Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-3 (the full game supports up to 6)
Game Length: 40-60 minutes
MSRP: $24.99

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.

The Rating

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.

The Takeaway

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.

Jaws Board Game Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 12+
Players: 2-4
Game Length: 60 minutes
MSRP: $29.99

Brody: I used to hate the water…

Hooper: I can’t imagine why.

Building upon the success of last year’s Jurassic Park Danger board game, Ravensburger returns with another movie license in the Jaws board game (available exclusively at Target). Released in 1975, Jaws is often considered the original summer blockbuster, as a trio of men on the vacation destination of Amity Island try to keep a man-eating shark from, well, man-eating, first by trying to close the beaches, then by getting on a boat and hunting the shark themselves.

The Jaws game brilliantly captures both halves of the film in a unique two act structure, culminating in an exciting finale where the shark player rips apart a sinking boat while other players desperately try to fend it off.

A Bigger Boat

As in Jurassic Park Danger, players are divided up into two teams, the humans and the shark. The three human characters of Brody, Hooper, and Quint are always present, making the 2 and 3-player game a little more challenging for the human player but also maintaining a proper balance when playing with fewer than four.

In act one the human team controls the three characters on Amity Island. Each turn they have a set number of actions with which to rescue swimmers (spawned from event cards drawn each round), gather motion sensing barrels, close beaches, and try to locate the shark. The shark player, meanwhile uses a hidden notepad to track their movement and eating habits.

Act one results in an excellent game of cat and mouse as the humans try to locate the shark player using their various abilities, like Brody’s binoculars and Hooper’s fish finder, while minimizing losses.

The first act ends when the shark has eaten nine swimmers, or if Quint manages to tag the shark with two of his barrels. Depending on how many swimmers the shark ate, act two swings in favor of either the shark (more ability cards) or the humans (more gear cards). The board is flipped and boat tiles are added to represent Quint’s boat from the film, the Orca.

If act one is a subtle detective game with some light strategy, act two is a full-on tactical strategy warfare with hit points and dice rolls. The shark resurfaces by choosing from several different Resurface cards, and the humans have to predict where it’ll appear, targeting the space with spears, flares, and pistols. The shark player rips apart chunks of the boat, flipping tiles or eliminating them entirely, and possibly dumping humans into the water where it can start whittling down their hit points.

I’ve played both extremes of act one, with the shark player eating the maximum number of swimmers (and thus gaining the biggest hand advantage going into act two) and the humans tagging the shark almost immediately, with the opposite swing in momentum. However, the card advantage from act one doesn’t grant an automatic win. In both instances the final turn of act two came down to a nail-biting thriller, with a 1 hit point shark nimbly trying to avoid becoming sushi while the surviving humans cling to the last shreds of a sinking boat.

We ran into a few rules questions when it came to act two’s constantly changing battlefield and adjacency conundrums. And it’s a bummer that the movie license doesn’t appear to include the actors’ likenesses, but that doesn’t take away from the fantastic gameplay.

The Rating

The Jaws Board Game has an age recommendation of 12+. Both acts require tactical planning and strategy, and in the case of the human players, coordination of their actions and attacks. The shark player needs to keep careful, honest track of what they do each round throughout act one.

The subject matter is another factor, as the shark player is eating people in act one, and both sides are trying to kill one another in act two. Humorously the original film is rated PG, but would garner at least a strong PG-13 rating (which wasn’t invented until 1984) if not an R rating today.

The Takeaway

I was very impressed to find the solution to whether or not to adapt a Jaws game from the ship or the island was “Why not both?” The two act gameplay structure creates a memorable mini campaign as both sides earn their powers from how well they handle act one. Alternatively you can play each act as a separate game mode if you’re short on time. Both sides play completely differently and the action is fun and tense throughout both acts. Even more than Jurassic Park Danger, the Jaws board game is a triumphant of great game design and an excellent use of the source material.

mickey mouse

Celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th Anniversary with 40,320 Piece Puzzle

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Board game and toy company Ravensburger have unveiled a unique, commemorative puzzle celebrating Mickey Mouse’s 90th anniversary. The one-of-a-kind puzzle is called Mickey Through the Years, and features nine decades of hand-drawn images and photos over 40,320 puzzle pieces.

The puzzle box weighs over 50 pounds and retails for $600. Once fully assembled, it’s over 22 feet long and 6 feet high, making it the largest Mickey puzzle in the world. As evidenced by its size and cost, this puzzle is not for the faint of heart. It’s estimated to take approximately 600 hours to fully assemble.

It ties the largest non-Mickey puzzle in the world, which also happens to be a Disney-themed puzzle designed by Ravensburger.

“Over 40,000 puzzle pieces celebrate Disney’s most iconic character in Mickey Through the Years,” said Thomas Kaeppeler, President of Ravensburger North America. ͞”We worked with Disney’s designers and artists to create a challenging puzzle and one that is equal parts art to keep the most persistent puzzlers going as they complete each image of cherished scrapbook memorabilia throughout Mickey’s amazing 90-year history.”

mickey mouse

The puzzle is made up of 10 different quadrants of 4,032 pieces each. Each quadrant depicts a different decade in Mickey’s history, beginning with his first appearance in Steamboat Willie in 1928. Examples include The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol in the 1980s. The final quadrant is a unique sketch that celebrates Mickey’s 90th anniversary, along with friends Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy.

