PLAYlist 52: Disney Villainous + Expansions | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, September 25th, 2020  

PLAYlist 52: Disney Villainous + Expansions

Apr 03, 2020 By Brad Walton Bookmark and Share

“You poor, simple fools, thinking you could defeat me. Me! The mistress of all evil!” - Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty

We all grew up watching Disney films. We cheered when Aladdin tricked Jafar into trapping himself in a lamp. We laughed when Hades exploded with rage at Hercules. We sang with Ariel and cried with Sleeping Beauty. We all wanted to be the good guys.

But what if you could be the villains?

That’s the premise of Disney Villainous. A 2-6 player game produced by Wonder Forge and winner of “Game of the Year” at the TOTY Awards in 2019, Villainous has you choose between six classic Disney villains trying to conquer their particular realm. Each realm represents the movie the baddie came from, with four locations straight from its respective film that you move yourself between to complete your schemes.

Every detail of this game is dark and gorgeous. The player pieces are stylized versions of your choice of evildoer. The backs of the character cards have artistic representations of the most sinister features of your bad self, and have a certain malevolent gravitas to them. The Villain Deck is appropriately dark colored, and the Fate deck full of heroes and their tricks is bright white. Your personal game board has a portrait of your villain (one you can imagine they have hanging above a raging fireplace) and a quote (one you can imagine them saying before said fireplace). The board and face of the cards fill you with childhood nostalgia as you recognize the Mermaid Cavern, or recruit Flotsam and Jetsam, but try to “calm yourself, Iago.”

Villainous features very thematic and asymmetrical gameplay-- every villain has a different goal and unique cards to play. Captain Hook has to find a treasure map to unlock the hangman’s tree (Peter Pan’s hideout), then get Pan to move to the Jolly Roger and defeat him with his pirate crew. Maleficent wins if she can put a curse on every location in her realm. Prince John just wants beautiful, lovely taxes, and wins if he can keep Robin Hood and crew from taking the fortunes he rightfully gained. And it feels so good to be so bad.

You begin each turn with four cards from your Villain Deck in your hand. Move your player piece to one of the open locations in your realm, and do all the actions on that space. There are seven possible actions you can take: gain power (which acts as your currency), play a card from your hand to your realm, activate a card in your realm, discard a card, move a card, move a hero, vanquish a hero, and Fate. While this can seem overwhelming at first, you learn quickly how to maximize the available actions. Your primary moves will come from playing cards out of your hand, and you need power to be able to play cards. Ally and Item cards from your Villain Deck are played at the bottom of your board, and these are used to defeat the heros that dare challenge you. Once you do your actions, you draw from the Villain Deck until you have 4 cards again, and the next player takes their turn.

The strategy for each villain is very different, so there is a tremendous amount of replay potential. Ursula doesn’t use allies to vanquish heroes, she has them sign Binding Contracts to turn them into polyps. Jafar can hypnotize heroes and make them his allies. The Fate deck can also dramatically change the way you need to play. When you move to a space with a Fate symbol (appropriately, a lightning bolt from a cartoon cloud), you get to draw two cards from another player’s Fate deck, and choose which of the two you want to play. This is played at the top of that player’s board-- not only providing a heroic obstacle, but physically covering two of the actions on that location space. Your opponent will have to vanquish the hero before they can utilize those actions. The game can sometimes feel unbalanced if you simply can’t draw the cards you need to advance your agenda, but you can waylay your opponents by using their Fate Deck against them. Every game I’ve played has ended with all the “poor, unfortunate souls” (other players) within a step or two of completing their objective.

For those who fall in love with this game and can’t wait for an expansion, good news! There have been three expansions produced in the last year. And with Disney’s wide catalog and deep pockets, you can surely expect more soon. These expansions do not modify the base rules at all, instead adding three new unique characters each to choose from. Wicked to the Core lets you play as Hades from Hercules, Dr. Faciler from The Princess and the Frog, and the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Evil Comes Prepared of course has Scar from The Lion King, as well as Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective, and Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove.  Perfectly Wretched features Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations, Mother Gothel from Rapunzel, Pete from Steamboat Willie (his board, and cards entirely in movie-appropriate black and white).

The best part about the expansions is that the base game is not required to play. You could pick up any of these and play, or mix versions together in any combination without detracting from the gameplay. If multiple people have the same version, you could even play with 6 of the same character and see who is the best (worst) Ratigan. For those who are unsure which expansion to pick up first, I would choose the set with characters or movies you love most. I’ve found that everyone gravitates toward their favorite villain each time we play.

A note: you can play with more than 6 players using their own character, but there are no official rules for it. Gameplay slows with each person you add, so a larger group can make the time drag as you wait for your turn. Most of the chatter online recommends splitting a larger group into separate games to keep things moving along.

Disney Villainous is published by Wonder Forge. 

Thanks for reading. “Now here is your reward... your eternal reward...” A playlist of deliciously evil songs to get you in the mood to finally defeat Prince Charming and throw sand in the Magic Carpet’s… face? Turn the volume up and mad cackle along!


Previous PLAYlist columns: Crown of EmaraMini RailsTribes: Dawn of HumanityGates of DeliriumTerror BelowThe Estates, NobjectsMemoir '44 & New Flight Plan, Bubble TeaUndoGizmosImhotep, Hex Roller, The Table is Lava, Happy Salmon, The Quacks of QuedlinburgThe ClimbersNEOMCrusaders: Thy Will Be DoneReykholtPandemicEverdellKingdomino, CitrusHistory of the World, Altiplano, Pioneer Days, Crystal Clans, Jurassic Park: Danger!, PhotosynthesisIce CoolFood Truck ChampionArs Alchimia & LemuriaA Game of Thrones CatanTroyesTwilight Imperium: Fourth EditionFlip ShipsNMBR 9UnearthEscape from 100 Million B.C., Orleans (plus Trade & Intrigue)Whistle StopCaverna: Cave vs CaveTwilight StruggleHonshuBärenpark, Notre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.


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