disney card game villainous

Disney Villainous Review

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Publisher: Wonder Forge
Age: 10+
Players: 2-6
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
MSRP: $34.99

A good villain usually makes for a good story, and one of Disney’s strengths throughout every era was its memorable cast of villains. Some, like Maleficent, have even become more popular than their heroic rivals. Yet we’ve never seen a tabletop game that focuses solely on the darker side of the Disney universe, until now.

Disney Villainous is an elegantly constructed, asymmetrical card game where you play as one of six classic Disney villains. Each villain has their own deck of cards, player board, and goals, all of which reflect their sinister machinations in each film. Being bad never felt so good.

Off With Their Head

Players begin by selecting one of six infamous villains: Captain Hook, Maleficent, Jafar, Ursula, Prince John and Queen of Hearts.

disney villainousEvery villain is tasked with completing their own objective, ripped straight from the films. Jafar has to unlock the Cave of Wonders, hypnotize the genie, and bring both he and the lamp to the Palace, while Captain Hook needs to defeat Peter Pan at the Jolly Roger.

Each turn you move your player marker onto one of four locations on your player board. Each space has several different actions available, from playing cards to gathering power and vanquishing heroes. Choosing where to go and how to utilize both your cards and your limited actions each turn is a delightful puzzle.

At the same time, you’ll need to draw from the fate deck of your opponent’s heroes to foil their plans, while they do the same to you.

Choose Your Fate

While the villains are trying to get their various objectives done, those pesky heroes are always in the way. One of the actions allows you to draw from your opponent’s fate deck of heroes, select one of two cards, and play them on the top portion of their player board. Heroes cover up half the actions, weakening that villain’s options, as well as including debilitating effects specifically designed to undermine that villain – such as discarding Maleficent’s curses or stealing power from Prince John.

The fate deck is a lot of fun and helps alleviate the multiplayer-solitaire problem that frequently crops up in these kinds of games. It provides a high level of interactivity between players, and leads to some fun table talk as players see who’s doing well and work to thwart them.

disney villainous

The card art, player board, and player pieces are absolutely lovely. Disney fans will be satisfied to find classic art depictions of movie scenes and characters on each card. The foldout player board looks fantastic and the pieces are gorgeous 3D color-coded symbols of each villain. As great as the components are, the modeled plastic cauldron that holds the power is cheap by comparison.

With each villain having unique rules and cards, some of them play far more complex than others. Prince John and Maleficent are very straight-forward, while Ursula’s need to apply Binding Contracts to defeat heroes and only ever having access to three locations at a time creates a much more difficult scenario.

The balance between villains seems fine – almost every game I played was very close. Though Maleficent won every game she was played in, regardless of who played her. A complexity rating for each villain would have been very welcome, though the guide pamphlets do a decent job explaining their unique play styles.

The Rating

Villainous has a recommended age of 10+. Despite being a Disney game it’s complex enough to make it suitable only for older kids, teens, and adults. The fact that the most recent villain is from 1992 is a big clue that it skews to an older crowd than most Disney games. The game is easy enough to teach, but each villain has its own rules to learn and strategies to employ, and you have to pay close attention to what your opponents are doing.

disney villainous

The Takeaway

Villainous is a fantastic and cleverly designed card game. Each villain’s deck and strategy is richly thematic and expertly tied to their respective films, and the fate deck is an effective way of adding deliciously diabolical player interactivity. Hugely recommended for Disney fans looking for their next favorite card game.

Find Disney Villainous at Amazon, Target, and other retailers. 

jurassic world evolution

Jurassic World Evolution Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Fifteen years ago I fell in love with Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis. It was the original dinosaur park sim that let me prove that breeding dinosaurs for consumer entertainment is a totally valid business strategy.

Now from the makers of Planet Coaster comes Jurassic World Evolution. Like the current era of Jurassic World films it’s not quite as good as the original. But Evolution does feature all the joy and danger of breeding and housing dinosaurs for entertainment that makes the concept so richly compelling.

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The Swords of Ditto Review

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Available On: PC, PlayStation 4

Many video game genres overlap and blend well together. Shooting and third-person action. Narrative-rich adventure with first-person exploration. RPG elements in just about everything. Yet in the paraphrased words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, just because you can combine genres doesn’t mean you should.

The Swords of Ditto is a cautionary tale. The concept seems solid: combine the basic structure of classic top-down, 2D Zelda within the framework of a challenging roguelike, creating a frustrating experience that relies too much on repetition.

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into the breach

Into the Breach Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available On: PC

Pacific Rim meets Chess isn’t exactly the most common elevator pitch for indie games, yet it perfectly describes Into the Breach, the long-awaited sophomore release from beloved FTL: Faster Than Light developers Subset Games.

Into the Breach successfully retains all the fun roguelike challenges and tactical strategy of FTL while minimizing most randomized frustrations, creating a compelling tactical board game.

