Do you ever watch super hero movies or read comic books and think, “Hey, the bad guy isn’t THAT bad.”, “The villain does have some rather valid points there….” Or, “Why doesn’t someone take that smarmy hero down a couple of pegs!” Or are you, yourself perhaps bent on world domination, but are unsure of where to begin?
In Villainy, you not only root for the bad guy, you ARE the bad guy! You play as a villain struggling to become the greatest that the city has ever seen! You have to hire henchmen, do petty crimes, and figure out what you need to achieve your dastardly schemes. And yes, you do have to make and “honest” living every once in a while. Hey, when you are just starting out, sacrifices need to be made!
How to Play
Villainy is a game for 2-4 players where you play a villain trying to become the city’s greatest super villain! You need to compete against other potential candidates as well as the local super hero: Fantastiman. In order to win the game, you need to complete three evil plans (Origin, Villainous Act and Magnum Opus) of increasing difficulty as well as defeat Fantastiman before any of your opponents do!
On each of your turns you will do one of three things; 1) Take one action, 2) Work your team, or 3) Complete and Evil Plan. For the “Take one action”, you can do the following things:
- Assume an alter ego – Take an alter ego card whose requirements you fulfill and give it to your villain or a Hench-person of your choice.
- Hire a Hench – This can only be done by the villain. Pay the cost for the hench and place it above one of the sections on your control panel. Each section gives the character a specific bonus.
- Do Some Crimes – Take a crime card and increase or decrease the stats of the character that you chose to commit those crimes. Crimes can also earn you money.
- Hot Action – Some cards come with a “hot action”, you can choose to use these abilities as one of your choices.
- Start a fight – You can start a fight with you opponents. Follow the instruction son the fight card (scales when you have less or more players) and take the rewards if you win!
- Buy a specialty – You can buy a specialty for one of your characters by paying the cost. Cost corresponds to how high their particular stat is.
When you work your team, you take money from the bank for your “honest jobs” that you or your hench-people have. If you don’t have an alter ego, you get one coin, and then any team members who are ready pay you the amount their alter egos make. You then turn all your characters to “ready”.
To complete one of your evil plans, you must have all your team members that fulfill the requirements turned to “ready”. You then state that you are completing the plan, confirm that you have all the needs met, and then take the next plan card in order from the one you just completed.
Turns continue until one player has completed their Magnum Opus and have endured and defeated Fantastiman. They will have proven themselves and become the super villain the city needs!
Headline Maker or Doomed to Obscurity
Villainy is a wonderfully thematic and fun game. It is very easy to pick up as there are only so many options for you to do on your turn, but in its simplicity hides a pretty complex game. The choices that you can make and strategy you can implement gives you endless possibilities, and that in turn gives the game great replay value. There are so many crimes to do, alter egos to assume and Hench-people to hire, that no two games will be the same!
Thematically, it is over the top and extremely funny (we were in tears we were laughing so hard at some of the things that came up). It gives you a great mixture of parody and silliness. One of the villains you can choose is “Doctor Loom” that looks suspiciously like Doctor Doom, but as a cat instead. His card is even covered in yarn. A Hench-person that you can hire is called “The Dentist”, but obviously takes her hair and claw tips from Wolverine. These nods to familiar comic book characters and tropes make the game fun to play and contributes to its immersion. The artwork itself adds to the theme as the fonts and character colors/poses are all reminiscent of comic books. It pulls you into the game and makes you feel as though you are a villain stepping right off the page.
When you start off the game, you are all by yourself, a struggling baddie just trying to get by. You have very little money and no help whatsoever. It really makes you feel as though you are just starting off your villainous career. You have an evil plan, but you need help and resources to get it off the ground. As the game progresses and you commit more crimes, you are able to hire Hench-people, which makes it easier to get more money and do more things. It really gives you a sensation of constant progression as you work your way up to super status. Once there, you are big enough to catch the notice of the local super hero, who swoops in and tries to foil your Magnum Opus.
The game comes with 100s of words that look like magnetic poetry pieces. You get to use these to create your own unique villain name when you choose your villain. We ended up playing by randomly selecting three words and using them the best we could to make up our names. These would ultimately strike fear into the city’s heart! My opponent’s ended up being El Walrus Face.
