Review – Star Wars Villainous: Power of the Dark Side
"Let the hate flow through you!" - Emperor Palpatine
|Prospero Hall, Michael Mulvihill
|Piotr Rossa, Lucas Torquato
|Cardplay and Action-Selection
It was only a matter of time before Star Wars joined the Villainous lineup, and for some, it wasn’t soon enough! Let’s see how the Star Wars baddies play in Ravensburger’s Villainous world.
I’m a huge Star Wars fan, so ever since my first game of Disney Villainous back in 2019, I’ve been telling my wife about how they could make a Star Wars version, what characters they could use, what their objectives could be, so to see this come to fruition is very exciting. However, I also have high expectations. These are beloved villains, after all!
Side note: if you’re new to Villainous, check out our review of the original box here.
Star Wars Villainous adds a new space on villains’ sectors (“realms” didn’t sound right for Star Wars?): deep space. Deep space is cool because villains can play ships there, which provide a special ability and extra actions if the villain token moves there. Deep space can also be contested by fate vehicles, which, if left unengaged, will reduce your hand size by 1 per vehicle out there. Deep space is a welcome addition to the Villainous world because it opens up more options strategically.
Another new mechanic is a resource called ambition. While credits replace power, ambition, which villains gain 1 of at the start of their turns, is used for special cards and often for win conditions. Another great idea from designers Prospero Hall and Michael Mulvihill. Ambition works so well because it acts as a threshold timer for win conditions. Even if a villain luckily has all the right cards to win the game in a few short turns, in Star Wars Villainous, he can’t, because he only gets 1 ambition per turn, and there’s not many other ways of getting it. No more Dr. Facilier or Queen of Hearts winning in 5 turns because they got super lucky.
Now let’s take a look at each of the 5 villains. I’ve also included tier rankings for them, which suggest how likely they are to win based on empirical evidence and Reddit threads.
Asajj Ventress (C-tier) must complete 3 (of 5 available) missions via meeting certain conditions on her board. She plays similar to Pete, though Pete’s missions seem to be easier (fitting because he has to complete 4 of them). However, Asajj’s missions often involve multiple steps, which means that a well-placed fate card sets her back quite a few turns. She also has a lot of unique (only 1 copy) cards in her deck which you’ll need to use carefully.
Darth Vader (A-tier) must seduce Luke, bring him to the Emperor’s Throne Room, and pay 6 ambition to defeat him before the Emperor. Darth Vader feels like the most polished villain of any Villainous pack. Every card in his deck makes a ton of sense, and he doesn’t have a ton of different cards, which is really nice because you’re only working with a few different cards, and you have multiple copies of each.
General Grievous (B-tier) needs to make 8 fine additions to his collection (collect 8 lightsabers). He plays like a Scar/Cruella de Vil crossover with some of his own flair thrown in. He has a ton of allies at his disposal, and I like the thematics of the battle droids starting with a strength of 0 with their ability to increase strength with numbers. Because all he needs to do is find the Jedi and defeat them, his win condition is essentially a timer. He won’t win every game, but if a game goes on long enough, he’ll eventually win it.
Kylo Ren (C-tier) must fully give in to the dark side. In other words, he needs to move all 6 destiny tokens towards the Dark Side of his 3-section board (Light Side, neutral, and Dark Side). Many of his ambition cards allow him to do this, and the cards are thematic and often include pivotal Kylo Ren quotes like “I can take what I want” and “Your son is gone.” However, Rey is incredibly problematic as a hero because she moves all tokens towards the light side. This seems overpowered and is honestly a gut-wrenching game-buster if she comes out late. I understand that those types of plays are part of what Villainous is, but I still don’t like it because it seems unrecoverable (unless the game lasts another hour, which is another problem).
Moff Gideon (D-tier) needs to perform experiments on Grogu with Dr. Pershing to win. I like Moff Gideon a lot as a character. Unfortunately, he is the worst-designed character in Star Wars Villainous. His sector only has 1 fate action, which makes it poor in general but especially in a 1v1; he relies heavily on moving his allies around but he only has 1 move action and it’s on the hero side, which makes it an easy target for heroes; his whole win condition revolves around finding 2 cards (of which he only has 1 copy each), capturing Grogu, and playing those cards to captured Grogu’s location, but the big problem is that 1 of those cards can be discarded via fate actions and his entire win process takes several turns to set up; he has no cards that let him look through his discard pile or main deck for either of those 2 cards he needs (even Jafar had that). Sure, the 2 ships he can play add a fate action and a move action, and there’s only 1 hero vehicle, but his whole playstyle is so dependent on luck that if you’re unlucky it’s unplayable. This is especially frustrating because all the other characters are so good (except maybe Kylo Ren).
The artwork here is awesome. It captures the Star Wars feel while still bringing that familiar, slightly watercolor Villainous vibe. The components are great, as usual, and the villain movers are sweet. However, there are simply not enough tokens, even for a 3-player game, which is an embarrassing oversight for such an established company/game series.
All the nods to the source content manifesting themselves into gameplay are also a delight: Darth Vader crushing his own heroes for more ambition with I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing, Kylo Ren’s back-and-forth from light to dark, and General Grievous’s complete disregard for his battle droids while trying defeat Jedi.
There’s room for growth here, even with the Scum and Villainy expansion (Boba Fett, Cad Bane, Seventh Sister) slated for the end of July, 2023. There’s still a lot of great options out there (Darth Maul? Jabba the Hutt? Nute Gunray? Count Dooku? Chancellor Palpatine?).
The bang for your buck is better with the original core set, but the Star Wars theming is of great personal interest to me. It’s still Villainous, which means any games above 3 players can run into long playtime issues, which this game isn’t deep enough to justify. It’s also not as strategic as I’d like, and Moff Gideon has a huge disadvantage. However, Star Wars Villainous is still a great variation of the Villainous gameplay. At 2-3 players, this is an 8 for me, but at 4, it’s a 6.
The Bottom Line
If you're having trouble getting cranky old dad (me) to play Villainous, this might be his ticket.