In the Villainous board game you play as a Disney villain. You want to be the first to achieve your devious objective! But is Villainous wickedly good or wickedly bad? I take a look in this Villainous board game review.
What is Villainous about?
In Villainous you play as one of 6 Disney villains.
- Captain Hook from Peter Pan
- Jafar from Aladdin
- Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty
- Prince John from Robin Hood
- Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland
- Ursula from The Little Mermaid
To win Villainous you need to achieve your villain’s objective before your opponents achieve theirs.
The objectives are different for each villain and they tie in with the character’s role in their Disney film.
- Captain Hook – Defeat Peter Pan at the Jolly Roger.
- Jafar – Start your turn with the Magic Lamp at Sultan’s Palace and Genie under your control.
- Maleficent – Start your turn with a Curse at each location.
- Prince John – Start your turn with at least 20 Power.
- Queen of Hearts – Have a Wicket at each location and successfully take a shot.
- Ursula – Start your turn with the Trident and the Crown in Ursula’s Lair.
As well as their own objective, each character has their own mini, realm board, draw deck cards, fate deck cards and villain guide.
The draw deck is where you draw your cards from that help your character to win. The fate deck contains cards like heroes from your story, or special items and effects designed to slow you down. Fate cards are usually played on you by your opponents.
All the character items are themed around the villain and the film they are from.
For example, Jafar’s realm board contains the Sultan’s Palace, Streets of Agrabah, Oasis and Cave of Wonders. His cards feature spells like the Giant Hourglass and Iago and his Fate deck contains cards like Aladdin and Genie.
I look at each character more closely in my article about the Villainous characters.
Review first impressions
I love the idea of playing as a villain because it’s fun to play the bad guy every now and then. I’m also a fan of Disney and fairy tales in general. However, I was sceptical of Villainous.
Licensed games come with a stigma.
Licenses are seen as a marketing gimmick to get people interested in the game because they love the theme. But then they are disappointed because the game itself is terrible.
I expected to see Jafar and Ursula because they are such iconic Disney villains. Captain Hook, I was really pleased to see in the box. His flamboyance is hilarious.
Queen of Hearts and Maleficent I’m indifferent about. They are both ok villains. The Queen of Hearts I like more because she has a more unique personality than Maleficent who is the generic bitter witch character.
But I was surprised by Prince John as a choice. He wasn’t a villain I could remember at first and Robin Hood was nowhere near as popular a film as something like the Lion King.
If I were choosing the villains myself I’d have chosen: Ursula, Jafar, Scar, Cruella de Vil, Doctor Facilier and Yzma.
Having said that, I like that the villains in Villainous are split 50/50 male and female and that each of the villains has a very distinctive personality.
I’m pleased to say that when I saw the box with its velvety feel, reflective gold outlines and embossed title and tag line, it just oozed quality. It started to put my concerns about this being a licensed game at ease.
This is not the box of a company taking a license, making a cheap product and throwing into the market. Not with that attention to detail.
Actually getting into the box though, was a nightmare!
The stickers were stuck like glue. They were so difficult to get off the box, I actually tore the box getting them off. I understand that there is significantly less plastic waste than shrink wrapping thousands of Villainous copies, however, an easier to remove tape would have been appreciated!
BUYER TIP – Don’t peel the stickers off! Just slice through the box gap to open the box instead!
I really, really like the rule book for Villainous. It has nice big pictures, arrows showing you how things move and an FAQs section at the end.
Of all the rulebooks I’ve read, this was one of the easiest to understand. Our group picked the game up in no time at all.
It is nice and short and gives gameplay examples.
I was blown away by the line drawn artwork on the back of the cards! They are absolutely stunning. The iconography on each card is relevant to the character too. So Maleficent has the raven, a dragon, fire, thorns and devil horns.
The front of the cards are beautiful too featuring scenes and characters from the films, but each image is original to the game.
Each card deck has been themed brilliantly for each character. For example, Captain Hook’s fate deck (read that as enemy deck) contains Peter Pan, Wendy, and my favourite card in the entire game – Tick Tock. The phrasing on Tick Tock’s card is genius.
The cards feel silky smooth in your hand. They are made from a nice, thick card and the colours on the back and front of the draw deck look beautiful with the gold lines.
Each character has 30 cards in their draw deck and 15 cards in their fate deck.
The minis are a good chunky weight. They are transparent which makes each of them look really cool when the light catches them.
The moulding of mine was excellent and had no issues.
I think each mini does a brilliant job of capturing the essence of each character.
- Captain Hook – Deep red with a flamboyant hat and long flowing coat!
