Let's face it - who hasn't wanted to be a Disney villain? Sure, the princess and princesses are all fine and happily ever after, but if you were Maleficient, you could curse those who'd wronged you! If you were Jafar, you could hypnotise people and make them do whatever you wanted! If you were Prince John, you'd… have a crown?
Disney Villainous, created by Wonder Forge, lets you do just that: indulge your inner villain. Each of the six playable villains is given a nefarious plan to achieve, so to win the game you must complete your objectives – while also fending off those pesky do-gooding heroes and doing your best to sabotage your opponents.
Characters - Pick your Poison
The villains available to play in Disney Villainous are:
- Captain Hook - The eternally unlucky pirate from Peter Pan.
- Jafar - The megalomaniacal vizier from Aladdin.
- Maleficient - The grudge-bearing witch from Sleeping Beauty.
- Prince John - The insecure usurper from Robin Hood.
- The Queen of Hearts - The croquet-loving despot from Alice in Wonderland.
- Ursula - The shape-shifting sea witch from The Little Mermaid.
Each villain is represented by a cleverly-designed translucent plastic piece that manages to capture the essence of each character in a wonderfully simplistic and artistic way.
The range of characters that Wonder Forge have chosen is appealing; players will immediately be drawn to at least one character from that list. It must have been an extremely difficult job to whittle down Disney's extensive roster of villains to only six choices. Prince John in particular is a surprising and pleasing inclusion, with Robin Hood perhaps being a lesser well-known Disney film.
And, excitingly, it doesn't end there! Perhaps to assuage those who think they chose wrong, Wonder Forge is currently taking votes for the next villain to be added to the game. This is a perfect way to expand the popularity and replay-ability of the game: everyone has a favourite film/villain, and, as I mention below, gameplay is different with each character, so knowing that there will be more characters added in the future keeps the game full of possibilities.
Gameplay - No Honour Amongst Villains
Each turn in Disney Villainous is broken down into three steps: moving, performing actions, and drawing cards.
Your board has four locations that you can move between. Some villains start with 'locked' locations, which subsequently need to be unlocked by using cards.
Each location has symbols on it that correspond to actions, for example play or discard cards, or 'fate' another player: draw the top two cards from their Hero Deck and use the best one to wreak havoc.
The cards in the game are divided up into Villain and Hero Decks. Your Villain Deck contains allies who help you vanquish heroes, effects, and conditions. Effect cards are played as part of your turn; condition cards are played during an opponents' turn. The Hero Deck contains heroes who you have to vanquish (placed on your board after another player 'fates' you), items, and effects.
One aspect that I found a bit disruptive was trying to remember what each symbol stood for (for some reason it just wouldn't click with me) - however you do always have a reference card to hand which lists the symbols.
Picking a location becomes very important when you need a certain action, for example, if you need to vanquish a hero or you're desperate to fate someone before they win. Some villains need to be in specific locations to complete parts of their objective.
You start with four cards in your hand from your Villain Deck. If you've used/discarded cards during your turn, you draw from your Villain Deck until you're back up to four again.
The villains' overall objectives range from the relatively simple (e.g. Prince John needs to collect 20 power tokens) to increasingly difficult, with four out of the six having multi-step objectives that require careful planning and exactly the right conditions (e.g. Ursula must play the Trident and Crown item cards, move them to her Lair, and defeat King Triton). Don't worry, you're not expected to remember all of that - each villain gets a personalised card that reminds you what your objectives are (this is invaluable for some characters).
This differentiation works extremely well, with new/younger players able to choose more straightforward characters and then build up to the others with more experience. It also prolongs the appeal of the game: each villain has story-specific allies, effects, conditions and heroes to battle, thereby providing players with what feels like a whole new game every time you pick a different villain.
The amount of players also changes the feel of Disney Villainous. Two players means you only have each other to target, but equally means that there are less chances of you being 'fated' per round. Four players means you have a lot more to keep an eye on to ensure that people aren't secretly close to winning, and if someone IS close to winning the other players can team up to target that opponent (this can be EXTREMELY frustrating when you're the victim). It is a surprisingly strategic game; it can be a tricky balance between concentrating on your own goals and scuppering the other villains.
Final Thoughts on Disney Villainous
Disney Villainous is a delight for fans of Disney. The objectives, characters and locations chosen by Wonder Forge really make you feel like you're playing through your chosen story. Experiencing the plot from the other side and the competitive nature of the game makes you seriously root for your villain, often with hilarious results ('BLOODY ALICE!' I yelled, after a particularly difficult turn as the Queen of Hearts).
That being said, you don't have to know much about Disney to enjoy the game: the different levels of complexity available, the beautiful artwork, and the 'just right' amount of challenge that Villainous offers makes it entertaining to play.