike Deck on their locations; the Conspiracy Deck is set up with an End Game card at the bottom followed by cards from three seasons, an Informant, and a Lead; and the Academy Deck is formed by shuffling together four different Character Decks along with a number of Syndicate Enemies. The first five cards of the Academy Deck are dealt face-down into the spots labelled “The Bureau.” In addition, Evidence cards are chosen — one each of Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3 — and placed face-down on their spots on the board.

Each player takes an Avatar card for one of the Characters in the game — this gives the player Defense and Health values and Belief and Doubt abilities. In addition, players each get a private deck of cards with 7 Field Agents and 5 Assault Teams — the Field Agents have one Recruit Point (for scanning and buying new cards), and the Assault Teams each one Strike (for scanning and attacking enemies). Players shuffle their decks and draw a hand of 6 cards.

On each turn, the top card of the Conspiracy Deck goes into the right-most spot in the Shadows, face-down. If necessary, cards are moved to the left to make room for the new card. They then play any number of cards from their hands. Each card has some combination of Recruit Points, Strikes, and “activate” abilities.

The Recruit Points can be used to turn over cards in The Bureau and “buy” them to add to the player’s deck. But, be careful! There might be enemies in The Bureau, which could have on-going effects or just jam-up the number of available cards. Each slot in The Bureau has a special ability when that card is recruited — for example, putting the new card on top or on the bottom of the player deck or healing a Strike.

The Strikes can be used to turn over cards in The Shadows so players know what’s coming into The Field. Most of those cards are Enemies or Events, but sometimes you’ll find an Informant to help you out, or, even better, a Lead to help you find Evidence. Players want to keep those two in The Shadows as long as possible AND visible as long as possible. But some of the enemies have ongoing effects, so it can be bad to have too many cards face-up in The Shadows.

At the end of their turn, the player will take a Strike Card for each enemy in The Shadows. Strike Cards each have a number of damage that represent wounds, and if a player ever has wounds equal to their Health, they die. If a player dies and the End Game has not been revealed yet, all players lose.

In addition to fighting enemies, players are trying to find Evidence. In the game-play, Evidence represents abilities that the End Game enemy will have if players are unable to collect it. Things like preventing certain cards from being played against the End Game.

To uncover Evidence, players must follow Leads that show up in The Shadows or the Field. These are mini-goals, like spending a certain amount of Recruit Points or defeating a certain number of enemies on their turn. Fulfilling the goal once will uncover a piece of evidence (i.e. turn the card over); doing it a second time allows players to collect it (i.e take it away from the End Game).

When the Game End card is revealed, either in The Shadows or The Field, any uncollected evidence is taken and placed above the game mat — the End Game enemy now has those abilities. Players must try to take out the End Game — each successful attack gives the End Game a strike, and once it has enough strikes, it is taken out.

Players win if they take out the End Game. They lose if a character dies before the End Game is revealed or if all characters die taking out the End Game.

I picked up the game from the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction this past Spring. I had been wanting to try one of the Legendary Encounters games, and the theme of this one spoke to me. I was a fan of The X-Files from the first episode (though fell off a bit toward the end…). Spoiler alert, I like this game. I like the theme, of course, but I enjoyed a number of the mechanisms, too.

Aside from the deck building (a fav for me), I like how the cards come in face-down, both the Conspiracy Deck and the Academy Deck. I mean it’s frustrating, but adds a bit of mystery and danger to the game. You don’t know what you’ll be scanning — an Event that will screw everyone? A really cool card you’ll want in your deck? Or an Enemy that’s going to clog things up for a while?

I also like that you can see the enemies coming toward you in The Shadows. You know what’s coming, and might be able to stop it from striking you. Or…well…you might just know that it’s inevitably going to screw you.

How is it as a 2-player game? Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck-Building Game works really well for 2 players. I’ve only played solo and with 2 players, so I’m not sure how it is at higher player counts, but with 2 players it’s great. You have a chance to deal with enemies you know your deck can handle, while having back-up for things you don’t have the cards for.

How about the art and component quality? I really like the play mat that came with this – it helps with the game lay-out. The cards themselves feel a bit cheap. The art is all screen-grabs from the X-Files, so it’s fine. It could have been fun to have some representational art, but I’m happy with the TV art.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely! I need to defeat the 9 seasons in the deck, if nothing else.

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