- Jafar – Black, tall and sophisticated
- Maleficent – Green, tall and thin with devilishly wicked horns.
- Prince John – My least favourite mini. It’s gold and the crown captures the jewels element of his character but I wish he was personified like the others. Maybe in his long fur robe?
- Queen of Hearts – Red of course! In a bustle shaped dress and heart-shaped body and bosom topped with a crown!
- Ursula – Purple just like her character in The Little Mermaid with swirly looking tentacles.
Each character gets a realm board featuring locations from their film. The card is incredibly thick so should be really durable.
I really like the character quote on the front of each board. When you open it to unfold the board it feels as though you’re opening a book and entering the story of your character.
The illustration on the left of each board does a great job of showing the personality of the villain you’re playing.
I like having the objective printed on the board too. It’s a really useful reminder of what you’re aiming for especially because each character’s objective is different.
Each board contains locations from that villain’s movie. For example, Maleficent’s board contains the Forbidden Mountains, Briar Rose’s Cottage, The Forest and King Stefan’s Castle.
I look at each character’s board in more detail in my Villainous character overview article.
As each villain plays very differently, each one comes with their own Villain Guide. The content in the guides varies from villain to villain, but they typically contain:
- Your objective
- Special setup notes for your character (for example, if a location on your board is locked)
- Cards that are particularly useful or important to your character
- Unique abilities
- Special cards in your fate deck
There are hints here and there in the Villain Guides about how to play your character to stand a good chance of winning. However, it leaves you to figure most of it out for yourself.
The cauldron is the lowest quality item in Villainous. The plastic is thin and it feels cheap to touch. It’s very lightweight so when you select a power token from it you’ll probably spin it or nudge it on the table.
You could always put the power tokens in a small dish instead.
Power tokens are the currency in Villainous. Each character needs power tokens to play cards throughout the game and Prince John also needs power to win.
The power tokens are made from nice thick cardboard. They even make a satisfying clatter when you knock them together!
The fate cloud is passed to the most recently fated player in a game of 5 or 6 players. It means that they can’t be targeted. This is made from the same thick cardboard as the power tokens.
The lock tokens are used on locations on Ursula, Jafar and Captain Hook’s realm boards. Again, they are great quality and should last a long time.
Player reference cards
One of the most useful, yet often underrated items in the game. The player reference card has all the villain objectives on it and a guide to all the actions.
This is super helpful. How are you meant to block other heroes from winning if you don’t know what they are trying to do? The actions reference chart means you don’t need to keep passing the rule book around on every turn!
Villainous rules summary
The first player to achieve their villain’s objective wins.
Setup and space
Each player chooses a villain. Sometimes you won’t get your first choice! But don’t worry – it just makes you want to play again so you try that character out!
Everyone is given their character mini, realm board, villain deck, fate deck, villain guide, lock token (if needed), player reference card, and power tokens according to player order. The first player gets zero power tokens, the 2nd player gets 1, the 3rd and 4th get 3 and the 5th and 6th get 3 each.
Each player sets their items up in front of them on the table with the cauldron of power tokens in the middle.
The game doesn’t take up much table space. That’s a good thing especially because players need to reach over to draw and play cards from each other’s fate decks.
Everyone takes it in turns to have their go. Each turn is pretty straight forward and has three phases.
1. Move your villain
Move your character to any location on your board so long as it’s not locked. You must move every turn.
2. Perform actions
Each location on the board has symbols on it. Each symbol represents a different action.
There are 8 actions in the game which are all printed on the player reference card.
- Gain power
- Play a card
- Activate a special ability on a card with an activate symbol
- Fate another player. You reveal two cards from their fate deck, choose one and play it however you like against that player. This is how you thwart the evil plans of other players.
- Move an item or ally
- Move a hero
- Vanquish a hero using one or more allies at that heroes location.
- Discard cards
3. Draw cards
Draw back up to 4 cards.
A typical game
During the game, players will be mostly focussed on their own objectives. But if they don’t pay attention to what other players are doing they will lose.
Playing fates against other players is just as important progressing towards your own objective.
What’s brilliant is the reaction from opponents when you play a fate card on them.
Fates are super annoying! They are designed to be. The wrong fate card, in the wrong place at the wrong time can stop you from winning by several turns!
You’ll find that players are pretty good at judging which player is in the lead and then they work together to try and slow them down.
I love how the dynamic of the game swings between competition and collaboration. In that way, it works a little like Munchkin. (Check it out on Amazon if you aren’t familiar with Munchkin.)
The play time increases with more players as it takes longer for everyone to take their turn. We’ve found that 50 minutes is about right for 4 players, but with 5 or 6 the game takes more like 60-90 minutes.
