Being the hero is often the main element of a board game. Taking on the big bar's legions of minions, taking our vast numbers of naughty individuals, completing heroic deeds and being a decent individual... it's sickening, really. All that mushy, cuddly, fluffy saving of people... it's to unrealistic! With great power comes great responsibility is loser talk. With great power comes unlimited control is more like it! So how do we combat this grotesque goodie-two-shoes trend in board gaming? Well, Ravensburger's Villainous series helps, but if princesses and clichés aren't your jam... Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power might be more up your street! It's an asymmetrical game with take-that elements for 2-4 players.
How Is It Different?
Villainous as a series has villains competing to achieve individual goals. These are thematically linked to the different villain's objectives in their associated franchise. Hades needs to get Titans to amount Olympus, King John needs cash... It's fairly clear! But these work separately as they all have individual universes they reside in. Ursula's Fate card's can never impact Yzma, for example. The characters' card sets only touch the associated character. This is where Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power is different. Unlike the complicated comic books (considering the multiverse) this game takes a different approach. The Marvel Cinematic Universe resides in just one universe. This means when attacking other players, any player can be targeted!
To kick off, players choose one of the five villains available to them and take out the basic Fate deck. This is always in the game and is part of initial set up. Players then add their character's Fate decks to the basic Fate deck. The more characters, the more Fate cards available. Each player then follows their own character's set up - this may entail getting specific tokens or cards out. Ultron and Killmonger require specific objectives, whereas Hela requires set aside tokens. It's important for players to ensure they know their character's win condition and the helpful cards they'll have access to. These are helpfully listed in a manual specific to each character. All players then layout their play area and draw four card, ready to start the game.
Playing the Game
Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power runs in a sequence of players taking turns to execute actions available to them. A player takes their turn by moving their character figure to a new location. They may then activate any abilities available to them at that location. These are signifies by symbols, usually in the four corners of the spot.
- Gain power allows a player to acquire X power.
- Vanquish allows them to remove allies equal to a hero's power to remove that hero.
- Discard any cards.
- Play a card to a location by paying its cost in power.
- Activate cards with the associated activate symbol.
- Fate another hero by drawing from the Fate deck and playing the card to another hero's area.
- Relocate any card in the villain's control to another location.
A villain's card's come in four flavours: ally, item, effect and speciality. Allies and items enable villains to defeat heroes and have a multitude of effects, with items being to allies or to locations. Effect cards are generally discarded after use and speciality cards enable a special skill to a hero. Each villain's deck is entirely unique and will have more of one type of card than another, usually enabling them to do their own objectives more easily. Once any villain has achieved their objective, they win!
Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power's Fate cards come in more flavours than the Disney variant's. Every villain's fate deck will have that villain's emblem in the bottom right corner, showing which villain it will impact the hardest. These generally prevent the villain from completing their objective, but are still situational! Pulling your own villain's Fate card is handy as it means you dodge the bullet.
Event cards are a new addition to this Villainous variant. These cards affect all players and must be defeated by players to remove the effect. This is the only time players can play allies to another location other than those in their area (without special effects). Events are defeated when their power level is lower than the cumulative villains' cards. Whoever has the highest strength value at the event when it is defeated gains its benefit.
How It Handles
Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power is easy to get into and understand. You read the shared rules, pick a character, read their specific rules, set up and play. It's always worth sharing your goal with everyone else to balance the playing field, but you don't have to share the ins and outs. We found it was easier to grasp than the Disney variant, but having played that first it may have meant we were more versed in the Villainous play-style.
Who'd Win In A Fight...
Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power's villains range from the omnipotent god like beings to the organised crooks. You've got Thanos, the big bad of the MCU and our right power house - and that's without the Infinity Stones! And on the other end of the spectrum, you've got Taskmaster, a chap whose power came from taking a dodgy concoction of chemicals. Sure, being able to imitate anything you see punch for punch is pretty darn useful, but it's not much compared to innate strength and power of a Titan.
