Game Review - Villainous

I'll be the first to admit that I'm immediately wary of any game that is based on a franchise, primarily because the big companies bank on selling the game based on the brand rather than the quality of its game play. That being said, when I looked into Villainous, I could tell time and care went into making the game worth the purchase not only as an ornamental addition to your Disney collection, but as a viable strategy game.


You are the villain in this story with your own agenda for domination. Players can choose from 6 classic Disney villains to play (The Queen of Hearts, Jafar, Maleficent, Ursula, Prince John and Captain Hook). Each of the villains has their own specific path to victory that plays out very differently. For example, Prince John has to start his turn with 20 power (money, essentially) while Ursula needs to vanquish King Triton and steal his trident. Each Villain is given a board that represents their realm, containing locations to which the villains can move to accomplish actions. The actions are: gain power, play a card from your hand, activate a card's ability, fate (send a hero to attack an opponent's realm), move an ally or item within your realm, move a hero within your realm, vanquish a hero (have your allies fight the hero) and discard cards. We'll take a look at Captain Hook's objective and realm.


Captain Hook's story takes place, of course, in Neverland with the locations of the Jolly Roger, Skull Rock, Mermaid Lagoon and Hangman's Tree available to visit (Note: the Hangman's Tree location starts the game LOCKED and the player must unlock it before being able to visit). Captain Hook's objective is to vanquish Peter Pan at the Jolly Roger location - vanquishing Peter Pan at any other location DOES NOT COUNT. Captain Hook will move through his turns drawing cards from his Villain Deck and playing cards from his hand. As Peter Pan lies within the Captain's white Fate Deck, he must continually try to draw the Peter Pan card and place it into the realm in order to vanquish him. Cards like “Obsession” and “Worthy Opponent” help Captain hook search for Peter.


On each turn, the players move their villain piece to any location in their realm (provided it is not locked) and performs any/all of the the four actions shown in each corner. If a hero is placed into a location, it will cover up two of the action icons, meaning the villain can now only perform the bottom two actions until the hero is vanquished.


Captain Hook can also play allies into his locations to vanquish heroes. The strength (number in the bottom left of the card) of your allies must be greater to or equal to the heroes' strength in order to successfully vanquish them. There are also items that can be equipped to allies and heroes that will boost their strength.


One of the best and most interesting aspects of this game is that each villain has a completely different objective to complete. This not only means players must keep their eyes closely on their opponents' progress but means the game has great replay value as you can choose a different villain each game and play differently. The objectives also offer a great deal of Disney flavour. As your villain is progressing and eventually completes their final task, you can imagine how the story would have ended if the heroes failed. This storytelling aspect was very reminiscent of Boss Monster (a FANTASTIC game I highly recommend!).

When a villain successfully completes their objective, that villain wins and the game is over.

This game does have a tendency to be very competitive. Not so much at the beginning of the game while each player is quietly focusing on completing their own goals, but closer to the end of the game when each villain grows closer to winning. As soon as the the other villains get wind that you're close to completing your goal, you have a glaring target on your realm in which your opponents will surely pile on as many heroes as possible to prevent you from winning. One of our players in attendance last night compared this aspect to Munchkin - when one player gets dangerously close to level 10, they get absolutely ganked. I am typically not a competitive person, however, I did really like this aspect of the game because it kept everyone on their toes and the game turning on a dime. You could be in dead last and the Queen of Hearts is about to take it all next turn, but as her opposing villains gang up on her, she loses her lead and you now stand a chance at winning! It has a strange balance of hyper competitive behaviour mixed with solid cooperation, flip-flopping to whatever situation favours you the most – very much like how a villain would act!

It's evident even by simply looking at the box for Villainous that a good chunk of money was spent on the development of this game. The cards are made of a thick, glossy and deeply coloured stock, the plastic pieces are chunky, uniquely designed and have good finger feel and don't even get me started on the beautiful, rich, gold-embossed box! I'm a very physically enticed gamer and need my games to appeal to all of my senses for it to grab my attention (except for taste....I don't taste board games). Spending a lot of money to make a game look good is something we can expect from a franchise but the game play is equally as impressive! The only thing to keep in mind about playing Villainous is when you play it with the maximum number of players (6), it is quite the time commitment. Our first run through took just over 3 hours to complete. That being said, playing a game for the first time usually takes roughly twice as long as a game would if you knew what you were doing, but that still means a game with 6 players who all know what they're doing would take 1.5 to 2 hours. Not as bad as Risk, but still a decent amount of time for one game.

Overall, I would give this game a a gold star. Definitely worth the purchase! Find Villainous on our shelf under the “V” section or in the games library to try out!

(Villainous also has a standalone/expansion called “Wicked to the Core” that can be played on its own or adds three new villains to the base game – The Evil Queen, Hades and Dr. Facilier!)