Is It Better To Be Bad? - Disney Villainous
- Being the hero is overrated anyway
Players: 2 - 6
Playing time: 50 minutes
Designed by: Prospero Hall
Published by: Ravensburger
Villainous encourages a new style of play within board games where the Villains claiming victory is a good thing. Heroes normally get all of the glory, especially when it comes to Disney but that's all about to change. Villainous is an asymmetrical card game where you take the role of your favourite Disney Villain and explore their unique abilities to gain ultimate power.
- 6 Villain Movers - 6 Villain Decks (30 cards in each) - 6 Fate Decks (15 cards in each) - 6 Villain Guides - 6 Boards - 3 Lock Tokens - 6 Reference Cards - 1 Fate Token -80 Power Tokens - 1 Cauldron
The components for Villainous are some of the most stunning ones I have seen in any board game. The Villain Movers are stylised versions of their characters which does a great job of capturing the essence of each character. They're high quality and a chunky weight which makes them feel great when moving them around.
The Villain Decks all display unique artwork on the back for each character which for me reminds me a lot of the Kingdom Hearts artwork (how amazing would a Kingdom Hearts expansion be) and how the Keyblades are designed. The artwork on the cards is also original for the game which is a nice touch due to how easy it would have been to take art from the original movies.
The boards and guides are well produced, vibrant and perfectly on theme for each character. Each board has a famous quote from each Villain which makes me feel like I'm getting into the character that I'm playing. They also give you a brief overview of the win condition you're aiming for which means you don't have to keep referring to the guide. I usually get suspicious when a player starts looking through their guide, it must mean they're getting close to winning right?
The only small issue I have with the components is the Cauldron that is used to store all of the power tokens. It's made with a very thin plastic, which isn't much of an issue but due to the high quality of the rest of the components, it's a bit of a letdown. I don't think it will be as durable as everything else included in the box and because you only get one and it's quite small, it gets moved around a lot in a 5-6 player game as it can't be reached by everyone.
The great thing about Villainous and what keeps it so interesting is that each character has their own set of rules and win conditions. The characters and their objectives are:
Ursula - Start your turn with the Trident and the Crown in Ursula's Lair.
Maleficent - Start your turn with a curse at each location.
Queen of Hearts - Have a wicket at each location and successfully take a shot.
Captain Hook - Defeat Peter Pan at the Jolly Roger.
Prince John - Start your turn with at least 20 power.
Jafar - Start your turn with the Magic Lamp at Sultan's Palace and Genie under your control.
During setup, each player chooses a Villain and gets their corresponding Villain Mover, Board, Villain Deck, Fate Deck and Villain Guide. Your board is placed in front of you with each deck on either side of it.
Draw four cards from your Villain Deck and this is your starting hand. This deck contains everything you will need to win. It's full of Items, Ally's and Effects to aid you with your win condition. The Fate Deck contains all the hindrances for a Disney Villain including heroes such as Ariel from The Little Mermaid in the Ursula Fate Deck and Aladdin in Jafar's and these will be played against you by other players.
Your board, which is commonly referred to as your realm during the game, has four different locations that you can move to. Some of these areas may be locked by a padlock during the early game and it's up to you to unlock it, usually as part of your win condition. Other than this, players can move to any location they want to as long as they move each turn.
Each location on your realm will have four actions for you to use. You can choose to use all of them, some of them or even none of them if you can't or don't want to. Each player will receive a player reference with a key for all of the available actions which are essential at the beginning as there's quite a few to remember:
Gain Power - power is the currency used in Villainous and needed to play cards. Take power from the cauldron equal to the number on the symbol you are activating.
Play a Card - play a card from your hand and pay the required power, you can only play one card per Play a Card action. Some locations have multiple of the same action.
Activate - some cards in your realm will have individual abilities that you can activate.
Fate - choose another player to fate and pick the top two cards from their fate deck and play one onto their realm.
Move an Item or Ally - move one of these cards from one location to an adjacent location in your realm.
Move a hero - the same as above but with a hero.
Vanquish - defeat a hero in your realm at any location.
Discard Cards - discard as many cards from your hand as you wish, at the end of your turn you then draw back up to four from your Villain Deck.
All of the Villain boards are different, so some of these actions may not appear, but the set up of each location always consists of two actions at the top and two at the bottom. When the Fate action is used against you a card can be played onto your realm that will block the top two actions. This means that these actions can't be used until the card is removed but you are still able to move to the location and resolve the bottom two. Once you have moved and completed your desired actions, it's then the next players turn.
The Fate action is extremely useful and can disrupt opponents progress. Some of the characters are able to reach their win condition really soon in the game if there is no form of interference. For example, Maleficent must have four curses in her realm at the start of her turn to win. There are a lot of curses in her deck and the likelihood of her having access to four in the first few turns is high. However, there are a lot of cards in the Fate Deck that will force her to discard said curses so using the Fate action is almost essential to stop her in order for you to win. Playing Fate cards can also cover useful action symbols to slow her down.
It's good to note that in a 5 or 6 player game, if you are the target of a Fate action you then receive the Fate Token. This means that you cannot be targeted again until another player has, the token then gets passed around.