This comparison no doubt raises the question, why would I pick a regular human when I could play as a god? And the answer is not that you'd pick them for themselves, but for their goals. Villainous is great at demonstrating villains competing to achieve an end goal, not at showing why Thanos would definitely beat up Taskmaster. Like in the Disney choices, you'd always pick Hades over King John if it was about power alone, but it's not. The game is about competing to complete a dastardly deed quickest. The game's well balanced and allows for all villains to succeed, and for them all to be hindered equally.
Let's See Whose Behind The Mask...
The villain's available are widely varied, but no doubt inspired by recent MCU appearances. Thanos as the obvious big bad, Ultron and Hela as fan favourites, Killmonger from the highly successful Black Panther movie, and Taskmaster to vary the goals out further. With these five evildoers come some specific heroes, events and effects in the Fate deck. The natural nemeses of these will clearly be the biggest hindrance to their plans, alongside anything else you can pull to specifically ruin their day. But the goals of the villains are what will make you pick them, and goodness me are some of these hardcore!
Killmonger needs to effectively reenact the events of Black Panther. It's a linear goal but one that can be hindered easily with the constant reappearance of T'Challa. Hela needs souls. She assigns soul markers to heroes and places that token in Odin's Vault when they're defeated. An easy thing to complete, but you can't win without Odin's Vault clear of threats! Ultron needs to upgrade four times by discarding allies and spending power. Preventing him from having allies is imperative! Taskmaster needs to collect a total of five allies with vast amounts of power to win. He's a slow paced hero, but a hard one to stop with his many item effects!
And What Of The Mad Titan?
Then there’s Thanos. Obviously it wouldn't be a hot hit without the appearance of those six Infinity Stones, and Marvel Villainous: Infinity Power delivers... but there's a catch! Thanos needs to find the stones, travel to others' domains, steal the stones, and return back to his realm. Any stone placed in another player's area is effectively under their control. They can activate its abilities and benefit from it, but it makes them a target for Thanos' cronies. These guys hit hard and are relentless! And what's more is that, when Thanos has the stone, he gets a lot more powerful!
Thanos is arguably the hardest character to win as, which we initially found disappointing. The Mad Titan should surely dominate the competition, right? Arguably yes, but in a race to complete goals... probably not! It took him about 17 films to get the stones in the MCU, so I think an hours board game is fair!
Which Flavour Villainous Did You Want?
I'm going to make a bold statement here, and I may very well have my rose tinted glasses on a little too right... But Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power is better than Disney Villainous. Now normally I'd take criticism for bias, but I grew up with Disney and only got into Marvel in my mid-teens. I'm not saying the Disney variants are in any way, shape of form bad. On the contrary, I rate Disney Villainous very highly! However, by mixing the Fate decks and ensuring the villains reside in the same universe, you create a dead set competition and a more tactical take-that feel. You draw a card, it hurts Ultron the most... but Hela isn't far off a win. Who do you strike? That extra choice makes a lot of difference, and pulling your own Fate cards means you can avoid the punches easily, too!
The whole feel to the game is very polished. Player's cards are all illustrated beautifully, with the classic Villainous unique backs to cards. The models are wonderfully sculpted, but not quite to the translucent beauty of the Disney moulds. These are opaque and hollow in the centre whilst still robust and excellently detailed. We fell in love with the artwork immediately and, thematically, the game is a winner. There's also a consideration for the cards certain heroes will need immediately, and these are printed onto a hard card. It makes passing the Infinity Stones easier whilst also reducing setup time.
Marvel Villainous Final Thoughts
Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power is a real delight. We found it to be genuinely brilliant and excellent fun. The shared Fate deck is superb at ensuring all villains can interact in some respect, and are thematically integrated into the shared universe. Some villains are definitely easier to utilise and win with, however experience with these enables you to know their weaknesses to, encouraging replay! We thoroughly enjoyed Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power as variant to the Disney Villainous franchise, and hope Ravensburger have got more of this to come!