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Game Preview: Revisit Your Bad Side in Villainous: Wicked to the Core

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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NY Toy Fair 2019 opened on Saturday, Feb. 16, and as is custom The Toy Association announced the winners of its various "toy of the year" awards, with a surprising entry winning game of the year:

Yes, the Villainous board game from Prospero Hall — a pen name for design agency Forrest-Pruzan Creative — and Wonder Forge won a prize that has traditionally gone to games aimed solely at children. Modern games for older players have rarely been nominated for TOTY; in 2017, for example, Imhotep lost out to Yeti in My Spaghetti, while in 2014 Settlers of Catan — which was nearly twenty years old at that time, mind you — lost out to Boom Boom Balloon, a game in which you repeatedly press wooden rods into a balloon until it finally bursts. (You can view all of the toy of the year winners and nominees from 2000 to 2017 here.)

I don't know whether such an award means anything in the grander scheme of things. After all, the other nominees for games of the year idd include Fryin' Flyin' Donuts and Dr. Biscuits' Radical Road Trip, so it's not like the mainstream toy industry has suddenly turned a corner in terms of which games deserve a place in the spotlight, but I find it promising that Villainous is in that spotlight right now.

What's more, the opening of NY Toy Fair 2019 brought the formal announcement of Villainous: Wicked to the Core, a standalone expansion from the same design team and now bearing the Ravensburger logo, Ravensburger being the parent company of Wonder Forge. (I'm not sure why they changed brands on the box, but I would guess that it has to do with global recognition and simplicity of branding. After all, Ravensburger demoed a German version of the original game at Spielwarenmesse 2019.)

Villainous: Wicked to the Core contains three new villains — Hades from Hercules (and not "Achilles" as I mistakenly say in the video below), Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, and the Evil Queen from Snow White — and as in the original Villainous game, each of them has a unique victory condition related to their particular film: Hades needs to move three titans from the Underworld to Mount Olympus, Dr. Facilier need to have hold of his talisman while calling on help from the other side to rule New Orleans, and the Evil Queen must poison Snow White, which is far more complicated than it initially sounds. (I'm amused that "Evil Queen" is capitalized as if it's her name, but it's easier to spell than "Grimhilde", so she might have made the right choice by using that.)

This game is playable with 2-3 players, and the characters are interchangeable with those of the base game should you be masochistic enough to want to play with five or six players.

Each villain has a unique element to its 30-card deck. The Evil Queen, for example, has two copies each of four ingredients, with each ingredient having an effect when played. More importantly, the first time you play each ingredient, you place it below your board — adding it to your pot, as it were — and once you have all four ingredients, you unlock the Dwarves' Cottage location, which will let you get to Snow White (assuming someone else has played her from your fate deck or you've dug her out of the fate deck using your Magic Mirror) and possibly poison her, assuming that you've transformed enough power to poison, that is.

Yes, each villain in this game is highly customized, with both the character's deck and its fate deck working together to encapsulate the film's story in miniature. The trick is that cards in the fate deck are played only when an opponent chooses to visit a location on their board that includes a fate action. If no one does this, then you're all in a race to see who can put the pieces of their plan together first. You need players who want to mess with one another in order to see all that the game has to offer, and I haven't always had that in my playings. (I've played each character in this expansion only once so far on a review copy from Ravensburger.)

You need players who want to relive those movies rather than simply racing to the victory line — or maybe you don't. Depends on what you're looking for in a game, of course. Maybe you all just want to take the spotlight as the bad guy since they usually have the best lines. If so, Villainous: Wicked to the Core gives you new roles to play when you take the stage...

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