Let's face it: it's hard to be a villain. And true villainy comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether you want to marry the beautiful girl who keeps running off to the library, pawn off at least one of your dreadful daughters on the Prince, or conquer the world with an army of vile Cauldron Born soldiers, the goal is the same. Do you have what it takes to remove all obstacles between you and your would-be bride? Can you snuff the light out of your shimmering step-daughter (and ditch those darned glass slippers)? Can you find, empower, and harness the raw energy of the Black Cauldron? These are the questions you have to ask yourself when you sit down to a game of Disney Villainous: Despicable Plots, the newest addition to the Disney Villainous line of strategy games by Ravensburger.
In Disney Villainous, players take on the role of classic Disney villains from across the history of the brand. And in Despicable Plots, which is touted as an ""Expand-Alone" expansion (meaning it can be added to expand the base game or played alone) three new villains are introduced to the game. Players can now choose between Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, Lady Tremaine (aka the Evil Stepmother) from Cinderella, and Horned King from The Black Cauldron.
The goal of any game of Disney Villainous is to achieve your villain's specific win condition. As this is an "asymmetrical" game — meaning that each player has different mechanics available to them, and plays the game differently — those win conditions are vastly different from villain to villain. Gaston's player board (each character has their own small player board) starts the game filled with "Obstacles," and Gaston needs to remove all eight obstacles in his way so that he can convince Belle he's the one she should marry. Lady Tremaine also has matrimony on her mind, as her goal is to either marry her daughter Drizella or her daughter Anastasia to the Prince. Finally, with no thoughts of wedding bells in his mind at all, the Horned King's goal is to populate each location on his player board with "Cauldron Born" soldiers.
While the game is primarily focused on each player doing their own thing on their own board, players can mess with the plans of their rivals by playing cards from a Fate deck. These unleash heroes and protagonists that block action spaces on a player's board and have varying negative effects. Knowing when to focus on your own board and when to meddle with one of your opponents is an important part of your victory plan.
Each villain plays wildly differently, as well. And these differences perfectly pair with the general vibe of each villain. Gaston is a bruiser, so his deck is built around brute force. He removes his obstacles by gaining power (the main resource in the game) and playing cards that attack his problem head on, either by vanquishing pesky heroes who crop up on his board, or by outright removing obstacles with powerful Effect cards. Lady Tremaine would never deign to be so actively involved in her quest for victory, and as such she has no access to the "Vanquish" action (which would remove a hero from play). Instead, she relies on clever tricks and allies to do her dirty work. Finally, the Horned King needs to transform his ancient soldiers (effectively just piles of bones) into his terrifying magical minions, but he needs the Cauldron first.
The components, as with previous entries in the Villainous line, are top notch. The cardboard tokens are pre-punches and clean-lined. The player boards unfold nicely and are graphically gorgeous and well-designed from a User Experience perspective. And the little player tokens, which partially abstract the essence of each villain, are very well made and look striking.
As is the case with the core Disney Villainous game, it's abundantly clear that a lot of love, research, and admiration for the source material went into the design of these three new villains. The theme isn't just pasted on, it's woven into the fabric of how each villain plays. There's also a nice sliding scale of complexity for each hero, as Gaston seems (at least to us in our play through) the most straightforward villain to play. Second comes the Horned King and his devilish minions. And the most complicated is, by far, Lady Tremaine. There are so many steps that need to be achieved before she can be crowned the victor that it takes plenty of careful planning and forethought. But because of that complexity, it also feels like she's less a victim of the whims of chance. This design decision, to balance complexity with luck, really makes this expansion shine for me. Forget that it features the Horned King (which is just about all I need to see to be instantly excited), the fact that complexity is rewarded with control is a real high point for me. Disney Villainous: Despicable Plots is a frightfully welcome addition to the nefarious Villainous family.
Get This Game If...
- You're a fan of any of the villains on display, as their true nature shines through in the design
- You're looking to dip a toe into (or expand your collection of) Disney Villainous
- You think The Black Cauldron doesn't get enough love and respect (you are correct)
Avoid This Game If...
- You weren't a fan of the initial Disney Villainous release, as this game reiterates on the mechanics and themes of the core game
- You prefer heavy player interaction, as you can only nominally mess with your opponents
The copy of Disney Villainous: Despicable Plots used for this review was provided by the publisher.