I had the opportunity to sit down and play a game of Marvel Legendary with the Entertainment Brand Manager for all things awesome at Upper Deck Entertainment, Jason Brenner at Gen Con this year. Jason is VERY passionate about gaming! I came away from that experience, both happy to have learned this great new game, but also at having met someone who "gets it"!
Jason was very open with me about Upper Deck's challenges in gaming, where they were, where they went, where they are now, and what's in store! Since then we've kept in touch, he's helped provide us the prototype of Marvel Legendary so we could get a Review and Play up online, and now, he's even agreed to an interview!
Without further ado, let's jump in True Believers!
Tox: First, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us how you started your career at Upper Deck and what your role has been over the years?
Jason: I actually applied for a Game support job in 2003 and didn’t get hired. I guess the person interviewing me at the time liked me enough to pass along my info to the gentleman who was building an organized play team at the time and so I got another call 6 months after my first interview to come back in. From there I stayed with OP for several years, heading up the Sneak Preview program for our entire stable of games, before moving to the Brand team in 2008.
Tox: That's awesome, good thing for Marvel fans that person passed along your info! What is your favorite board game out right now and why?
Jason: Hands down, Mansions of Madness. I am a huge fan of Fantasy Flight Games; they do an amazing job of delivering that experience in a box to players. I enjoy the longer play games because I can get lost in the theme quite easily. Earth Reborn is also a close second for me, theme, theme, and theme.
Tox: If you were in full control and money was no object, what type of game would you make?
Jason: Wow; that makes me really want to be in control (Maniacal laugh). However, if it were all up to me, I would really love to revisit a concept I have in my head for a minis game. I am a fan of minis and just happen to have a good buddy that likes to paint. Not skirmish minis but definitely a game that revolved around a rich story.
Tox: <inserts plug for WOW Minis!> That sounds like it could be fun! At the moment though, it's all about Legendary! Can you describe, in your words, what Legendary is and what makes it special?
Jason: Glad you asked, Legendary is a deck building game set in the Marvel universe and as such, incorporates a lot of famous faces. What makes this game unique are the Schemes. I like to think of the Schemes as little comic books that set the tone for each round of Legendary. They really create a theme for the game and are all completely different from one another.
Tox: It's been a wild road for UDE to get Legendary to where we are today, what can you tell us that you, and the company, have learned over that journey?
Jason: Great question. This game was in high gear from day one, meaning we knew we wanted to get it out by the end of the year and only had 5 months to do so; we came up with the concept in May of this year. I am actually amazed it worked out as well as it did, because for a while, I wasn’t convinced we would see our November launch happen, which I am happy to say it is printing as we speak. What I take away from this is that time is a very valuable commodity. While everything worked out great in the end, I would prefer to have more time in the future so that it isn’t a daily scramble. There are a couple of early images that I am not completely fond of and had we more time, I could have had them re-done.
Tox: That's very cool to hear you say that. The art in the game is very unique, being specially commissioned and considering the border styling you guys went with. What do you think, apart from the license and unique art, is the best thing Legendary offers gamers?
Jason: This is an easy answer and there are two aspects that to me are equally important, variety and longevity. There is enough customization in the game play to keep players entertained for a very long time. That is why there are over 500 cards in the box. You have played the game a few times and I think you know where I am coming from in terms of sheer amounts of variety.
Tox: For sure! The replayability is amazing in the core set alone! That said, in our video review, we make sure to note there are very key differences between the DC deck building game from Cryptozoic and the Marvel game from UDE. How do you see things shaping up for the marketplace and fans, given both licenses popularity, and both companies being established, larger publishers? Do you think one will win out over the other, or do they both have their place given their differences? Similar to it being an election year, do you think one will draw "votes" or in this case, purchases, from the other?
Jason: Well first of all, I think it is a good time for Super Hero games in the marketplace, especially for Marvel. The enormous success of the Marvel Studio films over the last several years has had a very big impact on how companies are using their licenses right now. For Legendary, the timing couldn’t be better as the Marvel films will be ongoing for several years which shines a huge spotlight on all things Marvel related which is very good for us.
Regarding Legendary and the DC game, I have played the DC deck builder and I think it has a certain charm that will appeal to both fans of DC comics as well as fans of certain other deck building games. The two are so vastly different in terms of design and gameplay that I don’t believe they will cannibalize each other too much. People are going to draw lines in the sand and take stances one way or the other but in the end it is going to come down to what the players want and I think the nod has to go to us for originality, both in terms of art and game design.
Tox: Well said. Looking ahead, what is the future plans for Legendary, or at least, as much as you can elude to? Will future expansions be set sizes? Include more Schemes? Or will they focus on Heroes, Villains, and Masterminds mostly?
Jason: I can definitely say that we have an elaborate expansion plan in mind. Matter of fact, we had a two hour meeting just the other day scrutinizing over the content on our first planned release that is due out next year. I can’t give too much away just yet, but I can tell you that we plan on doing something that is not very traditional in terms of deck building expansion releases, but I think the players will appreciate our decision. We know the importance of schemes in this game and they will definitely be a part of every expansion as well as a good variety of heroes, villains and Masterminds. Oh hell, here is a hint on content from our first release, were using a storyline that focuses on my favorite Marvel character. Did that help?
Tox: I'll reserve my answer until I can figure out your favorite character! Let's see if we can dig into that? What's your favorite combination of heroes in Legendary to play today?
Jason: Currently I am a fan of the following lineup: Cyclops, Iron Man, Storm, Spider Man and Rogue.
Tox: Quite the mix! Speaking of mixes, how did you choose which heroes, villains and master minds made it into the set?
Jason: We had a lot of discussion about this and we each had our favorites, sadly none of mine made it in to the first set. We went with the current lineup based on the recognition of the characters as well as riding that wave of the Avengers film. We definitely didn’t want to get obscure; I’m talking to you Squirl Girl, with the first set gate because it would have simply hindered us too much. That also allows us to dig deep into the character lists for expansions, now that the core is done.
Tox: With both Super Hero Squad and Marvel Legendary out, are there any other plans for UDE utilizing the Marvel License?
Jason: In terms of games, since Marvel is such a cherished property, we want to tread lightly as not to over saturate the market with Marvel themed games. That said, we do have plans for several trading card products that will take full advantage of the Marvel brand.
Tox: This has been awesome Jason, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview and we wish you the best with Marvel Legendary's launch and upcoming expansions!
Jason: Thank you!