This humor is found throughout the game, and randomly selecting the specialties made it that much more amusing. One of my Hench-people was an actual Grizzly Bear. By the end of the game, he was in love with me, had a PhD, and a wielded a mighty club! This aspect of the game led to a lot of creative backstory for our particular Hench’s and for our gangs as a whole. Also, both genders are equally represented on the villain and Hench-people cards, which is always nice to see.
There are lots of choices to be made and management throughout the game. You are constantly managing your finances, your Hench-people’s progress and making sure that you are getting closer fulfilling the requirements for your schemes. It engages you even when you are waiting for your turn, so there is very little down time. There is no hidden information, as all the crime, alter ego, character and scheme cards are played face up, which means that at any point someone might take the card you are counting on, leaving you to scramble to figure out an alternative. This also means that there is a medium amount of luck regarding the card draws and what gets played on the table.
Some cards and the fighting mechanic also rely on die rolls which gives the game a little bit more randomness. It works well, but it can make the fight with Fantastiman at the end a bit frustrating. However, this allows for a great catch up mechanic. Even if you are not the first to complete your Magnum Opus, there is still a chance that the person who has will fail in their fight against the hero, giving you a chance to match your team against him. This happened on one of our play throughs. I was behind, but my opponent lost an ability that he required in order to finish his Opus, leaving him to take another couple of turns to gain it back. While he was desperately trying to do this, I swooped in and (with some very lucky card draws I will admit), defeated the hero, and won the game!
An aspect of game management that I did not enjoy was replenishing the “Meanwhile…” deck. Rules for this are that if at any point there are 4 alter ego cards or crime cards showing then all of the cards on the table, including the Hench-people, are discarded and re-dealt. If the same thing happens again, you re-do this (except with the Hench’s) until there are at least 2 alter ego and crime cards showing. Then you have a battle as per another card. For me, this really interrupted the flow of the game. I can see why they would want a certain number of cards out, but to have to stop and do a wipe of the cards (sometimes multiple times) just wasn’t fun. In fact it was annoying.
Aside from that, the game play is wonderful; however, the rulebook leaves much to be desired. It is only 8 pages long, but each page is a wall of text. I have read many rulebooks in my life time, some poorly written and some well over 40 pages long, and even I was intimidated by this one. There are picture examples of the various cards relating to the rules, but they are pushed off to the side and very small. I had to hold the page a few inches from my face just to be able to read what they said. I would have preferred a longer rule book that had a lot of examples and easier to read text.
Once you get beyond that barrier the rules are rather easy to grasp, and the game comes with player action cards for quick reference which is a nice feature. I would rather have a small card on the table than the full page rule book.
This is a card driven game, and although there are quite a few cardboard pieces, the cards are the main components of the game. They had a nice weight to them and felt great while shuffling. The only couple of complaints I had was that right out of the box they are a bit on the slick side, and since they are all placed on the table, they tended to slide around. But I am sure, as with most cards, over time this issue will correct itself.
Complaint number two is the size of the font on some of the cards. It is very hard to read and sometimes you think that you are fulfilling a requirement, when in fact you aren’t. This happened with my opponent (who has excellent vision) during his Magnum Opus attempt. Twice he was unable to see which specialty was required and in reality he had not fulfilled it. So this had him taking extra turns to try and grab those specialties before he could attempt it again.
The remaining components are made of nice quality cardboard, wood, and plastic. The player boards are fun to work with, as you are spinning dials to keep track of the stats of your Hench-people and yourself. It makes you feel as though you are a super villain at the controls of some doomsday device!
No insert is included with the box unfortunately, and I think due to this our player boards were slightly damaged during shipping. The box is big for what comes in it, and there is a lot of air space. It resulted in our box looking as though something heavy was placed on it causing a depression, and since there was a lot of room for the boards to move around, the places where they connect also became dented. It wasn’t enough to inhibit gameplay, but enough that it is obvious they are not in pristine condition.
Overall these are relatively minor complaints.
Villainy is an amazing and whimsical game. It is on the simple side to teach, but has layers of management and decision making that add a nice amount of complexity. There is an element of randomness, so if that isn’t what you enjoy with your games, then steer clear of this one. It is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and anyone who enjoys comic books or super heroes will have a blast playing it! I know this one will have a spot in our regular rotation!
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Mayfair Games for providing a review copy of Villainy.