Designed and illustrated by James Van Niekerk, Valor & Villainy is a slightly tongue-in-cheek fantasy RPG-style dungeon-crawler board game where 1-4 hero players are battling an evil overseer and his minions, controlled by another player. You can play it straight-up two-player good versus evil but it's at its best as a one-versus-many semi-cooperative game.
Heroes will be exploring the randomised set up, and the cards revealed may spawn monsters (the eponymous Mordak's minions) and/or loot. You'll of course be battling the monster cards that are revealed and you'll be hoping to pick up loot cards but your main eye on the prize will be on levelling up your character. The game uses custom six-sided dice with different prospects of 'hits' depending on the colour. White dice (0, 0, 0, 1, 1, 1) have a 50% chance of missing altogether, yellow dice (0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2) are appreciably better and best of all are the guaranteed-at-least-one-hit red dice (1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2). Each character starts with a board showing the basic combinations of coloured dice they roll for melee, ranged and spell-casting attacks but as they collect experience points so they get to add dice or upgrade the dice they roll. Meanwhile tho', the player representing the villainous Mordak will also be levelling up thanks to the efforts of his minions. For most of the game, Mordak is alone on his own separate board, which also acts as a game timer for its six rounds. Only when Mordak reaches the end of his track (or sooner if the heroes' exploration locates all three of the hidden shrines) does Mordak enter the fray for a final boss battle against the heroes...
This all makes for a light but appealing dice chucker that's easy and relatively quick to play. There are various special abilities and modifications that add a little more complexity and flavour to Valor & Villainy but even these don't overly complicate play - so we reckon children younger than the '12+' on the box can also join in to enjoy this as a family game. The rules suggest 25 minutes per player but once you're familiar with the game you could well find you can complete a four-player (three heroes against Mordak) game in around an hour.
Skybound have done a great job with the production of Valor & Villainy. The player boards, for example, are two layer, so that you can just slot in the tokens that show the extra or upgraded dice. We'd have just liked to have seen similar indented slots to record hit points and number of actions (these are marked only with an annulus [washer-ring] token that risks being jogged out of position in the excitement of play). The standees offer a practical alternative to grey minis that would otherwise cry out to be painted, the map tiles are sturdy and the cards are well finished.