Time to play: 40-60 mins
Set-up time: 2 mins
Avg. price: $30 / £25
Disney movies have spent the last 80 years reassuring us that good always triumphs, but the Villainous board game isn't ok with happy endings. So it poses a sly question - what if evil won instead? And wouldn't that be fun? The result is a game about letting your hair down, screwing over all who stand in your way, and blurting out your most wicked cackle at every opportunity. In fact, it's quickly earned a place on our guide to the best board games. It is, in a word, delightful.
The worst takes it all
The Villainous board game is a bubbling cauldron of 'what if' scenarios. What if Jafar got to the Genie's lamp before that pesky Aladdin made off with it? What if Maleficent managed to get her revenge against the kingdom after all? You're in charge of making sure their dreams come true, and players control one of six baddies (including Captain Hook and the Queen of Hearts). Getting them their way requires you to plot, betray, and scheme your way through the settings of classic Disney films. Because villains aren't known for their generous disposition either, you'll also need to scupper everyone else's plans to make sure you achieve your goal first, by dropping various do-gooders onto their board to foil their efforts and messing with their 'fate'. This helps Villainous stand out from the crowd; it's a game that revels in being mean.
It's surprisingly tactical as a result. Pursuing your own objectives and thwarting opponents is a balancing act that takes time to master. This means it's not necessarily an ideal board game for kids (and the rules can be hard to get your head around), but the stunning artwork and layered gameplay mark it out as an excellent board games for adults. Particularly Disney fans.
Seriously, that artwork is beautiful. Key scenes from the movies have been recreated in a painterly style here with love and care; they're great pieces in their own right. Meanwhile, the boards, box, and cards (even down to the backs) go above and beyond with lavish decoration.
The movers are Villainous' piece de resistance, though. These are substantial yet abstract 3D figurines that capture the essence of each character in an understated, classy way. It's a premium touch for a game that isn't actually very expensive.
That attention to detail carries over to Villainous' mechanics, too. To begin with, each character's objectives and abilities are different - they're rooted in the villain's unique personality. Secondly, their heroic counterparts are specifically designed to counteract them. For example, the greedy Prince John must gather 20 power tokens to win. Unfortunately, his hero deck is full to bursting with handicaps that'll take power tokens away. Meanwhile, Ursula can only get rid of foes by tricking them into binding contracts. This can make the board game difficult to understand at first, but the steep learning curve is worth it, and the variety means it's incredibly replayable.
Yes, it's complicated: yet this is all in Villainous' favor. It has enough depth to keep you playing for months, and that competitive edge makes for spicy gaming sessions (which can be added to with expansion packs, of course). Better still, it's just as good when played in a group or as a couple - this is an excellent board game for 2 players. As such, tabletop fans and Disney aficionados who haven't played Villainous owe it to themselves to give it a try.
Want a new board game? We'll be here each week to let you know about a tabletop gem - like Pandemic - you should definitely try. For example, we recently took the deliciously evil Blockbuster: The Game for a spin before trying out Tomb Raider Legends: The Board Game.