There isn’t a huge amount of player interaction in Villainous, but interaction is built into the game mechanics.
You need to fate your opponents to slow them down!
For example, as Captain Hook, you want opponents to play fate cards on you because you need Peter Pan and he is in your fate deck.
To get others to fate you, you can play a lot of allies and then boast about how tough you are to make people see you as a threat. You can also play lots of fate cards on your opponents to annoy them so much that they fate you in return!
In my group, we find that people act like their villain when playing cards as well which makes it even more fun.
Villainous is an asymmetrical game so each player has their own way to play and their own way to win. Some characters are also more difficult to play than others and some of them are more dependent on luck than strategy. I rank their difficulty in my character article.
For example, Ursula, Jafar and Captain Hook each need specific cards to win. If these cards are found early in the game, they have a big advantage. However, if these cards are at the bottom of the deck, they will be found a lot later in the game and put them at a huge disadvantage.
But that’s the case with many games that use a deck. There are no dice in Villainous, so the deck brings the element of chance.
From my experience, the same villain hasn’t ever won two games in a row and every villain has won at least once. The games always get very close towards the end too! So I think the game is pretty well balanced.
Recommended playing age
It says age 10+ on the box and I think that’s about right.
Although if you’re playing with children younger than 10 who are used to board game mechanics or are particularly smart, I think they will pick it up.
The theme is central to Villainous. Not just in terms of the licensing from Disney, but it actually feeds into how each player works and plays. You genuinely feel as though you are playing as that villain and their objectives reflect that.
For example, as Jafar you are obsessed with finding the Magic Lamp and capturing Genie. If you want to win, you need to play as though they are the only things that matter. You’ll be discarding cards to get through your deck faster, vanquishing heroes with spells more than allies and using Iago to move the lamp towards the Sultan’s Palace for you.
Queen of Hearts is a direct contrast. As her you need to play your cards guards, activate their special ability to turn them into wickets and then take an amazing shot in croquet. It requires a completely different strategy and play style.
I look more closely at the theming of each character in my character overview. Or if you want to find out more about how to play each character, I’ve written strategy guides for each of them: Captain Hook, Jafar, Maleficent, Prince John, Queen of Hearts and Ursula.
Villainous is addictive. After playing my first game, I simultaneously wanted to play again as the same character, Jafar, because I had learned how to play him, but also wanted to try another character! The rest of my group felt the same about their villains.
It’s smart how it gets you hooked into wanting to play again because each character gives such a different gaming experience. It’s like playing a different game.
As you learn how to play each character, you also understand their weaknesses. So it makes you a more formidable opponent to play against.
I couldn’t stop thinking about each character after I’d played as them.
There is obviously a limit to how replayable it is. After you’ve mastered each character you will be hungry for more! But that’s probably going to take you 12 plays at least.
And it’s also where the expansions come in…
There are Villainous expansions and they each work as standalone games in their own right as well as expanding the base game. So if you prefer the characters in the expansions to the ones in the base game, then give one of them a try instead!
Wicked to the Core
I’m writing strategy guides for each of these characters at the moment. Click their name, to see their guide.
- Dr Facilier (The Shadow Man) from The Princess and the Frog
- Hades from Hercules
- Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
See what people are saying about Villainous: Wicked to the Core on Amazon.
Evil Comes Prepared
- Scar from the Lion King
- Yzma from the Emperor’s New Groove
- Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective
See more detail about Evil Comes Prepared at Amazon.
- Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations
- Mother Gothel from Tangled
- Pete from Steamboat Willie
Find out more about Perfectly Wretched at Amazon.
Vote for the characters you love!
Is your favourite character missing from Villainous? You can vote for the characters you’d like to see in the next Villainous expansion on the Wonder Forge website!
With an average retail price of about $25-$40 (£25-£40 GBP) this game is a steal!
The quality of the components, the original artwork, the thought behind the theming of each character and the smart design to balance them all – you’re getting a big bang for your buck!
Check out the latest price and more reviews of Villainous on Amazon.
|Strong, fun theme|
|Mostly quality components|
|Great introduction to role-playing|
|Expansion needed after mastering all villains to keep it fresh|
|Some characters more reliant on luck|
|Cauldron is flimsy|
|Games can go on longer than box says|
Villainous review score
Final thoughts – Disney Villainous review
I love Villainous. I was so surprised too because I was expecting to hate it. That was my licensed game prejudice talking!
After playing a game of Villainous, I immediately want to play again. I’ve even started binge-watching Disney films!
Don’t let the Disney theme put you off! There’s more depth to this than your typical Disney game.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. See what other people are saying about Villainous on Amazon.