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pokemon sun and moon

Pokémon Sun and Moon Review

Posted by | Mobile, News, Reviews | No Comments

Available On: Nintendo 3DS

A lot is riding on Pokémon Sun and Moon. Pokémon popularity is at its highest point since its inception in the 90s, thanks to its 20th Anniversary and hit mobile game Pokémon GO. Yet we haven’t seen a new, non-remake Pokémon title in three years.

Pokémon Sun and Moon represent the largest shift in the series we’ve ever seen. These are still classic monster catching and battling games aimed at kids, but the numerous improvements and new island setting make Pokémon Sun and Moon a hugely successful entry in the popular franchise.

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Watch Dogs 2 Review

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Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
We played on Xbox One

I came into Watch Dogs 2 with a skeptical mind because I’ve been burned by Ubisoft hype before. Fortunately, all of my concerns faded away quickly as I was whisked away to a virtual San Francisco to live the life of a hacker vigilante. I may be finished with the game, but it has definitely left its mark on me. Watch Dogs 2 is, unquestionably, one of the best games I have played in a very long time.

The Story

watch_dogs_2_screenshots

Players take on the role of Marcus Holloway as he joins the “Hacktivist” collective known as Dedsec and embarks on a crusade against a corrupt company gathering citizen data and selling it to the highest bidder (among other nefarious acts).

His crusade comes in the form of a quest for followers as he cruises around town completing tasks to impress the people of the internet. Completing tasks nets Dedsec followers who download their app and give the hackers a portion of their phone’s processing power. Eventually these huge numbers will give them the CPU power to hack into their target’s systems and bring them down.

This is a simple premise that would fall flat if the missions were not interesting. Fortunately, they more than pass muster. The missions that you take on in just the first dozen hours ofrso of the game involve such tasks as faking the delivery of a rap song to a reasonable facsimile of the pharma-bro Martin Shkreli, infiltrating a close-enough version of the church of Scientology, and stealing “Kit” and driving it on a wild rampage to help film a re-cut version of a movie trailer. In the meantime you can snap selfies in front of famous locations, race go-karts, and even do timed deliveries a la Crazy Taxi.

I felt compelled to keep plugging away at story missions long into the night more than once. I wouldn’t say that this is going to raise the bar on open world storytelling, but I  was very invested in their mission very early on. The idea of companies gathering too much intel on their customers and selling it happens under our noses right now. So seeing a group of hackers battle against it felt great. I genuinely wanted to see how it would turn out for these guys.

San Francisco

It is impossible to discuss Watch Dogs 2 without addressing the setting. This game takes place in a well rendered representation of the city of San Francisco. It isn’t a one to one rebuilding of the city in virtual form, but it includes all of the major neighborhoods and most of the major landmarks that you wouldn’t expect to see in the game.

Driving around the expansive map was impressive, and the varied environments did a great job of keeping the game from getting repetitive. I hope that the Watch Dogs 2’s success in rendering San Francisco convinces other companies to set games there. It really is a great place to play.

The Gameplay

watch_dogs_2_screenshots-jumper

Watch Dogs 2 is an excellent open world game. The cheap comparison would be to try and weigh the game point by point with Grand Theft Auto. But, those comparisons really aren’t fair. First, GTA is genre-defining so nothing can really keep up with it in comparison. Second, the player’s role in the games’ narrative (Criminal vs Vigalante hero) is so different between the two games that it makes them feel like wholly separate games to me.

The core mechanic in Watch Dogs is, as it always has been, hacking. Players use their phone for virtually everything they do. You can hack just about every electrical device that you see in order to overcome challenges.

The gameplay loop of hacking through different cameras to gain access to new areas returns from the first game. But, the list of hackable objects (and the things you can do with them) has increased this time around. My favorite is the ability to hack an electric panel to short out slightly so it draws a guards attention only for you to activate a second power to deliver a non lethal shock to knock them out. There is even an option to cause some people’s phones to detonate like grenades (They must have had Galaxy phones I guess).

The true highlight of the game, however, are Marcus’s  quad-copter drone and his remote controlled “car.” These devices can be let lose at the push of a button and give Marcus greater reach than he would on foot without exposing him to bullet fire. As the game progressed I found myself relying on those devices to do all of my dirty work. I barely entered most compounds unless I was required to but by then, all the hacking had been done. I thought they would have been a distraction, but they are amazing additions. I can’t wait for future Watch Dogs games to see what other drone-type devices they can think of.

Online Multiplayer

The online multiplayer is cleverly done and helps to simulate a world full of hacktivists – each with their own motives and goals. Sometimes those goals align neatly. This results in cooperative missions where players can team up to break into some intensely guarded compounds. Sometimes those goals don’t align. That results in another player entering your game as a bounty hunter tasked with eliminating you.

The multiplayer was largely broken at launch for the game, so I was unable to try it. But, its goal was to seamlessly integrate other players into your world on a shared map of San Francisco.

The Rating

Watch Dogs 2 is rated M for mature and for good reason. You have the option to play as a non-lethal hacker, but failing to do so leads to almost GTA level shooting sprees. The language in this game is also off-the-charts bad. I heard more F-words in some cut scenes than non-F-words.

The Takeaway

Buy with confidence. Watch Dogs 2 is one of the best games of the year.