One of My New Favorite Board Games – Review Geek

Rating:
9/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $40

villainous board game box displayed on a wooden table
Sarah Chaney

If you’ve ever been intrigued by the Dark Side, Star Wars Villainous is your chance to use the Force for evil. Playing as one of five legendary villains from the Star Wars franchise, it’s your goal to be as sinister as possible and achieve your dark goals before your opponents.

Here’s What We Like

  • Five unique ways to win
  • Gameplay mechanics are top-notch
  • Fun with two or five people
  • Beautifully crafted

And What We Don’t

  • There’s definitely a learning curve
  • A lot of moving parts and small stuff to remember

A Brief History of Villainous & Its Many Expansions

Ravensburger AG is a game and toy company based in Germany—Ravensburg, Germany, to be exact. This wonderful company has created many unique board games and a ton of puzzles, but its biggest claim to fame in the world of board games is Villainous.

The first Villainous game released in July 2018, and sold about three million copies of the game in 2018 alone. There were six iconic Disney villains to choose from in the first edition of Villainous—Captain Hook, Maleficent, Jafar, Ursula, Queen of Hearts, and Prince John—and each one has a different mission to accomplish in order to win the game, often based on the evil scheme in their respective movie.

After it was clear this game was a huge hit, Ravensburger started releasing regular expansions to use with the base game. Here are all the possible expansions you can purchase, along with the villains in each set:

  • Wicked to the Core: Dr. Facilier, Evil Queen, and Hades
  • Evil Comes Prepared: Ratigan, Scar, Yzma
  • Perfectly Wretched: Cruella De Vil, Mother Gothel, Pete
  • Despicable Plots: Gaston, Horned King, Lady Tremaine
  • Bigger and Badder: Lotso, Madam Mim, Syndrome

We also had the chance to review Marvel Villainous: Mischief & Malice, a special edition that features villains from the Marvel universe.

The biggest reason I mention the wild success of the original Villainous game and its expansions is to give you an idea of what the company could (and probably will) do with Star Wars Villainous. You might only be able to play with five unique Star Wars villains now, but chances are, this is a game you can expand for even more fun in the future.

Star Wars Villainous: Playable Characters

closeup of the five different playable characters in star wars villainous board game
Sarah Chaney

Whereas the original Disney Villainous game features sinister characters from multiple universes, Star Wars Villainous only showcases characters from the Star Wars franchise. You can play as Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Moff Gideon, Asajj Ventress, and General Grievous. Each Star Wars villain has their own unique objectives to reach in order to win the game.

  • Darth Vader has the task of flipping Luke Skywalker from his Focused side to his Conflicted side. Then, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and Luke Skywalker (Conflicted) must be in the Emperor’s Throne Room on Vader’s Sector card. After paying six Ambition tokens to defeat Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader wins.
  • Asajj Ventress must complete three Mission cards to win. As Asajj completes each step in a Mission, she adds an Ambition token to the Mission card. After all steps are finished, Asajj collects the Ambition and moves on to the next Mission to repeat the process.
  • Moff Gideon needs to have three cards in play at once in the same location on his Sector: Grogu, Doctor Pershing, and Laboratory Samples. When all three cards are in one location, he has to pay five Ambition to win the game.
  • Kylo Ren has to use Ambition to move all six Destiny tokens to the Dark Side of his Destiny tracker, and ultimately commit himself to the Dark Side of the Force.
  • General Grievous is tasked with defeating Heroes in order to collect a total of eight Lightsabers.

This initial group of five villains is great, but I’m excited to see which villains make an appearance in expansion packs. There are some pretty noteworthy villains from the Star Wars franchise that could have interesting objectives, like Darth Maul, Count Dooku, and Jabba the Hut.

How to Play Star Wars Villainous

villainous board game box on a wooden table with cards and pieces laid out in front (1)
Sarah Chaney

Star Wars Villainous employs the already fantastic mechanics of the original Villainous game and then adds to them with a few unique character pieces, three token types instead of one, and special Vehicle cards. Because this Star Wars version involves more moving pieces, it has a larger learning curve than the first Villainous, but that doesn’t mean this can’t be your first Villainous game!

I’ve heard of the Villainous line of board games, but this was my first time actually playing one. To someone who’s not familiar with board games at all, Star Wars Villainous might be a bit frustrating. But to someone who’s familiar with common board game mechanics, like me, it was pretty easy to understand the rules within 30 minutes to an hour. I definitely had to reference the instructional booklet during the first game, but after one game, I had the rules memorized.

Each Star Wars villain has the following parts to their setup: a Villain Mover piece, a Sector (the main board), 30 Villain cards, 15 Fate cards, a Reference card, and a Villain Guide to help you throughout the game. For Moff Gideon, these are the only parts included in his setup. All the other Star Wars villains have a few extra tokens or cards in addition to these main parts. But for the purposes of this little explainer, I’m not going to dive into all the little details of every character.

When you set up your area, you lay out your Sector board piece and place your Mover token on the far left side. To the left, you have your specific character’s Villain card deck; and to the right, your character’s Fate card deck. Each villain’s cards have their name printed on the decorative back. Underneath your Sector, you’ll keep the Reference card and Villain Guide for easy access. Then, you draw four cards from the Villain deck, and that’s your starting hand.

On every turn, you take one Ambition token—which you use to play certain cards or carry out actions during the game—and move your Villain Mover piece to one of the four locations on your Sector card. Each location has four available actions you can take, in any order, before ending your turn. You could complete one of these actions or all four. It just depends on what you have in your hand and whether or not an action falls in line with your strategy.

