Welcome to our Review of Marvel Villainous from Ravensburger Games! We thought this would be a great game to review this week as we’ve just come back from the D23 Expo. Marvel Villainous is similar to Disney Villainous; however, it has a few key differences, which we’ll get into below. This game is for 2-5 players ages 12 and up. A game takes 45 min to an hour, depending on how many people are playing. Let’s dig into the overview of the game.
Game Overview – Marvel Villainous
We’ll write this review from the perspective of never having played a Villainous game before. However, if you are interested in the differences, please skip to the Game Play section below.
The core box has five Marvel villains: Thanos, Killmonger, Hela, Taskmaster, and Ultron. Where’s Loki? He’s in a new expansion box that’s also available. The thing about this game is these villains have different objectives to complete that come from their story. So instead of everyone trying to achieve the same goal, they all have their own.
The crux of Marvel Villainous is to move your villain between locations in your domain and play cards from your hand to your board. The main goal is to slow your opponent’s goal completion down by “fate-ing” them while simultaneously completing your own objective.
Each player board (or domain) has four location spaces directly from that villain’s story. There are between 2 and 4 symbols on each location space representing actions a player can take. The main actions are selecting power tokens, playing a card, activating a card, relocating an ally or item to another location, defeating an opponent, and vanquishing (defeating a hero). We’ll get into all of these in a moment.
Power Tokens are the currency of the game. If you want to play a card, you must pay its cost in power tokens. These cards can do everything from defeating heroes to helping the villain complete their goals. The game’s strategy is to determine when to play the cards to get the most out of them.
Overall, the playing pieces are similar to the components in Disney Villainous. I like the villain markers as the design is an abstract representation of the villain and are made of hard plastic. For instance, Killmonger’s marker looks like the mask he gets at the museum in Black Panther. The player boards in Marvel Villainous are all highly detailed and illustrated – bringing you into the world of Marvel. Each player’s villain deck is impressively illustrated and reminds me of the original comics in many ways. Each player has their own villain deck; however, they all share a single fate deck, which consists of standard fate cards and cards specific to the villains you are playing. This is different from Disney Villainous – In Disney Villainous, each Villain had their own fate deck with heroes from their story. With so much crossover of villains and heroes in Marvel makes sense in principle.
As mentioned above, each player takes a player board, their villain marker, and their deck of villain cards and lays the board in front of them. Then they shuffle their villain deck and draw four cards into their hand. They also add their villain’s fate cards to the standard fate deck, and one player shuffles these into a single shared fate deck. Finally you add the power tokens to the vault and set aside the strength +1/ -1 tokens along with the soul marker tokens (if playing Hela). Ulton, Thanos and Killmonger also have additional board pieces that either need to be set beside their player boards or placed on a specific location. Then you are ready to play.
Marvel Villainous gets played over a series of rounds, with each player taking turns moving their villain to a new location, completing as many actions as they want, and then drawing back up to four cards in their hand. After that, the next player clockwise repeats this, and players take turns until one player has completed their villain’s objective.
We’ll go through the actions you can take on your turn, as we feel they are essential to understanding how this game plays.
- Gain a Power – This icon shows you how many power tokens to take.
- Play a Card – Each card has a Power cost listed in the upper left. You must pay back that number of power tokens to put the card in play. When you play a card, you usually are not limited to which location you can play it. Take a look at the above image as an example.
- Activate – Some of those cards you put in play have special actions on them. You may perform that special action when you are in a location with an activate symbol. It can be anywhere in your domain, not specifically at the player marker’s space where you are.
- Relocate – A player may move an ally or item to another location in their domain. Or they may move an Ally to a Global or villain-specific “Event” (we’ll get to events in a moment), or a player may move the Ally from another villain’s domain back to your own.
- Vanquish – A player may defeat a hero or another player’s Ally (see Thanos below) so long as they have an Ally or multiple allies at the same location with a combined strength value greater than or equal to the Hero’s strength. Both the Hero and allies get removed.
- Fate – Players draw one card from the Fate deck and choose a player to target. If the type of card is a Hero, they place that Hero in any location in the domain and cover up the top two actions. If it is an Effect, the player resolves the effect, and the card gets discarded. Some Fate cards are Global Events or villain specific events. These provide a restriction on all players while they are in play, but the good news is that they can be defeated.
- Global events can have Allies relocated to them from multiple villains to try and vanquish the event.
