North Star Digital Studios is bringing digital board game Evolution: The Video Game to Nintendo Switch in “Early 2020.” Evolution is a card game for up to six players. Each…
Players: 2-3 (the full game supports up to 6)
Game Length: 40-60 minutes
The second stand-alone expansion to excellent asymmetrical card game Disney Villainous, Evil Comes Prepared, finally adds Scar as a playable villain, along with dark-horse picks Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove and Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective. Scar is mildly disappointing but the others make up for it with unique and interesting play styles, proving that Villainous continues to host an impressive pantheon of Disney favorites.
Circle of Life
By now you should already be familiar with how Disney Villainous plays. Each player selects a Disney villain, which comes with their own deck of villain cards, a fate deck of meddling heroes, a player board with four locations, and a stylized 3D token. Each turn players move their token to a location, performing the limited actions at that location, such as playing cards, gaining power, and vanquishing heroes. Villains can also draw from their opponents’ fate decks to place heroes on their board, partially covering up their actions and thwarting their plans.
Part of the genius of Villainous is its asynchronous gameplay. Each villain has a unique victory condition, as well as their own unique card decks and player boards. No two villains play alike, though with the second expansion Evil Comes Prepared adding the 10th, 11th, and 12th villains to the game, we’re beginning to see some overlaps.
Surprisingly Scar is the weakest of the new additions in Evil Comes Prepared. Scar’s goal is to defeat 15 strength worth of heroes. Eliminating heroes is something most villains do anyway, though Scar has to defeat Mufasa before any defeated heroes count toward his goal. Defeating heroes doesn’t make for an interesting nor engaging goal, and most of Scar’s strength comes from playing a bunch of nameless hyena cards. I also question the theme, as Scar’s goal in The Lion King was to usurp Mufasa and take over the pride lands, not hunt down and kill all the heroes.
Professor Ratigan is much more interesting, featuring a two-in-one goal that changes if his initial plans are thwarted. As in the film, Ratigan’s goal is to replace the queen with a robotic version. The card costs a ton of power, however, which means Ratigan needs to play items and allies that reduce its cost. Once the card is played it needs to be carefully moved from one side of the board to the other. If Basil comes into play, the card is discarded, and Ratigan goes into a rage, physically flipping his goal over to defeating Basil. It’s a brilliant callback to the climax of the film, and often reflects the same playful frustration the Ratigan player is feeling.
Of the three new villains Yzma is the most radically different. Her setup involves separating the fate deck into four different stacks, with each stack at a single location. Yzma needs to spend her time locating Kuzco, then defeating him with Kronk. I’m less familiar with The Emperor’s New Groove than other Disney animated films, but Yzma has to make sure Kronk stays under her control, creating an interesting dynamic while trying to defeat Kuzco. Fating the Yzma player can be a bit of a pain, however, as you have to look through the full stack of cards at a location, and don’t want to give away Kuzco if you find him.
Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared has a recommended age of 10+. The gameplay is complex enough to make it more suitable for older kids, teens, and adult Disneyphiles.
Scar, clearly the marquee new addition, is unfortunately one of the weaker villains of them all, though Ratigan and Yzma provide interesting new ideas and gameplay opportunities. Evil Comes Prepared can coast on how good Villainous plays and the still-excellent production quality of the cards, boards, and tokens (Evil Comes Prepared definitely has the best tokens), but at this point we probably have all the villains we need.
Find Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared at Target.
Available On: PC (Windows, Mac, Linux) , PlayStation 4, Switch
Card battlers are fashionably popular right now (see our review on the excellent SteamWorld Quest), and Slay the Spire checks just about every box for popular indie genres. Deck-building. Dungeon Crawling. Random Encounters. Roguelike. Even more than most in the genre, Slay the Spire is a purely mechanics-driven game, with very little storytelling. But those systems work beautifully together to create a memorable, deep, and easy-to-play experience that rivals many physical card games.