Types of Cards
Ally cards found in the Villain Deck represent your Villain's henchmen, helpers and pets. To play an Ally you must first pay the power cost in the top left corner, you can then place them onto your realm in an unlocked location. Be sure to place them below the action symbols as cards from your Villain deck do not block any of these. Ally's can then be used to defeat Heroes in the same location using a Vanquish action. Each Ally has its own strength and usually an ability. It is discarded after it defeats a Hero so you must decide if you want to place an Ally to defeat a Hero or to use it for its ability.
Hero cards are only found in the Fate Deck and are used against the Villains. They are the do-gooders of the stories and are trying to stop the Villains’ evil plans. They are useful for blocking your opponents' actions but they can be extremely useful to a Villain as well. Some of the win conditions may include corrupting a Hero and turning them to the dark side. For example, Jafar's win condition requires him to find Genie (from the Fate Deck) and mind control him so that he is on your side. So other players have to weigh up the pros and cons of using the Fate action against this Villain as it could work out to his advantage.
Item cards can be found in both the Villain and Fate Decks and usually have an ability that affects other cards or actions. Some items say attach it to Hero or Ally depending on which deck it came from and cannot be placed if you do not have a Hero or Ally to attach it to. Other items can be placed onto your realm without attaching them.
Effect cards are also both found in the Villain and Fate Decks and are used as one time events. You are still required to pay the power cost for this card and then discard it after the effect has been used.
Condition cards are really interesting because they can be played during your opponents turn assuming that the condition is met. They do not require the Play a Card action and are discarded after they are used. You are not able to draw back up to four cards after a Condition has been used, you must wait until the end of your next turn.
Villainous has a unique play style, players are taking the role of the bad guy trying to stop the good guys.
Setup is really fast, each player takes the required components for their Villain, place the Cauldron in the middle and you're good to go.
An absolutely gorgeous game with high quality components. A great value for money.
A family friendly game with a really strong theme.
Replayability is huge due to each Villain having their own mechanics.
The Fate action creates a lot of player interaction which is always a lot of fun.
Condition cards are used out of your own turn which keeps players engaged in the whole game not just their turn.
You need to be aware of each Villain in play’s win condition so you know when another player is close to winning. This isn't too much of an issue as they're all printed on the back of the reference card but it means a lot of going back and forth to this the first couple of times you play.
Some characters require certain cards from their deck to unlock things and if you can't pull what you need, you start to feel out of the game.
Some Villains also strive from being Fate'd by other players as their decks are built for combatting it but if there is no reason for them to be attacked, then they probably won't be.
If you're not a fan of Disney then you probably won't be a fan of Villainous. It's not that it's a good game because of the theme but it's definitely a big factor.
In a higher player count game it's hard for everyone to easily reach the power cauldron, because the quality of this component is pretty cheap it would have been good if two were included or it was made bigger.
Theme - the theme is a central part of Villainous. Each character's objective is directly linked to the roles they play in their respective films. For example, with Jafar, the most important thing to him is the lamp and this shows when playing him in Villainous. You are frantically discarding cards trying to get to the lamp and using every devious power available to get it. That being said, if you're not the biggest fan of Disney or haven't seen a couple of the films then you will still get a lot out of this game. The decks are cleverly designed and make a lot of sense whether you're a fan of the theme or not.
Complexity - when you first play Villainous there is a lot of information to take in. You have to make sure you understand what your win condition is because you can't rely on anyone else to help you achieve it. Though every Villain has a different way of playing, once you are acquainted with all of the actions you can adapt these to any play style. Therefore, picking up a second Villain is usually not such a learning curve compared to your first one. The player reference card is also useful for helping with complexity issues and I would still recommend this for younger children.
Replayability - due to the number of playable characters and that they all play differently, the replayability is vast. There is at least 6 playthroughs worth of doing something different each time. The first time I played, I chose Ursula and immediately after finishing that game I wanted to play again and I wanted to play the same Villain because I had worked out how she played. Villainous ranks very highly when it comes to replayability from me and that's before incorporating any of the expansions.
I was sceptical when I first heard about Villainous as I didn't want it to be another mediocre game that had a well-known license attached to it. After hearing great things, I knew I had to try it out for myself and I wasn't disappointed. Villainous was everything I wanted it to be and a lot more. Down to the perfect use of theme and unique gameplay, I think it's a game that deserves to be in everyone's collection. It works well with children and adults, it's got a great price point considering how high quality this game is and the fun you can have is endless.
I mentioned that expansions are coming out (already out in certain places) and I cannot wait to get my hands on them. They include completely new characters that can be played in conjunction with the base game or completely separately. The expansions include Wicked To The Core which introduces the Evil Witch from Snow White, Our favourite God of the underworld Hades from Hercules and Dr Facillier from The Princess and the Frog. Along with a second expansion, Evil Comes Prepared including Scar from The Lion King (which I'm super excited for), Yzma from The Emporer's New Groove and Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective. So many great Villains joining the game and I can't wait to see what other ones get added in the future. I'd love to see Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas and Mother Gothel from Tangled!
*Villainous was kindly gifted to me from Ravensburger Global but all opinions are completely my own. Check them out here: