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Disney Villainous Review

Disney-Villainous-Review-image

It’s Good To Be Bad

Since Walt Disney’s first hit of the silver screen Snow White and then Seven Dwarves introduced a villain for the ages with the Evil Queen, Disney’s baddies have grown bigger and badder. Everyone today will remember growing up fascinated with their villain, whether Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, Jafar from Aladdin or, my personal favourite, Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid. There has always been a fascination with villains. They have the best costumes, the best songs, the best voices. We all wanted to be them! So giving you the opportunity to play as them in a board game feels like an obvious attempt at wish fulfilment. In comes 2018’s Villainous from Ravensberger. Designed by the collective Prospero Hall, it has quickly become one of the most successful Disney games around with multiple expansions and spin offs including a Marvel and a Star Wars Villainous.

I Want To Be Evil…

In Disney Villainous, players will have the option of playing one of six iconic Disney villains each with their own player board, card decks and beautiful miniature. The minis are the highlight of the show. It would have been so easy to just manufacture little plastic replicas of the characters themselves but instead you are presented with clear plastic, artistic renditions of the villains themselves. Not meaning to literally look like them but to capture their essence. They are surprisingly satisfying to pick up and move around your board and gaming aside, I would happily keep them out of the box and put them on display. The artwork is gorgeous as you would imagine as everything is taken from the movies themselves but remastered in vibrant clarity. And the individual character’s card backs are just gorgeous! Each player board has four locations that you can move around and each location has a series of actions you can choose from. Much like Scythe you must move to a different location each turn and choose from the designated top and bottom actions. This mechanism really makes you think about, not only your current turn, but what you are going to want to do next. So, what are your options? Each player will have a deck of cards from which you will draw upto five each turn and one option might allow you to play a card. These come in different flavours. Some offer Allies that will sit beneath a location on your board and usually help you fight off any heroes that might come to bother you. You could also play objects that sit with the allies and offer them extra abilities. Finally you could play an effect which gives you an instant boost that might allow you to draw extra cards or search your discard pile. Another option is to simply collect power. These tokens are what you will need to play the cards and you also will have options to trash cards you don’t want. So far so simple? So how does it become more villainous?

To Fate Or Not To Fate…

Every player will have a fate deck. These are your worst nightmares. The heroes of the story! When you select the fate option you will be drawing from another player’s fate deck and sending their heroes to try and slow them down. Heroes work a little like allies in reverse. They are played along the top of a location but unlike allies they will cover the top actions making them unplayable when you move there. There are also items that will power them and one off effects all designed to slow you down. There is only one way to get rid of those pesky goody two shoes and that’s vanquish. If you have an ally or allies at the same location as a hero who have a total power more than the hero then you can let them fight and send them running. However, you will also lose those allies to your discard deck so make sure you vanquish at the right time with the right allies.

Sinister Asymmetry

What makes this game so great is that each and every character has a very different objective that will demand a very different style of play. For example playing as Ursula you will need to burn through your deck to find the trident and the crown whereas Maleficent needs to start her turn with a curse played in each location. Some villains like those will need to do a lot of deck diving whereas others like Captain Hook will need to find and defeat their main heroes. This asymmetry is great fun and allows for so much replayability. Also when you add in the number of expansion boxes that can be mixed and matched together, there is so much fun to be had.

With the Disney brand everywhere now it feels important to really emphasize that this series is not a ‘cash grab’ but a genuinely great game that has been designed and made by one of the world’s leading board game design companies. And with that, means that it is not aimed at children. This is a tough game. It has complex mechanisms and its asymmetric nature makes it more difficult to teach that many other games. It also works best at two or three players as it can go on a little long at the higher play count. But if you like Disney and you have some experience playing modern board games then you’d be mad not to try Disney Villainous.

This Blog was written by Dan Street-Phillips

Editors note: This post was originally published on 4th April 2023. Updated on 18th April 2024 to improve the information available.



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