I mentioned in another thread that I got a second-hand copy of this game a while back. I finally tried this out playing both sides for a 2p game. Sure wouldn't have happened if we didn't have this Weekly Challenge going on! (This has been a big motivation to get games off the shelf, so I hope it's been helping all of you too).
Here are my first impressions:
Easy to learn.
This was the first time I learned a game watching Rodney Smith's video. I typically don't do that because I have trouble keeping up with all of the info and prefer reading through the rules myself. Either way, I was ready to go after about 15-20 min.
Nails the theme.
If you try out this game and feel it's just "okay"... you can let out a sigh of relief and move on. But if you or your gaming partner/group actually like (or even love) this game? You're going to have trouble resisting the urge to buy all of the expansions. It's a full-on Disney fan service with so much attention to detail:
Simple mechanics with a neat decision space.
You're mostly deciding where to place your villain. The villain board features several locations that have actions you can trigger when you move your villain to that location. For example, if I were to move Ursula to The Palace, (from top to bottom, left to right) I would be able to move one of my allies (e.g. Flotsam) to an adjacent location, draw from the opponent's Fate deck (will get back to this), move one of the Heroes (e.g. Ariel in the image) to an adjacent location, and gain 2 Power tokens--all of these actions in any order.
Playing a card from the opponent's Fate deck is the main point of interaction in Villainous, and is also a big "take-that" move. It typically features a Hero or an Item that you can place on the top side of your opponent's locations. By placing a Hero in a location, you essentially block your opponent's access to the two actions that are on the top side of a location. These actions remain blocked until the Villain manages to vanquish that Hero.
I often find that I appreciate game mechanics like this, where it's one simple move that has numerous consequences (good or bad) to consider.
Random, and likely not too balanced.
It's still too early for me to comment on the balancing across the different villains. But I can comment on the game's randomness.
For example, Ursula's objective (victory condition) is to be at her Lair with both the Crown and the Trident. Before you get to that point, you must first find the Trident from the deck, which will then summon King Triton, and you will retrieve the Trident after vanquishing the King. But here's the thing--the Trident happened to be placed 3rd from the bottom of my deck. Yes, there are ways to help you go through the deck faster, but it still doesn't change the fact that this randomness can set you back by a few turns. Oh and just before I got the Trident, Ursula got Fated and drew Flounder from the deck, which forces you to shuffle up your deck with the discard pile :(
This makes me think that a first time player will likely have a hard time winning since they're not aware of what to look out for. But then again, the flipside could be true, where veteran players will likely face situations where the odds are completely stacked against them.
Possibly overstays its welcome at higher player counts.
Remember how I complimented this game's simplicity? This game may overstay its welcome if played at higher player counts (4 or more.) 3p games may be the most ideal to keep things tighter but make the playtime longer than I'd prefer for something like this. 2p seems fun as long as the person you're playing with doesn't mind the take-that elements.
Despite the randomness, I still think this is a great game. I'm looking forward to introducing this to my wife some day. We typically don't mind take-that elements too much but I have a feeling she'll get more frustrated about the horrible card draws xD