Disney Villainous is a card game featuring characters from a variety of classic Disney movies, which has take that and hand management elements. Released in 2018 by Ravensburger, the game sees 2 – 6 players take up the role as Disney villains – from Captain Hook to Ursula. Designed by the team named Prospero Hall a game takes around 45 minutes, though this is somewhat impacted by the player count and experience levels. However, with the likes of Peter Pan, Robin Hood and the Genie taking a backseat role is the Disney magic still felt? Let’s find out!
With six Disney villains included the first step is choosing which dastardly character you want to play as: taking from the box the Villain and Fate decks, player piece, reference booklet and player board accordingly. The player board is placed in front of you with the Villain deck to the left and the Fate deck to the right. These are never combined and have different backs to be easily separated. The Villain player piece is placed on the left most section of the player board – one of the four locations in the villain’s realm. Some of the villains have locked locations at the start of the game, indicated by a padlock symbol. These get a padlock token which can be removed when playing. Power tokens then are placed in the centre of the table – with players gaining some dependant on turn order.
Whilst the different characters have their own unique decks cards generally villain cards come in a few forms. Allies are put into play below the player board, at a location, and provide a benefit – ranging from an extra action to buffing other allies. Items are often attached to allies to provide them additional strength. Conditions are a little different as they aren’t played on your turn, but if the condition is met on another’s player turn will come into effect.
On the other side of the player board the fate cards also come in a few common forms. Heroes are there to provide something to battle but also an additional hurdle for players to overcome. Items, similar to those found in the villain decks, make the heroes stronger. Effects are also a big part of the fate decks and are regularly villain dependant. For example, an effect can see heroes enlarged in the Queen of Hearts realm – resulting in them covering three actions from two different locations.
On a players turn they don’t not choose individual actions, instead moving to a location. This in turn has actions that the player can choose to take in any order. By default there are four actions per location, though this is reduced by fate cards which cover the top two at a location. These can be 4 unique actions from the 8 available or there can be duplicate actions featured – enabling a player to take the action twice. The actions include gaining power tokens, which are in turn used to pay for a card when taking the play a card action. Some cards will need to be activated as an action – often meaning they have stronger powers than normal.
The fate action is when you’ll choose another player to target. Who is up to the player, though in a 5/6 player game there is a token which makes last targeted person untargetable. Taking the fate action sees you draw two cards from the targeted players fate deck and choose one to play on them and one to discard. There are then two actions for movement, one that moves an ally or item and another less common action that moves an annoying hero.
Vanquishing a hero is the battle like action. This will only work if your allies total strength at a location matches or exceeds a heroes strength in the same location. Allies and heroes then cancel each other out and are discarded to separate discard piles. The final action is probably the least exciting being to discard cards. This is important though as only at the end of a turn will you draw back up to 4 cards – so discarding allows you to churn through your deck for the card(s) you want.
Each villain has unique components. Therefore, it is only fitting the way each wins is different too. While Jafar is attempting to secure the magic lamp and hypnotize the Genie, Maleficent attempts to curse the lands in her realm. Surprisingly there isn’t a recommended villain to start new players off with in the rules however Prince John would be a good start. His objective is “simply” to accumulate and start a turn with 20 power. While there are some nuances to playing as him at least the goal is very clear – even if reaching it is still hard. Note, some objectives are scored instantly, while others are only at the start of a turn. The game continues clockwise, with players taking a turn and going to a different location in their realm. This is the case until one player has fulfilled their objective and they are the master villain.
There is certainly no faulting the production quality of Disney Villainous, with glorious artwork adorning the cards and player boards. What could just be player pawns are 3D themed pawns for each villain. They are chunky and robust, adding a not entirely needed element of wow to the game. The only aspect that is merely good not great are the rather basic looking power tokens, though they are of decent thickness.
There is no doubt that the theming and concepts are family friendly. Still, Disney Villainous is a title I would be hesitant about getting off the shelf for a family gathering. Once into the swing of things the game swiftly becomes easy to play. Alas, due to everyone having different decks, objectives etc. it can be extremely difficult to teach the game to a group of new players. When teaching one new person the problem isn’t as prevalent but with a group it drastically extends the teach time – especially when everyone has their own questions. The villain handbooks certainly help, as does the reminder cards for the actions, but it is still a lot of information and options to digest for many.
Some have likened the action selection choice to Scythe and there is a resemblance. Each player board has 4 sections and what you can do depends on the section of the player board you choose to “activate” that turn. There is even the rule that you must move location each turn. While the rest of the gameplay differs greatly this selection mechanic does mean players can work out an optimum way to trigger locations – effectively learning to combo turns in the right order. I doubt it could be a springboard from one to the other, but it is a great game for new players to learn the art of combing turns.
Naturally, everyone will have their favourite character to play as. Yet, it is an interesting mix up from the norm with players forced to pick a villain and potentially only see the characters they truly love making their life harder. Putting aside the glorious theme that so many will instantly fall for isn’t easy but the core game below presents an interesting experience. This allows the game to be enjoyed even when you aren’t knowledgeable of a specific film or two – especially as with the fate decks you’ll be diving in and out of other films. There are often plenty of choices to make, the ability to churn through your deck and combos to be made. It might not be the perfect Disney title to get new people into the hobby, as it may daunt some. However, for a next step game it will be magical title for many.
[Editor’s Note: Disney Villainous was provided to us by the publisher for the review.]