- Villain-specific events only allow that villain to relocate Allies to the event.
- Discard Cards – If this symbol is present, you can discard as many cards from your hand as you want. Discarding cards allows you to draw new cards, which is especially useful in finding the card you want.
In the core game box, these are the five villains along with their objective:
- Thanos – Retrieve all six infinity stones. These stones get placed in another villain’s domain attached to an Ally that villain controls. While Thanos does not have the stone in his possession, he can send an ally to his opponent’s domain and perform a vanquish action to defeat that ally and gain the stone. Before acquiring the stone, the targeted villain can use it themselves. Thanos, in our opinion, is not a good two player game villain because it becomes unfair to the other player as you will be always sending your stones to the other player making them burn through their allies. In a 3-5 player game, Thanos can spread that around and not just gang up on one person.
- Hela – needs a combination of 8 Allies and Soul Marks in their realm and no opposing heroes at Odin’s vault. A soul mark is attached to heroes through card abilities, and once they are defeated or vanquished, the mark gets moved to Odin’s Vault. Once the player has at least 1 Soul Mark and a combination of allies and soul marks up to 8, they win the game. The challenge with Hela is that a number of the heroes can’t have soul marks attached. So finding the right heroes to get out and to get out your own allies to be able to vanquish is the primary strategy.
- Taskmaster – The key to Taskmaster is training your Allies. The more strength you add to your allies, the better. Taskmaster must have four allies at different locations, each with five or more strength. Cards you have as Taskmaster allow you to increase your Ally’s strength. With Taskmaster, the hardest part is making sure you don’t actually use your allies to defeat heroes. You may need to do this occasionally, but don’t make a habit out of it!
- Killmonger – He is by far my favorite and is pretty straightforward too. His goal is to take control of the mines and relocate two explosives to a domain other than their own. The first thing he has to do is defeat Klaw who starts in play. Then he needs to find Black Panther in his fate deck, play him to Warrior Falls and defeat him. Once you win against Black Panther, you must play two separate explosive cards and relocate those to an opponent’s domain. Should Black Panther come back from the dead, you lose control of the mines and can’t send more explosives until you defeat him again. She-Hawk complained about this villain as there is no real way to stop him from completing his objective. There are cards in the Fate deck that bring back the Black Panther, however due to the fate deck being a combined deck and the fact you only draw one fate card (instead of two as in Disney Villainous) it becomes hard to draw the card you need.
- Ultron – Ultron has four unique tiles which act as upgrades. The goal is to reveal the 4th upgrade, Age of Ultron. Each of the unique tiles has an objective. Once you complete that, you may reveal the next upgrade. Each upgrade gives the player additional ongoing skills. Transformation allows you to retrieve a discarded card when playing a Sentry. Optimization – treats any play a card action as a relocate action. Ultimate will enable you to gain a single power token every time you move to a new location. We’ve never played this character, but it looks like this villain is also hard to stop.
Ok – so we’ve given you a bunch of detail on Marvel Villainous. What did we think of it? Well, to be honest, it’s not a great two-player game. The villains are more challenging to stop when fating them than Disney Villainous. Mainly in the couple of games we played, I played Killmonger and ignored the heroes that were fated to me. I only defeated Klaw and Black Panther. I also used cards that immediately defeated the enemies, which seemed unfair. Then I sent my explosives to the same player who had no way to get rid of them. Another Villain that seemed a bit uneven was Thanos. In a two-player game, using this villain would mean forcing your opponent to play valuable allies that take the infinity stone. You’d have to send one of your allies to defeat a villain’s Ally while they are also trying to defeat heroes and complete their objective… Kind of painful.
Global events are another aspect of Marvel Villainous that’s not great for two players. We didn’t see a real need to address these events in each of the games we played. Sure, they caused us some restrictions, but it wasn’t too bad. Like one event was to reduce our overall Power collection by one every time we would take power. Since this happened at the end of the game, we’d already built up our power reserves, and it didn’t affect either of us.
That said, Marvel Villainous is excellent for Marvel fans, especially those who’ve been watching the MCU. This game is not a direct tie-in, but the illustrations and card game effects are excellent! We’d love to give this game another try with 3-5 players as we think this game will play better. It’s a challenge when you are always fating the same player repeatedly in a two-player game, but in a game with more players, that temptation is more limited!
If you do like this game, check out our other review of Marvel Champions which we loved!