Available On: Switch, PC (Steam, May 31)
Over the last several years, Swedish indie developers Image & Form Games have been quietly and expertly expanding their colorful robot-filled SteamWorld universe. Impressively each of these games embodies completely different genres, such as action-platformer with SteamWorld Dig and turn-based tactical strategy in SteamWorld Heist, while still maintaining lovely 2D artwork and funny robot heroes.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech features a full on fantasy world – but still starring quippy robots, and adds yet another new genre to the SteamWorld library: deckbuilding RPG. The card-based combat is intuitive and rewarding, bolstered by the colorful SteamWorld art design.
Last month’s release of the latest Hearthstone expansion, Rise of Shadows, allowed players to take on the role of villains as they joined the League of E.V.I.L. Today Blizzard Entertainment…
Publisher: Dire Wolf Digital
Game Length: 30-45 minutes
When you play the game of thrones you win or you die, but when you play Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker, everyone has a great time. Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker is a social deduction and bluffing game for large groups of five to eight players that builds upon the successful game mechanics of other social card games. The Game of Thrones theme fits perfectly as players hide their loyalties, accuse their neighbors, and ultimately serve their own personal ambitions.
Chaos is a Ladder
In Oathbreaker one player plays as the king (or queen) of the realm, while the rest are nobles vying for control. Nobles are secretly dealt cards to determine if they are a loyalist or conspirator. Loyalists need order to be higher on the score track while conspirators are all about sowing chaos. In addition, each player will have a secret personal ambition card, dictating a certain amount of honor, power, or wealth they need to accumulate to win the titular game of thrones.
Every other round nobles play cards face down to complete randomly drawn missions. They’ll need to match the correct symbols on the mission card if they want the mission to succeed and raise Order. Or they could secretly play sabotage cards to tank the mission, ensuring the rise of chaos. Conspirators will need to cleverly hide their motives, as the king player then bestows decree cards on the nobles. Favors offer boons and bonuses while Suspicions do just the opposite. This creates an interesting incentive to keep motives and actions hidden throughout the game as players compete for the king’s favor.
The hidden traitor mechanic has been used in many modern social card games from Ultimate Werewolf to The Resistance. Having a dedicated king player sets Oathbreaker apart, creating a uniquely asymmetrical experience. The king, who is always obviously on Team Loyalist, needs to pay careful attention to how their fellow players are using their character powers and where they play their cards. It’s a completely different experience compared to playing as one of the nobles.
The components are impressive and high-quality, particularly the fold out score board depicting the map of Westeros and the nice chunky sigil coins for each house. The character player boards and mission cards are modeled directly after the HBO series. Familiar faces like Jon Snow, Melisandre, and Cersei Lannister each have their own unique ability that often directly involves other nobles, like Margaery Tyrell’s Wedding Pact allowing her and another noble to draw two cards.
The mission cards depict major and minor scenes from the TV series, such as the fight between The Red Viper and The Mountain, Arya’s assassin training, and the Battle of Blackwater Bay. A total of 33 over-sized mission cards ensures a nice amount of replayability in each game.
The only real complaint about Oathbreaker is the hefty player requirement. Since one player always needs to play as the king, Oathbreaker only works with higher player counts of at least five players (with eight players requiring two king players). In all but six player games a hidden Agent mechanic is used to even the playing field between conspirators and loyalists, and can often serve as an anticlimactic ending that pushes one side or the other to victory.
Oathbreaker has a recommended age of 14+. Social deduction games can be difficult to grasp for kids and tweens. Players need to be comfortable and somewhat proficient in lying, deflection, and deception. And while the game itself nor the scenes depicted are objectionable, the Game of Thrones HBO series has a very strong TV-MA rating.
Party games are often light on strategy in order to engage more players, but Oathbreaker expertly threads the needle between complex strategy and deception and hilarious hi-jinks. Even non-Game of Thrones fans could appreciate the simple but effective gameplay. Oathbreaker could very well replace many of the biggest social intrigue games on your game shelf and should be the first game you pull out for larger gatherings on game night.