Star Wars Villainous Review: The Dark Side Is Strong With This One

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Star Wars Villainous builds on the familiar Villainous franchise with a handful of Star Wars-themed mechanics. Some of those feel innovative and freshen up the Villainous formula while others feel remarkably more fiddly. The new Star Wars Villainous game, published by Ravensburger retains many elements of the original Disney Villainous franchise while adding several new twists to the game formula. Players will take control of an iconic Star Wars villain (pulled from the movies, cartoons, and TV shows) and try to complete their unique objective before other players. Star Wars Villainous adds two additional elements to the game – the addition of vehicles that serve as a potential fifth location for players and the addition of a second kind of currency used to activate certain kinds of cards.

For those unfamiliar with Ravensburger's Villainous franchise, the game was originally released back in 2018 as Disney Villainous with each player controlling a separate Disney villain. Disney Villainous is an asymmetric game in which each character exists on their own game board, moving back and forth between four unique locations tied to their story and performing the four actions listed on that location. Each character has their own objective and a unique deck of cards that are used to further their goals. Each character also has a Fate deck that other players use to hinder progress. By using a Fate action, players choose an opponent and draw two Fate cards from that player's deck. After choosing a Fate card, they play it on one of their opponent's four locations, which applies a negative effect and blocks the player from taking two of that location's four actions. The game continues until one player completes their unique win objective, which ranges from defeating certain characters to completing a series of actions in a specific order to accumulating a certain number of items. 

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(Photo: Ravensburger)

Star Wars Villainous adds two new unique twists to the Villainous formula. The first is the addition of vehicles. Ally Vehicles are cards that can be played on a Deep Space area located on the far righthand side of the player board and become a fifth location. Ally Vehicles only have three actions available to use, but they also have a unique ability that triggers whenever a player travels to the vehicle. The Fate deck also has Hero Vehicles which have some pretty devastating effects – in addition to unique abilities that are activated when a card is played, a Hero Vehicle also forces a player to reduce their hand size by one card. That hand reduction stacks, so Vanquishing a Hero Vehicle is a priority whenever they hit your board. 

While Vehicles are a great addition to the Villainous formula, I was less impressed by the other new "twist" – the addition of Ambition as a new kind of currency. While previous Villainous games used "Power" as the currency used to play cards and activate other effects, Star Wars Villainous has both Credits and Ambition. Players gain Credits similar to how they gained Power in past Villainous games – by using the "Collect Credits" action at various locations. While Credits are typically spent on Allies and Vehicles, Ambition is spent on Effects or on Ambition abilities found on some cards.

My issue with Ambition is that players typically accumulate it at a slow drip – players automatically collect 1 Ambition at the start of their turn, and there are limited opportunities to collect additional Ambition. Because Ambition is used to either activate or play half of your cards, there are a lot of situations in which players simply can't use the cards they need to advance their win condition because they're stuck waiting for several turns trying to generate enough Ambition. Villains who need a large amount of Ambition to win usually have a card or two that can help speed up the process, but the dual-currency system felt like a bit of a drag on the Villainous gameplay cycle. 

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(Photo: Ravensburger)

The five villains in Star Wars Villainous have various kinds of win conditions and levels of complexity which should provide newcomers with an easy on-ramp and Villainous veterans with more ambitious win conditions. General Grievous needs to collect lightsabers from fallen Jedi while Moff Gideon needs to kidnap Grogu and collect samples from him, a task that requires several Ambition cards to be active and in the same location. Darth Vader needs to defeat Luke Skywalker (represented by a permanent Ally card), while Kylo Ren needs to be fully swayed to the Dark Side. None of the villains seems to have a particular edge over the others. Like past Villainous games, there are a few Villains who will win or lose based on whether they can draw a specific card early in the game, although veteran players will understand the value of cycling through as many cards as possible until they get those specific cards.

Overall, I enjoyed Star Wars Villainous. It retains the successful Villainous formula while remaining welcoming to newcomers and offers a few new mechanics to keep things fresh and different from the other Villainous franchises. Star Wars Villainous will be a great way to draw players into the wider world of tabletop games, similar to other "gateway games" like CATAN or Ticket to Ride. 

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Star Wars Villainous is available to pre-order at Target