Villainous (Ravensburger, 2018)

Basic details: 2-6 players (competitive); 40-120 minutes (depending on number of players)

Dates played: July 3, July 4, and July 5, 2020

Expansions played with: Evil Comes Prepared (2019); Wicked to the Core (2019)

Basic details: You are a Disney villain, trying to achieve an objective specific to your character, while possibly also trying to prevent other villains from achieving their objectives, or at least slowing them down.

On each turn, you move your villain to a new location on your 4-location player board and carry out as many of the depicted actions as you want. Actions include gaining power tokens, playing a card, discarded cards, moving a card from a location to an adjacent location, activating a card, vanquishing heroes, and invoking your opponents’ fate cards.

Each villain has 2 decks of cards: a fate deck and a villain deck. The fate deck contains heroes (that may or may not need to be vanquished to achieve your objective), item cards that can be attached to heroes, making them stronger, and effect cards that can otherwise throw wrenches into your plans. The villain deck contains allies, which are slightly less evil villains, items that can be attached to allies, making them stronger, and effects, which usually let you take some kind of additional action that may help you eventually achieve your objective.

When your opponent plays a fate card against you, they draw the top two cards of your fate deck and choose one to play on your board. With few exceptions (like Yzma), they choose where to place any hero they have drawn. When a hero is placed on your board, they block half the actions for that location, and usually can only be removed by being vanquished by allies of equal or greater strength. When a hero is vanquished, any allies involved in the vanquishing are discarded back to the villain deck, while the hero is discarded back to the fate deck.

We blew through 3 games this weekend: Yzma vs. Prince John; Hades vs. Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog), and Scar vs. Jafar.

Color Commentary: This game is fantastic, if for no other reason than they include Yzma, from The Emperor’s New Groove, as one of the villains. TENG is probably my favorite Disney movie, and completely underrated and often forgotten. Plus, her objective is clever: defeat Cuzco using Kronk. But there’s a twist, because Kronk can turn from being an ally to being a hero, the only remedy to which is to use an effect card to place him back in your hand and start the Kronk process over.

I think each package (villain, villain board, fate deck, villain deck, objective, etc.) is pretty clever, and they also create interesting dynamics with how you interact with other players. For instance, in the second game, I played Hades and M played Dr. Facilier, but also took a fate-heavy strategy, which basically made it impossible for me to win. Hades needs to start his turn with 3 titans at Mt. Olympus (far right location). However, titans must be played in the Underworld (far left location), and playing heroes can lock them and make them unmovable without an unlocking card. Also, unlike regular cards, titans can only be moved with special cards, as opposed to with a regular move-a-card action. So by M playing a fate-heavy strategy (he also had 2 locations from which he could invoke fate, and those locations were also pretty useful in general, so he visited them frequently), he could lock and re-lock and sometimes move my titans faster than I could get them to Mt. Olympus, because he had heroes on all my locations and thus half my actions blocked, severely limiting my options each turn. I briefly had 1 titan in Mt. Olympus, at which point he played a hero that let him move a titan, which was then moved onto a location with a hero that automatically locked any titans that landed there. My other 4 titans never made it past Mt. Olympus, and even then, 2 of them were locked and unable to move until I could cycle through and reshuffle my villain deck. I invoked fate less often against Dr. Facilier, and though doing so more often might have slowed M down a bit more, it was just a matter of pace, not possibility.

Compare this with the 3rd game, though, where it would be impossible for M to win if I didn’t use invoke fate cards. Jafar needs the Genie under his control, and the Genie is found in the fate deck. Scar’s objective is also easier to accomplish if other players invoke fate, although Scar at least has cards that let him look through the fate deck himself.

Thoughts from M: In the first game, I was Prince John, who had the pretty simple objective of accruing 20 power tokens. This seemed too easy, though, so I fiddled around with other strategies for a bit, and Petra won. In the second game, I was more aggressive, and decided from the beginning to play a fate-heavy strategy, just to see what happened. In the 3rd game, I couldn’t really figure out a best strategy and fate wasn’t thwarting in the same way against Scar as it was against Hades, as Scar needs to vanquish heroes to achieve his objective.  (Also, this game is evil as it had me fighting again Robin Hood, but then again monarchs are made up of the better families amongst us and do deserve to rule.)

In general, I think mixed strategies probably won’t work in 1 on 1 games as well as they would against more opponents, so against a single other opponent, I think it’s best to decide on a strategy early on and sticking with it and invoking it consistently are key. That said, it does seem to be a flaw in the game that fate (either invoked or not invoked) can make it functionally or actually impossible for a villain to achieve their objectives, because then players could just lock another player out, which definitely diminishes the enjoyment that player would get out of the game.


One thought on “Villainous (Ravensburger, 2018)

  1. I figured out Jafar can win without an opponent’s cooperation, but, unless it happens early in the game and you get extremely lucky with your card draw, it is likely to be long and convoluted.

    Also, the game could be be more clear on the impact of some of the cards i.e. is it subtracting two strength points from each hero or two from the collective total of the heroes?


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