The heroes of the Disney universe typically command all the attention, but Spin Master Games is giving some of Disney's most beloved sidekicks some love with their new board game Disney Sidekicks. In this cooperative board game, players take control of characters like Abu, the Fairy Godmothers, Lumiere, and more as they attempt to rescue their friends from the castle and defeat villains like Captain Hook, Maleficent, Gaston, and others in the process. It's a truly welcoming experience for newcomers to the board game genre, but packs some extra challenge and strategy for experienced players as well, so if you've got some Disney fans at your next game night, you can't go wrong with Disney Sidekicks.
Once you pick a sidekick and villain set, you'll choose three abilities for the game. To utilize these, which allow you to do things like gain additional health, move without using an action, gain extra stars, and more, you'll need to rescue villagers, and once you've filled the card with enough of them, you'll unlock those abilities for use in the game. Some are obviously more useful than others, but the fact that you only choose three out of the given abilities ensures you'll have a different experience when playing with the same characters in a later game.
The game also approaches movement and character placement differently from other titles. You can't place more than one character in a space, so when you move, you skip over spaces with characters already in them and land on the next available one. This brings some strategy in how you approach a certain layout of the map, as one character can place themselves on a space to help the next player get further on the path. Likewise, you can use villains to get a space with villagers on it or something else, and that doesn't include special abilities that let you choose anywhere on the board
When it's time to take on a villain, you roll one die, so combat is incredibly straightforward. Your abilities add new wrinkles to the combat, but it still comes down to a die roll, and while you have multiple actions during a turn and can repeat them, you can't attack the same enemy more than once, which is how the villains stay in the fight.
Like with the sidekicks, the villains range a bit in threat level and challenge Villains like Gaston, Maleficent, and Captain Hook add new wrinkles thanks to Curse Tokens, Charm Tokens, and the Jolly Roger, which all inhibit or flat-out attack the players throughout the game, and I found them to be the most intriguing challenges. Those additional elements make the game more challenging, though I will say that the game comes with three extra Challenge sets which raise the difficulty when mixed into the Danger Deck, and if you want a truly satisfying experience, mixing one of these in is recommended, otherwise the game might be a bit too easy to defeat.
From the components side, the board itself is solid, though the artwork isn't as distinct as I'd prefer. It's fine, but it just doesn't feel as magical or memorable as the characters moving across it. The 3D elements add a lot, though, including the center Castle and bridges, which can be blown up by Danger Cards, thus making it more difficult to achieve your objective of getting to the Center Castle and unlocking the locks, thereby rescuing your friends. Plus, once you get them, you can get another action per turn, so there's an incentive to get your hero out early to swing the odds further in your favor.
The individual character abilities are fun to play and are distinct, including the Fairy Godmother's amazing ability to leave one of them on another hero's square and protect the sidekick they occupy the space with (as the godmothers are actually three separate minis). Meanwhile, the villains are challenging and each comes with their own helpful skills and sometimes additional victory conditions, like Gaston's ability to charm so much that he wins the game outright. These add another welcome level of tension and strategy to things, and the miniatures for both the heroes and the villains are brightly colored and pretty solid overall.
Disney's Sidekicks strikes a welcome balance of simplicity and skill, allowing anyone to feel as though they helped win the game by offering an additional level of tactics for those who love the genre. It also takes advantage of its Disney theme and feels like a natural extension of these franchises, and if you happen to be a fan of Disney's larger-than-life world, Disney Sidekicks is assuredly going to entertain you.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Published By: Spin Master Games
Review copy provided by Spin Master Games