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How to Beat Disney's Villainous Board Game

Jeremy enjoys gaming when not working as a manager at the same college he graduated from.

What Is Disney's Villainous?

Disney outdid themselves with their Villainous board game, where everyone adopts the role of a Disney villain aiming to conquer their realm first. Complex enough for layers of strategy yet simple enough to quickly grasp, Villainous is a great party game with high replay value; each of the six core villains play very differently.

But if you're going to out-evil the other baddies, you'll want your character's best cards and tricks—which reign supreme? Here's everything you need to know to win Villainous!

1. How to Play Maleficent

How to Win: Start your turn with a curse in every location in your realm
Locked Location? No

Sleeping Beauty's villain wins by starting her turn with at least one curse in her realm's four locations. Curses are unique cards available only to Maleficent; each has a beneficial effect, but can be removed under certain conditions, so you have to time them carefully to avoid having them eliminated. Unlike some villains, Maleficient has no locked locations in her realm, letting her move freely from the get-go.

At the game's start, don't focus too much on curses; they'll just bog you down and probably get removed. Instead, use your mobility to quickly build power while searching for your deck's "Raven" ally as fast as possible. His strength is only one, but his fantastic ability lets him move each turn and perform one non-Fate action at his location. With him out, you're getting free Power, card plays, or whatever else you need each turn.

Another must-have is the "Staff" item. It only costs one Power and reduces the cost of your curses and effects whenever you're at its location, quickly paying for itself and more. To quickly pull these aces, use Maleficient's "Tyranny" condition (triggers when an opposing realm has three or more allies) to draw and discard three cards, and make liberal use of the discard actions at Briar Rose's Cottage and The Forest.

Once you've amassed some power and have Raven, it's time for some curses. You've got three different ones (each with multiple copies); I recommend going for "Green Fire" and "Dreamless Sleep" and ignoring "Forest of Thorns". Green Fire will remove itself if you move to its location, but it prevents heroes from being played there; Dreamless Sleep leaves if you play an ally to its location, but reduces hero strength by two (and you can safely relocate allies to its spot, you just can't play them there). Use your "Vanish" effect card when you need to avoid moving to keep Green Fire in play, and remember you can potentially cast three curses in one turn by combining the Raven's effect with The Forest's two play card spaces.

Maleficient's Fate Deck

Beware, Maleficient's fate deck has several heroes of strength four or more (enough to destroy her "Forest of Thorns" curse). In particular, you'll need to watch out for Aurora, who has four strength and reveals the top card of your deck, playing it if it's a hero (about a 2/3 chance). Prince Phillip is another nasty foe, carrying five strength and discarding any allies you've played at his location.

2. How to Play Jafar

How to Win: Start your turn with the Magic Lamp at Sultan's Palace and Genie under your control
Locked Location? Yes (Cave of Wonders)

High-risk high-reward, Jafar's effectiveness heavily depends on quickly finding the "Scarab Pendant" item. Not only does it unlock the Cave of Wonders location, it lets Jafar draw an extra card at the end of each turn, a massive advantage that helps acquire his next needed item, "Magic Lamp", which plays Genie's fate card. To find these, you'll want to continuously discard your hand (which you can initially only do in the Streets of Agrabah) and use your "Scrying" effect, which lets you pick item or ally, then reveal cards from your deck until you find the chosen type, adding it to hand. Pick item to (hopefully) hunt your Pendant and Lamp.

Again, don't be afraid to discard Jafar's allies, effects, and conditions, you need that Pendant fast for more mobility and cards. Once you have the Cave unlocked and the Magic Lamp placed, use its move an item action to start shifting the Lamp towards Sultan's Palace. This will take several turns unless you have Iago, who spends power to move items faster.

Once Genie and the Lamp are at the Palace, your last objective is to subjugate him with your "Hypnotize" card. This requires you to spend Power equal to Genie's strength, which will be at least six, more if he's been boosted with fate cards. Remember, you don't need to actually defeat Genie, just hypnotize him, making allies less crucial to Jafar than most other villains.

Jafar's Fate Deck

Since Genie is needed for Jafar to win, you might just want to ignore him if he appears before the Lamp (which recasts him), especially since his six strength makes him hard to defeat. Jafar's biggest threat is Aladdin, who has four strength and can steal an item until defeated, possibly pilfering the Lamp and thwarting Jafar's win. Abu does this too, but his two strength makes him more manageable.

Princess Jasmine is another troublesome foe; while her strength is only three, her brutal effect makes Jafar draw one less card each turn. Coupled with his starting locked location, this slows him to a crawl if you haven't played the Pendant yet. Take Aladdin and Jasmine out as soon as possible, but if Carpet's active, his effect will force you to defeat him first.

