villainous box art
Disney Villainous – By Wonder Forge Games

Disney Villainous is a game that made a huge splash at GenCon 2018 in August.  The game was extremely popular at the Ravensburger / Wonder Forge booth over the weekend. Ravensburger had completely sold out of the game by Saturday morning.  Villainous was so popular that they had a signup sheet just to play the demo. Demos windows were 15 minutes long . My daughter signed up for the demo first thing Saturday morning, and the earliest time slot available was late Saturday afternoon.  

Some games you can demo and learn in 15 minutes, but Villainous is extremely tough to demo in 15 minutes.  Why?  How do I put this?  This game is strange, bizarre and different!  Everyone is kind of scattered about the gaming table doing their own thing.  Everyone has their own Disney themed villains deck, and everyone is basically playing a completely different game of solitaire at the exact same time.  This is NOT a bad thing, but it is difficult to convey the rules to new players in a 15 minute time frame.  So hopefully I can give you a better understanding of game play now!

Villainous components

What is Villainous?

Villainous is a Turn-Based Board Game / Card Game for 2-6 players.  In Villainous, each player takes on the role of a different Disney Villain.  In this base set, you will either be: Maleficent, Ursula, Jafar, Prince John, Queen of Hearts, or Captain Hook.  The villains will try to succeed in this game where they failed in the movie.  How?  Basically:

  • Captain Hook has to defeat Peter Pan
  • Queen of Hearts needs her henchmen to control all locations on her board
  • Jafar needs to get the Magic Lamp and the Genie under his control
  • Maleficent must have a curse in all locations on her board
  • Ursula needs to obtain the King’s Trident and the Crown
  • and Prince John needs to get crazy wealthy

How Does Villainous Play?

Each player takes one of the 6 theme decks and the corresponding game board.  Each game board has 4 different locations corresponding to places in each Disney Movie. For our example, we’ll be looking at Jafar’s deck.  

The Game Board:

Jafar's Game Board - Villainous
Jafar’s Game Board – Villainous

Above is Jafar’s game board (every player has a different board).  Jafar’s game board locations are: Sultan’s Palace; Streets of Agrabah; Oasis; and Cave of Wonders.  These are straight out of the movie.  Jafar’s objective is noted on the left.  For Jafar to win, he must start his turn with the Magic Lamp at Sultan’s Palace and have the Genie under his control.  And he must do this before any other player achieves their goal.  Each turn, you move your Villain to a different location on your board, and take the actions there.  Each location has 3-4 possible actions you can take.  It’s not easy to decide where to go, as every location has something good for you!

The Cards:

Other players are playing other Villains at the exact same time.  You are the only player with the Jafar cards.

Jafar's Fate Cards (left) and Jafar's Villain Deck (right)
Jafar’s Fate Cards (left) and Jafar’s Villain Deck (right)

Each player will start with a 30 card Villain Deck and a 15 card Fate Deck.  Each player starts the game with 4 Villain Cards.  

The Villain Deck has cards that will help you win the game. Here are some examples of Jafar’s Villain Cards:

Iago card
Iago
Deception
Hypnotize
Snake-Staff-Jafar
Snake Staff

The villain deck contains Allies, Conditions, Items and Effects.  Some require a cost in Power/Money to play.  

The Fate Deck contains cards that your opponents can play against you during their turns.  These are obstacles you have to overcome.  Fate Heroes will also block off the top 1/2 of each location. This cuts each location down from 4 Actions down to 2 for that player! So you need to defeat the heroes to get all 4 actions spaces back.  But many players also need these cards to win the game!  Here are some examples of Jafar’s Fate Cards:

Genie
Genie
genie villainous wish
Wish
Villainous Heroes
Aladdin and Abu

So how do you achieve your Goal in Villainous?

On Your Turn:

  • Move your Villain to a different location on your board.
  • Perform the Actions according to the game board (provided some are not blocked by Heroes) 
  • Draw Cards at the end of your turn – back up to 4 cards.  

What Actions can you perform?

  • You can play an Ally card to a location
  • You can take some money (they call it power, but it’s essentially game money)
  • You can play an Item Card 
  • You can Vanquish a Hero
  • You can activate card abilities
  • You can Play a Fate Card
  • You can move Items or Allies
  • Discard cards, and get different cards

Fate Cards:  

So, as I mentioned above, Fate Cards are played against you, by the other players, during their turns.  Of course, you can also play Other Player’s Fate Cards against them during your turn.  Captain Hook has to face off against Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and the children.  Ursula has to face off against Ariel, Sebastian, and the King.  Prince John has to face off against Robin Hood and all his merry men.  

If you are the first player to complete your Objective – You Win.  

 

First Impressions

First off, this is not your typical kiddie Disney fare.  This game is a basically a Pre-Constructed Trading Card Game Set hiding inside a Disney Box. Difficulty-wise, I don’t consider this a kiddie game. The box says ages 10 & Up.  That basically means 5th graders and up.  If your kids can play deep strategy games by then … Great!  Just know, that there’s a lot of depth here!  I certainly wouldn’t expect kids under 10 to grasp this.  I’d guess 12 & Up if someone had asked me my opinion.

