Star Wars Villainous – The Power of the Dark Side

The original Disney Villainous collated a cadre of popular baddies from across Disney’s animated portfolio but since then has spanned the Marvel Universe and now maybe its most respected and sacred property in Star Wars Villainous.

“Fear is the path to the dark side… fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate… hate leads to suffering.” As much as we root for the underdog, the innocent and the hero, there’s a reason Darth Vader holds sway over many of us as such an iconic character. It’s good to be bad!

Pain and tragedy shape the path of the hero until an eventual triumph but the bad guys get the ships, the weapons and the cool outfits — it’s just better (until the inevitable downfall). Disney’s Villainous series focuses not on the Hero but instead on the colourful, secretive and malevolent side of many of its franchises.

Given most of the narrative for a villain is overly complex, nefarious scheming; it’s good that the aim of the tabletop game is to successfully carry out your character’s plan whilst avoiding the machinations of your adversaries. This is the real draw of Villainous given that every round and every single game is unique based on the number of players, the cards dealt and the strategy of your opponents.

Each player starts by selecting a Villain from across the Star Wars universe. The five villains available cover film, animated material and the more recent episodic content on Disney Plus; giving almost anyone playing a reference point starting at the Original Trilogy all the way up to the Mandalorian.

Every character has their own game board, villain deck and fate deck built around their specific appearances in Disney produced materials which beautifully illustrates many of their most memorable appearances but also the various protagonists they faced in each instance (For Vader it’s Obi Wan etc).

All players follow the same diceless card-driven mechanics with differing outcomes. Every player starts their turn by moving to another location on the board. This isn’t optional and means players can’t just stack a potentially advantageous position on every turn. You can move to any of the other three locations and movement isn’t restricted to adjacent locations.

The board represents a villain’s realm, most of the character’s here unlike other Villainous games are not standalone but in this case from different time periods in the space opera. This is then split into four specific scenes or locations. Locations are dotted with four icons representing optional actions which may be undertaken to support your goal (if you have enough power amassed to do them). Overall there are sixteen icons across each player’s realm but these are taken from a pot of eight possible action icons. Some may be repeated and depending on the villain may not appear on your realm board at all. A Deep Space location also appears on every character board. Reserved for vehicles; this locale carries its own icons dependent on the vehicle played during play.

Each location is then split further into two rows, the top row and the bottom row. Fate cards played against you cover the top row. This also covers the top two icons and as such you also lose access to the actions on that realm location until the item or hero is vanquished. The bottom row is for placement of items or allies played from your hand on your turn, this doesn’t cover any icons however and is generally a positive action.

Each player’s fate deck is made up of actions, effects and hero cards which when played by other players inhibit your ability to reach your objective. Heroes played to the board are placed on a location and have an effect. Heroes can be stacked on a location and each has a strength rating which must be matched or beaten by any Allies moved to the same location to vanquish them.

Each player also has a villain deck composed of actions, conditions, allies and items. Holding a maximum of four villain cards at the start of each player’s turn, depending on which location you choose to move to you can play a card (if you have the power). This could be to deploy an ally to the board, increase strength of an ally, add an effect or do something to assist in discarding some of your fate cards (meaning reducing possible risks to your objective). At the end of your turn, you replenish your villain hand to a maximum of four cards and move to the next player.

Although specific to each villain, every objective is at odds with someone else from the pack and clever placement of fate cards is what will eventually win the day. Even if you don’t remember what your opponent announced was their goal you have a handy reference card to remind you at all times and it’s a great way to refresh on larger games with more players.

Turn time is fairly quick once the flow is established given you have some time to devise your next move within the round and the other players turn time. With a cadre of three players; turn time was between 1-2 mins per player and round time around 5 minutes before repeat turns. Star Wars Villainous rewards aggressive play and as such those moving around the board, spending ambition and credits and also those discarding cards at speed will find themselves much closer to their goal than others.

Quality Artwork, Solid mechanics and a game that varies depending on both your choice of villain and that of your opponents; Star Wars Villainous has a lot to like and with a few like minded players stands against the other Villainous games due to the tweaks and revisions made to its ruleset and the quality of it’s reference material.

Star Wars Villainous is available on Amazon.

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