3. How to Play Ursula

How to Win: Start your turn with the Trident and Crown at Ursula's Lair
Locked Location? Yes (The Palace)

Ursula notably has zero vanquish spots in her realm (and very few allies in her deck); instead of fighting heroes, she removes them using her "Binding Contract" items, each of which defeats its attached hero when moved to a specific location. Don't be afraid to discard these since Ursula has many tools to retrieve them, but note that your single green-colored copy works great for beating Triton at Ursula's Lair (part of your win condition).

Ursula's lock token rotates between The Palace and Ursula's Lair when you play her "Change Form" card. While this limits her mobility (she can never permanently remove the lock), she can use this to safely conceal her items and prevent Ariel from stealing them. Speaking of items, focus on hunting for the Crown and Trident by discarding cards. Each costs four power, so you'll also want to amass resources along the way. The Crown's effect lets you manipulate your fate deck and the Trident summons Triton, who you'll need to beat before you can reclaim the Trident and win.

The Palace has your only move hero action, crucial for triggering your contracts, so make liberal use of it. You could also play the "Grow Giant" effect at The Shore, as it lets you take one action from an adjacent location even if locked, and the activated abilities of Floatsam and Jetsam can move heroes. Overall, Ursula is a tricky character, juggling a lock token while needing to grab two specific items, but she has several effects to assist her—if she doesn't run out of power (two of her initial power-gaining spaces can be covered by heroes).

Ursula's Fate Deck

Since Ursula doesn't have any vanquish spaces, you can basically ignore her heroes' strength, which are only printed for the purposes of triggering opposing condition cards. It's the effects of the heroes you have to worry about.

Triton increases the cost of playing Binding Contracts to him by one, and since playing the Trident summons him, he's a necessary evil you'll have to beat before reclaiming it. Ariel can be deadly, stealing an item (which can block your win) and preventing Ursula from moving items or allies. Flounder is also surprisingly dangerous, able to shuffle Ursula's discard pile back into her deck, which really slows her down if she hasn't found the Crown or Trident yet.

4. How to Play Captain Hook

How to Win: Defeat Peter Pan at the Jolly Roger
Locked Location? Yes (Hangman's Tree)

Many villains win at the start of their turn, giving foes one final round to possibly fate-disrupt them, but Hook triumphs as soon as Pan is vanquished at the Jolly Roger. Now, Hook begins with the Hangman's Tree location locked, but several of his items add additional actions to locations, giving him extra plays each turn. "Hook's Case" adds a +1 power slot, "Cannon" gives a vanquish action, and "Ingenius Device" provides a move-hero space, all excellent tools.

Useful as these items are, your first priority is to find the "Never Land Map" item. Playing it permanently unlocks the Hangman's Tree location (which is where Pan will eventually arrive), and you can later sacrifice it instead of paying an item's cost, both integral to your success. Once it's open, if opponents haven't already fated Pan out (they have to select him when he shows up), you can beckon him yourself with Hook's "Obsession" condition, which can play the first hero in your fate deck. You could also try "Give Them a Scare" to tinker the deck's top two cards, ensuring Pan arrives quickly.

Once Pan appears, move him to the Jolly Roger using move hero actions from the Hangman's Scare location and any spots where you've played Ingenius Device. Pan is a tough foe with eight strength (the highest in the game), but if you play First Mate Smee to the Jolly Roger, he gains +2 strength for a total of four, getting you halfway there by himself; set your other allies at the Roger while you're busy moving Pan so you can vanquish him as soon as he arrives.

Overall, Hook is a versatile villain, and he tends to get targeted by fate less since opponents don't want to inadvertently summon Pan.

Hook's Fate Deck

Ironically, Pan is something of an asset to Hook; since he has no negative effects and beating him wins the game, the mere possibility of him arriving might prevent opponents from fating Hook.

Nevertheless, don't underestimate the deck's other heroes. Tick Tock is especially dangerous, carrying five strength and forcing Hook to immediately discard his hand when he moves to the crocodile's location; vanquish him as soon as possible. Wendy is also irritating; she only has three strength, but boosts the strength of other heroes in Hook's realm by one, which can mean the difference between slaying Pan or losing the game.

5. How to Play the Queen of Hearts

How to Win: Have a wicket at each location and take a successful shot
Locked Location? No

The Queen of Hearts uses the unique shrink mechanic, which rotates heroes 45° so they only cover one action instead of two (your choice which). So rather than vanquishing, you might want to just leave shrunken heroes alone, especially since they have priority over regular-size ones, only filling one space even if a normal hero is also present. That said, some fate cards enlarge heroes, which cover three actions (opponent's choice) and have priority over shrunken heroes.