During your turn, you will usually be taking 4 actions. But these decisions are not easy! 

  • Should you get some money? 
  • Should you play an Ally? 
  • Is the Hero in play against you a real threat to winning? 
  • If so, should you vanquish that hero now or later? 
  • Do you need to get multiple allies out to defeat heroes?
  • Should you move your allies? 
  • Should you play your Items cards now?  Or save them for later?
  • Should you replace your cards?

Oh wait, are you even paying attention to what the other players are doing?  Remember, if they compete their objective before you do, they win!  So:

  • Should you play a Fate Card and give an opponent a stumbling block?  But there’s a chance that Fate Card will be a goal of theirs.  Do you dare play a Fate Card against Captain Hook?  What if it’s Peter Pan.  Captain Hook needs Peter Pan out to win the game.  But if you don’t put Peter out, Captain Hook will probably devise his own plan to draw out Peter Pan anyway.

The game is confusing and fun, all at the same time!

Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Expandability – This game is easily expandable to add on more villains.  I’m sure villains like Cruella Deville, Gaston, Scar, and the Evil Stepmother are already in the works.
  • Decisions – This game does not play itself!  You are forced to make tough decisions.  There is a lot of strategy involved.  
  • The cards are beautiful.  The artwork is fantastic!  And the Game Boards are beautiful as well.   
  • Good Value – Considering you are getting 6 preconstructed deck, 6 game boards, decent villain markers and some cardboard money … I think this is pretty good for a $35 retail price.  
  • It’s cool to be a villain!  That’s a very fun theme for a change.
  • Games tend to be close.  I haven’t seen one player completely destroy the other players.  Our games have always been close.  

Cons

  • Not much to do on other player’s turns.  Each players’ turns can take several minutes.  I can’t imagine playing this game with 5 or 6 players.  They tried this at the GenCon Demos and it was excruciating! 
  • Too deep?  Being an avid gamer, this game wasn’t too difficult to grasp, but I can see this being difficult for some players.  There is a lot of strategy here if you are trying to win. This is definitely not Uno!  
  • Replayability?  I am enjoying this game right now, but I wonder if these decks will get stale over time?  I’m not sure how many times I want to play as a minor Disney villain like Prince John or the Queen of Hearts?  I’m already looking forward to seeing what decks come out next. Games like Smash-Up come out with 4 new decks a couple of times per year.  I hope Wonder Forge does too with Villai!  
  • “Take That!”  In order to win, you really have to play Heroes against your opponents.  Some people simply do not like games where other players can be mean to them – especially kids.  But everyone is a villain, so I guess it fits the theme.
  • Incohesiveness.  Everyone is doing something different.  This can be a pro or a con, depending on how you see it.  Like I mentioned before, you are essentially playing Multiplayer Solitaire, and tossing stumbling blocks at your opponent every once in a while.  Anyone remember two player Tetris?
  • The box insert seems poorly designed.  I’m not sure how you are supposed to store your cards inside?  You essentially have six 45-card theme decks to put inside.  But the inside of the box isn’t designed to hold individual decks all that well.  Why isn’t there a card tray in here?  We put our decks in small ziplock bags.  I am guessing Wonder Forge Games will eventually come up with a Storage Solution similar to Smash Up’s Big Geeky Box.   
  • Spike
    Spike – Arcadia Quest.

    The Villain Markers seem a bit cheap to me.  They are just big hunks of plastic, and some don’t resemble the characters very well at all.  Yeah, I’m being a bit picky here, but Prince John is represented by a clunky yellow crown.  I wish they had used different molds. Maybe villain markers that players could paint – like some other miniature games – like Arcadia Quest.  The existing pieces work just fine, and don’t hurt game play at all … I just wish they were cooler.
  • Power Balance could be off?  The decks don’t seem perfectly balanced. Some are easier to play than other decks.  Prince John just needs to obtain 20 gold coins and he wins.  While Jafar must get the Genie out, get the magic lamp out, hypnotize the Genie, and get everything to the Palace. Jafar’s deck feels more in depth and difficult to play to me. 

Final Thoughts:

I have played through this game 3 different times with 2 and 3 players.  It has taken about an hour each time.  Once you have had one play-through, it’s fairly simple to understand the game.  That’s where the simpleness ends though.  There is a lot to strategize in order to beat your opponent.  You have to thin your deck as fast as possible, get your winning conditions put together, and slow down your opponents.  It’s a deep game and I’ve enjoyed it.  I’m looking forward to seeing new Villains – The sooner the better! 

http://www.wonderforge.com/games/disney/villainous/voting.php – Wonder Forge is already letting you vote on new villains!  Well done Wonder Forge!  Well Done!

Note: This game is getting very tough to find.  If you are at all interested in this game, start your search now!