Updated: Apr 19
The Villainous series of games has proven to be a smash hit for publishers Ravensburger. Previous editions and expansions have worked their way through the canon of Disney villains, and, more recently, we've seen a Marvel addition to the range. Well, perhaps more properly, Marvel Villainous is a parallel series, as it isn't designed to be integrated with the Disney editions: you can mix & match the villains from any of the Disney Villainous boxes but you can't, for example, pitch Malificent against Thanos.
At the London Toy Fair earlier this year there was a palpable buzz of excitement from the Ravensburger team. They were eagerly anticipating a new version of Villainous and were bursting to reveal it but they were sworn to secrecy. Tho' Marvel have all but eclipsed DC in the superhero movie stakes, the DC universe has far and away the most iconic supervillains so some of us were hoping to see DC Villainous - perhaps even with the option of pitting DC villains against those in the Marvel universe. It was not to be - at least not yet. When the announcement came tho' there was nonetheless a lot of excitement: Star Wars Villainous!
Star Wars Villainous follows a similar pattern to previous Villainous games in that the players take on the role of a villain each with their own objective and different style of game play. The game will have instant appeal to the Dark Side of every fan of the Star Wars franchise, even tho' some of the villains might seem obscure to all but the most diehard Star Wars fans.
Of course, we've all heard of Darth Vader. His objective in Star Wars Villainous is to seduce Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side by getting him to the Throne Room location along with the Emperor. General Grievous is less well known. Tho' he appeared in Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (the sixth film in the saga), he originated in and was mostly seen in the animated Star Wars series The Clone Wars. In this game, his objective is to defeat Jedi and collect their lightsabers. He wins if he collects lightsabers before any other player completes their objective.
Kylo Ren first appeared in The Force Awakens (2015) and the character has featured in other movies since. He is the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia but his story charts his journey to the Dark Side of the Force, and that's mirrored in his Star Wars Villainous gameplay and objective. Fans of The Mandalorian, which aired on the Disney Channel, will be familiar with Moff Gideon. As in the TV series, he is trying to capture Grogu ('Baby Yoda') and extract lab samples from him. Perhaps least well known is Asajj Ventress, a Sith assassin and later bounty hunter who has only featured in Star Wars animations and novelisations. In this game, she has missions assigned to her which she has to complete.
In designing Star Wars Villainous, Prospero Hall and Michael Mulvihill haven't just given us more of the same: this isn't a mere Disney Villainous re-skin with a Star Wars veneer. The theme is strong in this one! There are some new elements that distinguish this game from previous iterations of Villainous. In particular, each villain has a Deep Space location on their board which they can customise by allocating a ship. This gives them access to extra actions but also offers defence against the Rebel Alliance ships that are included in their Fate Decks. And tho' Marvel Villainous went down the route of a combined Fate Deck affecting all the villains, Star Wars Villainous has returned us to Fate Decks individually tailored to each villain, as seen in the Disney Villainous games. Also in this iteration of Villainous, there are two currencies used to play cards: credits (equivalent to the power tokens in previous games) and 'ambition'. The distinction between these two 'currencies' adds to the atmospherics of the game so that it increasingly feels like an RPG (role-playing game) as you immerse yourself in your villain's persona.
Just like the other versions of the game, Star Wars Villainous benefits from stylised figurines, moulded in a sparkly plastic that is broadly suggestive of the space setting. The art by Piotr Rossa and Lucas Torquato is varied between each character; Darth Vader's cards mostly draw on screen shots from the movies.
As with any game with asymmetric rules and objectives, you'll find some characters easier to play than others. Darth Vader is the most straightforward; Kylo Ren is the most difficult by quite a margin: just a factor to bear in mind when divvying up roles between players of different ages and experience. And if you're tempted, the fact that both games use tailored Fate Decks means that it wouldn't take a huge tweak to pit villains from Star Wars against those from Disney Villainous...