To explain all the intricacies of every action would take a long time (and honestly the instructional booklet does it way better), but here are some of the most basic actions you can take on a turn. You can collect credits, which is the game’s currency, play a card from your hand, use Ambition points to play an Ambition card or activate an Ambition ability, or discard as many cards from your hand as you want. If you play a card or discard any cards, you draw new cards until you have a total of four in your hand, unless there’s something special changing the maximum number of cards you can have in your hand.

Every time it’s your turn, you repeat the process of taking one Ambition token, relocating your Mover piece to a new location, carrying out any actions you want to, and drawing new cards, if necessary.

Anyone ages 10 and up can play Star Wars Villainous, and you can have two to four players at a time. The game company estimates about 20 minutes per player for total game time, but definitely expect about double or more the first time you play.

The Gameplay Experience: Fun, Unique, & Infuriating (In a Good Way)

star wars villainous general grievous character setup
Sarah Chaney

In my first game, I played as Moff Gideon, and my husband played as General Grievous. Like I said, reading the rules makes the game seem intimidating and complicated, but once you’re actually playing, it becomes much easier to understand. I’m 100% sure that we made a few mistakes on the first round (like not keeping a discard pile but discarding cards to the bottom of the deck—whoops!), but it only took about one playthrough to get the gist.

When you first start playing, it can seem like one person has the easier mission to accomplish. For example, General Grievous needed to collect eight lightsabers by defeating heroes, which sounds way more complicated than Moff Gideon’s task. As Gideon, you had to locate the Grogu card within the Fate deck, play it first on the Hero side of your Sector, and then flip it to the Villain side. This Grogu Fate card, the Laboratory Services card, and the Dr. Pershing card all had to be in the same location, and then you could pay five Ambition tokens to win the game.

Just by how involved my mission sounded, I thought it was going to be easier than my husband’s. I did end up winning this first game, but it was a super close call.

The first Hero that he vanquished as General Grievous was Ahsoka Tano, which gave him two lightsabers instead of one, staying accurate with the lore. Then, there was a Fate card that required me to look through his discard pile and resurrect a Hero, but Ahsoka Tano was the only Hero in his discard pile! So when he vanquished her for a second time, he was already halfway to completing his mission while I had just uncovered the Grogu card.

Throughout the rest of the game, there were plenty of moments where one of us was a few short moves away from victory, only to have our missions thwarted by pesky Fate cards. While it’s annoying in the moment to be dealt an unfortunate Fate card, it makes the game incredibly fun because you never know what’s going to happen next.

how your hand might look while playing star wars villainous
Sarah Chaney

In another game, I played as Asajj Ventress, and my husband played as Darth Vader. While my opinion could surely change in the future, I think Asajj Ventress is my favorite character to play as. She has five special Mission cards in addition to the regular setup; out of those five shuffled Mission cards, you have to complete three in order to win.

In the battle against Darth Vader, I thought that Asajj was at a major disadvantage because she had so much to complete in order to win. However, through the Fate cards, the playing field was leveled. I won this game as well, but just barely; my husband would’ve been able to win on his very next turn.

That’s what I love most about this game. Your strategy has to adapt throughout the game because there will definitely be trouble along your path. There are some games where you need to think about your future moves, but in Star Wars Villainous, you have to reevaluate your Sector before making a move. Your opponent can draw Fate cards and play them to the Hero side of your Sector on their turn, and then you have to react to them on your next turn.

It’s clear that each character’s cards were crafted with their specific lore and timeline in mind, and I was blown away by the amount of detail that went into the artwork and descriptions of the Fate and Villain cards. As a small example of timeline differences, there’s a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi on one of Asajj Ventress’ Fate cards, while Darth Vader’s Fate card displayed an older Obi-Wan Kenobi.

There were also multiple instances where you could use certain cards together and it made complete sense because of the character’s storyline. For example, one of Asajj Ventress’ Fate cards is titled “You Have Failed Me” with a picture of Count Dooku, and you have to pay the penalty by revealing your hand to your opponent and letting them discard two cards. Then, one of her Villain cards is titled “Home” and instructs you to play one Nightsisters card from your discard pile to Dathomir for free, which is where the Nightsisters are from.

Overall, I enjoyed playing as each character and experiencing their gameplay nuances. The fact that each character has their own unique way to win enables you to focus more on your own mission. The only thing you can really do to mess with your opponent’s Sector is play Fate cards against them, but sometimes they don’t do much.

Replayability: Five Different Ways to Win

closeup of general grievous villain guide for star wars villainous board game
Sarah Chaney

One of my favorite aspects of this game, as well as any Villainous game in general, is the replayability factor. It would take at least five games for you to experience each Villain’s intricacies and unique missions. And if (fingers crossed!) Ravensburger releases expansions, there will be even more fun ways to play the game, and with a larger crowd too.

With other board games, you pick a moving token based on its shape or its color. But with Star Wars Villainous, you pick your Mover based on the unique circumstances that villain needs to win. If you randomly assigned tokens from Monopoly or Sorry, it wouldn’t change how everyone played the game. With this game, you could shake things up on game night and make sure that no one ever gets too comfortable playing with one particular villain.

Conclusion: An Incredibly Fun Experience

Whether you’re a fan of the Star Wars franchise or just board games in general, Star Wars Villainous is an absolute must-play. The game mechanics were fresh and interesting, and each game was a unique experience, even if you played as the same villain that you used in the previous game. And with the highly likely possibility of new Star Wars villains being added via expansions, it’s pretty much impossible for this game to get stale.

Here’s What We Like

  • Five unique ways to win
  • Gameplay mechanics are top-notch
  • Fun with two or five people
  • Beautifully crafted

And What We Don’t

  • There’s definitely a learning curve
  • A lot of moving parts and small stuff to remember

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