Anyway, you have all locations open from the start, leaving room to dodge as needed. To win, the Queen needs the "Take the Shot" card, which can only be played if you've converted a "Card Guard" ally into wicket form at each location. Taking a shot reveals your deck's top five cards; you win if their total cost is less than the strength of your combined wickets, so the more wickets you have, the better your odds.

However, at the game's start, don't be afraid to discard "Take the Shot" cards; your deck has three and you want room in hand for other plays. Get busy playing your "Card Guard" allies to each location, and remember they can only vanquish heroes when not in wicket form, so don't necessarily convert them just because you can. You also want to maintain The King ally, as his passive effect reduces the price of Card Guards by one. "weedle Dee & Tweedle Dum are also an excellent tool, bearing three strength and not being discarded when used to vanquish. Attach your "Spear" item to them for +1 strength, giving them enough power to vanquish most foes on their own (and saving your Card Guards for wicket conversion).

The Queen excels at hoarding power; the activated effect on the "Stopwatch" item grants one power per wicket in your realm, effect "Very Merry Unbirthday" gives +1 per ally in realm, and condition "Judgment" (triggers when opponent has three or more allies) gives three free power. The "Fury" condition (triggers when opponent beats hero of strength four or more) shrinks up to two heroes in your realm, a great way to bypass heroes without needing to vanquish. Once you've placed Card Guards, you can convert two into wickets at once with the "By Order of the Queen" effect. If you have time before taking your shot, you might want to play (and convert) an extra Card Guard or two to twist the odds in your favor.

Queen of Hearts's Fate Deck

Alice represents one of the Queen's biggest threats, possessing five strength and preventing the Queen from moving items or allies. Opponents can also find her using the "Down the Rabbit Hole" effect, which plays Alice if she isn't fielded, or discards an ally from her location if she is (which can remove your valuable Tweedle and King allies).

Cheshire Cat is also annoying when you're preparing to take your shot; he has five strength and can convert two wickets back to Card Guards on entry, although the Queen can shift them back when he's defeated. Unlike some villains, there isn't much downside to fating the Queen, so be prepared for numerous hits.

6. How to Play Prince John

How to Win: Start your turn with 20 or more Power.
Locked Location? No

Prince John's board has no locked spaces, but its rightmost location (The Jail) only has three actions. However, they're all on bottom, so heroes can't cover them up, making this a great space to move to when your other areas are weighed down. However, many of John's cards and effects actually strengthen based on the number of heroes in your realm, a nasty mechanic that makes opponents think twice before fating him.

John's win condition is simple: begin a turn with at least 20 power. But don't hesitate to spend your resources when the game begins; doing so will pay off in the long run. For instance, "Sheriff of Nottingham" provides an excellent ally who has three strength and can move each turn, gaining one power if a hero is present at his new location. "Beautiful, Lovely Taxes" is a free effect that gives +1 power for each hero in your realm, and the "Warrant" item gives +2 power when a hero is played to its location. With these around, fating John works almost as much for you as against, making him hard for opponents to deter. Ally Sir Hiss also lets you play a covered action at a hero's location, further reducing their detriment.

John has two nice conditions to help store power. "Greed" grants three when an opponent has at least six, and "Cowardice" freely plays an ally when an opponent has three or more allies; use this to summon the Sheriff or a Rhino Guard. While not a necessity, your "King Richard's Crown" item is a great early play, reducing card costs at its location by one. All together, John is perhaps my favorite core villain, mobile and hard to impede thanks to his hero-rewarded effects.

Prince John's Fate Deck

Although heroes sometimes benefit John's cards, they can still harm his progress. Most notably, Robin Hood has five strength and reduces any power John gains by one, making him your top priority when he arrives. Maid Marian plays Robin Hood when defeated, so you'll often just want to ignore her presence.

Little John also has five strength and steals four power until defeated, which can ruin your win condition. Also with five strength, King Richard has a nasty trait that prevents John from playing effects. Yet the surprise beast of the bunch is Lady Kluck, who has an awesome six strength and can't be played or moved to The Jail, making it hard for John to divert her.

Where to Buy Villainous

Villainous is a great way to ease your gaming group into heavier titles, using recognizable characters and light strategy to lessen the plunge. With everyone playing vastly different decks, each player feels unique and powerful, and quality components round out the package, making its price point of under $30 a steal.

Once you've played the base The Worst Takes It All characters, you might consider adding the three characters from the Wicked to the Core expansion (Dr. Facilier, Evil Queen, and Hades), or the Evil Comes Prepared set (Scar, Ratigan, and Yzma). We'll cover these characters another time, but for now, vote for your favorite villain and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!

© 2020 Jeremy Gill