The official celebration of Mickey’s 90th anniversary takes place November 18. The Mickey Through the Years puzzle is available to purchase via Amazon, Disney, Ravensburger, and select hobby stores today. It has a suggested age of 14+.

jurassic park danger

Jurassic Park Danger! Review

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Game publisher Ravensburger is celebrating Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary with Jurassic Park Danger!, an adventure strategy game that pits the heroes (and victims) of the first film against the rampaging dinosaurs on Isla Nublar.

By melding together fun board game mechanics from Euro-style games, Jurassic Park Danger! is far more compelling and rewarding than many family games found in the Target gaming aisle. Its dedication to the source material is immensely rewarding for fans of the 1993 film – but be prepared for the dinosaurs to come out on top more often than not.

Man Creates Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Eat Man

Jurassic Park Danger! is both cooperative and competitive. It’s designed for 2-5 players. One player always takes the role of the rampaging dinosaurs on the island – specifically a dilophosaurus, velociprator, and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Each dinosaur is represented by wonderful little dino-meeples with printed pictures.

The other players each play one of ten color-coded characters from the film, including Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ian Malcolm, Dr. Ellie Sattler, and park owner John Hammond. Every player (including the dinosaur player) gets their own character mat and deck of cards.

The island board isn’t quite a faithful recreation of the park. Instead it’s randomly constructed every game through the modular hexagonal inner pieces, not unlike The Settlers of Catan. This randomizes the locations of cliffs, electric fences, dinosaur spawn points, and some of the objectives. To maintain a semblance of balance, the main objectives are always placed at the cardinal directions of the island, with human players always starting in the middle.

The human players’ goals are to active three locations, such as the control center, then escape off the island via the helicopter. If the humans can collectively get three characters off the island, they win.

jurassic park danger

At the same time, each character has their own specific goals, listed on their character mats. Like everything else, they’re drawn from the film. Ray Arnold, for example, must go to the maintenance shed location to earn his goal token before he can escape (hopefully a better fate than in the movie). These goals help add an interesting wrinkle to players’ plans – particularly when a character dies.

Clever Girl

The dinosaur players’ goal is to eliminate three human characters. Crucially, Jurassic Park Danger! works around player elimination by letting the humans play a new character with a fresh deck of cards. In fact, the manual very plainly states on the first page that there’s a good chance the character you start with won’t survive to make it off the island!

The low odds of survival is due to the card playing and health mechanic. Every round every player selects a card and places it face down on their sheet. The dinosaur player always goes first, revealing their movement capabilities and attempting to maneuver and ambush as many humans as possible. When a dinosaur enters a human space, the dinosaur attacks, and the human has to permanently lose a card. That’s bad news for humans, because they need to play those cards to get around the island.

The humans all have similar cards in their hands: Run, Climb, Sneak, and Distract. Running, climbing and sneaking offer different means of traveling around the map, but you’ll need to roll a dice to accomplish some of them.

jurassic park dangerI like that all the characters vary slightly, and aren’t just a simple aesthetic change. Tim, Hammond’s grandson, is slightly better at sneaking but not so great at climbing, for example.

Additionally, each character has special ability cards they can deploy. Lex’s I’m a Hacker card let’s her reroll a dice. Nedry can turn a single electric fence off or on, while Grant can rescue a nearby character by moving them into his space.

Playing multiple characters with different goals and abilities makes the game far more challenging for human players than the dinosaur player. Humans must also coordinate their actions to accomplish as much as they can while they’re still alive.

It’s far easier for the dinosaur player to use their unique abilities – like the dilophosaurus spit – to spread their attacks, block paths, and generally wear down the humans.

While it’s fun to watch both sides sneak around and out maneuver each other, it’s less enjoyable to lose your human character simply because you slowly ran out of cards to play. The balance feels particularly painful with less human players, as you have far fewer options to survive the onslaught of attacks. In half a dozen plays I’ve never seen the human players win, though they have come close.

The Rating

Jurassic Park Danger! is recommended for Ages 10+. Since movement is tied to card choice, and humans start with a full hand of all 10 cards, every single choice is strategic and tactical. Characters are eliminated, but players are not.

While Jurassic Park Danger! is suitable for families, it’s also aimed squarely at nostalgic fans of the original film.

The Takeaway

I count Jurassic Park as one of my all-time favorite films, and Jurassic Park Danger! absolutely nails the themes, style, and story beats remarkably well. The randomized board setup and ten characters provide a wealth of replay value, and the wooden meeples and card-playing strategy reflect the game’s Eurogame roots rather than a mass-market family game. I didn’t think I’d ever see a solid board game adaptation using the original Jurassic Park license, but life finds a way.